Tawa Chicken is a popular Lahori dish where chicken quarters are marinated, cooked on a large skillet, basted in that same masala, and then finished off with green chilies and pieces of lemon. The overall effect is fiery, masala-licious, and absolutely irresistible.
Tawa Chicken blew my mind. That is the honest truth. The first time I had it I couldn't get over it, so then I made sure to go back and have it a few more times, only to conclude that I was right the first time.
This is one of those Pakistani Chicken Recipes that you too will make and remake!
Table of Contents
- What is Tawa Chicken?
- A Note on Recipe Testing
- Tawa Chicken: Ingredients
- How to Make Tawa Chicken: Step by Step
- On Quantities and Making Ahead:
What is Tawa Chicken?
Tawa Chicken is a popular dish from the city of Lahore, Pakistan. Like Murgh Cholay, another Pakistani recipe that originated in Lahore, it also has become loved in other parts of Pakistan (and the world!).
Let me describe it for you.
Tawa Chicken is a chicken leg quarter marinated in the simplest, zestiest yoghurt based marinade. While the marinade is deceptively milder than the popular chicken tikka, it packs a punch that is amplified by the way it is cooked.
The chicken is seared on both sides creating a smoky depth and then the flavour (and moisture!) is amplified by adding back the remaining marinade. Once that gets beautifully absorbed then you double down on the attitude by adding in sliced green chilies and lemon.
Traditionally the chicken and it's masala would be inverted onto a large romali roti which soaks up all those delicious flavours.
A Note on Recipe Testing
There are many versions of this recipe on the internet, with masalas that range from a cilantro/green chilies based marinade to those that incorporate onions and tomatoes. While I cannot say that I have tried them all I have certainly tried enough to say that this version, even if it were not the easiest, is the best IMHO.
While traditionally the recipe is made on a large tawa, here I use a 9 inch frying pan. I have also made it on a round griddle, but the messy factor was HUGE!
Tawa Chicken: Ingredients
The marinade for this Chicken Tawa Recipe is so simple that I almost can't believe it is as good as it is! The ingredients are
- Chicken quarter leg pieces - what is often colloquially called tikka cut.
- Yoghurt - to make it tender and create masala
- Chilli Powder or Cayenne - I use a fair bit here because it is authentically a spicy dish!
- Garam Masala - for that smoky umami
- Cumin Powder - to create more earthy depth and complement the spice
- Garlic - a non traditional add in, a little bit of garlic adds a tantalizing savory quality
- Thickly sliced chilies - for their aroma and flavour
- Lemon pieces - for their irresistible bright counterpoint to the smoky spices
How to Make Tawa Chicken: Step by Step
Whisk together a simple no chop marinade. Pierce your chicken quarters with a fork or knife.
Pour your marinade over, making sure to coat both sides. Marinade for at least 30 minutes or overnight.
Confession: I often marinade this for only 30 minutes because this recipe has turned into one of those "I am craving it and must have it!"
Preheat your frying pan on high and add a little bit of oil - 1 to 2 tbsp. When your oil is hot then put down your chicken pieces and let them cook on medium high heat for 4-5 minutes on each side to build a charred, flavorful exterior.
Now add your remaining marinade back to the pan and cover and cook for another 8-10 minutes on medium low heat until cooked through. If you pierce the meaty part of the chicken with a fork then it will go through easily.
While it is simmering here you will see the chicken release it's own juices and that's just magnificent.
Now uncover, turn up the heat, add your lemon pieces and green chilies and baste with the masala in the pan for 1-2 minutes.
Eat hot with roti and some pickled onions!
On Quantities and Making Ahead:
Two pieces is admittedly not a lot, but I give the Chicken Tawa recipe here in that way because that's what is easiest to cook at one time. You can scale it up as needed and it works. To make more than two at a time you can use two pans or cook two at a time and transfer to the oven in a foil covered oven safe dish to keep warm.
Making ahead is admittedly trickier. Thanks to it's generous masala it also tastes delicious later, but does not pack the same punch. If you do decide to do so then I recommend putting it in an oven safe dish with a splash of water and reheating on love (325F).
Made this recipe? Rate it below! You can also share your recreations with me over on Instagram @flourandspiceblog. Happy Cooking!
Tawa Chicken - Bold, Authentic & EASY
- 1 9 inch skillet or frying pan with lid
- 2 pieces Chicken Leg Quarters
- A wedge of lemon cut into small triangles
- 2-3 thickly sliced green chilies
- Oil for cooking
- Whisk together the marinade ingredients
- Pierce the chicken pieces well with a fork to optimize marination
- Pour over the marinade, covering both sides, and let is sit for 30 minutes to overnight.
- Remove the chicken from the fridge half an hour before cooking to bring it to room temperature.
- Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a pan n medium high heat and add the chicken pieces. (hang on to the extra marinade!)
- Cook, undisturbed for 4-5 minutes per side, the chicken should develop a bit of a crust.
- Now add back your reserved marinade, cover the pan and cook on medium low until cooked through, about 7-10 minutes. Tip: If you pierce the meatiest part of the chicken with a fork or knife it should go through very easily.
- Turn up the heat, add in your lemon pieces and chilies and baste the chicken for a minute or so to thicken the masala and let the new additions meld with it.
- Serve hot with chapati