Chicken Jalfrezi

A colorfully vibrant dish that is positively bursting with flavor, it features tender pieces of spiced chicken, sweet bell peppers, savory onions, and a rich and flavorful tomato sauce seasoned with Indian spices.  This Chicken Jalfrezi recipe is ready to serve in less than 30 minutes and is sure to become a favorite!

For more delicious and authentic Indian recipes be sure to try our Butter Chicken, Chicken Tikka Masala, and Tandoori Chicken!

chicken jalfrezi recipe karahi kadai indian peppers tomato traditional authentic

Great Britain has some of the best Indian restaurants and Chicken Jalfrezi is a dish I regularly enjoyed when I lived in England.  In fact several years ago it was voted the most popular dish in Britain’s Indian restaurants.

What is Chicken Jalfrezi?

Chicken Jalfrezi, also known as chicken karahi or kadai chicken, is a colorfully vibrant and flavorful Indian dish that tantalizes the taste buds with its blend of spices and aromatics. Tender pieces of chicken and stir-fried peppers and onions are enveloped in a thick tomato-based sauce featuring flavor notes of ginger, garlic, cardamom, turmeric, coriander and more. Each bite bursts with flavor, both sweet and savory, with just a touch of heat.

The name comes from the Bengali word “jal” or “jhal” meaning spicy/hot, and “frezi” which means stir-fried.  Chicken Jalfrezi is prepared differently than most traditional curries.  Whereas most curries are stewed and heavy on the sauce, chicken jalfrezi is stir-fried, the result being a chunky dish of stir-fried chicken, onions, and peppers tossed in a thick, spiced tomato puree.  Jalfrezi can also be made with fish, paneer, and other meats.

chicken jalfrezi recipe karahi kadai indian peppers tomato traditional authentic

Originating in the Bengali region of Indian, some believe it was invented in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), the capital of West Bengal, as a way to use up leftover roast chicken.  Peppers and onions were stir-fried and tossed with the leftover chicken in a spiced tomato puree for a quick and tasty dish.  Historians argue there is also a strong British influence in this dish as Jalfrezi recipes first appeared in the cookbooks of British India and the Chinese stir-frying technique may have been incorporated by the British.  Likewise the tradition of using leftover meats by frying them up with vegetables (for example in the earliest recipes for Bubble and Squeak) was a common British practice.  Thus chicken jalfrezi embodies the rich cultural exchange between India and Britain and has since become a popular dish in both parts of the world and beyond.

Below are some freshly harvested peppers from my garden, ready to go into this delicious Chicken Jalfrezi!

green and red bell peppers fresh from the garden daring gourmet

What to Serve with Chicken Jalfrezi

Some classic pairings with Chicken Jalfrezi include:

chicken jalfrezi recipe karahi kadai indian peppers tomato traditional authentic

Chicken Jalfrezi Recipe

Let’s get started!

Note: There are two “layers” of onions, one that is finely chopped and sautéed with the spices and chicken, and the other are larger roughly chopped pieces that are sautéed with the bell peppers.  The peppers should be cooked until softened but still retain a little bit of crunch.

Heat the oil or ghee in a skillet and fry the roughly chopped onions and bell peppers until softened but still have some crisp.  Transfer them to a bowl and set aside.

cooking the onions and bell peppers

In the same skillet, add a little more oil and ghee and cook the finely diced onions until golden.  Add the jalapeno pepper, garlic, and ginger and cook for another minute or two.

cooking the onions garlic and pepper

Add the spices and cook for another minute.

Add the chicken and cook until the chicken turns white but is not cooked through.

adding the spices and chicken

Add the tomato puree, tomato paste, bay leaf, salt and pepper and stir to combine.

Bring it to a low simmer, cover and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

adding the tomato and bay leaf

Return the onions and bell peppers to the skillet and stir to combine.

Simmer for another 3-4 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  If the mixture is too dry add a little bit of water (note that Chicken Jalfrezi is not a “saucy” dish).

adding the onion and bell peppers to the chicken

Serve with steamed rice and/or naan bread or sourdough naan and some refreshing cucumber raita.  For something sweet on the side or a light dessert you can serve some Fruit Chaat and a Mango Lassi!

Chicken Jalfrezi is a great make-ahead dish because its flavors are even better the next day.  It also freezes well so feel free to make a double batch while you’re at it to have some ready meals on hand!

Enjoy!

chicken jalfrezi recipe karahi kadai indian peppers tomato traditional authentic

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