Dahi chicken or marinated chicken curry with yogurt is a Pakistani / Indian chicken curry recipe made with yogurt and spices. It’s super easy to make – just marinate the chicken in yogurt and spices and cook. No need for any tomatoes, cream or nuts. Serve with roti, chapati, naan or Basmati rice.
This chicken curry with a yogurt marinade is one of my favorite weeknight dinner meals. It can be served on its own as a main with rice / chapati or Basmati rice. Or with a vegetable (sabzi) on the side such as aloo ki tarkari (spicy potato curry) or a refreshing kachumber salad. Prep time is minimal, the chicken is soft and succulent due to the yogurt marinade. Read on ahead for the complete recipe for dahi chicken with step by step photos.
What is dahi chicken?
The word dahi in Urdu / Hindi means yogurt and the reason this recipe is called dahi chicken is because the main ingredient of this recipe is yogurt. The literal translation of dahi chicken is yogurt chicken or curd chicken, as yogurt is often times called curd. A better explanation of the recipe in English would be chicken curry with yogurt or yogurt marinated chicken curry.
Why this recipe works
- It is a quick and easy recipe, perfect for when you don’t have much time to cook in the kitchen. Add all the ingredients together in one bowl, leave to marinate and then cook.
- It is a no-fail recipe perfect for beginners.
- It requires minimal ingredients – the chicken curry base is made of just onions and yogurt. In fact, it’s an excellent chicken curry to make when you don’t have tomatoes at home.
- The yogurt in this recipe has two purposes – it helps in tenderizing the chicken, making it soft and succulent. It also helps in creating a creamy chicken gravy base (also known as a salan).
Not many ingredients are required to make dahi chicken (chicken curry with yogurt). The recipe card below has the quantity of all the ingredients.
Whole spices: The whole spices (also known as sabit garam masala) used in this recipe are black peppercorns, cumin seeds, cloves, black cardamom, and cinnamon. They are added for flavor and aroma and are not meant to be eaten. Remove before serving or remove the spices and keep them on the side of the plate while you are eating. If you don’t have all of the spices, just add the ones that you do have.
Chicken: The type of chicken cut used in Pakistani and Indian curries is known as chicken curry pieces or bone-in skinless chicken pieces. This meat cut is easily available at South Asian or Desi butcher shops. Otherwise you can buy a full chicken, skin it, and then cut it into pieces yourself. Depending on the size of the chicken, it can be cut into 8, 12 or 16 pieces. It is also possible to use boneless chicken pieces, however, be mindful that it won’t have the full-bodied flavor that comes from using bone-in chicken. Cooking time will also be reduced if using boneless chicken.
Yogurt (also known as dahi or curd): Full fat yogurt of any kind can be used for this recipe. If using Greek yogurt add a splash of water to thin it.
Ginger and garlic paste: Can be made at home using a food processor / food mill or purchased from the supermarket. It is easily available at Pakistani / Indian grocery stores, and at regular supermarkets as well. If not available, mince fresh garlic cloves and fresh ginger into a paste using a grater.
Powdered spices: This recipe calls for red chili powder, also known as chili powder or cayenne pepper.
Oil: Vegetable oil, olive oil, or ghee can be used in this recipe
Onions: Finely chopped / diced onions are used in this recipe
Making this marinated chicken curry with yogurt (dahi chicken) is super easy.
- Marinate the chicken: The first step is to marinate the chicken. Add all the ingredients except the onions and the oil into a bowl. Marinate for at least 10-15 minutes, ideally an hour. It is also possible to marinate the chicken overnight.
- Fry the onions: Once the chicken has marinated, heat oil in a pan and fry the onions till translucent.
- Cook the chicken till tender: Add the marinated chicken. Cook the chicken in the yogurt mixture till it is tender. This process will take about 45 minutes for bone-in chicken, and around 20 – 25 minutes for boneless chicken.
- Wait till the oil separates: Once the oil starts separating from the sides of the chicken curry, that’s when you can tell that the curry is ready to be served.
Dahi chicken is delicious with roti / chapati, as well as Basmati rice. It can also be served with naan or paratha. On the side, you can add a refreshing kachumber salad and achaar.
Dishes that would complement dahi chicken are a simple sabzi (vegetable curry) such as aloo ki tarkari (spiced potato curry) or a daal / dahl such as kaali daal (black lentils curry) or moong masoor daal (red and yellow lentil curry).
Once the chicken curry is ready, it can be kept outside for a few hours. After that it should be stored in the fridge in a glass container for upto 3 days. The best way to warm up a chicken curry is on the stove – add a few tablespoons of water in a pot and bring it to a boil. Cook on low heat for a few minutes till bubbling and warmed through.
This is a freezer friendly recipe. Once the curry is cool, transfer to a freezer safe airtight container. It can keep in the freezer for upto 6 months. To defrost, let it thaw overnight in the fridge and then warm on the stove. It can also be warmed up directly from the freezer – just remove in a pot, add a few splashes of water and cook on low-medium heat till warmed through.
Why is yogurt / curd added in chicken curry?
There are multiple reasons that yogurt / curd is added to a chicken curry. Yogurt is an excellent meat tenderizer and is often used as a marinade in Pakistani / Indian cooking. It slowly tenderizes the chicken and ensures that it remains juicy and succulent such as in this dahi chicken recipe. It is also used to create a gravy base (known as a salan) in this chicken curry. The benefit of using yogurt is that it creates a rich and creamy gravy base without the use of any cream.
FAQ's and Expert Tips
The ideal time to marinate this chicken is an hour – that’s not too long of a wait, but enough time for the flavors to penetrate, and the yogurt to start it’s tenderizing magic. If you don’t have the time, marinating for 10 – 15 minutes is enough as well.
The chicken can also be marinated overnight or upto 12 hours easily making this a great make ahead style chicken curry. Marinade the chicken the night before, and cook it in the morning. Or prepare the marinated chicken curry in the morning before leaving for work. As soon as you come home from work, just put the chicken on the stove and dinner is ready in 45 minutes. Compared to vinegar or citrus-based marinades, yogurt tends to tenderize meat much more gently and effectively, so the chicken curry pieces can be left in the yogurt marinade for a longer duration.
How to tell if your chicken curry is ready?
Once you see the oil floating on top or the sides of the chicken curry, it’s ready. This process usually takes around 45 minutes for bone-in chicken, and around 30 minutes for boneless chicken pieces. The masala has had enough time to cook, and turn into a gravy base.
Remember, the amount of oil added in the recipe will impact the look of the gravy base. It’s important to add a sufficient amount of oil for the gravy base to come together. If you add less oil, the chicken curry will be healthier yes, but the gravy won’t be as rich and vibrant.
So this dahi chicken recipe isn’t a low calorie recipe because it does have oil. However, it is a reasonably healthy chicken curry. There’s no cream or nuts in this chicken curry, just yogurt which has probotic benefits. If you do want to make the chicken curry healthier, you can reduce the amount of oil used in the recipe or substitute with extra virgin olive oil.
The purpose of whole spices are to add a subtle flavor and aroma to the curry. However, if you don't have all the whole spices you can just add the ones you have, and skip the rest. Indian and Pakistani grocery stores usually sell mix packets of whole spices (known as sabit garam masala) and are a good option to purchase if you don't want to buy individual packets of all the spices.
You can also add garam masala (powdered whole spice powder) as a substitute, but this needs to be added at the end of the cooking process just before serving. The flavor profile won't be the same, but it will be delicious nonetheless.
Move the spices to the edge of the plate as you are eating. If you are serving to friends and family, let them know as well so they can do the same. Otherwise you can remove the whole spices before serving. The bigger pieces such as the cinnamon stick, cardamom pod and black cardamom are easy to find. Those of us who grew up in a Pakistani / Indian household are familiar with whole spices - we just move them to the side of the plate as we are eating. Sometimes we miss them, and will then end up biting into a cardamom pod, or a black peppercorn. If that happens, we usually spit it out or eat it.
More curry recipes to try
Here are some more Pakistani / Indian red meat and chicken curries that you can try out:
- Chicken Korma - traditional and authentic recipe
- Chicken Karahi
- Ginger Chicken, Pakistani style
- Chicken Salan - the simplest Pakistani chicken curry (no tomatoes or yogurt)
- Aloo Gosht - Potato and Goat Meat / Mutton Curry (Stovetop and Pressure Cooker Method)
- Bhuna Gosht - Beef Curry (Stovetop and Pressure Cooker Method)
- Murghi ka Salan (Chicken Curry with Tomatoes and Onions)
If you try out the recipe, do rate and review the recipe, and let me know how it was in the comments below.
Dahi Chicken – Marinated Chicken Curry with Yogurt
- 10 – 12 black peppercorns
- ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
- 4 cloves
- 2 black cardamom (known as kali elachi)
- 2 cinnamon inch pieces
For the chicken:
- ½ kg chicken, bone-in skinless chicken curry pieces see note 1
- 2 cups yogurt
- 1 teaspoon red chili powder
- 1 tablespoon ginger paste see note 2
- ½ tablespoon garlic paste see note 2
- 1 ½ teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoons oil
- 2 small onions / 200g onions finely chopped
- Place the chicken in a bowl. Add all the whole spices, yogurt, red chili powder, ginger garlic paste and salt. Mix together and leave to marinate for at least 10 minutes. Ideally for an hour.
- Heat oil in a medium sized pot.
- Add the onions, and fry till transparent (about 5 – 10 minutes).
- Add the marinated chicken and cook on medium heat for 2 – 3 minutes.
- Turn heat to low, and cook till the chicken is tender (about 45 minutes). Make sure to cook on low heat, and stir every few minutes as the yogurt can stick to the bottom of the pan.
- The chicken is ready when the oil separates from the gravy.
- Serve dahi chicken / marinated chicken curry with yogurt with Basmati rice, roti or chapati.
- The type of chicken cut used in Pakistani and Indian curries is known as chicken curry pieces or bone-in skinless chicken pieces. This meat cut is easily available at South Asian or Desi butcher shops. Boneless chicken breast or chicken thigh cut into cubes can also be used, but it won’t have the full-bodied flavor that comes from using bone-in chicken. Reduce cooking time if using boneless chicken.
- Ginger and garlic paste can be made at home using a food processor / food mill or purchased from the supermarket. It is easily available at Pakistani / Indian grocery stores, and at regular supermarkets as well. If not available, mince fresh garlic cloves and fresh ginger into a paste using a grater or a mortar and pestle.
- The ideal time to marinate this chicken is an hour. If you don’t have the time, marinating for 10 – 15 minutes is enough as well. The chicken can also be marinated overnight or upto 12 hours easily making this a great make ahead style chicken curry.