achari chicken curry – indian hotel style

Achari chicken curry is not your run of the mill curry. In fact, it’s not really like anything else. If you want something that stands out from the crowd this one is for you.

A little tangy. That’s the best way to describe it. With aromas that reach down and grab you inside. At least that’s what happens to me.

If you’ve ever tried achari chicken curry you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you’ve never tasted it, think about changing that.

Achari chicken in a kadai (Indian wok) from the front.

Achari means pickle in Hindi

Pickles in curry. How can that possibly make sense? Madness!

Turns out, it does make sense. A lot of sense. This isn’t about kosher dills. This is about Indian pickling spices. Which have nothing to do with kosher dills. Except maybe the mustard seeds.

Indian pickles are a completely different beast. Related somehow I suppose. But not the same. At all.

Technically chicken achari is a curry cooked with the same spices that are used in Indian pickling. Chicken cooked with pickling spices. That’s really tasty. But I want more.

More flavour. Always more flavour. So this version has garlic pickle. And maybe naga pickle for those who like it spicy.

That pushes it over the top. If you’ve tried the adding garlic pickle to garlic chilli chicken you know what a flavour boost that brings.

Hotel style achari chicken curry is about as subtle as a sledgehammer. And that makes me smile.

Table scene featuring achari chicken in a kadai surrounded by smaller side dishes.

The right pickle for you

Choice of pickle makes a big difference. They are not all the same. Not at all. Green chili pickle is bright and spicy. The type I use is heavy on the mustard seed.

Mango pickle is dark. Earthy. Not so spicy. Naga, on the other hand. Naga pickle is seriously spicy. Melt your head hot. But it brings a flavour you cannot get anywhere else. It’s just one of those things…

Garlic pickle is in your face. Like you’d expect. Garlic and chili. Seriously unsubtle. That’s my preference here.

I like them all. Go with what you like. It’s going in your mouth. Not mine. Your dinner. Your call.

Spoonful of achari chicken curry from the front.

Fresh achari masala makes for great achari chicken curry

I’m going to make you toast whole spices for this one. Sorry. I know. It’s a pain. You need a spice grinder. More time. More work.

But the payback is real. And it’s huge. You just cannot get this flavour any other way. I try not to ask this too often.

But where are you going to get ground fenugreek seed? Or ground fennel seed? And what are you going to do with the rest of the package if you do find it?

If you have to grind two, why not grind them all? That’s my excuse for asking here. You had to do it anyway.

I should probably grind spices every time I cook. Everything would taste better. But I don’t always have time. And you’d probably go somewhere else for your recipes.

So that’s not happening. I’m happy you are here. And they sell ground spices for a reason.

Achari chicken curry in a kadai with naan from above.

Hotel style achari chicken curry

Unless you are a regular around here, you’ve probably never heard of Indian hotel style cooking. It’s a little different from what you might be used to.

It sits between typical Indian restaurant style cooking and traditional home cooking. You get the lush restaurant style sauces. And the deeper flavours you love from traditional Indian cooking. It’s the best of both worlds.

There’s a few nice benefits to hotel style. It’s not as messy as Indian restaurant style. That spatter all over your stove? Gone. Easier to make. And way easier to clean up.

The secret is the deep browning of the onions in hotel style curry gravy. That’s what really does it. The big difference. Fundamental.

More work up front + less mess = more flavour. That’s the math. And I’m always about more flavour. So I like the math.

Hotel style is nothing new

I’m pretty sure modern day Indian restaurant cooking has its roots in Indian hotel style cooking. The way it’s done in hotel restaurants in India. And the really posh Indian restaurants around the world.

Somewhere along the way it was simplified. Restaurants need to manage labour costs.

Time is money. So some enterprising cooks found a way to make it easier to make. Less effort. Less cost. That’s totally understandable. Hotel style base is more work up front.

But something was lost. The depth of flavour diminished. The complexity muted.

The restaurant world split. Indian in India. Indian everywhere else.

I’m a fan of both styles. Both are good. Just different. Restaurant style is familiar. It’s tasty stuff. No doubt about that.

But when I want maximum flavour. When I want to blow my friends away. When I’m going for the win. That’s when I go hotel style. Every. Single. Time.

Fresh ground spices. Indian pickle. And hotel style technique. That’s what this is about.

If you want something a little different. Something seriously delicious. Something that will break you out of the same old same old. Think about hotel style achari chicken curry. Your tastebuds will thank you.

achari chicken curry in a kadai from above.
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4.95 from 19 votes

achari chicken curry – Indian hotel style

Just a little bit of Indian pickle makes an amazing difference to the flavour of achari chicken curry
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Keyword achari chicken, achari chicken curry
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 2
Calories 589kcal
Author romain | glebekitchen


achari masala

  • 3 dried kashmiri chilies stemmed and seeded.
  • 2 tsp coriander seed
  • 1 tsp cumin seed
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seed – brown
  • 1 tsp fennel seed
  • 1/4 tsp fenugreek seed

The spice mix

  • 1 1/2 tsp achari masala – the ground spice. See above
  • 1 tsp kashmiri chili powder
  • 1 tsp kasoor methi – dried fenugreek leaves
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt

achari chicken curry

  • 3 tbsp neutral oil – mustard oil is more traditional. I like half mustard oil and half neutral (e.g. vegetable oil)
  • 1 tbsp garlic ginger paste – recipe link below
  • the spice mix from above
  • 2-3 finger hot (jwala) green chilies cut into 1 inch pieces (optional and really depends what pickle you choose)
  • 1 cup Indian hotel curry gravy – Recipe link in the notes. Don't worry if it seems too thick. The juices from the chicken will thin it out.
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into 4 pieces each
  • 2-3 tsp garlic pickle – possibly more – see note below.
  • 1/4 tsp naga pickle – optional but so tasty. Even a 1/4 tsp will add real heat though so be careful.
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock – if needed.


Make the achari

  • Pre-heat a small skillet over medium-low heat.
  • Add the spices except the kashmiri chilies to the skillet.
  • Toast, shaking the pan, until they just start to get fragrant. This should take a two or three minutes. Add the kashmiri chilies and toast until the chilies start to colour. This happens fast so pay attention.
  • Let cool and grind to a powder with little chunks in it. Not super fine but not coarse either. Fine with little coarse bits in it. I should take a picture.
    I like a coffee grinder for this. The old ones with the blade work well. Not the best for coffee. Great for spices.
  • You won't need all of it so transfer it to a jar with a tight fitting lid and store in a cool, dark place so it's ready for next time.

Do your prep

  • Measure out your spice mix. Prep your chicken. Measure out a cup (237 ml) of Indian hotel curry gravy. Cut up your green chilies if using.
  • Make sure you have everything ready to go.

Make the achari chicken curry

  • Heat the oil in a medium sized frying pan until the oil just starts to shimmer.
  • Stir in the garlic ginger paste. Gently fry until the garlic ginger paste stops sputtering. This can get a little messy.
  • Turn your heat down to medium low and add your spice mix. Cook for about 30 seconds. You want to fry your spices in the oil. Don't skimp on the oil. Bad things happen if the spices stick and burn.
  • Add the green chilies if you are using them. Cook another 30 seconds or so.
  • Add the Indian hotel curry gravy. Stir it really well to get the oil to combine with the curry gravy. You want everything mixed together at this point. Bring to a simmer.
  • Add the chicken thigh pieces in a single layer. Nestle them down into the sauce. Cover and ccok about 5 minutes. Remove the cover, flip the chicken and recover. Cook until the chicken is done. Use an instant read thermometer if you have one. You are shooting for an internal temperature of 160F. It will get to 170F as the curry finishes cooking.
  • Add the garlic pickle (or whatever pickle you decide to use) and the optional naga pickle if using. Stir well to combine.
  • Look at the consistency. You have a decision to make. If the chicken threw a lot of liquid the sauce might be right. If not, add a tablespoon or two of chicken stock and mix it in. Look again. If you are happy with it, cover and simmer for 2 minutes. If it's still too thick, add a bit morestock. I've never added more than a 1/4 cup.
  • Achari chicken curry is great with rice and a chickpea curry if you are feeling really motivated.


You can use whatever pickle you fancy for this recipe. Different pickles have different flavour profiles and intensity. Start with two teaspoons and taste. If you feel you want more flavour add another teaspoon. With naga pickle I would start at 1/2 tsp maximum. Two teaspoons of naga pickle will likely melt your face and quite possibly the pan you are cooking the curry in.
Make your Indian hotel curry gravy ahead of time. It does take time to make so think about doing it the day before. You can freeze one cup portions and pull them out when you need them. That’s what I do.
For maximum flavour consider making your garlic ginger paste from scratch. I know I say this a lot but it makes such a difference.
1 cup is 237 ml.


Serving: 2servings | Calories: 589kcal | Carbohydrates: 16g | Protein: 35g | Fat: 43g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Cholesterol: 161mg | Sodium: 1253mg | Potassium: 779mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 702IU | Vitamin C: 16mg | Calcium: 88mg | Iron: 4mg

40 thoughts on “achari chicken curry – indian hotel style”

  1. 5 stars
    Hi Romain,
    tried a few of the recipes and really impressed. I am doing them for the whole family as individual dishes. Was wondering if I could cook say double portions in one pan to save time or would that make the spice gravy balance not right?

    • Delighted you are enjoying the recipes. Yes, you can double the hotel style recipes. A lot of scaling science seems to be aimed at scaling far beyond 2 times (big batch cooking). 5 or 10 times will present challenges but 2 times isn’t a problem.

  2. Hi Romain.

    I have been making your recipe’s for a few years now and am starting to get more adventurous. I really would like to try achari chicken but in restaurant style. Is it possible to adapt a hotel style recipe to restaurant style?

    Appreciate all of your posts! they have really transformed my love of curries!

    • You could try something like the restaurant garlic chili chicken curry but substitute two teaspoons of the achari masala for the Indian restaurant spice mix. It won’t be the same as this recipe (totally different styles) but it will be tasty.

  3. 5 stars
    Absolutely superb. We love pickles so added half again as much of the garlic pickle 🙂 It made such a difference having the hotel gravy made ahead of time make this a quick and delicious dinner! Thank you again for such a great recipe 🙂

    • Awesome to hear. Delighted you enjoyed it. I’m a big Indian pickle fan as well and love to play with this one using different pickles…

    • I’m afraid you would get completely different flavours. Sambal oelek, while absolutely delicious IMO, is nothing like Indian pickle.

  4. 4 stars
    Living in the land of the BIR (British Indian Restaurant) curries I am always looking for new techniques and recipes. Your gravy style recipes are absolutely spot on and a something I have been preaching about myself.
    Just for a change can you add some side dishes to your recipes? In the UK we love our sides such as Bombay Potato, Saag Aloo, Onion Bhaji etc.
    I make these regulary for us but I would value your input as well!
    Good work- keep it coming, your Achari Curry is next on the list as we don’t seem to have this in local restaurants.

    • Delighted you are enjoying the recipes. I love my side dishes as well. There are recipes for Bombay potatoes, saag aloo, tarka dal, channa masala, chole masala, gunpowder potatoes and more here. Bhaji and pakoras I haven’t gotten around to just yet. If you look under Indian in the recipe menu you’ll find them.

  5. Hi Romain,
    I’m going to try your recipe for hotel style curry sauce. I just know its going to be great! Have you got any plans for Chasni or Pathia recipes? I cook curry 3 times a week and am always on the lookout for something a little different such as Watermelon Curry or Banana Skin Curry! Currently enjoying Maharastran curry.

    • Hotel style pathia and vindaloo are at the top of the list. I’m not sure the world is ready for my naga, nutella and liver curry though…

      You actually made me laugh out loud. Thanks!

  6. 5 stars
    Please please help me as I’m and absolute convert to your Indian curries.
    I want to make one of your curries for 8 people. Are there any that I could do in one or maybe two pans as I just don’t have enough burners to do them all at the same time.

    • Always happy to help! If you are making hotel style curries you don’t have to worry about frying the gravy hard like you do in restaurant style. You can scale hotel style curries up linearly without issue. So for this curry just quadruple everything except maybe your choice of pickle. Add the pickle to taste. 4x the pickle should work but if you are using a really hot pickle it’s always a good idea to creep up on it.

    • Thank you so much for replying. Sorry for being a nuisance but you said that I can scale up restaurant curries linearly without issue. Did you mean to say “hotel” style? or am I just not understanding?

    • No, I mis-spoke. I have corrected the comment below. You are right. Hotel style scales well. Restaurant style does not scale as well.

    • Hi Romain
      Thank you so much. I’m just over the moon that you actually replied to me. You must get so many people asking you questions about your fantastic curries. i’m going to take your advice and make the restaurant style curries the day before and just re-heat them and just practice making the hotel style curry for myself prior to cooking it for a gathering. Probably safer that way.
      Hope you have a super Christmas in these strange Covid times.

  7. 5 stars
    Please please help me as I’m and absolute convert to your Indian curries.
    I want to make one of your curries for 8 people. Are there any that I could do in one or maybe two pans as I just don’t have enough burners to do them all at the same time.
    If not could I cook them separately and freeze, then just heat them up on the day?

    • See my other note. For hotel style you can scale easily. All the hard work is done at the hotel gravy stage. For restaurant style you need to be able to fry the curry base hard to generate the flavour compounds (Maillard reaction). If you have a big enough pan and enough nerve you can try doubling the restaurant recipes. You can also cook them one at a time and then transfer them to a saucepan as you go. When you are ready to serve you can just gently warm the curry (taking care not to overcook the protein).

      I don’t have direct experience freezing curries but I hear lots of people do it. You could also cook them the day before and just store them in the fridge. I often find curries taste as good or even better the next day.

  8. 5 stars
    I’ve noticed several Achari Murgh recipes online include yoghurt towards the end of cooking…I love this recipe but as I love creamy curries too, I was wondering if you think it would work okay to add a little yoghurt to this recipe?

    Keep up the great work, I love trying out your recipes! (Hubby loves me trying them too) 🙂

    • So glad to hear you are enjoying the recipes! I am a bit odd in that I don’t love yoghurt in my curries when it’s added in the end in restaurant style curries. It varies from curry to curry for me but in general I don’t add yoghurt often. When I do (in a rogan josh for instance) I tend to add it early in the cooking process to get the flavours to meld a little better. Traditional curries are a little different as the yoghurt has some time to cook in (even 5 or 10 minutes makes a difference for me).

      If you like the taste of yoghurt added at the end I would add a little bit, taste and then decide how far to go.

  9. Hi Romain, I can’t get garlic pickle, can I use chilli pickle as a substituted or will it spoil the flavour of the curry? Thank you for your wonderful recipes.
    Sue G

    • If by chili pickle you mean green chili pickle it will be good. It will be a very different curry. But it will be good. If you mean like a naga pickle it will be incendiary in the quantities written.

      Garlic pickle is tasty stuff. It might be worth hitting Amazon for a jar eventually…

  10. 5 stars
    Love it ! I used Lamb just because that’s what we had today and it was delicious ! A lot of work, but so worth it! Thank you so much for your recipes. I tried and failed making Indian food using other recipes so many times until discovering your website!

  11. Can’t get dried Kasmiri chillies here but I have a jar of Chiili Pickle screaming out to be used . Thanks for all your recipes, your hard work is appreciated.

    This is another recipe I will pass on to our local Curry heads here in Spain.


  12. Hi. Brilliant work. love it all. Keep going, we want more. Best curry site out there. Get twitter, instagram etc. One comment what about symbols to notify which curries are mild, medium or hot.

    • 5 stars
      Wow, my new favourite of the hotel style recipes – Loving the Indian pickle ones, they really add something. I’ve done this one 3 times already; A batch of hotel base sauce is lasting about 2 weeks currently!

    • You are going through hotel base faster than I am! Great to hear you are enjoying this one. Achari is just so good. I’m literally bananas for Indian pickles! Just did a chana achari post in fact. Cannot get enough.

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