murgir jhol – homestyle bengali chicken curry

Murgir jhol is classic Bengali chicken curry. This is pure Indian home cooking. Simple. Straight forward. And delicious. Family food.

It’s not fancy. It’s not flashy. And it’s not like the curry you get in restaurants. It’s just good. I think so anyway. Hopefully you agree.

This is eastern Indian cooking. The flavours I grew up eating. My comfort food. When I was a kid this was just called chicken curry. I didn’t even know if was called murgir jhol.

India is a country with an incredibly diverse culinary culture with strong regional differences.

There is so much more to it than the twenty or so dishes every Indian restaurant seems to serve. So much more.

Table scene from above. Murgir jhol, eggplant curry, chili sauce, parathas, chana masala and samosas. From above.

Murgir jhol is curry with Bengali ingredients

There’s nothing earth shattering in this recipe. Onions. Garlic. Ginger. Tomatoes. These are everyday Indian ingredients.

Potatoes are fairly common in Indian cooking as well. Especially in Bengali cooking. They use them a lot. So this is really a chicken and potato curry.

Mustard is big. If you want to go the extra mile use some mustard oil to cook. It has a distinctive taste. Not super strong. Background really. But really popular in Bengali cooking.

Panch phoran and cinnamon are the things that really make this Bengali chicken curry. These are the hallmark flavours. The signature ingredients.

The only thing I can think of that would make this more Bengali would be if you added more cumin seed and mustard seed.

And you turned this into a fish curry. That would put it completely over the top. But that’s not Bengali chicken curry. And the title of this post does say murgir jhol so…

Panch phoran is not a crazy exotic ingredient

Panch phoran is Bengali five spice. It’s a mix of cumin seed, mustard seed, nigella, fenugreek seed and fennel seed. Told you cumin seed and mustard seed were big in Bengal.

These are small spices. So you can eat them in the curry. It’s not like biting into a whole cardamom. Don’t fear the small spices. They blend in. It works.

Panch phoran is the flavour that defines murgir jhol. But it’s used in all sorts of dishes. Try fried or roasted potatoes with it sometime. Some garlic. A little salt. That is some crazy delicious.

You can get Panch phoran at just about any Indian grocer. Or you can make it yourself. It’s just an even mix of the five spices. Left whole. Mix it up and go. Easy.

Murgir jhol, eggplant curry, rice and chickpea thali from the front.

Take the time to brown your onions

Funny thing about Indian cooking. You don’t usually brown the chicken. One of those things that used to perplex me until I thought a bit about it.

The Maillard reaction is the king of cooking. It’s the process of browning. And that is browning is what causes a reaction between proteins and sugars.

A reaction that releases a zillion flavour compounds. Literally a zillion. I counted. Took a long time. But now I know.

So how can not browning the chicken result in something that doesn’t taste like nothing?

It’s because the Maillard reaction applies to onions too. And if there is one golden rule to Indian cooking it’s brown your onions.

That’s where the flavour compounds are coming from. That’s why it works even though you skip what should be an absolutely critical step.

You can brown your chicken. That adds more flavour. But it messes up the texture of the chicken in the curry. And texture matters too. So I don’t do it.

Boneless vs. bone-in chicken

I used boneless chicken thighs for this recipe. That upscales it a bit. Makes it closer to what you might expect in a restaurant.

That’s not authentic. That’s me trying to get you to try this recipe. A bit fancier. More approachable. Not what you’d get in somebody’s home.

But make no mistake. Bone-in chicken is genuine. Pick up the chicken and slurp the bones genuine. Lick your fingers genuine. Like I said. Family food.

But if you’re doing this for friends who are in the knife and fork crowd maybe boneless is the way to go.

Either way it needs to be thighs. White meat is too delicate for this kind of cooking.

Murgir jhol and eggplant curry from above.

Murgir jhol is a little bit different

This is not a restaurant style curry. It doesn’t have that crazy thick sauce. It’s not a few pieces of stuff in a whole lot of gravy. This curry is a little bit runny.

Not soupy by any stretch of the imagination. But not that stick to your naan bread restaurant stuff either. It is perfect with rice. Just runny enough to flavour every grain.

If this stops you from making murgir jhol that’s really too bad. It’s something you should experience at least once. A little insight into family cooking. The way people cook at home. The real deal.

This isn’t mainstream restaurant fare. You may not get it. But if you’ve cooked a few recipes from this blog already I’m betting you will.

Murgir jhol table scene with rice and chickpeas from the front.
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5 from 24 votes

murgir jhol – bengali chicken curry

Murgir jhol is a delicious Bengali chicken and potato curry.
Course Main
Cuisine Indian
Keyword bengali chicken curry, murgir jhol
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Servings 4
Calories 398.07kcal
Author romain | glebekitchen



  • 1 1/2 tsp panch phoran – bengali 5 spice available at any Indian grocer
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom seed green
  • 1 3 inch cinnamon bark – also called cassia
  • 2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 2 tsp kashmiri chili powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp kosher salt

murgir jhol

  • 2 lbs chicken thighs – boneless skinless
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil or 2 tbsp vegetable oil and 2 tbsp mustard oil
  • 2 large onions thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp garlic ginger paste
  • 1 large tomato diced
  • 12 oz potatoes cut into 1 inch dice
  • 1 cup chicken stock or water (but I much prefer chicken stock)


Do your prep

  • Combine the panch phoran, cardamom seed and cinnamon stick in a small bowl.
  • Combine the cumin, coriander, kashmiri chili powder, turmeric, salt and pepper in another small bowl.
  • Slice the onions thinly. Slice the onion in half (from root to stem) then slice across the onion so you get half moons.
  • Cut your potatoes into 1 inch pieces.
  • Cut your chicken into largish bite size chunks.
  • Chop your tomato.

Make the murgir jhol

  • Pick a pot big enough to hold all the ingredients.
  • Heat the oil over medium low heat. Add the onions. Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until they break down and turn light brown. This takes 15-20 minutes. You can't skip this step.
  • Push the onions over to one side. Give a squeeze against the side of the pot to get some of the oil out.
  • Add the whole spices. Cook for about 30-45 seconds. Now add the ground spices and stir to mix with the oil. You don't want the mix to be dry at this point. You want the spices wet. If it looks dry add another tablespoon of oil. Cook for about a minute. Be careful. Don't let your spices burn.
  • Add the garlic ginger paste. Stir everything together and cook, stirring regularly, for 3 minutes or so.
  • Add the tomatoes. Stir. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down. This should take 5-7 minutes.
  • Add the chicken stock and the potatoes. Cover and simmer (adjust your heat accordingly) for 15-20 minutes. Your potatoes should be starting to soften.
  • Add the chicken. SImmer another 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender and chicken is cooked. Taste and adjust for salt. It will likely need a bit more.
  • Garnish with cilantro if desired. Serve with basmati rice.


Serving: 4servings | Calories: 398.07kcal | Carbohydrates: 22.35g | Protein: 31.35g | Fat: 20.86g | Saturated Fat: 13.06g | Cholesterol: 129.28mg | Sodium: 174.2mg | Potassium: 1019.86mg | Fiber: 5.09g | Sugar: 4.58g | Vitamin A: 708.17IU | Vitamin C: 21.69mg | Calcium: 81.59mg | Iron: 5.62mg
Murgir jhol is Bengali home cooking. Chicken and potatoes in a deliciously spiced chicken curry.

33 thoughts on “murgir jhol – homestyle bengali chicken curry”

  1. 5 stars
    If anyone has passed over making this curry, you are really missing something!

    There is something magical about the flavour of panch phoran which gives this curry a unique, delicious and genuinely satisfying flavour. If often make this restaurant style and it really works well. (It’s called Bengali Chicken Curry in the restaurant style recipe.)

    It’s one of my favourites which I keep coming back to time and time again!

    • I love that you keep coming back to this one. It’s a taste of my childhood and a lifelong favourite that I want the world to try:-)

  2. 5 stars
    LG’s comment thread (above) gave me the confidence to take a swing at scaling up to serve 45 – it worked! Even though I was the one cooking it, I couldn’t quite believe it…

    Notes on the experience:
    Scaled back all spices by about 1/4 – 1/3 (I forgot all about accounting for scale in the spices until I was blooming the powdered spices…I pulled [a quantity] of cooked spice-mix paste out of the pan to save for another day). If I ever cook for a crowd if again, I’ll take better notes… The heat and flavor balance came out really nicely – gentle enough for the delicate, spice-shy palettes of my audience but still deeply flavorful – even though it was a bit of a stab in the dark on how much actually ended up in there…

    Since it was about 20 onions, I chopped with the slicing disc of a food processor…then browned the onions in two side-by-side 15″/38 cm rondeaus…took about 2 hours and had to do it in 4 total batches. I was perhaps a bit impatient about it, as some of the onions got extra toasty on the bottom layer. Didn’t seem to matter too much after everything go combined.

    Then, combined all the cooked onions into one rondeau to cook and distribute the spices and tomato…then back into two pans to do the potatoes amd chicken (yukon gold/yellow potatoes chopped to ~1/2 cubes…took longer than noted in the recipe to cook, but stayed firm and didn’t disintegrate or turn grainy like russets do).

    Probably there was a more efficient way to do all that, but it was a great learning experience and a successful attempt.

    Roman, thank you for sharing your recipies, knowledge, and advice on this website. It has revitalized my enjoyment of cooking to be able to make and eat this food with my friends and family, and made me excited to experiment with flavors in new ways.

    • Dinner for 45. That is full on incredible. Congratulations. I’ve never attempted anything close. Delighted you found your inspiration here:-)

  3. Hey! I’ve been asked to do a mild curry for 14, and I don’t fancy doing 7 batches of restaurant style (which are brilliant btw)! This looks like it’ll scale up, what do you think? My only thought is doing the onions in batches as it scales to 7 large, and substitute the chilli for paprika? Thanks!

    • I think it will scale just fine providing you have a really large pot (maybe 2 pots would be better if you think you can run them in parallel. I wouldn’t fear the kashmiri chili powder…

    • I settled on half Kashmir and half paprika, it was not too hot for the non-chilli crowd but you could taste it, just. Scaled up nicely, went down a treat, an empty pot, speaks for itself!

  4. I made this for the first time tonight and it was amazing, my wife loved it. She also asked could I make it with just vegetables. Any suggestions on what you think would work I’d appreciate.
    Many thanks

    • You could try it with roasted eggplant. You would lose the liquid thrown by the chicken as it cooks (and the chicken flavour) so you would need to make that up with water or vegetable stock.

  5. 5 stars
    Romain: this recipe is simply amazing. Great, rich flavours and a different taste to Indian curries. Familiar, but different.More Bengali dishes, please – I’m hooked! I volunteer to be a recipe tester!

    • Awesome! I do love Bengali cooking. It’s in my blood. I do a Bengali inspired dhansak as well (recipe is under the traditional tab or just search for it).

    • Not everything has methi in it:-).

      The earlier comment was actually because I had inadvertently written methi in the recipe instructions.

  6. Great recipe, looking forward to trying it out tomorrow and reliving some of the tastes of my childhood!

    When you talk about cardamom seeds, do you mean whole pods or the actual seeds inside the pods?

    And how much salt would you use in something like this – you mention it in your directions but not in the ingredients list! (I’m planning to use chicken stock rather than water as I imagine that could make a difference)

    PS. I’m terrible at salting dishes ‘to taste’!

    • I hope you enjoy it! I mean cardamom seeds. If a recipe on glebekitchen calls for pods I’ll say pods.

      Not sure what happened to the salt in the ingredients but it’s fixed now. If you are using a no-sodium chicken stock you will likely need to adjust up a bit but if you are using chicken stock with sodium then you should be fine. When I say stock I don’t mean bouillon cubes BTW so if you are thinking of using those remember they are mostly salt.

  7. 5 stars
    This taste just like how my dad use to make it when I was little. He was from Bangladesh and I’ve been looking for a recipe as good as his. This took me back to my childhood.

  8. 5 stars
    Wow. I’ve tried 3 recipes from your site now and made this one tonight. These recipes are fantastic, this is the closest I’ve come to cooking food like you get in the best Indian restaurants. Thank you! I will be trying plenty more.

  9. 5 stars
    Hey Romain, another fantastic recipe! My friends at my local Indian restaurant (well, Bangladeshi, as 95% of UK Indian restaurants are) say that they make this and call it their “Staff Curry”. It’s a lovely dish I cook at least once a month.

  10. Took your butter chicken ( huge amount, two large trays) to a gathering tonight, it went down a storm!
    I’ve been making the same “curry base” for a few years now same ingredients and really enjoyed it… until I discovered your secret of the long simmer.. total game changer! Thank you so much x

  11. Ah, Romain, you’ve done it again!

    I made this tonight and it was fabulous! Thank you so much for all your recipes, you are the best.

    I followed your recipe pretty much to the letter and I have to agree – use that mustard oil! It just added that freaking extra oomph!

    With many thanks & best wishes,

    • Carla – that is very kind of you to say. Thank you. I’m glad you enjoyed a little bit of homestyle Indian cooking!

  12. 5 stars
    Hi there! Another fantastic recipe. Tried it tonight. Perfect! However, I didn’t include the kasoor methi mentioned in the instructions but not in the ingredients.

    • Thanks. Glad you liked it. Don’t know what I was thinking when I wrote the instructions. Thanks for the catch!

5 from 24 votes (17 ratings without comment)

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