Chicken jalfrezi is on every single Indian restaurant menu for a reason. It’s delicious. Now you can make it at home. In 30 minutes. Start to finish. Any night of the week.
The flavours are restaurant worthy. Lush sauce. Bold flavours. Big chunks of lightly charred peppers and onions. And the bite of green chilies. My kind of dish.
This is an old recipe. From back in early 2018. The early days of glebekitchen. I’m dusting it off and bringing it forward.
Because I believe. I want you try it. Something a little different. Something a bit counter-intuitive. But something that works. Works well.
You could buy a jar of jalfrezi sauce. Toss in some chicken. And hope for the best. Pretty sure best isn’t the word that will come out of your mouth though.
Or you can make this chicken jalfrezi. It will surprise you I think.
Char your peppers a bit for great chicken jalfrezi
There’s a secret to making a good chicken jalfrezi. Took me forever to figure it out.
You have to scorch the green peppers when you fry them. Get them to almost blister. Like when you roast chiles.
That gives the dish its signature, smoky flavour. It’s critical. No char. Lower average. With char. Seriously delicious. The difference is not subtle.
It’s dead easy to do. Heat your oil. Pop some nice big green pepper pieces into the pan skin side down. And wait.
After about two minutes take a peek at one. If you see a bit of blistering. A little char. Then you know you’ve arrived.
You can start tossing them around the pan. Secure in the knowledge your jalfrezi is going to be great.
Onions make the sauce
That’s the thing about Indian cooking. It’s almost always the onions. Almost. I am a firm believer onions have no place in a top notch butter chicken. Seriously.
Traditional Indian cooking relies on browning the onions. Lots of onions. And that takes time.
Restaurants get around this by making a thing called curry base or base gravy. It’s basically a curry flavoured onion soup. Making it takes time. A couple hours.
30 minute curry in a hurry is restaurant style. Streamlined. It has a really fast version of the onion soup.
Uses all the restaurant techniques. Gets restaurant results. Not perfect maybe. But really, really close.
And it takes 30 minutes. From the time you open the fridge. To the time you put it on the table.
It uses the least useful kitchen appliance almost everyone owns. The microwave. A 10 minute zap at around 70 percent gets you cooked onions. There’s a point to the microwave after all.
Some water and a quick trip to the blender gets you base gravy. And restaurant technique does the rest.
Why this works
Restaurants don’t make big pots of curry and hope people show up. Can you imagine?
51 dishes on the menu. 51 big pots of expensive curry simmering on the world’s largest stove.
That is a formula for bankruptcy. There’s no way anyone can run a restaurant like that. Plus who would want a chicken jalfrezi that has been simmering for 5 hours…
What they actually do is cook to order. And they have figured out ways to make that work.
They use curry gravy. And it’s when the curry gravy hits hot fat that magic happens. Not really magic. The Maillard reaction. Food science.
You don’t have to understand it. It’s what makes a lot of things take better. It’s like MSG. Except it’s not controversial. Nobody hates on the Maillard reaction.
The curry gravy is onion soup. Remember that. So the first 20 minutes of sweating onions is already done. The onions are cooked.
That’s why this works. You go straight to browning mode. And that saves a ton of time.
30 minutes is not a challenge
I can make this dish in 30 minutes. I’m comfortable with the recipe. I cook a lot. I’m pretty fast in the kitchen.
If that sounds like you then I think you can do it too. 30 minutes is totally doable. But this isn’t a contest.
If it takes you 34 minutes that’s OK. 36 minutes? That’s good too. Don’t rush to hit a number. That just doesn’t make sense. It really doesn’t matter.
What matters is you create something you enjoy eating. And hopefully making. Cooking is supposed to be fun. Always remember that.
Chicken jalfrezi in 30 minutes – curry in a hurry
At the end of the day you have a choice to make. You can open up a jar of sauce. Add some chicken. Cook.
That’s going to take you 15 minutes. It’s almost certain to disappoint. And it isn’t going to be cheap.
Or you can spend an extra 15 minutes and make something. Something worth eating. A meal you are happy to see on your plate. A meal you can serve your friends.
I know what I choose. No contest…
30 minute chicken jalfrezi
The onion paste
- 2 cups onions – coarsely chopped
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 cup water
- 6 boneless skinless chicken thighs cut into 3 pieces per thigh.
- 1 green pepper – cut into 3/4 inch pieces
- 1 medium onion – cut into 3/4 inch pieces
- 4 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1/2 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp tandoori masala
- 2 tsp mild kashmiri chili powder
- 1 tsp kasoor methi – dried fenugreek leaves
- 1 tsp kosher salt – use a bit less if you are using table salt
- 2 tbsp garlic ginger paste – see notes
- 1 1/2 tbsp minced cilantro stems
- 1 1/2 tbsp tomato paste diluted to the consistency of tomato sauce
- 2 green chilies – halved lengthwise, seeded and cut into 1 inch pieces
- 6 cherry tomatoes – halved
The onion paste
- Place the 2 cups of chopped onions in a microwave safe dish and cover loosely. Microwave at 70 percent until the onions are soft and translucent. This takes 10 minutes in my 1100 watt microwave. I can’t predict how long it will take in yours…
- Remove the onions from the microwave. Be careful. They will be hot. Let them cool slightly. Place the onions, 2 tbsp vegetable oil and 1 cup of warm water in a blender and puree until smooth. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, combine the cumin, coriander, turmeric, tandoori masala, Kashmiri chili powder, kasoor methi and salt. This is your spice mix.
- Heat 4 tbsp vegetable oil in a pot over medium heat until it shimmers.
- Add the green pepper, skin side down. Cook for about 2 minutes. Add the remaining chopped onion and continue to cook until the onion starts to brown on the edges and the green pepper scorches a bit. You really want the colour on the green pepper skin. It’s key to the taste of a jalfrezi.
- Add the garlic ginger paste and cilantro stems and cook until the garlic ginger paste stops spluttering.
- Turn the heat to medium low. Add the spice mix and stir continuously until it starts to smell really good – around 30-40 seconds. Watch it carefully. If you burn the spices at this point you have to start over. It will stick a bit. That’s OK – you will deglaze with the tomato mixture.
- Add the diluted tomato paste and stir to combine. Turn the heat up to medium. Cook for 1 minute, scraping up any spice mix that stuck to the pan..
- Add the onion paste and turn the heat up to medium high. Cook, stirring occasionally for about 4 minutes. It will darken a bit as it cooks. Don’t worry if it seems a bit dry. The chicken will release juices as it cooks and you should be left with a nice amount of sauce.
- Turn the heat down to medium low. Add the chicken and green chilies and stir. Cover and simmer until the chicken is done. It's done when you measure the internal temperature and it says 170F, about 10-12 minutes. An instant read thermometer is a handy thing to have here…
- If the curry is a bit thick add a bit of water or chicken stock and stir. Add the cherry tomatoes. Let the chicken jalfrezi simmer another minute or so. Taste for salt and adjust as needed. It may be a bit under salted at this point.
- Garnish with a bit of cilantro if desired.