Chicken Jalfrezi (Easy and Authentic)
If you’re looking for an authentic Chicken Jalfrezi recipe that’s easy to make yet bursting with flavor, you’ve come to the right place. All you need is one pot, 30 minutes, and everyday ingredients to make this crowd-pleaser. Tested to perfection!
I have tried other recipes and even bought sauce in a jar, but nothing could compare to my local restaurant until now. This recipe is everything I hoped it would be and I’m so happy to be able to have this any time I want without spending $17.Bryan F
What Is Chicken Jalfrezi?
Chicken Jalfrezi is a tomato-based curry made with boneless chicken pieces, bell peppers, and onion.
Chicken Jalfrezi has a short history. When the British were in East India, they (or their cooks) would sometimes throw leftover meat into curries. This invention led to the name ‘jal-frezi’, which translates to ‘hot/spicy’ (jhal) and ‘fry/stir-fry’ (fraizi).
Where You’ll See it Today
Because of its Anglo-Indian history, Chicken Jalfrezi is much more popular in the UK than it is here in the states. In Houston, I’ve only seen it at a handful of restaurants. Even in Pakistan, it isn’t as popular as curries like Chicken Karahi or Chicken Manchurian.
In recent decades, Jalfrezi has taken on a slight Indo-Chinese flare. Many versions, including mine, use a small amount of ketchup, soy sauce, or chili sauce.
Chicken Jalfrezi vs Chicken Shashlik
For the longest time, I was confused about the difference between Chicken Jalfrezi and Chicken Shashlik (i.e. the tomatoey boneless chicken + bell pepper situation). So even though nobody has asked me this, I figured I’d explain to my former self:
Jalfrezi is much more South Asian in its flavor profile than Shashlik, which is entirely Indo-Chinese. Unlike Shashlik, Jalfrezi is made with actual tomatoes. Jalfrezi also has a drier, spice-infused sauce while Shashlik has more gravy and no South Asian spices.
Here’s what you’ll need to make Chicken Jalfrezi:
- Chicken: Jalfrezi is usually made with boneless chicken pieces. I’ve tested this recipe with both chicken thighs and breast. While they both work, due to the higher heat cooking, chicken breast tends to dry out more.
To combat this, I tried marinating the chicken breast in yogurt and found it helped keep the chicken breast juicy and tender. See recipe card for how to do this.
P.S. Just to make sure, I tried marinating the thighs too and found it doesn’t make a noticeable difference. That’s why the recipe doesn’t require marination.
- Oil: Any oil would work as long as it’s not overpowering.
- Garlic & ginger: You can finely chop them in a food processor or use a mortar & pestle to crush.
- Tomatoes: A star ingredient here. You can use Roma/plum, vine, or any other fleshy tomato. If you can, purée these in a food processor to get a saucy consistency.
- Bell peppers (aka Capsicum): Green and red is the typical bell pepper combo, but you can use yellow or whichever you have on hand.
- Onion: Apart from the onion used to form the base of the curry, some jalfrezis have crisp onion cubes along with the bell peppers. Both red and yellow onion work great for this.
- Green chilies: I use Thai/bird’s eye chilies or Serrano. Use as much as you’d like to increase or decrease the heat.
- Ground spices: Turmeric, coriander, red chili powder (or cayenne), garam masala, and black pepper are the main spices. I’ve also used Kashmiri chili powder or paprika for color and mild flavor. Kashmiri chili powder is a little bit spicier than paprika but they can be used interchangeably in this recipe.
- Tomato paste: Optional – for more concentrated tomato flavor and to introduce a little sweetness.
- Tomato ketchup: Intensifies the tomatoey, tangy flavors. You can also use chili garlic sauce or hot and sweet sauce if you don’t mind a little extra spice.
- Soy sauce: Enhances the umami, savory, Indo-chinese flavor.
- Vinegar: Adds tang. You can use rice or white vinegar.
- Lemon Juice: Adds brightness and tang as a finishing touch.
- Cilantro: Optional – for garnish.
How To Make Chicken Jalfrezi
Here’s what we’re trying to achieve at each step:
- In a wide pan, sauté onions until golden. Browned onions give a flavorful base to the sauce. Then add the garlic and ginger and sauté until they’re no longer raw and the onions deepen more in color.
- Add the chicken and stir-fry until the color changes from pink to pale. Then add the salt and the ground spices and allow them to bloom in the hot oil.
Tip: If at any point the onions, spices, chicken, or even tomatoes start to stick to the bottom of the pan, deglaze with a splash of water.
- Stir in the puréed tomatoes. This is where the chicken will finish cooking and the tomatoes will reduce down to a sauce. If you want to retain more liquid, reduce the tomatoes less here.
- Lastly, add the peppers, onion (if using), soy sauce, ketchup, and vinegar. Sauté until the bell peppers have softened. If the curry is starting to dry up, add a splash of water and allow it to meld in with the sauce. Squeeze in the lemon juice and garnish with cilantro.
To retain more sauce, reduce the tomatoes less in Step 3. You can also add in 1/4-1/2 cup of water toward the end and allow it to meld in with the sauce.
As-is, this jalfrezi is medium-spicy. You can always adjust heat by reducing or increasing the green chili pepper and red chili powder.
Double all the ingredients. You may also need to sauté longer to reduce down the tomatoes.
Chicken Jalfrezi is so easy to experiment with:
- For more creaminess, add 1-2 tbsp heavy cream, coconut milk, or yogurt along with the tomatoes.
- Add sauces such as 1 tsp worcestershire sauce, hot and sour sauce, or chili garlic sauce.
- Garnish with julienned ginger along with cilantro.
- Julienne the meat and vegetables to give it a slightly different look and mouthfeel.
What To Serve With Chicken Jalfrezi
It’s also versatile enough to go with just about everything:
To reheat leftovers:
If I had to reheat this dish for guests, I would reheat it on the stove with a splash of water over medium heat. If it’s just for me, I’d microwave it!
Leftover ideas: Add leftovers to your pasta sauce, roll them up in parathas, or make desi-style fajitas.
More Chicken Recipes You’ll Love
- Spicy Cashew Chicken (another amazing Indo-Chinese recipe!)
- Chicken Manchurian
- Pakistani Chicken Karahi (Easy & Authentic)
- Easy Achari Chicken
- Chicken Korma
- Baked Tandoori Chicken Curry
Tried this recipe? If you have a minute, please consider leaving a comment telling me how it was! If you’re on Instagram, please tag me so I can see your creations. I truly love hearing from you. Thank you!
Chicken Jalfrezi (Easy and Authentic)
- 1/4 cup neutral oil
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 medium (~220 g) yellow onion, finely chopped
- 5-6 garlic cloves, crushed or finely chopped
- 1- inch ginger, crushed or finely chopped
- 1 lb (454 g) boneless chicken thighs, cubed into 3/4-1” pieces, or chicken breast – option to marinate – see Note 1
- 2 tsp coriander powder
- 1 tsp Kashmiri red chili powder or paprika, for color
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1/2 tsp red chili powder
- 1/4-1/2 tsp garam masala, start with 1/4 tsp if yours is store-bought as some can be quite strong/pungent
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 1/8 tsp sea salt
- 3 small (~300-330 g) tomatoes (I use Roma), pureed in a food processor
- 2 tsp tomato paste, optional
- 1 small (~100-150 g) green bell pepper, cubed into 1” squares
- 1 small (~100-150 g) red bell pepper, cubed into 1” squares
- 1/2 small (~60 g) red or yellow onion, cubed into ¾” squares (optional)
- 1-2 small green chili pepper such as Serrano or Thai Chili, chopped or sliced
- 1 tbsp soy sauce, sub gluten-free soy sauce or tamari
- 1 tbsp ketchup, sub chili garlic sauce or hot and sweet sauce
- 1 tsp white vinegar or rice vinegar
- 1 tsp lemon juice, or lime juice
- 1 tbsp cilantro, for garnish (optional)
- Large sauté pan (lid not required)
- Food Processor (optional) – for blending tomatoes or finely chopping onions
- Heat oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the cumin seeds (they’ll start to sizzle) and onion. Sauté until the onions are golden (~7-8 minutes). Add the garlic and ginger and sauté for another minute, until aromatic.
- Add the chicken and sauté until the color changes from pink to pale (~3 min). Add all the ground spices (coriander, Kashmiri red chili/paprika, turmeric, garam masala, red chili powder, and black pepper) and salt and sauté for 1-2 minutes. You’ll start to see the oil glisten and separate.
- Stir in the puréed tomatoes and tomato paste (if using). Sauté for 5-6 minutes, until the tomatoes are cooked and the oil starts to glisten.
- Add the red and green bell peppers, onion (if using), green chili pepper, soy sauce, ketchup, and vinegar. Sauté for another 4-5 minutes, until the bell peppers have softened to your liking and you can see the oil separating from the curry. If the curry is starting to dry up, add 1/4 cup (60 ml) of water and sauté to desired consistency.
- Turn off the heat. Squeeze in the lemon juice and garnish with cilantro. Serve immediately with roti, paratha, naan, or rice.
To combat this, I tried marinating the chicken breast in yogurt and found it helped keep the chicken breast juicy and tender. Here’s how to do it:
- In a medium bowl, combine the chicken breast with all the spices and 1/2 tsp salt along with 2 tbsp of yogurt. Set aside.
- When it calls for it in the recipe, add the chicken along with the remaining 1/2 + 1/8 tsp salt.