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Curry with Pickling Spices: Nigella, Cumin, Mustard Seeds

Achari Chicken Recipe

This Achari Chicken Karahi has all the pickling spices that go in your favorite mango/carrot achar. This Chicken Karahi is full of zest and tang that's balanced perfectly with yogurt.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Pakistani
Keyword Achari Chicken
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 4
Author Rookie With A Cookie


Achari Chicken Masala (to coarsely grind)

  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds

Achari Chicken Masala (to be added to the above ground blend)

  • 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds remember to NOT grind this by mistake; this releases a rather bitter taste when ground
  • 2 tsp whole round red chilli
  • 1 tsp Kashmiri red chilli powder
  • 1/4 tsp regular red chilli powder you can increase this to 1/2 tsp if you like lots of heat
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt


  • 1/3 cup oil (cooking+mustard oil) I use 1/4 cup regular canola and the remaining mustard oil
  • 1/2 tsp nigella seeds
  • pinch of cumin and mustard seeds
  • 1 red onion chopped
  • 1 tomato chopped
  • 2 tsp ginger and garlic paste
  • 1 tsp tomato paste
  • All of the Achari Masala mix
  • 1 cup water if using an instant pot, 1/4 cup is more than enough
  • 500-750 grams whole chicken pieces ask for the Karahi cut at your South Asian meat shop. You can also use boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into medium chunks
  • 1/3 cup beaten yogurt remember to beat the yogurt to prevent it from curdling


  • First, prepare and set aside the Achari masala. You only need to coarsely grind the first three ingredients and then add the remaining spices to that mix.
  • To make the Karahi, add oil to your pan. Once hot, add in the nigella, cumin and mustard seeds and allow them to crackle, about 30 seconds.
  • Next, add in the onion and fry on medium heat until golden brown. Take your time with this.
  • Next, add in the tomato and continue stirring for a couple minutes on medium high heat. Pop the lid on for 5-6 minutes and let the tomatoes break down.
  • Add in the tomato paste and mix really well.
  • Sprinkle in all of the Achari masala and sautee really well for 2-3 minutes to release the flavors of the spices. If the masala begins to stick, add a splash of water.
  • Next, add in the chicken and stir to coat it well in the masala. Stir for a couple minutes or until the chicken is no longer pink.
  • Then, pour in water and let it come to a boil before covering with a lid. Let the curry cook on low to medium heat for 25 mins.
  • Remove the lid, and increase the heat to high to help the water evaporate if there is any. Continue stirring the Karahi on medium to high heat until the oil separates. This can take anywhere from 8-15 minutes.
  • Once the oil has separated, add in the yogurt and mix well. The Karahi will look a bit white but don't worry. Pop the lid on, turn the flame a bit lower and let the Karahi simmer for another 10 mins.
  • At this point, it should look perfectly done with a deep rich color and the oil should have separated. Garnish with julienned ginger and green chillies and serve with naan.


  • If there is plenty of water in the Karahi after 25 mins, simply turn the heat to the highest setting and stir until the water evaporates. You will have to keep an eye on the Karahi and make sure to lower the heat a bit once you notice the water has evaporated. The oil should slowly start to separate and you'll see the edges of plan shimmering with oil. This does come with practice but I hope this tip helps.
  • Alot of recipes call for marinating the chicken with the yogurt and spices and you can certainly do that if you'd like. However, I have always made Achari Chicken Karahi this way and it's perfect. One less bowl makes me a happy cook!
  • DO NOT grind fenugreek seeds (which is methi dana). When creating this recipe, I made that mistake and the tartness was overwhelming.