Ginger chicken is a bright Pakistani dish that is perfect for busy weeknights, and sharing with friends. It gets its bold flavor from heaps of fresh ginger, cilantro and chilies, and of course, a hearty tomato sauce.
I’m grateful to my friend Rafia for opening her kitchen to me, and sharing her father’s recipe. The dish was brought to Rafia’s kitchen by her father who tinkered with the recipe until the flavors brought him home.
What You Will Need
The great thing about this recipe is that it doesn’t require anything obscure. If you cook South Asian food regularly, most of these items should be in your pantry already.
- Boneless Chicken: Rafia prepared this chicken using chicken breast but it will work equally well with boneless thighs.
- Onions: I would recommend using yellow or white onions to create the base for this dish. Red onions can work in a pinch but you will have to adjust the cooking time since they do not release as much water.
- Crushed Garlic: You can buy this from the store or you can just peel and crush fresh garlic gloves using a mortar and pestle or food processor.
- Crushed Ginger: Again, you can buy this from the store or you can peel and crush a knob of fresh ginger. I like to make the crushed ginger and garlic in advance, and store them in airtight containers in the fridge. You can add a splash of vinegar or olive oil to further increase their shelf life.
- Red Chili Powder: My family normally uses Kashmiri red chili powder that is available in most South Asian grocery stores. This variety is not too spicy, and it will give your food a brilliant bright hue. You can substitute it for cayenne powder but just remember to adjust for heat.
- Turmeric Powder: This helps add color to the dish.
- Fresh Ginger: Layering fresh ginger on top of the crushed ginger base is what makes this dish, “ginger chicken.” You can skip it but it will definitely take away from the punchiness of the dish.
- Fresh chilies: Pakistani recipes typically call for bird’s eye chilies but if you are having a hard time finding them, swap them for a locally available variety. Just remember to adjust for heat!
- Full-fat Yogurt: Adding yogurt helps thicken the texture, giving the dish a nice creamy finish. I recommend letting the yogurt come to room temperature, and lightly whipping it with a fork before adding it. This helps prevent it from curdling.
What to Serve with Pakistani Ginger Chicken?
Ginger chicken is great for a busy weeknight but it’s also great for sharing with friends. In addition to serving it with roti or naan, I would recommend pairing it with vegetarian sides that are on the drier side.
- Aloo Sabzi: This classic dish of aloo sabzi (potatoes simmered in a spicy tomato base) has a similar flavor profile to ginger chicken. It will round off your meal with starch, and also pairs well with a side of roti.
- Chana Daal: This drier, tamarind-infused daal is a lovely complement to the creamy texture of the chicken.
- Bhindi Masala (Okra) or Karela Sabzi (Bitter Melon): These would be my go-to sides for ginger chicken. The grassy flavor of okra or the bitterness of karela alongside ginger chicken will make for a delightful meal.
- Nimbu Soda: I normally don’t put in a plug for drinks but personally, I think ginger chicken is begging to be had with nimbu soda.
Pakistani Ginger Chicken Recipe
- ½ cup neutral oil
- 2 medium-sized onions roughly chopped
- 2 teaspoon crushed ginger
- 1 teaspoon crushed garlic
- 2 pounds boneless chicken diced
- 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
- 1 teaspoon red chili powder
- ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
- 4 roma tomatoes roughly chopped
- 1- inch knob ginger julienned
- 1 bird's eye chilies + extra for garnish
- ½ cup full-fat yogurt brought to room temperature
- Heat oil on medium heat in a non-stick saucepan. Once it begins to shimmer, add chopped onions and fry until soft.
- Lower heat, and add crused ginger and garlic paste. Fry for roughly 2 minutes, taking care to not burn them.
- Increase heat to high, and add chicken and ½ teaspoon of the salt. Fry on medium heat for about 10 minutes.
- Add red chili powder and turmeric powder, and stir for a few seconds until fragrant.
- Add diced tomatoes, and remainder of the salt. Cook on high heat until the sauce is reduced to a jammy mixture.
- Add julienned ginger and green chili.
- Lower heat, stir in the yogurt, and let the chicken cook for an additional 10 minutes.
- Place in serving bowl and garnish with julienned ginger, cilantro and green chilies.