Indulge in the rich and aromatic flavors of Chicken Handi, a classic South Asian dish that combines tender chicken with a luscious, spiced curry. Slow-cooked to perfection, this dish is the perfect blend of spices and creamy textures.Jump to Recipe
I absolutely love how easy and unique this recipe is. The aromatics in the sauce are so good you can expect your house to smell delicious all day. One thing that separates this recipe from others is the fact that it's authentically made in a Handi pot. This special pot enhances the flavors of the curry, facilitates even cooking, and can incorporate vital nutrients into the food. This earthen clay pot is popular in Indian cooking.
I couldn't get my hand on one to make this recipe but I found that I could use a tagine instead. While it's not a Handi pot, it's a clay pot designed to enhance the flavors of the curry in similar ways. If you don't have one, don't worry there are other dishes you can use to make this restaurant style chicken handi. We will get more into that later.
What Is Chicken Handi?
Chicken Handi is a popular South Asian dish that features tender chicken cooked in a thick, spiced curry. The term "Handi" refers to the traditional vessel in which the dish is typically prepared. A handi is a deep, narrow-mouthed cooking pot made of clay. It is believed that a handi pot can enhance the flavors and aroma of the dish.
The traditional preparation of Chicken Handi involves marinating chicken pieces in a blend of yogurt and spices, then it's slow-cooked in the handi with a flavorful and creamy tomato-based curry. The result is a rich, savory dish with a perfect balance of spices, creating a delicious and comforting meal.
Reasons You'll Love Chicken Handi
Rich and Aromatic Flavors: Chicken Handi is known for its rich and aromatic flavors, thanks to marinating the chicken in the blend of spices, herbs, and the slow-cooking process. The combination of various spices creates a complex and satisfying taste.
Tender and Succulent Chicken: The slow-cooking process used in Chicken Handi ensures that the chicken becomes tender and absorbs all the flavors of the spices and curry. This results in juicy, succulent chicken in every bite.
Comfort Food: The warmth and richness of Chicken Handi make it super comforting and satisfying. Enjoy it with flatbread like naan or over a bed of rice to make it a hearty complete dish. It's also a great choice for cooler weather. The warm aromatic spices used in this recipe like garam masala are perfect for this time of year.
Perfect for Gatherings: This curry is a great choice for family gatherings and everyone is sure to enjoy this delicious meal. The recipe makes enough to feed around 5 so you may need to double the recipe if you expect to feed a crowd. Another reason why this is a great choice for hosting is because the ingredients are straight forward and are very affordable.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
For The Marinade
Plain yogurt - Did you know that yogurt is an extremely effective meat tenderizer? It does so slowly, gently, and effectively. This is extremely important to ensure the best results for chicken that is both tender and juicy. The chicken marinade is dumped into the tomato mixture giving it a delicious creaminess. If you don't have yogurt on hand you can try to use fresh cream instead.
Chicken thighs - I used boneless chicken thighs. I found that this was easy because there's no need to fish out bones before serving. I do recommend trimming the excess fat before adding to the marinade.
Garam masala - This is one of my favorite spice blends consisting of various warm spices which include cinnamon, black pepper, cardamom, coriander, mace, mustard seed, and nutmeg.
Salt - To enhance flavors of the chicken and other ingredients used in the marinade.
For The Curry
Ghee - Commonly used in South Asian cuisine to cook the aromatics. If you don't know, ghee is a type of clarified butter. If you don't have this ingredient on hand, you can use a cooking oil or butter.
Onion - Any onion you have on hand can be used. This includes white, yellow, sweet, red, etc. You can substitute for onion paste if needed.
Garlic - We use quite a bit of fresh garlic in this recipe. It takes it to a whole new level. Try using a ginger garlic paste to enhance flavor if you don't have fresh garlic or ginger.
Ginger - Fresh ginger is a must. You don't need a lot to elevate the flavor. I make sure it's minced well so nobody bites into a chunk of ginger. Don't have fresh ginger? Use ginger paste or a ginger-garlic paste instead
Green chili - When you go to the store, try looking for Thai green chillies. They can be hard to find so sometimes I will opt for a jalapeno or serrano pepper. If you don't have any fresh peppers on hand you can use red chilli powder to add heat instead.
Cumin seeds - The whole spices are so good in this recipe. If you can't find seeds you can substitute 1 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder instead.
Turmeric powder - Provides subtle flavor but gives the chicken Handi a beautiful color!
Coriander - A warming spice with a deep nutty flavor.
Water - To thin the sauce a bit.
Crushed tomatoes - To provide the tomato base. Many recipes use tomato paste or tomato puree but I found that crushed tomatoes are thick enough and provide small pieces of tomato all throughout the curry which I love.
Cilantro - A delicious garnish at the end and this herb also adds so much freshness to the final result.
How to Make Chicken Handi
Step 1. In a bag combine yogurt, chicken thighs, garam masala, and salt. Close the bag making sure there's no air. Massage the yogurt mixture into the chicken thighs until well combined. Marinate for at least 30 minutes up to 8 hours in the refrigerator.
Step 2. Heat ghee in the handi or a deep, heavy-bottomed pan. Add chopped onion and garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes over a high flame (medium high heat) until softened and fragrant. Add green chili, cumin seeds, turmeric, and coriander to the hot oil. Stir frequently to be sure the spices don't burn.
Step 3. Deglaze the pan with water and add crushed tomatoes. Stir to evenly distribute the seasonings.
Step 4. Add marinated chicken and the marinade to the earthen pot. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Cook covered over medium low heat for 15-20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.
Step 5. Remove from heat, garnish with cilantro, serve with basmati rice, jeera rice, and or hot naans.
Tips and Tricks
Choose the Right Chicken: This recipe is a boneless chicken handi recipe. We used boneless chicken for a quicker cooking time and ease of eating. If you choose bone-in chicken be sure to increase the cook time.
Marinate Adequately: Allow the chicken to marinate for at least 30 minutes. This not only imparts flavor but also helps tenderize the meat. For a richer taste, marinate the chicken for a longer period, even overnight in the refrigerator.
Use a Handi or Heavy-Bottomed Pan: If possible, cook the Chicken Handi in an actual handi, a traditional clay pot. This enhances the flavors. If not available, a heavy-bottomed pan will work well.
Control the Heat: Adjust the heat carefully. Start with a higher heat for initial cooking, and then reduce it to simmer the curry. Controlling the heat prevents the spices from burning and allows the chicken to cook through.
Don't Skip the Garnish: Fresh coriander leaves (cilantro) are the go to garnish for this meal. The fresh herbs add a burst of freshness and color.
Must Try Variations
Vegetable Chicken Handi: Add a mix of colorful vegetables like bell peppers, peas, carrots, and beans to the boneless handi for added texture and nutrition.
Paneer Chicken Handi: Combine chunks of paneer (Indian cottage cheese) with chicken for a delightful fusion. The paneer adds a creamy texture to the dish.
Cashew Chicken Handi: Enhance the richness by adding cashew nut paste or whole cashews to the curry. This variation adds a subtle nutty flavor.
Coconut Chicken Handi: Add coconut milk to the Chicken Handi for a dairy free alternative to the yogurt. This variation brings a subtle sweetness and creaminess to the dish.
Tandoori Chicken Handi: Marinate the chicken in tandoori spices before cooking to give it a smoky and charred flavor reminiscent of tandoori chicken.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I store and reheat?
Before storing, allow the Chicken Handi to cool. Transfer the chicken handi to airtight containers and refrigerate for 3-4 days for optimum freshness. I don't recommend freezing because dairy can change when it's thawed resulting in an undesirable texture and flavor.
To reheat, place the chicken handi in a microwave safe bowl with rice and cover with a paper towel. Microwave on high for 30 second increments until completely heated through.
What's the difference between chicken curry and chicken handi?
There are many similarities between the two recipes. We will talk about just a few. Chicken curry can be prepared in various cooking vessels, including regular pots and pans. It's not specifically tied to a particular type of cooking pot. Chicken Handi on the other hand uses a handi which is a traditional clay pot with a narrow mouth and a bulbous base.
Chicken curry is a general term that covers a wide range of chicken dishes with different styles of preparation. It can include dry or gravy-based curries, and the spices and ingredients used can vary significantly based on region. Chicken Handi specifically refers to a style of cooking where chicken is marinated and slow-cooked in a handi. The preparation often involves a creamy and spiced curry, with the chicken pieces cooked to tender perfection.
I don't have a handi pot, what else can I use?
Deep, Heavy-Bottomed Pan: A deep, heavy-bottomed pan or skillet can work well as a substitute for a handi. Choose one with a lid to allow slow cooking and trapping of flavors.
Dutch Oven: A Dutch oven, known for its even heat distribution and ability to retain moisture, is an excellent substitute. It can be used for slow-cooking dishes like biryanis or curries.
Clay Pot or Tagine: While not identical to a handi, a clay pot or tagine can impart unique flavors to the dish. Soak the clay pot in water before use to prevent cracking.
Earthenware Pot: An earthenware pot, similar to a clay pot, can be used for slow-cooking and can add unique flavors to the dish.
More Chicken Recipes
Easy Restaurant Style Chicken Handi
- 1/4 cup plain yogurt
- 1 lb boneless chicken thighs
- 2 teaspoons garam masala
- Pinch of salt
For The Curry
- 2 tablespoons ghee
- 1 onion chopped
- 5 cloves garlic minced
- 2 inch ginger minced
- 1 green chili chopped
- 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 1/2 cup water
- 15 oz crushed tomatoes
- In a bag combine yogurt, chicken thighs, garam masala, and salt. Close the bag making sure there's no air. Massage the yogurt mixture into the chicken thighs until well combined. Marinate for at least 30 minutes up to 8 hours in the refrigerator.
- Heat ghee in the handi or a deep, heavy-bottomed pan. Add chopped onion and garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes over a high flame (medium high heat) until softened and fragrant. Add green chili, cumin seeds, turmeric, and coriander to the hot oil. Stir frequently to be sure the spices don't burn.
- Deglaze the pan with water and add crushed tomatoes. Stir to evenly distribute the seasonings.
- Add marinated chicken and the marinade to the earthen pot. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Cook covered over medium low heat for 15-20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.
- Remove from heat, garnish with cilantro, serve with basmati rice, jeera rice, and or hot naans.