Chicken Nihari – Savory Comfort Food to Restore Tired Souls

The rich and aromatic layers of a pot of chicken nihari create an inviting and hearty dish that entice anyone who has tasted it. Originating from Pakistan and India, nihari is a famous and classic dish served for both breakfast and dinner during special occasions and daily meals. This traditional Mughal dish emphasizes the essence of comfort with its savory and slightly spicy flavor.

The intricacy of preparing nihari lies within its combination of spices, which can vary from region to region. This recipe is based off a traditional approach to the dish, using a blend of spices, such as cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, which work in perfect harmony, creating a unique and alluring taste. The addition of red chillies adds a subtle yet prominent heat that isn’t overwhelming.

Begin by browning 2 ½ pounds of chicken thighs and adding them to a large pot. Tip: if cooking with a whole chicken, be sure to debone it to reduce cooking time. Saute onions, garlic and ginger in some oil until fragrant and then add them to the pot. To give the nihari sauce a luscious texture and flavor, gently stir in a mixture of yogurt and water (1 cup of each).


  • 2.5 lbs chicken thighs
  • 1 ½ cups of onions (chopped)
  • 3 cloves of garlic (minced)
  • 1 inch piece of ginger (minced)
  • 2 tablespoons of oil
  • 2 tablespoons of ghee
  • 2 tablespoons of chicken masala (or garam masala)
  • 2 tablespoons of cardamom powder
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder
  • 1 teaspoon of nutmeg powder
  • ½ teaspoon of cloves powder
  • 1 teaspoon of red chillies (crushed)
  • 1 cup of yogurt
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 teaspoon of salt


  • In a skillet, brown chicken over medium-high heat and add to a large pot.
  • Heat oil and ghee over medium-low heat.
  • Add onions, garlic, ginger and spices and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and lightly browned.
  • Remove the onion mixture from the heat and add to the pot of chicken.
  • Add yogurt, water and salt and bring to a boil over high heat.
  • Reduce heat to low and cover the pot. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce is thick and creamy, about 45 minutes.
  • Season with additional salt, if desired. Serve with naan or any type of flatbread.

This delightful dish is renowned for its hearty and cozy texture, making it the perfect winter warmer for any occasion. To top off the experience, have a “Glass Lassi”, a traditional yogurt-based drink to balance out this savory concoction. Serve it with some hot naan or any type of flatbread and you have a simple but flavorful meal that is sure to energize and tantalize your taste buds!