Jeera Chicken
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No. 1 Kenyan Style Jeera Chicken Curry

This scrumptious Kenyan style jeera chicken curry is made with fresh garlic, ginger, and a bunch of whole and ground aromatic spices.

I grew up on this jeera chicken curry. Kenya has a very large Indian population and they have modified some of the Indian curry recipes to make them their very own. Having grown up in Kenya, I was lucky enough to have had the pleasure of enjoying and learning all about these recipes and flavours. This is an example of just such a recipe.

Jeera chicken got its name because of the “jeera” that is used on top of the curry once it’s cooked. Jeera is cumin. This recipe calls for whole cumin seeds that are toasted / roasted and sprinkled on top of the curry to give it a delicious crunch.

The ingredients for Jeera Chicken Curry

No need for onions, or tomatoes. This curry is made with a special ingredient – yogurt.

Ingredients for jeera chicken
Ingredients

The Ingredients List:

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil (or oil of choice)
  • 6 whole black peppercorns
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 inch ginger
  • 1 jalapeno pepper (or chili of choice)
  • 2 teapoons whole cumin seeds (divided)
  • 8 boneless skinless chicken thighs (or bone in if preferable)
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • 2 whole green cardamom pods (or 1/2 teaspoon cardamom powder)
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander 
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon red chili powder (or paprika for a milder version)
  • 4 tablespoons plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 cup water
Jeera chicken curry with roti

The difference between this curry and any other Indian curry is that it does not use onions or tomatoes. We start with finely chopping the garlic, ginger, and chili. You can seed the chili if you prefer it to be milder or you can skip it completely. It will not make much of a difference in the flavour. Chop the chicken thighs into bite size pieces and place them in a separate bowl. Set everything aside.


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Heat a large pan and bring it to medium heat. Do not add anything to it. Add half the whole cumin seeds (1 teaspoon) to the pan and toast them. You will be able to smell an earthy flavour as soon as they start to toast. Toss them around in the pan and allow them to toast for about 2-3 minutes. Remove them from the pan and set them aside.

Dry roasted jeera
Dry roasted jeera

Now we can add the olive oil to the pan. Let it heat up and once it’s ready, add the remaining whole cumin seeds, whole black pepper, and whole cardamom pods to the pan and allow them to pop. Again you will smell that earthy flavour, but a slightly more pungent smell as they pop. Add the garlic, ginger, and chili to the pan and cook them for about 3-4 minutes or until the moisture has disappeared and they have browned.

Add the chicken thighs to the pan and toss them in so that they are coated with the garlic mix. Add salt to taste and cook for about 4-5 minutes allowing the rawness of the chicken to disappear. Once the chicken has started to turn whitish, we know it’s cooked enough and we can move on to the next step.

Garlic, Ginger, Chili, and whole spices
Garlic, Ginger, Chili, and whole spices

Add the garam masala, coriander powder, turmeric, and chili powder to the pan. Mix well so that the meat is coated with the dry spices. Mix the yogurt into the water and add that to the pan. Again, toss well to coat everything with the yogurty liquid. Immediately, you will see the colour change and turn into a deep reddish-yellow colour. Turn the heat down on the stove and allow the jeera chicken curry to simmer on low heat for about 20-25 minutes. Mix it often to prevent it from burning.

Jeera Chicken
Jeera Chicken

Once most of the liquid has dried up, the curry is ready to be enjoyed. Just before serving, sprinkle some fresh coriander and the dry roasted cumin seeds that you had set aside onto the Kenyan style jeera chicken curry. Enjoy with a side of roti, naan, or rice.

Serving Suggestions

Here is a list of my favourite accompaniments for this curry:
Flatbread – there are so many varieties of flatbread that can be enjoyed with this recipe. Try naan, roti, paratha, or plain tortilla wraps.
Rice – there are so many rice dishes that can be enjoyed with this recipe as well. Try plain basmati rice, pilau, rice and peas.
Salad – salads are a great combo when it comes to curries. They offer a freshness that goes very well with the spice combo.
Yogurt – I love having a side of yogurt raita, or tzatziki with my curries. they too offer a freshness that goes really well with all the spices.

Kenyan Style Jeera Chicken Curry

Course: EntreeCuisine: KenyanDifficulty: Easy
Servings

4

servings
Prep time

5

minutes
Cooking time

30

minutes
Calories

282

kcal
Total time

35

minutes

This scrumptious Kenyan style jeera chicken curry is made with fresh garlic, ginger, and a bunch of whole and ground aromatic spices.

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil (or oil of choice)

  • 6 whole black peppercorns

  • 2 whole green cardamom pods (or 1/2 teaspoon cardamom powder) 

  • 3 garlic cloves

  • 1 inch ginger

  • 1 jalapeno pepper (or chili of choice)

  • 2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds (divided)

  • 8 boneless skinless chicken thighs

  • salt to taste

  • 1 tablespoon garam masala

  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander 

  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric

  • 1 teaspoon red chili powder (or paprika for a milder version)

  • 4 tablespoons plain yogurt

  • 1 tablespoon butter

  • 1/2 cup water

Directions

  • Finely chop the garlic, ginger, and chili and set aside.
  • Chop the chicken thighs into bite size pieces and set them aside in a separate bowl.
  • Heat a large pan and once it’s heated enough, add one teaspoon of whole cumin seeds to the pan and dry roast them for about 2-3 minutes or until they start to smell earthy. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  • Pour the oil into the same pan and allow it to heat up. Add the remaining cumin seeds, whole black pepper, and whole cardamom pods to the pan and allow them to pop – about 2-3 minutes.
  • Add the chopped garlic, ginger, and chili to the pan and allow them to cook for 2-3 minutes or until they brown.
  • Add the chicken and toss so that it’s well coated. Cook the chicken until most of the rawness is gone and it’s mostly white looking.
  • Add the remaining spices – garam masala, turmeric, red chili powder, and ground coriander to the pan. Toss to coat the chicken.
  • Mix the water and yogurt together and add that liquid to the pan. Toss the chicken again to ensure that all of the chicken is coated with the liquid.
  • Turn the heat down and allow the chicken to simmer on low heat for about 20 minutes or so. Stir from time to time to ensure it doesn’t burn. Once the liquid has mostly dried up, it’s ready to be enjoyed.
  • Just before serving, sprinkle with fresh coriander leaves and the dry roasted cumin seeds you had set aside.
  • Enjoy with a side of roti, naan, or rice.
Nutritional facts
Nutritional facts


Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use chicken breast instead of thighs?

Yes, you can use breast, or even drum sticks. I have even bought a whole bird and chopped it into pieces and used that. In fact, bone in meat always tends to taste better and doesn’t dry out. If using breast, do not over cook it, or it will dry out.

How do you ensure the chicken is moist in curry?

You can marinate the chicken in the yogurt, salt, and pepper to ensure it stays moist. Remove it from the yogurt and cook it and then add the yogurt as the recipe suggests. If you do this, use 1/2 yogurt instead of just 4 tablespoons.

How do you know the chicken is cooked?

Generally chicken cooks very fast. If you are using breast, once it turns whitish, it’s almost cooked. Cook it for a little longer and if you can stick a tooth pick into it without too much trouble, it’s cooked enough.
If you are cooking bone in meat, the meat will start to fall off or separate from the bone and you know it’s cooked.


Check out other Entree recipes here.

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2 Comments

  1. Yay! I love this recipe! Thank you!

    1. Hi Sujata,
      So glad you like it. We love it here 🙂
      Enjoy!
      Deepti