green masala chicken

A light chicken dish from Lahore in Pakistan.

This green masala chicken has a fresh taste, with the lemon, ginger and spices complementing a large amount of coriander.

Called hariyali chicken. or hara masala murgh, this dish is another family dish, often served at Eid. This is a no-fuss, no onion, no tomato and no dairy dish.

The word hara means green, but this is not like a south-east Asian green curry chicken. The chicken is gently cooked in its own juices and should be moist and tender but without a rich gravy. The green colour will come from the coriander, mint and green chillies.

This dish only takes about 30-40 minutes to prepare and cook. You may even get it done faster if you use a machine to chop the herbs and chilli, and you already have a suitable ginger-garlic paste. Note, however, that the prepared garlic-ginger pastes will not have enough ginger for this recipe to work. Making it as needed for this recipe will produce much better results.

I must reinforce that although you may save some time on preparation, please do not hurry the cooking process. You must first ensure you have properly cooked the chicken, or you may put your family or guests into hospital. You should cook it as described on low heat. Rapid, high-temperature cooking will almost certainly burn the masala and give it an unpleasant taste.

The masala should have a fine texture, but not a puree. Coarsely chopped ingredients may give a rustic feel, but do not add to the dish. Although a family recipe, it is considered a special dish that should be worthy of care and effort.

This recipe comes from a time when India and Pakistan were not independent. There are many dishes that come from this food tradition – not least of which is Lahore’s favourite gift to the world, the samosa.

This dish is ideally served with chapatis, straight off the stove, with a side salad of kachumber.

the recipe

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  • wide pan with lid


  • 1 kg chicken thigh fillets

for the gravy

to serve


  • Place a small frypan on medium heat and add the cumin and coriander seeds. Toast the spices until they become aromatic then remove from the heat. When cool enough to handle, grind to a fine powder. Set aside.
  • Put the ginger, garlic and 100ml of water into a blender, and blend into a coarse paste
  • Heat the oil in a wide, heavy, pan on medium-high heat. When hot, brown the chicken pieces on both sides. You will need to do this in batches to avoid stewing the chicken. When browned, use a slotted spoon to put the chicken into a bowl.
  • Turn the heat down to medium-low, allow the pan to cool a little, and then pour the ginger and garlic paste into the same oil. Be careful to not get spattered by the oil. Stir and fry it for two minutes or until the raw garlic and ginger smell has gone.
  • Add the coriander, mint, green chilli, turmeric, salt and the ground cumin and coriander seeds. Mix well and fry for about one minute.
  • Put the chicken pieces and any liquid from the bowl into the masala. Mix well.
  • Add the lemon juice, stir and bring to a simmer. Cover tightly, turn the heat to low and cook for 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked.

to serve

  • Turn the pan into a serving dish, and garnish with the coriander leaves. Serve with the lemon wedges.


  • The recipe calls for chicken thighs, but drumsticks could be used. Be careful to ensure they are properly cooked – you may need to lengthen the cooking times. Whatever chicken you use do not overcook it.
  • Gingelly oil is Indian sesame oil. It is very different from the Asian sesame oil, being much less intense in flavour. Substitute with vegetable oil if unobtainable.

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Serving: 250 g | Calories: 636 kcal | Carbohydrates: 14 g | Protein: 43 g | Fat: 46 g | Saturated Fat: 12 g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 10 g | Monounsaturated Fat: 20 g | Trans Fat: 0.2 g | Cholesterol: 245 mg | Sodium: 851 mg | Potassium: 985 mg | Fiber: 4 g | Sugar: 2 g | Vitamin A: 3813 IU | Vitamin C: 47 mg | Vitamin D: 0.3 µg | Calcium: 104 mg | Iron: 4 mg

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