Chicken Nihari

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Average: 5 (5 votes)
Serves 4-5

Nihari is a Pakistani/Indian/Bangladeshi dish, a fiery spicy stew consisting of slow cooked mutton/beef or chicken. The word Nihari originates from the Arabic word 'Nahaar' which means early morning.  It is so named because Nihari was originally enjoyed in the early morning, right after fajr prayers.

Ingredients for Nihari Spice Mix
5 dry chillis OR 2 tsp. red chilli flakes
2 tsp.
fennel seeds
1/2 tsp.
black pepper
2 tsp.
cumin seeds
2 tsp.
coriander seeds
green cardamom
black cardamom
1 inch
cinnamon stick
star anise flower
bay leaf
1 tsp.
red chilli powder
1/4 tsp.
grated nutmeg
1 tsp.
kashmiri chilli powder
1 tsp.
garam masala
1/2 tsp.
turmeric powder
Ingredients for Chicken Nihari
2 tbsp.
Nihari Spice Mix
(method of preparing explained below)
chicken, skin removed and cut into 8-10 pieces
1/2 cup
(you can mix ghee with oil if you like)
large onions, finely chopped
2 tsp.
(or to taste)
1 tbsp.
ginger paste
1 tbsp.
garlic paste
8-10 cups
of water
(or as needed)
1/2 cup
whole wheat (atta) flour
handful of fried onions
(for garnishing)
julienned ginger
(for garnishing)
lemon slices
(for garnishing)
fresh chopped coriander
(for garnishing)
chopped green chillies
(for garnishing)

First prepare the Nihari Spice Mix/Powder

This can be done up to2 months in advance and stored in an airtight container and used gradually as needed.  The recipe makes 4 tbsp. of spice powder.

Put the first 11 from the spice ingredients onto a non-stick pan and roast for a few minutes over a low flame until the spices are fragrant.  Do not let them colour or burn.  Grind them into a fine powder.  Then add the remaining 5 ingredients from the same list and mix everything well.

Next, you can begin to prepare the Nihari Chicken

Heat your oil in a deep pan (preferably non-stick), then add the onions and fry until lightly golden.  Addd the ginger and garlic pastes and stir until aromatic.  Next, add the chicken and stir-fry on medium high heat for about 10 minutes.  Sprinkle the Nihari powder and stir well.  Next, add the water and salt, give everything a stir and lower the heat.  Cover the pot and allow to cook on VERY LOW gentle heat for an hour.

Whilst the chicken is cooking, warm up and lightly brown the atta flour on a small non-stick saucepan over low heat.  This is to get rid of any raw smell from the flour and enhance the flavour.  Allow the flour to cool in a bowl then add some water gradually whilst mixing to form a light paste with no lumps.

You can use 2-3 tbsp. cornflour in place of the wheat/atta flour, just mix it with some water and we are done.  This makes the process easier, however using roasted wheat flour is the more authentic way of making this traditional dish.

Turn up the heat and slowly add the whole wheat flour (or cornflour) paste into the pan whilst stirring continuously.  This will thicken the gravy.  Once all the paste is mixed in, give everything a final stir, taste for salt and adjust if needed.  Then lower the heat again to very low, cover with a tight lid to seal the pan completely.  Keep the heat low, remember, the trick is to cook Nihari on low heat to get the meat perfectly tenderised and for the oil to rise to the top of the dish.  Give the chicken another 30 minutes to cook on very low flame then turn off the heat and let the pan stand with the lid still closed for another 10 minutes.

If you want, just before serving you can make a tarka (which means tempering oil with a bit of spice) which can be poured onto the dish right before serving it).  Simply heat 2 tbsp. oil, turn off the heat and sprinkle 2 pinches each of garam masala and nihari masala.  Then immediately pour this onto the Nihari dish and do not stir it too much.  This tarka/tempering process enhances the flavour of the Nihari and further spices up the fiery dish.

Serve with garnishings of your choice and some warm naans.




Salaam Fauzia..
why cant i see the 3rd n 11th ingredient in the above list n the 4th ingredient from the next five...please help!
This dish looks ssso amazing n i badly wanna try
God Bless

Fauzia's Kitchen Fun's picture

Have you tried refreshing? 3rd ingredient is 1/2 pepper, 11th ingredient is 1 bay leaf. The 4th ingred in the next five is 1 tsp garam masala.

Hi Fauzia,
I wanted to let you know that I made this last weekend and my husband absolutely loved it. He ate till he could eat no more. thank you for such a lovely recipe. It's a heart warmer.

Salam Fauzia, if I wanted to make this with meat, eg lamb shanks, how would I amend the recipe and what would the cooking time be ?
Jazakillah in advance

Fauzia's Kitchen Fun's picture

W/Salaam, recipe remains the same, cooking time will be longer depending on the cuts of meat. Just keep checking until meat is tender. Make sure to add more water if needed.

hey fauzia ... i made my nihari too spicy.. how can i reduce the spice? plz reply asap

Fauzia's Kitchen Fun's picture

Hi, reducing spice is tricky for this dish. You could reduce from the gravy and add water, maybe mix in some cornflour to make sure you do not loose out on the thickness of the gravy.

Thanksalot..fauzia.. it worked...:)! and I just love all your recipes...I just wonder what wld I have done without yaa....Keep up the good work...:)

Assalam Fauzia. May i use the shaan nihari spice mix and follow your recipe for the gravy?

Fauzia's Kitchen Fun's picture

W/Salaam, have never used Shan Nihari so am not sure how it is but it should be ok inshaAllah. :)

what can i subsitute for kashmiri chilli powder?

Fauzia's Kitchen Fun's picture

Regular chilli powder will do only that it is more spicy so the curry may end up hotter. Kashmiri chilli powder has a great colour but is not very hot, it is pretty much mild. If you have paprika powder you could use that in its place.

Sorry one more qs. Can I use nutmeg powder instead of grated nutmeg? If yes, then would it be same amount ?

Fauzia's Kitchen Fun's picture

Yes you can although nutmeg is always best freshly grated. It is one ingredient whereby the flavour and aroma changes very much when powdered and stored. Use the same amount.

Thank you Fauzia. I was going to make the nihari with beef and use only half kg since I'm making for the first time. So should I just halve all the ingredients? Also, the two chopped onions that we are using, since we are frying them to a golden colour can we just use fried onions instead? If yes, then what's the substitute of two chopped onions? And if no, then can you tell in gms plz how much the chopped onions would be approx? Just asking because different places have different sizes and I don't want to add too less or too much . Jazak allah in advance for taking out time for our questions.

Fauzia's Kitchen Fun's picture

Hi, yes you can use fried onions if you have them ready. I estimate about 1 heaped tbsp to be the equivalent of 1 onion. And yes, halve all the ingredients. :)

Thank you so much for the help! Will try this recipe for sure :)

Salam! This turned out really good Mashaallah. JazakumAllah Khayr for making our kitchen lives so wonderful with your awesome recipes. :)

Salaams...can I make this recipe with boneless chicken cubes?

Fauzia's Kitchen Fun's picture

W/Salaam, you can if you want although the true flavour develops from using chicken on the bone. Also, boneless chicken may end up getting tough from being cooked too long.

Asalam o Alikum Fauzia, I tried this recepie yesterday and everyone loved it. I added 8 measured cups to the chicken but after mixing the flour I realized the gravy was still thinner than what it should be, so I made a bit more of the flour paste and added it and that balanced it out, however, in this whole process the chicken became so tender that some of it ended up being shredded in the gravy. But even that gave the dish a great look and it tasted awesome! JazakAllah for sharing. May ALLAh SWT reward you, ameen.

Can you use regular chili powder in place of Kashmiri chili powder?

Fauzia's Kitchen Fun's picture

Yes you can.

I just made it, the taste is great but it's kinda yellowish in can I correct it? I used 5 pieces of chicken, halved all the ingredients u mentioned...

Fauzia's Kitchen Fun's picture

Add a little tomato paste/puree to enhance the colour.

I really want to make this...but cant find nutmeg bayleaf star anise flower..can i omit these??

Fauzia's Kitchen Fun's picture

It will change the flavour because those spices are crucial for an authentic nihari flavour. They should be easily available in any indian spice shop.


Hi Fauzia,

Big day today i am preparing Chicken Nihari and Chicken tikka... I've prepared the Nihari once and it turned out awesome but today doing it for guests..
1 question is the wheat flour a mandate in this dish...
Please Advice

Fauzia's Kitchen Fun's picture

Hi, thanks for the feedback. Yes the wheat flour is what thickens the gravy for this dish. :)

Is this 1/2tsp black pepper powder or whole black pepper?

Fauzia's Kitchen Fun's picture

Whole black pepper.

Nahar means day and often means midday... Sabah is morning in Arabic.

can we use shan nihari masala mix instead of the one you posted? Would it taste the same (im only asking because its easier)

Fauzia's Kitchen Fun's picture

I actually have personally never used the Shan masala mix for Nihari so am not sure how the taste would be...sorry! :)

I made the nihari this past weekend with exact directions as provided. The taste was good but the only thing is the color was not as vibrant as yours. It was more on the brown side. What went wrong? I put the exact measurements as provided for the spice mix.

Fauzia's Kitchen Fun's picture

Hi, it could be anything from the fried onions colour to the colour of the atta used. :)

I loved loved loved this dish!!! ❤
Turned out awesome :D