Achari Chicken: Pakistani Recipe of Chicken Pickle

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Achari Chicken

Achari chicken or Achari Murgh is a chicken curry dish cooked in pickling spices. It’s one curry dish that has a piquant flavour and distinguished taste that once you try it, you’ll remember it.

This pickle chicken has a unique creamy flavour from the spicy yoghurt. And it has exotic fragrance from the whole five spices called Panch Phoran. 

Achari Chicken with overlay text

The word Achar itself literally means pickle, which is the same as “Acar” in Indonesian (both are pronounced as aa-chaar). So as a native Indonesian, I’m familiar with the idea of Achar. Therefore, when I first saw the Achari Chicken spice mix in the shop many years ago, I could guess what the taste would be like. Pickle.

But as I checked the packet on how to cook this chicken pickle, I was discouraged straight away. Simply because I found it a hassle to do it. So I left the idea of making this curry dish.

It was only about a few years ago when my Pakistani friend made this Achari Chicken for me then I remembered and was tempted to try.

Because the dish she made was out of this world. I could eat it every day. It was so delicious that I was willing to try making the dish. And I was even more intrigued to try when my friend told me how easy it was cooking this Murgh Achari (= Achari chicken = pickled chicken).

In essence, it’s not much difference in making this dish from most curries. But you need more variety of spices for the pickle. So I could just get the spice mix packets from the shop and just cook the chicken the way my friend taught me.

And this worked fine for me. But not for my husband and our kids. Because most ready-mixed spices tend to have a high content of chilli that the flavour was too hot for them.

To make my cooking easier, I tried to compromise by cutting down the spices. But it didn’t turn out very well. As the reduced spices made something missing in the dish. It just didn’t taste quite as good as it should be.

So I decided to mix my own spices. I jotted down all the ingredients stated in the mix packet. And I tried and tested every combination and proportions that I thought best. 

I’m happy I’ve found the spice mix that gives me Achari Chicken with the taste exactly the same as the one my friend taught me. 

It uses more spices

ingredients for achari chicken

As I mentioned above, you need more varieties of spices for this pickled chicken. So apart from the usual spices of ground coriander, ground cumin, turmeric powder, red chilli powder and ginger garlic paste, you also need anise seed powder, fenugreek seed powder (Methi), fennel seed powder (Saunf), dried-mango powder (Amchoor), and whole five spices (Panch Phoran).

Panch Phoran is actually a mix of whole spices. It consists of whole fennel seeds, whole nigella seeds (Kalonji), whole fenugreek seeds, whole cumin, and whole black mustard seeds. For this one, you can get the ready mixed packet. 

But if you have those whole spices in your pantry/ kitchen, you can mix the Phoran (flavour) yourself. 

For this recipe, you can make Panch Phoran as follow:

  • Fennel seeds (Saunf) 1 tsp.
  • Fenugreek seeds (Methi) 1 tsp.
  • Cumin seeds (Jeera) 1 tsp.
  • Black mustard (Rai) 1 tsp.
  • Nigella seeds (Kalonji) 1 tsp.

If you have a spice grinder like this, I’d say just get the whole spices for everything. Just put the spices into the grinder according to the recipe, and grind them until you get the spice powder. Because that is what I actually did. And I notice that a teaspoon of whole spice makes a pretty much a teaspoon of spice powder. This way, I don’t have to buy too many things. 

How to make Achari Chicken

The method that I use for my chicken pickle curry is very similar to most curries that I cook. Apart from marinating the poultry before cooking, every other step is pretty much standard.

Firstly, you want to make your spices mix by putting all your spices powder and the salt together. Take a few teaspoons of this spice powder mixture and stir in ¼ cup of natural yoghurt to make the marinade. 

the first four steps of how to cook pickle chicken

Place the chicken pieces in the yoghurt and ensure all are coated well with the spicy yoghurt. Set aside and let it marinate while you get on with other things.

Secondly, you make the masala sauce. Fry the chopped onions on a large cooking pan or a kadhai or a wok until lightly brown, then add in the ginger-garlic paste. You can make the paste by mincing ½ inch of ginger root with 4 cloves of garlic.

Then add the remaining spice powder into your onions. Let it cook further until it releases its intoxicating aroma. Next, you add in the tomatoes and continue cooking until you get a smooth curry sauce. Just make sure you keep checking and mashing the tomatoes. So it doesn’t get burned at the bottom of the pan. 

making masala and cooking chicken

When the oil separates from the edges, put the chicken in the masala sauce. Give it a good stir until all the poultry pieces are well covered with masala. Cook it at moderate-high heat with the lid on for about 15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. 

You may have to keep checking and stirring to ensure that nothing gets burned at the bottom of the pan. 

Once the chicken is fully cooked (you can tell by its opaque colour), you can add the lightly beaten yoghurt in. And continue cooking until the sauce thickens. Sprinkle the panch Phoran over and leave it cooking until the oil separates from the edges and get the sauce consistency you desire.

chicken achari in the cooking process

Ways to enjoy pickle chicken

Just like any curries, you can always eat your Achari chicken with roti/ chapati, naan bread, pitta bread or flatbread. You can also have it with rice, whether it’s plain rice or spiced rice dishes such as Biryani or Pilau rice. 

And if you’re planning to throw some Pakistani menu on the table, below is the suggestion of a popular menu that often appears on special occasions.

Gajar Ka Halwa – sweet carrots desserts.

Recipe for Achari Chicken

Yield: 4

Achari Chicken

Achari chicken in cooking pan

Achari chicken has a piquant pickling taste with aromatic fragrant from all the spices in it. It's rich, spicy, and slightly tangy. It's simply delicious with Rotis/ chapatis, naan bread, pita bread, or flatbread. But really, rice will also go well with this delightful chicken dish.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 600 gr/ 21.16 oz Chicken (I used 4 pieces of chicken thighs).
  • 2 small/ 100 gr/ 3.53 oz Brown/ yellow onions.
  • 2 tbsp Ginger garlic paste (see the note).
  • ½ tsp Fennel seed powder (Saunf).
  • ½ tsp Turmeric powder.
  • ½ tsp Ground coriander.
  • ½ tsp Dried-mango powder (Amchoor).
  • ½ tsp Anise seed powder.
  • ½ tsp Fenugreek seed powder (Methi).
  • ¾ tsp Ground cumin.
  • ¼ tsp Ground black pepper.
  • 1 tsp Red chilli powder.
  • 1 tsp Red Himalayan salt (see the note).
  • 1 tsp Five whole spices - Panch phoron (see the note).
  • 2 Bay leaves.
  • ½ cup Canned tomatoes or 3 fresh tomatoes, chopped (see the note).
  • ¾ cup Natural yoghurt, lightly beaten (see the note).
  • 2-3 Fresh green chillies (optional).
  • ¾ cup of cooking oil (I use rapeseed oil).

Instructions

  1. Mix the salt and all the spices powder in a small bowl. I.e. fennel seed powder, turmeric powder, ground coriander, Amchoor, Anise seed powder, fenugreek seed powder, ground cumin, ground black pepper, and chilli powder.
  2. Take about 2 teaspoons of spice mix and place it in a big bowl. Then add about ¼ cup yoghurt and mix well.
  3. Get the chicken ready and slightly pierce the poultry using a skewer (this little trick will help your chicken develop a tastier flavour right to the bone). And place the pieces in the yoghurt mixture. Ensure all the chicken pieces are well coated with the yoghurt mix. Set aside to marinate while you get on with your prep.
  4. Finely chop your onions and fry them on a large cooking pan (or kadhai). Cook until the onion becomes translucent and has a light golden colour.
  5. Next, you add in the ginger garlic paste and let it fry further for about a minute.
  6. Then add the spice powder mixture, the salt and the bay leaves. Continue frying until the spices release their aroma. 
  7. Add the tomatoes in and give it a good stir. Here, you can add a little water if you think it’s too dry. Let the spices and the tomatoes cook until all well blended. Try to mash the tomatoes every now and again. You want to make a nice smooth masala mixture.
  8. When the oil separates a little from the masala mixture, put the chicken pieces in it. Stir well until the poultry pieces are covered with the sauce. Put the lid on. And let it cook at moderate-high heat for about 15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Keep checking and stirring every now and then to ensure the chicken doesn’t get burned at the bottom.
  9. Then add the beaten yoghurt in. Again, stir well and put the lid back. This time you cook the Achari chicken at moderate-low heat. 
  10. After about five minutes, sprinkle the Panch Phoron over your chicken. Cook further until the curry sauce looks thick and the oil separates from the edges.

Notes

  • To make ginger garlic paste, you pound, ground or mince a ½ -inch ginger root with 4 garlic cloves. I often make the paste in a bulk and store in the freezer. 
  • As for the spice powder, you can always get the whole spices and grind them into powder using an electric spice grinder. 
  • Ever since my husband was diagnosed with cancer, we try to use food ingredients with the highest alkaline as possible. And we believe Himalayan salt is one of them. Also, it makes the food taste way better. But of course, you can use any salt that you prefer, just put the amount of salt according to your taste. You can start with less before adding more.
  • I find canned tomatoes are an ideal choice to make curries. Because they keep longer. So I can just stock up for more than a few weeks without worrying they go rotten.
  • You can make your Panch Phoron. I’d say you get the whole spices for this recipe. And just grind the amount needed for the spice powder mixture using the spice grinder. So you can also use those whole spices for Panch Phoron. Just mix fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds, cumin seeds, black mustard seeds and black nigella seeds (Kalonji) in equal portions. And use according to the recipe.
  • When it comes to yoghurt, please choose the natural yoghurt. Don’t use a creamy yoghurt such as Greek yoghurt, etc. Because of the creamier the yoghurt, the more chance of your curry getting curd and whey. Plus, the taste won’t be right. Because this Achari chicken should have a tangy taste, that comes from yoghurt and Amchoor (dried mango powder). In fact, if you think your natural yoghurt is fresh and has a very mild taste, take the portion you need and place it in a bowl/ cup. And leave it covered in a room temperature for several hours (overnight is preferable) before using it for your cooking.

Nutrition Information

Yield

4

Serving Size

1
Amount Per Serving Calories 834Total Fat 66gSaturated Fat 9gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 53gCholesterol 144mgSodium 705mgCarbohydrates 21gFiber 6gSugar 10gProtein 42g

The nutrition calculation you find here is just a guide provided by online nutrition calculator. You should not use to substitute advice from nutritionists or health practitioners.

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Related posts

I’m so excited that you finished reading this post. I hope you now want to try this recipe. Trust me, it’ll be worthy of your time and effort. If you love spicy food with a bit of fresh sourness in it, then this Achari Chicken will be the one you want to try.

When you try, please share what you think about the recipe in the comments below (leave in a reply box). I really appreciate it. 

And do follow me on Instagram or Pinterest @soyummyrecipesbydevy to sneak peek at what’s cooking in my kitchen.

Finally, don’t forget to check out my other recipes for more food delights from Pakistani cuisines.

Thank you and all the best.

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Join the Conversation

  1. This sounds like a rich and flavorful winter dish! The combination of spices really make it flavorful!

  2. I love trying new ethnic recipes and this one sounds amazing. What a delicious combination of flavors!

  3. OMG This chicken curry dish looks delicious. I have tried curry dishes from India and Southeast Asia and I am sure this looks gorgeous. Perfect to eat it with rice or roti.

  4. I love a good chicken recipe, and this one looks so tasty!! Bookmarked to make later, thank you so much for the recipe 🙂

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