I grew up in Mumbai, India. My family would often take me to dhaba’s (roadside restaurants) to eat food during our road trips in North India. When, I was probably 10 years old there weren’t a lot of dhaba “inspired” restaurants. There were actual roadside dhaba’s. Punjabi food served in dhaba’s is simple, spicy, and full of flavor. I remember food being served on big brass and steel plates.
I used to always order chicken and rumali roti (thin flat-bread) or naan (thick-flat bread) and lassi (a yogurt-based drink). Dhaba chicken is the bomb ya’ll. You can taste the desi ghee or butter and all the yummy spices with the thick gravy. It is so delicious!
Over the years a lot of dhaba inspired restaurants evolved all over India. They are so fun, several of them have music, and Punjabi dancers performing bhangra.
Living in the U.S. it is hard for my kids to have the experiences that I had while growing up. I however, do want them to at least try all the food I grew up eating. That is why I attempted this recipe..and obviously to make it is easy and quick, I made it in the instant pot.
So how do we make Punjabi Dhaba Chicken Curry – Instant Pot Dhaba Chicken?
This Punjabi Dhaba Chicken Curry – Instant Pot Dhaba Chicken is very easy to make in the instant pot. All you need to do is marinate the chicken for two hours with plain Greek yogurt, lemon juice, garam masala, cayenne pepper (red chili powder), ground turmeric, salt, and ginger garlic paste.
I used chicken breasts and sliced them into 2 to 3 inch pieces. My family and kids prefer boneless chicken. But you could use drumsticks too. Whatever works for you!
Once the chicken has been sitting in the marinade for two hours, it is ready to be cooked. You need to hit the sauté button on the instant pot and add the whole spices in the ghee / butter / oil (whatever your choose to use). Then add the whole spices, onions, ground spice powders: cayenne pepper (red chili powder), Kashmiri chili powder, ground cumin, ground coriander, and garam masala. You can also add serrano peppers (green chili peppers). The authentic dhaba’s always use serrano peppers. However, it does tend to make the chicken spicy that’s why I have added it as an option. Add one pepper for less spicy and two for moderately spicy. I typically add two but we love spicy food.
The cayenne pepper can also be reduced to 1/2 a teaspoon if you don’t like very spicy food. However, it definitely adds a kick to the chicken and makes it very delicious. You can modify and try various permutations and combinations to see what works best for you.
If you follow this recipe as is then it is moderately spicy. On a scale of 1 to 5, I would rate it as level 3. (I added 2 serrano peppers and used both the red chili powder and the Kashmiri chili powder as is). That is how dhaba’s serve chicken, spicy and flavorful. But then again the amount of spice you choose to use is a personal choice.
The chickpea flour (besan) makes the gravy thick and adds a subtle bean flavor to the gravy.
Chicken needed for Punjabi Dhaba Chicken Curry – Instant Pot Dhaba Chicken:
Skinless, boneless chicken breasts. I typically buy chicken from Costco. This recipe requires 1.5 pounds of chicken breasts (two chicken breasts chopped into 2 to 3 inch pieces).
You can use either fresh or bottled lemon juice. I have used bottled lemon juice here.
Please use plain Greek yogurt. The regular or low fat yogurt makes the chicken very watery and it needs to be sautéed for a very long time later in order to thicken the gravy. Its messes the recipe up.
Ginger garlic paste for Punjabi Dhaba Chicken Curry – Instant Pot Dhaba Chicken:
I used the combined packaged ginger garlic paste available in the Indian store. You can also mince fresh ginger and garlic to make your own paste.
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Punjabi Dhaba Chicken Curry – Instant Pot Dhaba Chicken
Ingredients for the marinade
- 1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
- 2 tbsp lemon juice (either freshly squeezed or bottled)
- 1/2 tsp garam masala
- 1/2 tsp red chili powder
(ground cayenne pepper)
- 1/2 tsp ground turmeric (haldi)
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsps ginger garlic paste (either packaged or freshly minced)
- 1.5 pounds chicken breasts chopped into 2 to 3 inch pieces (2 small chicken breasts) (Approximately 2 cups chopped)
For the gravy
- 4 tbsp oil of choice or ghee (clarified butter)
or unsalted butter
- 2 whole black cardamom pods (kali elachi)
- 1 whole green cardamom pods (hari elaichi)
- 1 dried bay leaf (tej patta)
- 2 whole cloves (laung)
- 1 cinnamon stick about 2 inch piece (dalchini)
- 1 or 2 serrano peppers slit into two halves lengthwise (green chili pepper) (optional)
- 1 red onion finely chopped (1 and 1/4 cups chopped)
- 3/4 tsp red chili powder
(ground cayenne pepper)
- 1/2 tsp kashmiri chili powder
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tsp ground cumin (jeera powder)
- 2 tsp ground coriander (dhaniya powder)
- 1/2 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp salt
- 4 tsp chickpea flour
- 3 medium sized tomatoes finely chopped (roughly 2 cups after being chopped)
- 3 tbsp dried fenugreek leaves (kasuri methi)
- 2 tbsp fresh cilantro finely chopped (dhainya ke patte)
- Chop the chicken into 2 to 3 inch pieces.
- In a bowl, mix the marinade ingredients: greek yogurt, lemon juice, garam masala, red chili powder, ground turmeric, salt, and ginger garlic paste. Mix well.
- Then add the chicken and mix well. Let it marinate for 2 hours.
- Wash and chop the onions, tomatoes, and cilantro. Slit the serrano peppers lengthwise in two halves.
- Select sauté on the instant pot and adjust to normal.
- Add oil or ghee or unsalted butter to the pot.
- When the pot is hot, add both types of cardamoms, dried bay leaf, cloves, cinnamon stick, and serrano peppers.
- Add the chopped onions and keep stirring to prevent the onions from burning.
- When the onions turn golden in about 2 to 4 minutes, add the red chili powder, kashmiri chili powder, water, ground cumin, ground coriander, garam masala, salt, and chickpea flour. Stir well.
- Then add the chopped tomatoes and sauté for 2 minutes. Keep stirring.
- Add the chicken along with all the marinade to the pot. Mix well. Make sure nothing is stuck to the bottom of the pot and scrape the bottom of the pot well.
- Press cancel.
- Secure the lid on the pot and close the pressure-release valve.
- Select manual and cook at high pressure for 8 minutes.
- When cooking is complete use quick pressure release to depressurize.
- Add the dried fenugreek leaves and select sauté to thicken the excess gravy. It should take about 3 to 4 minutes depending on the required consistency. Keep stirring.
- Transfer is a serving bowl and discard the bay leaf.
- Garnish with cilantro and serve hot with naan (Indian flatbread), steamed rice or roti.
- Ground cayenne pepper and red chili powder can be used interchangeably as both of them make the dish spicy. So if you don’t have red chili powder you can use cayenne pepper instead.
- Kashmiri red chili powder instantly imparts a vibrant red color to any dish and is not very spicy.
- This recipe has been tried on a 6-quart instant pot. The proportions may vary depending on the size of the instant pot you choose to use.