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Chicken Kolhapuri (India)


Maharashtra, in the middle of the west coast of India, takes pride in a cuisine that combines the spiciness of the south with the heartiness of the north.   A lovely example is chicken kolhapuri, named for Kolhapur on the Deccan plateau.  While the precise spice mix can vary, the base is consistent: chicken, marinated and then stewed in a gravy of tomatoes, onion, coconut, and chili pepper.

There are a few ways to handle the masala, or spice mix.  The traditional way is to toast whole spices and then blend them with a spice grinder.  Lovely result, but if you don't want to buy a sack of star anise pods when you only need one, option two is better: buying the spice mix as a premade blend.  The challenge in the US (and likely elsewhere) is that while Kohlapuri malasa blends are readily available in India, they are tricky to find here.

I was able to get a delicious pre-made simmer sauce from a firm in Colorado, but if you want to do the spices yourself, try this.

Serves 4




  • 1 lb chicken pieces

  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder

  • 1 tsp red chile powder (like cayenne)

  • 1 tbsp ginger garlic paste (available in Indian groceries; substitute 2 tsp minced garlic, 1 tsp minced ginger)

  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

  • 1 tsp garam masala powder


  • 3 tbsp oil

  • 1 tsp cumin seeds

  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds

  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds

  • 1 tbsp poppy seeds

  • 2 tbsp chopped garlic

  • Whole garam spices (1 bay leaf, 1 green cardamom pod, 2-3 cloves, 6 black peppercorns, 1 star anise)

  • 1 large onion, diced

  • 1 tomato, diced

  • 1/2 tsp garam masala powder

  • 3 tbsp dry shredded coconut

  • 1 tbsp degi mirch powder or substitute cayenne pepper


  1. In a bowl, combine ginger garlic paste, red chilli powder, garam masala, turmeric powder, salt, and lemon juice to make marinade.  Add chicken, rub to cover, and marinate for 30 minutes.

  2. Heat 1 tbsp oil over medium-high heat.  Add cumin seeds, whole garam spices, coriander seeds, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, chopped garlic and cook till spices start to change their color. (3-5 minutes)

  3. Add dry grated coconut and diced onion and cook till onion gets light brown color (about 7 minutes).

  4. Add tomatoes to blender, add onion mixture, some water and grind to make a smooth paste.

  5. Clean out the skillet and then 2 tsbp oil over medium heat.  Add tomato-coconut-onion paste, garam masala powder and chile powder.  Cook for 5 minutes.

  6. Add marinated chicken pieces, mix well, add water if needed to thin out the sauce, cover and cook for 20 minutes till the time chicken gets tender.

Serve over rice or with naan.

Recipe adapted from Madura's Recipes:


Photograph from Drew Vahrenkamp

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