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Zesty Punjabi Chicken Recipe

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Punjabi chicken

Punjabi chicken

I have always found making Indian food at home to be a daunting challenge. The cuisine represents a very different culinary tradition than my own, and I think I tend to miss a lot of the nuance concerning its spices and seasonings. Not only that, but I find that the dishes I make in my own kitchen tend to be pale imitations of what you can get from authentic Indian cooking.

However, I thought this particular homemade dish turned out very well. It is a remarkably simple yet delicious recipe, with sauteed onions combined with a heady medley of spices to produce a very complex sauce, bursting with the flavor of cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and garlic. Zest and energy come from the vinegar, and a hint of sweetness from the sugar. It all comes together to produce a tender and succulent chicken dish. It is quite simple to make, and it is wonderful over rice or bread. A very filling and beautiful meal, especially with some cilantro or spinach for garnish at the end.

I adapted this from the cookbook Great Classic Recipes of Europe, by Sandy Lesberg.


  • 3 pounds chicken breasts
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large onion, peeled and diced
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 teaspoons ginger
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon cardamon
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/3 cup tomato puree
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • Spinach leaves, for garnish (optional)
  • Cilantro, for garnish (optional)


  1. Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat until it is hot. Add in the peeled and diced onions. Sautee until the onions start to turn golden; then add in the garlic, some salt, and ginger. Stir. Add in the cardamom, cinnamon, and bay leaves.
  2. Reduce heat and cook for several minutes at a simmer, then add the chicken and turmeric. Sautee the chicken until it is browned. Deglaze with the white wine.
  3. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Add in the chili powder and tomato puree. Simmer 5 minutes more.
  4. Mix the sugar, balsamic vinegar, and lemon juice. Add it with the chicken, and bring to a boil. Stir briefly, then add in the heavy cream and stir again. Cook a few minutes.
  5. Serve with rice and Indian flatbread. Garnish with spinach and cilantro, if desired.

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