Chicken Zafrani
Chicken Zafrani
5 from 1 vote
Chicken zafrani is a rich and aromatic dish that pays homage to the culinary traditions of the Indian subcontinent. Infused with the luxurious touch of saffron, this recipe promises a delightful taste journey that both beginners and expert cooks will appreciate.
Chicken Zafrani

Ah, Chicken Zafrani! The mere mention of it evokes the splendid palaces and opulent courts of ancient Mughal emperors. Originating from the royal kitchens of the Indian subcontinent, Chicken Zafrani has a history as rich and luxurious as its flavour. 

In my culinary journey, I’ve always held a special affection for saffron, and Chicken Zafrani is a beautiful canvas that lets this “golden spice” shine. Historically, saffron was a symbol of wealth and prosperity, often reserved for royalty.  

By infusing saffron into this dish, you’re not just adding flavour; you’re incorporating a touch of history. 

If you’re wondering about the difficulty level of this recipe, let me assure you – it’s manageable! While the list of ingredients might look daunting, the actual preparation is straightforward.  

Think of it as a cooking dance, where each ingredient plays its part in perfect harmony. The result? A dish that looks like it took hours, is achieved in a fraction of the time. 

One thing I love about Chicken Zafrani is its adaptability. Traditional recipes can sometimes be rigid, but with Chicken Zafrani, you can truly make it your own.  

For instance, if you prefer a more fragrant kick, consider increasing the number of cardamom pods. Or, if you’re aiming for a creamier texture, toss in some cashew paste or cream towards the end of the cooking process. 

It’s also interesting to note the different regional takes on Chicken Zafrani. Some regions opt for a slightly sweeter version by adding a dash of honey or a sprinkling of golden raisins.  

Others might choose to deepen the flavours with a touch more garam masala. Whichever direction you lean towards, rest assured that this dish will always remain a classic! 

Chicken Zafrani is one of those dishes that not only satiates the stomach but also the soul.  

The saffron strands don’t just give the dish its distinctive golden hue, but they also add a unique aroma and flavour that’s second to none. Paired with the earthiness of the cumin and coriander, the freshness of the cilantro, and the kick from the red chilli, it truly is a flavour symphony. 

To round up, whether you’re looking to impress guests, or simply want to treat yourself to a royal meal, Chicken Zafrani is the way to go. Perfect with naan or rice, this is a dish that promises a culinary experience like no other.  

So, don your chef’s hat, gather your ingredients, and let’s bring a piece of history into our kitchens! 

What Ingredients to Use & Why 

Every dish has a story to tell, and in the story of Chicken Zafrani, our ingredients are the vibrant characters.  

They each bring their unique flavours and textures, weaving them together to craft a culinary masterpiece. Let’s dive into the role each one plays and explore possible alternatives to suit varying palates and pantry stocks. 

Chicken: The heart of the dish, chicken provides a hearty, protein-rich base. Its tender, juicy nature soaks up the flavours of the spices, making it a perfect candidate for Chicken Zafrani. If you’re looking to go the vegetarian route, tofu or paneer make excellent alternatives. 

Onion: A staple in many cuisines, onions provide a sweetness and depth of flavour when caramelized. They form the aromatic base for our dish. Shallots can be a subtle alternative, offering a milder, more delicate taste. 

Ginger-Garlic Paste: This dynamic duo packs a punch! They bring warmth, a bit of heat, and an aromatic zestiness. They also aid in digestion. If you’re out of paste, freshly grated ginger and garlic will work just as well. 

Plain Yogurt: The creamy texture of yoghurt helps tenderize the chicken, while its subtle tanginess perfectly offsets the richness of the dish. If yoghurt isn’t available, a tomato puree can provide the acidity and a different kind of tang. 

Cooking Oil or Ghee: Essential for sautéing, ghee adds a nutty richness. It’s like the comforting embrace that brings all ingredients together. Olive oil or butter can be alternatives, though ghee’s unique flavour is unparalleled. 

Saffron Strands: The star ingredient! Saffron offers a luxurious aroma and a beautiful golden colour. It’s what gives Chicken Zafrani its regal touch. While it’s hard to find a direct substitute for saffron, turmeric can offer colour, albeit with a different flavour profile. 

Green Cardamom Pods: With their sweet and aromatic qualities, cardamom pods elevate the dish. They introduce a fragrant note that dances gracefully with the saffron. Black cardamom can be an alternative for a smokier flavour. 

Cinnamon Stick: Offering a touch of warmth and a hint of sweetness, cinnamon balances the flavours in the dish. Cassia bark is a close relative and can be used in its place. 

Cloves: These tiny gems introduce a bold, pungent flavour, bringing depth to the Chicken Zafrani. Star anise, though different, can provide a similar warming effect. 

Ground Cumin and Coriander: A match made in heaven, these spices offer earthiness and a lemony undertone, respectively. They ground the dish and give it its signature Indian flavour. Caraway seeds could be a substitute for cumin, and parsley seeds for coriander. 

Red Chili Powder: Introducing heat and colour, red chilli powder can be adjusted to taste. For those who like it milder, paprika offers colour without the kick. 

Fresh Cilantro: Finally, our garnish! Cilantro introduces a refreshing, herby element. It’s like the final brushstroke on a masterpiece. Parsley or mint can offer a similar touch of freshness. 

In crafting Chicken Zafrani, each ingredient plays its part to perfection. It’s akin to an orchestra where each instrument, no matter how big or small, contributes to the symphony.  

When you bite into this dish, know that you’re tasting centuries of culinary tradition, crafted from ingredients that have travelled through time and space to be part of your plate. Bon appétit! 

The Golden Magic of Saffron in Chicken Zafrani 

Saffron. Ah, that illustrious and luxurious spice! Every time I handle those delicate crimson strands, I can’t help but marvel at the rich history and decadence they carry. This golden spice is the true essence of Chicken Zafrani, turning an ordinary chicken dish into a feast worthy of royalty. 

Hailing from the Mediterranean, saffron has travelled far and wide, making its mark on various global cuisines. But its integration into Indian dishes, like our beloved Chicken Zafrani, has been nothing short of magical. 

You see, saffron doesn’t just add colour. It’s not merely a garnish. It infuses the dish with a unique aroma and a flavour so distinct that you’d recognize it with just one bite.  

The moment I add those pre-soaked saffron strands to the simmering pot, the room fills with a fragrant aroma that transports me back to the grandeur of Mughal courts. 

But what truly sets saffron apart for me is its chemistry with other ingredients. Chicken Zafrani, harmoniously blends with the ginger-garlic paste, the earthy spices, and the richness of ghee. The end result? A dish that’s a sensual treat for the eyes, nose, and palate. 

Now, some might argue that saffron is pricey, and I won’t contest that. But remember, good things come in small packages. Just a pinch is enough to elevate a dish. In fact, using it sparingly also ensures that its flavour doesn’t overpower the other ingredients. 

However, for those times when my pantry runs out of saffron or when I’m experimenting, I’ve sometimes reached for turmeric for colour. But trust me, while turmeric lends a beautiful golden hue, the royal touch that saffron brings is unparalleled. 

In essence, Chicken Zafrani without saffron would be like a crown without its jewel. It’s the heart and soul of the dish, and it’s what makes the experience of eating it so memorable. 

The Art of Marinating – How It Transforms Chicken Zafrani 

There’s something magical about the process of marination. I often find myself amazed by how simple ingredients can drastically transform a dish’s flavour profile when given time to meld. And in the case of Chicken Zafrani, marinating isn’t just a step; it’s a ritual. 

When I think back to my initial days of experimenting in the kitchen, marination was often a step I rushed or even skipped. But oh, how that changed once I tasted the depth of flavour it introduced! The difference between marinated and non-marinated chicken is as clear as night and day. 

The secret lies in the yoghurt-based marinade of Chicken Zafrani. Yoghurt, with its gentle acidity, acts as a tenderizer. It breaks down the proteins in the chicken, ensuring every bite is juicy and succulent.  

Then there’s the ginger-garlic paste, cumin, coriander, turmeric, and red chilli powder – each playing a vital role in imparting flavour. 

But here’s the trick – it’s not about just slathering the chicken with these ingredients. It’s about letting it sit, letting the flavours seep deep into the meat fibres. I’ve always advocated for patience when it comes to marination. Give it time, and it gives back tenfold in flavour. 

When I’m preparing Chicken Zafrani, I usually let my chicken marinate for at least an hour. Sometimes, if I’m planning ahead, I let it sit overnight. The transformation is remarkable. The chicken not only absorbs the flavours but also becomes incredibly tender, making every bite an explosion of taste. 

Another little tip from my kitchen: Always ensure your chicken is at room temperature before you start cooking. This ensures even cooking and helps in retaining the juiciness. 

To wrap it up, marination isn’t just a preparatory step. It’s an art, a science, and a testament to the age-old saying – good things come to those who wait. In the realm of Chicken Zafrani, it’s what sets a good dish apart from a great one. 

Dancing with Spices: The Symphony in Chicken Zafrani 

Ah, spices! Whenever I sift through my spice rack, I’m reminded of the aromatic world of possibilities they present. Crafting a dish, especially something as intricate as Chicken Zafrani, is akin to orchestrating a symphony, where each spice plays its distinct note. 

Take green cardamom, for instance. Its sweet and aromatic essence is what introduces a hint of freshness to the Chicken Zafrani. The moment I pop a pod open, it’s like unlocking a portal to an ancient spice bazaar. It’s subtle but vital, almost like the delicate strings of a harp in an orchestra. 

Then, there’s the robustness of cinnamon. Every time I introduce a stick to the sizzling pan, its woody aroma engulfs the kitchen. It provides the dish with warmth and depth, reminiscent of the bass tones in music. 

And let’s not forget cloves. These tiny flower buds, with their intense, pungent flavour, are the spice world’s version of the bold brass section. Just a few of them in Chicken Zafrani and they elevate the dish’s richness, adding layers upon layers of flavour. 

Every spice I add is deliberate. Each one brings its unique character, contributing to the Chicken Zafrani’s flavour profile. And while the dish might still be palatable without one or two of them, it wouldn’t be the masterpiece that it truly is. 

Sometimes, when I’m feeling adventurous, I play around with star anise or mace. They’re not traditional to the recipe but can be exciting alternatives, offering a new spin to the classic. It’s a testament to how versatile and accommodating the world of spices can be. 

In the end, creating Chicken Zafrani feels like composing a song. Each spice, each note, has its moment to shine, but together, they create a harmonious melody that dances on the palate. 

Ghee vs. Cooking Oil: The Chicken Zafrani Dilemma 

As I stand in the kitchen, prepping for Chicken Zafrani, there’s always this pivotal moment of decision – to go with ghee or cooking oil? This choice, seemingly minor, has profound effects on the dish’s final taste and texture. 

Ghee, for those uninitiated, is clarified butter. It’s a staple in Indian cooking and has a rich, nutty flavour.  

Every time I pour ghee into the pan, its fragrance instantly transports me to my grandmother’s kitchen. Using ghee in Chicken Zafrani adds a touch of authenticity and richness. 

It brings forward a depth of flavour that’s so characteristic of traditional Indian dishes. Plus, ghee’s high smoking point ensures that all those lovely spices don’t burn but bloom. 

On the other hand, cooking oil, depending on which type you choose, offers a lighter touch. If I’m aiming for a less rich version of Chicken Zafrani or catering to guests who prefer milder flavours, I reach for the oil. It’s versatile, and its neutral profile ensures that the spices remain the star of the show. 

Over the years, I’ve met purists who swear by ghee and modernists who vouch for the oil. But here’s my take: both have their merits. It’s all about the experience you wish to craft. 

For a more festive, decadent Chicken Zafrani, ghee is your best friend. But for everyday meals, when you crave the flavours without the richness, cooking oil does the trick. 

Regardless of the choice, one thing remains constant: the love, passion, and flavours that go into Chicken Zafrani. Whether drenched in the golden glory of ghee or the simplicity of oil, this dish remains a testament to culinary artistry. 

Ginger-Garlic Paste: The Unsung Hero of Chicken Zafrani 

In my culinary journey, there are a few ingredients I’ve come to regard as indispensable. Ginger-garlic paste is undoubtedly one of them. A common staple in many kitchens, this dynamic duo has been my secret weapon, especially when preparing Chicken Zafrani. 

When I first introduce the ginger-garlic paste into the mix, its pungent aroma fills the air. It provides the initial layer of flavours upon which the rest of the dish is built.  

Ginger, with its warm and zesty notes, adds a subtle kick that cuts through the rich textures. Garlic, meanwhile, with its deep, earthy undertones, is like an old, comforting friend you want to invite to every gathering. 

Over the years, I’ve toyed with the idea of using them separately. And while both ginger and garlic have their distinct personalities, when combined, their union creates a depth that’s simply irreplaceable. Their essence seeps into the chicken, ensuring every bite is flavoured to perfection. 

However, if one’s looking for a twist, roasted garlic or even ginger powder can offer a different take. But for me, the fresh paste is where the magic truly lies. It’s a labour of love – peeling, grinding, and then marinating, but the results are always worth the effort. 

By the time the Chicken Zafrani is ready to serve, the ginger-garlic paste might not be visible, but its presence is undeniable. Like an unsung hero, it lays the foundation, ensuring the dish hits all the right notes. 

Dancing with Cardamom and Cinnamon in Chicken Zafrani 

Throughout my culinary escapades, spices have always had a unique place. They’re like the notes in a symphony, each adding a distinct sound, culminating in a harmonious melody. In the world of Chicken Zafrani, two spices have always held a special spot: cardamom and cinnamon. 

The moment I introduce green cardamom pods to the hot oil, I’m transported. Its sweet, slightly eucalyptus scent with hints of lemon merges beautifully with the fragrant allure of cinnamon. Ah, cinnamon! With its sweet, woody aroma, it reminds me of cosy winter nights and the warmth of the hearth. 

The beauty of these spices lies in their duality. While cardamom is sweet and fragrant, it has a zesty undertone and a subtle hint of spice that awakens the senses. On the other hand, cinnamon, with its warming profile, provides depth, a foundation upon which the other ingredients can shine. 

In Chicken Zafrani, their inclusion is more than just a taste enhancer. They lend a beautiful aromatic base. The taste, the flavour, and the experience would be incomplete without their dance. 

While I’ve remained faithful to these spices, culinary adventurers often ask about possible substitutes.  

For cardamom, I’ve heard of chefs experimenting with a blend of cloves and coriander to imitate its unique flavour. As for cinnamon, nutmeg, or allspice can be a close match in terms of warmth, but the unique character of cinnamon remains unparalleled. 

In the end, Chicken Zafrani is like an ode to these beautiful spices. It’s a testament to their timelessness and their integral role in crafting culinary masterpieces. 

Decoding the Heat: Red Chili Powder in Chicken Zafrani 

Anyone familiar with my culinary endeavours knows I have a penchant for playing with heat. And in Chicken Zafrani, red chilli powder is the fiery artist that paints the canvas. 

Every time I sprinkle that vibrant, red powder into my marinade, I’m reminded of its potent power. It’s not just about the heat; it’s the colour, the depth, the zing it introduces. For someone uninitiated, red chilli might seem intimidating, but in reality, it’s a dance – a balance of heat and flavour. 

The inclusion of red chilli powder in Chicken Zafrani is strategic. While the dish boasts a plethora of flavours, the chilli ensures it doesn’t become complacent. It wakes up the palate, accentuating the subtleties of other ingredients. 

Over the years, I’ve encountered numerous chilli variants. Some are smoky; others have a fruity undertone. If I were to recommend alternatives, cayenne could be a front-runner.  

It shares a similar heat profile, albeit slightly sharper. Another intriguing option is paprika – less hot but offering a sweet, peppery flavour. 

Yet, while alternatives exist, red chilli powder has a charm of its own. It’s about embracing the heat, enjoying the tingle, and letting it meld seamlessly with the Chicken Zafrani. 

It’s a game of balance. Too little, and the dish might seem lacking. Too much, and it overshadows the other flavours. But get it right, and it’s like a symphony, a beautiful crescendo that elevates Chicken Zafrani from just a dish to an experience. 

A Hymn to Yogurt: Creamy Delight in Chicken Zafrani 

For the longest time, I’ve harboured a soft corner for yoghurt. It’s versatile, it’s creamy, and it has this innate ability to elevate a dish. When Chicken Zafrani is on the menu, I always find myself reaching out for that tub of plain yoghurt, anticipating the creamy magic it will weave. 

Yoghurt, in its tangy glory, plays multiple roles in Chicken Zafrani. When mixed with spices, it forms this thick, sumptuous marinade that clings to every nook and cranny of the chicken.  

As the chicken simmers away, the yoghurt does its magic. It tenderizes the meat, ensures it remains juicy, and imparts a tangy undertone that balances the dish’s rich flavours. 

And, let’s not forget its creamy texture. Every spoonful of Chicken Zafrani brings with it a luscious mouthfeel, a credit to the yoghurt’s consistency. It’s the unsung hero, silently working in the background, ensuring every bite is memorable. 

Of course, there have been times when I’ve toyed with the idea of alternatives. Sour cream comes to mind. It’s thicker and shares a similar tangy profile. Then there’s buttermilk, which can lend a similar acidity and creamy texture. Yet, for me, yoghurt holds its own. It’s the perfect amalgamation of texture and flavour. 

In my culinary journey, I’ve come to realize that sometimes, it’s the simplest ingredients that make the most significant impact. And in the world of Chicken Zafrani, yoghurt is undoubtedly that silent game-changer. 

Check Out These Other Recipes: 

As I bit into the succulent pieces of Chicken Zafrani, a burst of Mughlai flavours transported me back to the heart of Delhi’s old streets.  

For those craving more of this Mughlai magic, I can’t help but remember the time I relished the British Chicken Tikka Masala. The perfectly marinated chicken pieces, steeped in a tangy and richly spiced tomato sauce, were an absolute revelation. 

If you’re someone who has a fondness for kebabs, let me take you through the tantalizing journey of Chicken Chapli Kebab. The spices, the texture, and the aroma make you feel like you’re at a Mughlai feast right in the Shah Jahan’s court. 

Another memory that’s hard to shake off is when I first tasted the Butter Chicken. Oh, the creamy tomato sauce, infused with butter and aromatic spices, enveloping every piece of chicken—it’s simply divine. 

Don’t even get me started on the Lahori Karahi! The depths of flavour, the kick of spices, and the tender pieces of chicken all come together to create a dish that’s truly reminiscent of Mughal royalty. 

Before I get too carried away, let me also give an honourable mention to Chicken Biryani. Layers of flavourful rice, aromatic spices, and juicy chicken cooked to perfection—it’s an epicurean delight. 

If any of these dishes sparked your interest, I urge you to dive in and try them out. You won’t regret it! And once you’ve had a taste, do let me know your thoughts in the comments section. I’d love to hear about your Mughlai adventures! 

Chicken Zafrani

Chicken Zafrani

by Nabeela Kauser
Chicken zafrani is a rich and aromatic dish that pays homage to the culinary traditions of the Indian subcontinent. Infused with the luxurious touch of saffron.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Course Dinner
Cuisine Indian
Servings 4
Calories 374 kcal


  • 800 g Chicken
  • 1 Onion Finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp Ginger Garlic Paste
  • 100 g Yoghurt
  • 50 ml Oil
  • 1/2 tsp Saffron Strands
  • 3-4 Cardamom Pods
  • 1 Cinnamon Stick
  • 4-5 Cloves
  • 1 tsp Cumin Powder
  • 1 tsp Coriander Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Turmeric
  • 1 tsp Chilli Powder
  • Salt Adjust to taste
  • Coriander Chopped (for garnish)


  • In a small bowl, soak the saffron strands in 2 tbsp of warm water. Set it aside to infuse.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the yogurt, ginger-garlic paste, ground cumin, ground coriander, ground turmeric, red chili powder, and salt. Mix well to form a marinade.
  • Add the chicken pieces to the marinade, ensuring they are well coated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
  • In a heavy-bottomed pan, heat the cooking oil or ghee over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and sauté until it turns golden brown.
  • Add the green cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, and cloves to the pan. Sauté for another minute to release their flavours.
  • Add the marinated chicken along with the marinade to the pan. Cook on medium-high heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, and let the chicken simmer for about 20-25 minutes or until it’s cooked through and tender. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.
  • While the chicken is cooking, add the soaked saffron (along with the water it was soaked in) to the pan. Mix gently to distribute the saffron colour and flavour.
  • Once the chicken is cooked, check for seasoning and adjust salt and spice levels if needed.
  • Garnish the Chicken Zafrani with chopped cilantro leaves.
  • Serve the Chicken Zafrani hot with naan, rice, or your choice of bread.


This recipe uses bone-in chicken for added flavour, but you can use boneless chicken if preferred.
Make sure not to include any milk in the recipe as per the notes.
Adjust the spice levels according to your preference.
The saffron adds a wonderful aroma and colour to the dish; make sure to infuse it in warm water before adding.
The longer you marinate the chicken, the more flavourful it will be.
Nutritional facts:
The provision of nutritional information is done merely as a courtesy and should not be taken as a guarantee.


Calories: 374kcalCarbohydrates: 6gProtein: 21gFat: 29gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0.1gCholesterol: 73mgSodium: 90mgPotassium: 311mgFibre: 2gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 293IUVitamin C: 4mgVitamin D: 0.2µgCalcium: 71mgIron: 2mg
Keyword Chicken, Curry, Food, Indian, Recipe
Tried this recipe?Mention @CookwithNabeela or tag #CookwithNabeela!
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Cook with Nabeela

Hi, I'm Nabeela!

I love to cook! I want to share with you my favourite, delicious family-friendly recipes. I want to inspire you to create fantastic food for your family every day.

More Recipes

Chicken Shawarma

Chicken Shawarma

Peanut Butter Chicken

Peanut Butter Chicken

Breaded Chicken Nuggets

Breaded Chicken Nuggets

Chicken Samosa

Chicken Samosa

Chicken Seekh Kebab

Chicken Seekh Kebab

Murgh Chole

Murgh Chole

Find Your Perfect Recipe!

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x