Fragrant Sweet Smoky Chicken with Caramelized Onions & Ghee

]Fragrant Sweet Smoky Chicken with caramelized onions & ghee

As the days are getting longer and nicer, I want to do so many things! Packing in a bunch of things into weeknights means less time to prepare dinner, on the evenings when I still want to cook. A couple of evenings ago, for example, I ran some quick errands, met my husband for a drink outside at one of our neighborhood places, stopped at the grocery store, and still felt motivated to cook when we got home.

I decided to make one of my favorite dishes which is ridiculously tasty and easy. For a dish this simple, it’s quite unbelievable how good and flavorful it is. It’s a quick sweet smoky chicken with only a few ingredients. The longest part of making this dish involves slowly caramelizing sweet onions in ghee. But as you do this, the aroma is so heavenly that it’ll put you in a good mood. I put on some music, hubby came to check out the fantastic fragrance of the onions caramelizing in ghee, we danced around, and soon enough the onions were done! The rest of the dish is even easier. Baby potatoes and chicken breast cut into small cubes cook fast. At the end, add the toasted black cumin seeds, and you’re done.

Fragrant Sweet Smoky Chicken

There are three key things that give it the fragrant sweet smoky flavor. Use sweet onions (I use vidalia); caramelizing the onions give a naturally sweet taste (no need for a sweetener). Also, don’t substitute oil for the ghee, otherwise you won’t get that fantastic fragrance.

And do use black cumin seeds, known as kala jeera in Indian stores (or if you order online). It’s also known as shahi jeera or Kashmiri jeera. These are slightly long, thin and curved – see the photo for step 9. Make sure that you don’t use nigella seeds (kalonji), which are also sometimes called black cumin; those are small and round in shape. And definitely don’t use brown cumin seeds here. It’s the black cumin (kala jeera) that will give the dish a unique smoky nutty flavor. Dry heat the seeds on a cast iron skillet or heavy bottomed pan to toast and release the smoky aroma. Do this at the end, right before you’re ready to serve the chicken.

My husband and I both absolutely love this dish. I serve it with rice and a simple easy side salad.

Ingredients for Fragrant Sweet Smoky Chicken
Sauteeing onions for Fragrant Sweet Smoky Chicken
step 1
caramelized onions for Fragrant Sweet Smoky Chicken
step 1
Turmeric & chili powder for sweet smoky chicken
step 2
sauteeing chicken & potatoes for sweet smoky chicken
steps 3 & 4
adding water to chicken & potatoes for sweet smoky chicken
step 5
adding caramelized onions to chicken & potatoes for sweet smoky chicken
step 6
Fragrant Sweet Smoky Chicken
step 8
Toasting black cumin seeds for sweet smoky chicken
step 9

Fragrant Sweet Smoky Chicken with Caramelized Onions & Ghee



  • 1 pound chicken breast cut into small cubes
  • 6-8 small baby potatoes, halved
  • 1 large sweet vidalia onion, thickly sliced (about 2 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons ghee
  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon toasted black cumin seed (kalajeera); don’t use nigella seeds (kalonji), sometimes labeled as black cumin
  • 1 cup water


  1. In a shallow wide pan, heat ghee over low heat. Add onions and cook, stirring regularly until brown and caramelized (about 20 minutes). Remove onions from pan.
  2. To the same hot pan, add the oil. Add turmeric & chili powder and fry for about 30 seconds.
  3. Add potatoes and salt, stir fry for about 2 minutes.
  4. Add chicken, stir fry till the pieces are lightly browned on all sides.
  5. Add water to the pan and cook for about 2 minutes, till it comes to a boil.
  6. Add the caramelized onions and stir thoroughly. Cook for 3 minutes, uncovered.
  7. Cover pan, cook over low heat till the potatoes start to soften, about 5 minutes.
  8. Then uncover and cook till sauce is thick.
  9. Heat a small heavy skillet over low heat, add the black cumin seeds. Shake the pan, or stir with a spatula or wooden spoon till the seeds are toasted (about a minute). You’ll get a nice smoky aroma. Remove from heat, add the toasted seeds to the chicken and stir in.
  10. Serve the chicken immediately, with side salad and rice.
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Fragrant Sweet Smoky Chicken with caramelized onions & ghee
step 10
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