Chicken cafreal

Galinha cafreal aka Chicken cafreal, is a Portuguese influenced dish popular in the Goan cuisine! No festive occasion is complete without cafreal on the menu along with the popular sorpotel, vindalho’s, xacuti and the likes. But who really needs an occasion to indulge on some cafreal? I prepare it quite frequently, mostly for our Sunday meals, coz weekend meals are meant to be special, at least that is what I remember since my childhood. Pulao, biryani’s and rich curries were mostly reserved for Sunday’s!

So what is cafreal after all ? It is a flavorful, green spice paste made of cilantro, green chillies, whole spices and a sour ingredient which may vary from tamarind to lime juice to vinegar! It is fiery, rustic, a bit tangy, utterly aromatic and absolutely delicious all at once! Adjectives fall short to describe how fantastic this dish is! Some folks add a splash of rum, when the chicken is almost done which actually adds a nice, festive finish to the dish! Served alongside some potato wedges/fries and salad, and you have a complete, wholesome meal!

Chicken leg pieces are your best bet to make chicken cafreal, the meat is succulent, tender and just fall apart. So delicious! You may use breast pieces too. I’ve made a semi gravy version, allowing the marinade to almost dry up, coating the chicken with all that aromatic and flavorful deliciousness. You can have it in the form of a curry too, adjust the liquid as required and enjoy it with some pulao or bread instead. Marinating the chicken in the spice paste overnight gives maximum flavor to the dish, so I highly recommend you do a little prep work in advance to thoroughly enjoy Chicken cafreal! If you have any leftovers ( highly unlikely :D) use them in sandwiches, wraps etc.

Ingredients – Measuring cup used, 1 Cup = 250 ml, 1 Teaspoon = 5 ml

Approx 1. 5 lb chicken thighs

1/2 tablespoon ginger garlic paste

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon salt

For the cafreal masala-

1 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves with  tender stalks ( about 30 stalks of cilantro)

6-7 Green chillies, adjust as per desired heat

6-7 large garlic cloves/12 small garlic cloves

1 & 1/2 inch piece of ginger

4 cloves

8 peppercorns

1 inch of cinnamon

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

2 teaspoons  poppy seeds

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

Small ball of tamarind/ Juice of half a lime

Other ingredients- 

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice


1. Pat dry the chicken, make some gashes on the chicken thighs. Rub it well with lemon juice. ginger garlic paste & salt. Set aside for 30 minutes. In the meanwhile prepare the cafreal masala.

2.In a blender/grinder, add all the ingredients listed under cafreal masala and make a smooth paste using water as required. I used a little more than  1/4 cup water.

3. Apply half of the prepared marinade to the chicken and let it marinate 2-3 hours or overnight preferably. Reserve the remaining marinade in the refrigerator.

4. Before you cook the chicken, remove it out from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature. Heat butter and oil in a pan. Once it is hot, add the chicken pieces, cook until golden brown on both sides.

5. Then add the reserved marinade along with 1/2 cup water, cook covered on medium heat for about 15-20 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken pieces. When the chicken is almost done, cook uncovered, till the gravy dries up a bit and the masala coats the chicken well.

6. Once done, sprinkle lemon juice and serve hot along with some potato wedges, lime wedges and salad.

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Have a great week ahead!





  1. Sandhya says:

    We visited Goa in November and the market had Cafreal masalas galore. Love your freshly ground masala. Your photos look amazing! My hand reached out to get one of those scrumptious fries. If I were to succeed getting it, that chicken leg would disappear out of the photos too! Fabulous share my friend!

  2. Loretta says:

    I’ve said it before, and I’m saying it again….beautifully plated Freda, you have such an artistic flair with your presentations. Well done! I’ve never made cafreal from scratch, I’ve always asked my sister to bring me some packets whenever she visits Goa. But you’ve made it sound so easy. I do make green masala in the blender at home and use it in various dishes. The spices are somewhat similar, so will have to give the cafreal a go. Do you find that your blender blends the whole spices as well?

    • Freda Dias says:

      Hi Loretta! Thanks a lot for your kind words. Actually I got my mixer from India. I use the small chutney jar to grind these masalas, they grind really smooth and fine, especially when the quantity is not much. I didn’t like the one that I purchased from here, so got one from India 🙂

  3. NOOPUR singh says:

    I will be making this delicious chicken soon!! Thxx Freda it’s very different recipe always like ur presentation ..Pls do share ur potatoes veggies recipe..?

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