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Chicken Cafreal

This chicken cafreal is a flavorful dish that originates from Goa, India and is known for its zesty green marinade. The combination of fresh herbs, whole spices, and tangy lime juice makes it a perfect choice for anyone looking to enjoy a burst of flavor.

Chicken cafreal on a plate.

Chicken cafreal’s roots trace back to the Portuguese colonies in Africa, making their way into Goan kitchens through the influence of the Portuguese and the African soldiers in their service. As it assimilated into Goan culture, the dish evolved, incorporating local ingredients and culinary techniques, resulting in the flavor-packed creation enjoyed today.

Step by Step Video Instructions


Chicken Legs: Preferred for their tenderness and richness, making them an excellent choice for the rich and fresh marinade.

Cilantro: Provides a fresh, herbaceous note essential to the vibrant green color and refreshing taste of the Cafreal marinade.

Chilies: You can customize your spice with the type of chilies you use. For a milder taste, deseed the chilies before adding them.

Ginger: Contributes a sharp, aromatic flavor that adds depth and warmth to the marinade.

Garlic: Essential for its aromatic qualities, it brings a robust depth to the Cafreal’s flavor profile.

Turmeric: Offers a mild, earthy flavor.

Lime Juice: Adds a touch of freshness and a bright, citrusy note to the marinade, balancing the rich flavors of the spices and herbs.

Whole Spices (Cumin Seeds, Cloves, Black Peppercorns, Cinnamon Stick, Bay Leaf): These spices are toasted and ground into a fine powder, creating a complex, aromatic backbone for the Cafreal paste.

Chicken cafreal on a plate with lime.

Expert Tips

Marination Time: For the fullest flavor infusion, marinate the chicken legs overnight. This extended period gives the meat plenty of time to absorb the vibrant green marinade. If you are short on time, I would suggest marinating for at least 30 minutes but ideally 2 hours.

Toasting Whole Spices: Briefly toasting the whole spices before grinding releases their essential oils, significantly enhancing the aroma and depth of your Cafreal paste. Keep the heat medium to avoid burning, which can impart bitterness.

Blending for a Smooth Paste: After blending the Cafreal paste, a tip to ensure no flavor is wasted involves adding a small amount of water to the blender. Secure the lid and give it a good shake. This process helps loosen any paste stuck to the sides, which can then be poured over the chicken.

Storage and Leftovers

Refrigerating Leftovers: Place any leftover chicken cafreal in an airtight container and refrigerate. Properly stored, it will remain fresh and flavorful for up to 3 days.

Freezing for Later Use: If you won’t be consuming the leftovers within a few days, freezing is an excellent option. Transfer the chicken cafreal to freezer-safe containers and freeze. It can be stored frozen for up to 3 months. For best results, thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.

Reheating Leftover Chicken Cafreal:

For the best quality, you can choose to reheat your chicken cafreal in the oven or the microwave, depending on your preference and time constraints.

Oven Method: Preheat your oven to 355°F (180°C). Place the chicken cafreal in an oven-safe dish and add a splash of water or chicken broth to prevent it from drying out. Cover the dish with aluminum foil to retain moisture. Heat for about 10-15 minutes, or until thoroughly hot through.

Microwave Method: For a quicker option, use the microwave. Transfer the chicken cafreal to a microwave-safe container, adding a little water or chicken broth to keep it moist. Cover with a microwave-safe lid or plastic wrap. Heat on medium power in 1-2 minute intervals, stirring in between to ensure even heating until hot throughout.

Chicken cafreal with red onion.

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Chicken cafreal with red onion.

Chicken Cafreal

This chicken cafreal is a flavorful dish that originates from Goa, India and is known for its zesty green marinade. The combination of fresh herbs, whole spices, and tangy lime juice makes it a perfect choice for anyone looking to enjoy a burst of flavor.
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Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Servings 4
Calories 297 kcal


  • 4 Skinless Chicken Legs
  • 40 g Cilantro
  • 10 g Chillies
  • 12 g Ginger
  • 13 g Garlic
  • 2 tsp Lime Juice
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • ¼ tsp Turmeric

Whole Spices

  • 1 tsp Cumin Seeds
  • 5 Cloves
  • 1 tsp Black Peppercorns
  • 1- inch Cinnamon Stick
  • 1 Bay Leaf


Prepare the Spice Mix:

  • In a large skillet, toast the cinnamon stick, bay leaf, cloves, black peppercorns, and cumin seeds until they begin to release their oil. Transfer the toasted spices to a spice grinder or a small blender. Grind them into a fine powder, then transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Make the Cafreal Paste:

  • In a small blender add he bowl of ground spices, add cilantro, chillies, ginger, garlic, turmeric, salt, and lime juice. Add 2 tablespoons of water to help blend the mixture into a smooth paste.

Marinate the Chicken:

  • In a large bowl, combine the chicken legs with the cafreal paste, ensuring each piece is well-coated. Cover the bowl and marinate overnight in the refrigerator for the best flavor.

Cook the Chicken:

  • Remove the chicken from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before cooking to bring it to room temperature.
  • Heat oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the chicken legs, searing each side before lowering the heat. Cover the pan and cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through.
  • Serve the Chicken Cafreal garnished with fresh cilantro leaves and lime wedges on the side.


Calories: 297kcalCarbohydrates: 4gProtein: 23gFat: 21gSaturated Fat: 6gPolyunsaturated Fat: 4gMonounsaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0.1gCholesterol: 122mgSodium: 202mgPotassium: 399mgFiber: 1gSugar: 0.4gVitamin A: 835IUVitamin C: 9mgCalcium: 41mgIron: 2mg
Keyword Chicken Cafreal
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