Korma vs. Karahi: How Do Two Iconic South Asian Dishes Compare?

Korma and Karahi are two popular but different dishes in Indian and Pakistani cuisine. While they share some similarities owing to (almost) the same area of origin, they have some prominent differences that set them apart. Additionally, they have some subtle but significant differences that serve as a golden yardstick to tell them apart. These subtle differences, in fact, are defining characteristics of the two dishes.

The key differences between two dishes can be described as:

Korma, originating from the Mughal era, is a slow-cooked meat dish with a thin, creamy, and mild sauce, featuring yogurt, cream, poppy seeds, and sweet spices like cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves.

In contrast, Karahi, from Punjab, is a quick-cooked, spicy, and tangy meat dish prepared in a rounded cast iron vessel called “karahi.” The dish highlights tomatoes’ tanginess, and high heat of robust spices.

The difference between korma and karahi extend to color, texture, and garnish, making each dish unique in flavor and presentation.

This article takes a closer, detailed look at all the crucial points of difference between the two dishes so that you understand them clearly and once and for all. Without further ado, here’s a detailed comparison of Korma and Karahi.



Korma is a dish that originated in the Mughal era, which ruled over India from the 16th to the 19th century. The Mughals were known for their love of fine cuisine, and Korma is believed to have been developed in the royal kitchens of the Mughal emperors. The dish is prevalent in northern India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, where it has been adapted and developed to suit local tastes.


Karahi, on the other hand, is a dish that originated in the Punjab region of India and Pakistan. The dish is named after the karahi, a traditional cooking vessel used to make the dish. The Punjab region is known for its rich culinary traditions, and Karahi is just one of the many dishes that have emerged from this region. The dish is particularly popular in Pakistan and northern India.


Korma is a creamy and mild dish typically made by braising meat or vegetables in a mixture of yogurt, cream, and spices. The dish is often simmered (cooked slowly on low heat), which helps to tenderize the meat and allows the flavors to develop.
Karahi, conversely, is a spicy and tangy dish typically made by sautéing meat or vegetables with a blend of spices in a large, rounded, and deep cooking vessel known as a “karahi.” The dish is cooked on high heat, which helps to give it a smoky and slightly charred flavor.


Korma typically features a variety of mild spices such as cumin, coriander, cinnamon, and cardamom. The dish also often includes ingredients such as cashews, almonds, or coconut milk, which help to give it a creamy texture. Meat such as chicken, lamb, or beef is often used in Korma, but vegetarian versions made with vegetables or paneer (Indian cheese) are also standard.

Note that tomatoes are almost never used in Korma. Instead, it derives its little bit of tartness and tanginess from yogurt. Yogurt, instead of tomatoes, is the hallmark of Korma.

Karahi, conversely, features a more robust blend of spices, including cumin, coriander, garam masala, and chili powder. The dish is often made with chicken or lamb, although vegetarian versions are also available. Tomatoes are a key ingredient in Karahi, giving the dish a tangy flavor. Fresh herbs such as cilantro or mint are also commonly used in Karahi.



Korma is typically simmered on low heat, allowing the flavors to develop and the meat to become tender. The meat is often marinated in a mixture of yogurt and spices, which adds flavor and helps tenderize the meat. However, marination is not essential; you can add the yogurt-based sauce later.

The meat is seared in a pan with onions and garlic, then simmered in a creamy sauce made with yogurt, cream, or coconut milk. The sauce is often flavored with aromatic spices like cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and ground nuts like almonds or cashews. Korma is usually cooked in a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven to ensure that it cooks evenly and slowly.


Karahi, on the other hand, is typically cooked quickly on high heat, making it a popular choice for weeknight meals. The dish is named after the karahi, a deep and rounded cooking vessel traditionally used to cook it.

The meat is typically cut into small pieces and sautéed in oil or ghee with onions, garlic, ginger, and tomatoes. The spices used in Karahi can vary depending on the region, but they often include cumin, coriander, turmeric, and chili powder. Once the meat is browned, the heat is lowered, and the dish is simmered until the meat is tender and the sauce has thickened. Karahi is often served in the same cooking vessel it was made in, making it a visually appealing and rustic dish.

Flavor Profile

Korma is a mild and creamy dish with a slightly sweet flavor due to yogurt, cream, and sweet spices such as cinnamon. The dish is often enjoyed with rice or naan bread and is popular with those preferring milder dishes.
Karahi, conversely, is a spicy and tangy dish with a smoky and slightly charred flavor due to the high heat used in its preparation. The dish is often served with naan bread and is popular with those who enjoy bold and flavorful dishes.


Korma is typically a light-colored dish because of cream or yogurt, while Karahi is often a deep red color due to tomatoes and chili powder.


Korma has a creamy and smooth texture due to the use of yogurt or cream, while Karahi has a thicker and chunkier texture due to tomatoes and onions.


Korma is often garnished with chopped nuts and fresh herbs such as cilantro, while Karahi is often garnished with sliced green chilies, ginger, and fresh coriander leaves.

Nutritional Value:

Due to its creamy base, Korma tends to be higher in fat and calories than Karahi. Karahi, on the other hand, can be made with less oil and has a higher content of vitamin C and antioxidants due to the use of tomatoes.

How can you make the best Chicken Korma at home?

The best way to make chicken korma at home is by following some of the best recipe tutorials. Instead of an elaboration in black and white, the video illustrates the entire process.

How can you make the best Chicken Karahi at home?

Making Chicken Karahi at home is pretty easy. Follow the recipe given here and enjoy authentic Indian-style Chicken Karahi at home. You can cut the recipe according to your needs.

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Cashmere Muhammad
Cashmere Muhammad

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