Portuguese – Goan Galinha Cafreal

It is my pleasure entirely to bring to you another exciting showstopper of a dish from Goa today! Great for gluten free & dairy free diets, Galinha (Chicken in Portuguese) in a Cafreal masala, is a spicy chicken preparation that finds its roots in the Portuguese colonies in Mozambique, Africa.

Chicken Cafreal, a melt-in-the-mouth delicacy, is made with large, succulent pieces of thighs or whole legs, beautifully coated & marinated in a freshly ground green masala of coriander & mint leaves, select aromatic spices and a tiny dash of toddy vinegar / lime juice to blend it all in. Pan seared initially to give it a great brown crust & finally finished off in the same pan in its own rustic marinade until the meat is lovely & tender.

Traditionally served with some Poie, a crusty toddy-leavened Goan bread or pulao rice & a good Feni or wine, some roasted golden potato wedges & lots of salad as a side. Works as an ideal Sunday lunch or that whole-family-coming-over kinda meal in festive season.

Having ruled over Goa for over 400 years, the Portuguese but naturally left behind a long-lasting influence on their food, culture & architecture. A wonderful example of a blend of Goan & Portuguese cuisines making use of robust Indian spices & aromatics along with vinegar / rum as the western influence, this recipe is undoubtedly at the top of my list of Goan favourites.

This dish owes a lot of its popularity to the Godfather of Goan cooking, the world famous Executive Chef Urbano Rego, from the Taj Group of hotels who over a more-than-40 year culinary career has served several dignitaries & heads of state, always believing that cooking is an art that should come straight from the heart!

Having had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get a firsthand live masterclass with this legendary chef at the age of 10 on the beach of the then Fort Aguada Beach Resort, Goa, please excuse my bias! This post is my humble tribute to him!

No Goan restaurant worth its salt will serve up a menu without Cafreal along with the traditional favourites like Xacuti (pronounced Shakuti), Vindaloo, Sorpotel, Recheado Masala, Sasusage Chilli Fry & so on.

Guess you’re already drooling by now, so I’d better close here!

Recipe for Portuguese – Goan Galinha Cafreal

Ingredients (Serves 4 – 6 persons)

  • 1 kilo chicken thighs
  • 1 tablespoon ginger paste
  • 1 tablespoon garlic paste
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric powder / haldi
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 tablespoons oil for shallow frying

For the Cafreal Masala

  • 1 cup loosely packed coriander leaves
  • 10 – 15 fresh mint leaves / pudina
  • 4 green chillies, or as per your taste
  • 8 – 10 garlic cloves
  • 1½ inch piece ginger
  • 4 cloves / laung
  • 10 – 12 whole peppercorns / kali mirch
  • 1 inch cinnamon / dalchini
  • 4 green cardamoms / elaichi
  • 1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds/jeera
  • 1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds or 1 tablespoon powder
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder / haldi
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1.5 tablespoons dark jaggery
  • Juice of one lime
  • 2 teaspoons oil


  1. Wash the chicken thoroughly in a mixture of salt & turmeric powder & drain.
  2. Pat the chicken dry, make a few cuts & then rub it with a mixture of lemon juice, ginger garlic paste & salt. Set aside for 30 minutes. In the meanwhile prepare the Cafreal masala.
  3. In a blender / mixie, add all the ingredients listed under Cafreal masala including vinegar & lemon juice (no water) to make a smooth paste. You could finely powder the spices separately first & then add the rest).
  4. Apply half of the prepared marinade to the chicken along with 2 teaspoons of oil to help retain the moisture.
  5. Allow it marinate for at least 3-4 hours. I marinated it overnight in the refrigerator. Reserve the remaining marinade in the refrigerator too.
  6. Remove the chicken & bring to room temperature from the refrigerator.
  7. Heat the oil on a grill pan. Add the chicken pieces & cook on a medium flame, a few at a time, for about 5 minutes each side until a beautiful golden brown.
  8. You could also fry up a few salted potato wedges or thick potato slices along with the chicken.
  9. Add the reserved marinade along with 3/4th cup water & cook on a medium flame with a lid for approximately 10 minutes.
  10. When almost fully cooked, open the lid and dry up the remaining liquid so that the green masala coats the chicken nicely.
  11. Serve hot with bread/rice and slices of tomatoes & onions or salad.


  • The authentic recipe of Chicken Cafreal calls for Goan toddy vinegar or rum. I have used a little bit of jaggery instead to give it that malty flavour.
  • In the absence of fresh mint leaves, try store bought dry mint leaves if available for a lovely aromatic chicken, else you can do without it too.
  • Vegetarians can try out this recipe by marinating an assortment of vegetables such as potato, zucchini, cauliflower/broccoli florets, mushrooms, sweet potato, baby corn & tofu/cottage cheese/paneer.

Making of Portuguese – Goan Galinha Cafreal

14 thoughts on “Portuguese – Goan Galinha Cafreal

  1. Wow, you have made it just perfect , the pieces are well coated with the masala and have a nice smoky bourbon brown color ,those thigh pieces look nice and succulent….can’t wait to try it out your way 😋 😍 ☺ keep them coming Amrita 👏👏

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Looks yummy and not too difficult to make ! Being a vegetarian can’t make it , but do you recommend a vegetarian version ? if yes , using what instead of chicken?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for writing in! Yes this tantalizing green masala is very similar to a Hariyali Paneer Tikka or Hara Bhara Kabab with mixed vegetables, but another option would be to marinate an assortment of fresh vegetables & then braise them in a pan.
      My suggestion would be sweet potato, potato, cauliflower florets, mushrooms, tofu/paneer, baby corn & zucchini. These would absorb the masala beautifully & taste superb grilled too! Do hope you will try it out soon!

      Liked by 1 person

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