Chicken Chettinad curry recipe without having to soak cashews or tamarind! A finger-licking delicious spicy gravy from my home state, Tamil Nadu that pairs well with rice, dosa, idli, porotta, etc. And guess what, if you follow this recipe, you can stop buying that packaged Chettinad masala.
I fell in love with Chettinad food at an Anjappar restrauant in Bangalore on a team-lunch many years ago. It had become my go-to place for a self-induced food coma. So, if you love spicy south-Indian food, then make sure to try this chicken Chettinad curry recipe.
The spices used in Chettinad masala include my favourite fennel seeds and kalpasi (black stone flower). You can find fennel seeds as the star in my pepper chicken gravy and savoury french toast and kalpasi in my Tamil-style Mutton biryani. Both are a must to get the true flavours of Chettinad.
Ladle this thick luscious Chettinad gravy over a bowl of aromatic ghee rice for a weekend lunch and have the best siesta. Leftovers? it only gets better! Serve with warm idli or dosa for breakfast or dinner and you will not miss the sambar! Trust me!
chicken chettinad masala ingredients
- coconut oil or gingelly oil
- fennel seeds
- cumin seeds
- black peppercorns
- bay leaf
- dried red chillies
- coriander seeds
- black stone flower
- curry leaves
- grated coconut
chicken chettinad main ingredients
- coconut oil
- whole spices: fennel seeds, cardamom, cloves and cinnamon
- veggies: onion, ginger-garlic, tomatoes and fresh coriander leaves
- ground spices: turmeric, coriander and red chilli
- whole chicken curry cut pieces
See the recipe card for quantities.
How to make it?
In this section, I have explained how to make the Chettinad masala paste and then how to use that in the chicken curry.
Chettinad chicken curry masala paste
For the curry masala paste, you will start by frying the spices. This step needs full attention as the spices may get burnt. The best way to prevent it from happening is to make sure the oil is not too hot. If it gets smoky, then switch it off and remove it from hob and let it cool. Start again.
So, let me share how I make the masala paste for chettinad chicken curry.
Heat coconut oil or gingelly (sesame) oil in a thick-bottomed kadai on low to medium heat. Add all the masala paste ingredients. Keep the heat on a low to medium flame throughout the process.
Fry the spices until the grated coconut turns golden. You should watch carefully to prevent burning them. This can take about 5 to 8 minutes.
Switch off and if using cast-iron kadai like me, remove the content immediately. Transfer to a chutney maker mixie grinder jar or food processor.
Grind to a fine paste with a litter of water. You may have to stop and scrape the sides of the jar a few times. Make sure the paste is really fine and add water a little at a time.
Chicken chettinad curry
Heat coconut oil or gingelly oil on a low to medium flame in a wide and thick-bottomed saucepot. Add the whole spices - cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and fennel seeds. (missing in the picture).
Next, add the sliced onions and curry leaves. Now, saute the onions on medium-high heat for 8 to 10 minutes or until they turn golden brown. Some varieties of onions take longer to get there.
After about 10 minutes, the onions would start browning. It is now time to add ginger-garlic paste. Most of the time, I prefer to crush fresh ginger root and garlic cloves. You may add what you have and saute until the raw smell is gone.
Next, add the chopped tomatoes. I cut them chunky so that it becomes easy to pick out the skin. Usually to discard when served - for the tomato-skin-picker aka my husband.
Reduce the heat to low and add the ground spices and a little salt. Next, you need to stir until the tomatoes start to break down. The salt will help in breaking down the tomatoes faster.
Increase the flame to medium-high and cook the tomatoes until the oil separates. You can see oil on the sides of the pan or over the tomato mixture. This will take 5 to 8 minutes.
It is best to use a whole chicken cut into 12 to 16 pieces for this recipe. Add the chicken pieces and turn the heat up.
Cook until all the chicken pieces turn white. Stir in some fresh coriander leaves. We will be adding some for garnish too.
chicken chettinad gravy
Once all the chicken pieces are white, add the prepared masala paste. Next, add water to the jar and give it a shake to clean out all the masala. Pour it into the curry and stir it. This way there is no wastage.
At this stage, I don't recommend adding more water. The curry may look like there is not enough gravy but as the chicken boils, it releases water. Bring this to a full boil on high heat. Taste and adjust the salt.
Hint: Don't add too much water. The chicken will release moisture while boiling so if you add too much water in the beginning, the curry will be too thin.
When the curry comes to a boil again, reduce the heat to low and cover the pot. Let it cook for 30 minutes or until the chicken pieces are cooked through. Make sure to open and stir the curry every 10 minutes.
Open, taste and adjust the salt, add more water if required. Simmer for 2 minutes and switch off. Before serving, stir in some torn curry leaves and garnish with chopped coriander leaves.
I served Chicken Chettinad curry with neychoru (ghee rice) and store-bought chilled Malabar porotta because we wanted the best of both. I served the leftover with ari dosha for the next day's brunch.
- Oil: you can use coconut oil or sesame oil for an authentic taste. If you don't have or don't prefer, then any neutral cooking oil will do.
- Black stone flower: There is no known substitute for this. Try to look for "kalpasi" - a Tamil name for this lichen. Dagad ka phool - hindi name.
- Tomatoes: If you don't have enough ripe tomatoes, then try adding a knob of tamarind paste as per taste.
It is always great to have options as somedays days we may not have enough chicken or want to have a meatless meal.
- try adding a few chunks of potatoes
- skip chicken and add only potatoes or a mix of vegetables.
- skip the chicken and use boiled eggs
- skip the chicken and use mutton pieces
- kadai or frying pan - to roast the masala
- mixie grinder / food processor / chutney maker - to make the masala paste
- saucepot - to prepare the curry
Any leftover curry needs to be refrigerated in a closed container and consumed within 2 to 3 days for the best flavour.
If making for the first time, use a light-coloured frying pan to roast the Chettinad masala ingredients. Sometimes it is easy to go from perfectly roasted to burnt.
A classic south-Indian recipe originated from a region called Chettinad, the land of Chettiyars in the state of Tamil Nadu. Made with chicken cooked in an onion-tomato masala thickened with freshly roasted and ground paste made with whole spices and coconut. The selected spices used in Chettinad dishes make this a popular and most sought-after dish across the globe.
Though the sauce starts with the usual onion-tomato base cooked with ground spices, the masala paste is what adds body to this curry. The masala paste for Chettinad curry is made by roasting and grinding whole spices with grated coconut and curry leaves. The aromatic whole spices used are local to South-Indian cuisines like dried red chillies, fennel seeds, cumin seeds, peppercorns, green cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, bay leaf, coriander seeds, and black stone flower. Fennel seeds and black stone flower gives this South-Indian curry a Chettindad identity.
The gravy of chicken Chettinad is aromatic, spicy and tangy. The curry is as fiery as the variety and number of chillies added. As the spices and coconut are roasted, the curry gets its colour from the type of dried red chillies used and the level of roasting.
Recipes using black stone flower
Chicken Chettinad Curry
For masala paste
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil or gingelly oil
- 5 to 6 pieces black stone flower
- 2 teaspoon fennel seeds
- ¼ teaspoon cumin seeds
- ¼ teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 green cardamom
- 2 cloves
- ½ inch cinnamon stick
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 a small piece of mace optional
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
- 15 to 20 dried red chillies round
- 1 sprig of curry leaves
- ½ cup grated coconut
- 2 tablespoon coconut oil or gingelly oil
- ¼ teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 green cardamom
- 2 cloves
- ½ inch cinnamon stick
- 3 large red onions 275g, sliced thinly
- 1 sprig of curry leaves
- 1 ½ tablespoon ginger garlic paste 3 garlic pods and ½ inch ginger
- 3 to 4 large tomatoes 400g, chopped roughly
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 tablespoon coriander powder
- 1 tablespoon red chilli powder
- Salt to taste
- 1 kilogram skinless whole chicken 12 to 16 pieces
- Fresh coriander leaves chopped
- ½ cup water
Prepare the masala paste
- Heat coconut oil or gingelly (sesame) oil in a thick-bottomed kadai on low to medium heat. Add all the masala paste ingredients.1 tablespoon coconut oil, 2 teaspoon fennel seeds, ¼ teaspoon cumin seeds, ¼ teaspoon black peppercorns, 1 green cardamom, 2 cloves, ½ inch cinnamon stick, 1 bay leaf, 1 a small piece of mace, 15 to 20 dried red chillies , 1 tablespoon coriander seeds, 5 to 6 pieces black stone flower, 1 sprig of curry leaves, ½ cup grated coconut
- Fry the spices until the grated coconut turn golden and the oil surfaces or separates. You should watch carefully to prevent burning them. This can take about 5 to 8 minutes.
- Switch off and if using cast iron, remove the content immediately. Let it cool and then grind it to a fine paste with a little water.
Prepare the gravy
- Heat oil in a wide and thick-bottomed saucepot. Add the whole spices and let them swell and sizzle for a few seconds.2 tablespoon coconut oil, ¼ teaspoon fennel seeds, 1 green cardamom, 2 cloves, ½ inch cinnamon stick
- Next, add the sliced onions and curry leaves. Saute the onions until they turn golden brown. Takes about 8 to 10 minutes.3 large red onions, 1 sprig of curry leaves
- Add the crushed ginger and garlic and saute until it stops smelling raw.1 ½ tablespoon ginger garlic paste
- Add the chopped tomatoes, reduce the heat to low and add the ground spices and a little salt. The salt will help in breaking down the tomatoes faster.3 to 4 large tomatoes, ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder, 1 tablespoon coriander powder, 1 tablespoon red chilli powder, Salt to taste
- Cook on medium-high heat until tomatoes are cooked down and oil surfaces. 10 to 15 minutes.
- Add the chicken pieces and turn the heat to high and cook until all the pieces turn white.1 kilogram skinless whole chicken
- Stir in some of the freshly chopped coriander leaves.Fresh coriander leaves
- Pour the prepared masala paste. Add the water to the jar and give it a shake to get all the masala paste out and pour it into the curry.½ cup water
- Bring the curry to a boil, reduce the flame to lowest, cover and cook for 30 minutes or until the chicken pieces are cooked through.
- Switch off and stir in a few curry leaves and garnish with coriander leaves.
- Serve with ghee rice, rice, porotta, idli or dosa, etc. Refrigerate any leftover in a covered container and use within 3 days.
Recipe adapted from Chef Deena's Kitchen.