Chettinad chicken - Fiery Chicken Curry from South India

Ingredients (Serves 3-4)

Marinate for 20 minutes:-

    • 2 lb/ 1 kg chicken drumsticks or thigh portions, skinned (use any dark meat portions, bone in pieces recommended)

    • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

    • 1 tsp red chili powder

    • 1 tsp salt

Spices to be Dry Roasted :-

    • 1.5 tsp white poppy seeds

    • 1 tsp fennel seeds

    • 2 tsp coriander seeds

    • 1.5 tsp cumin seeds

    • 5 cloves

    • 10-12 dry red chilies (adjust to tolerance)

    • 4 whole green cardamom

    • 1/2 cup fresh grated coconut

    • Water for grinding (about 1/4 cup)

For the Sauce:-

    • 4 tbsp mustard/canola/vegetable oil

    • 1/2 cup sambhar onions, chopped

    • 2" cinnamon stick

    • 2 star anise

    • 2 tbsp each grated fresh ginger & garlic

    • 8-10 curry leaves (available at indian stores)

    • 1.5 tsp red chili powder (adjust to tolerance)

    • 1.5 tsp turmeric powder

    • 1 cup tomatoes, chopped

    • 3-5 Thai green chilies, chopped fine (adjust to tolerance)

    • Salt to taste

    • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice (adjust to taste)

    • Fresh grated coconut (for garnish)

    • Chopped cilantro / curry leaves ( for garnish)


    1. Sambhar Onions can be substituted with shallots or equivalent quantity of chopped red onions.

    2. Fresh coconut can be substituted with unsweetened grated coconut.

Method :-

    • In a medium saucepan, first dry toast all the spices except fresh coconut for 2 minutes on low heat till you smell the aroma.

    • Next, add the grated coconut to the pan and toast till the coconut starts to change color lightly and drying out. About 8-10 minutes.

    • Once done, remove pan from heat & allow cooling. Grind the cooled spices & coconut to a paste using 1/4 cup of water or as required for grinding. The paste doesn't have to be silky smooth. Set aside.

    • In a heavy bottomed pot, heat the oil on medium till it starts to smoke lightly. Add, chopped onions and cook with regular stirring till they are translucent but not browned. About 5-7 minutes.

    • Next, add the cinnamon stick & star anise and cook for 18-20 seconds till you smell the aroma of whole spices.

    • Add in the grated ginger and garlic, curry leaves & ground spice paste and red chili & turmeric powder. Cook for 2 minutes.

    • Next, reduce heat to low, add the chopped tomatoes, mix in & cook uncovered for at least 12-15 minutes with regular stirring till oil starts separating on sides of the pot.

    • Add in the marinated chicken & chopped green chilies next, mix, check the salt & adjust, increase heat to high and let cook for 3 minutes. Next, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot & let the chicken cook with the spices & its own juices for 12-15 minutes or till tender (This cooking time will depend on size of your chicken pieces)

    • Uncover the pot, check if the chicken pieces are tender else cook for another 2-3 minutes. Once chicken pieces are cooked, turn off the heat, add the lemon juice to liking, cover & let sit covered till ready to serve.

    • When ready to serve, garnish with chopped cilantro/ curry leaves/fresh coconut.Serve with warm rice.