kerala chicken curry (nadan kohzi) – Indian hotel style

Kerala chicken curry. Nadan kohzi. Never heard of it? Too bad. You are missing out.

Curry leaves. Green chilies. Tamarind. Coconut. And a bold spice mix. Kerala masala is what makes this one special.

Big flavours. If you are looking to give your tastebuds a kick nadan chicken curry is a good place to start.

Garnished Kerala chicken curry in a Balti bowl from the front

Black pepper is the backbone of Kerala chicken curry

This isn’t a run of the mill curry. And the spicing isn’t run of the mill either. Kerala chicken curry is a little different.

It’s the pepper that does it. Think garam masala. Now think garam masala with bite. Wonderful, peppery bite. That’s what’s going on here.

This is a complex mix. Haunting flavours. Cardamom. Cinnamon. Star anise. Fennel seed. Warm spices. But with attitude. Black pepper attitude.

Toasting and grinding spices makes a difference

If you usually use pre-ground spices you are in for a treat. There’s a world of difference here.

Dry roasted whole spices. Freshly ground. That’s a whole different league of tasty.

Normally I’d tell you to toast up a batch of spices and grind to order. That’s usually good advice.

But this time it doesn’t work. It’s a small batch. There’s only one star anise and one piece of cinnamon. So you need to grind it all up to make sure you get the balance right.

Roasted and fresh ground spices. You’ve heard about it. Now try it. It’s amazing. More work. Sure. But this blog isn’t ever about easy. It’s about going for gold.

I can smell my spice mix from across the kitchen as I write this. When was the last time that happened to you?

Kerala masala on a spoon surrounded by whole spices from above.

Fresh curry leaves matter

I put curry leaves first up above. There’s a reason. Fresh curry leaves are pretty important in this dish. Really important actually.

Most herbs work dried. Different. But they still offer something. Curry leaves are not like that. Think of dried cilantro. There’s no taste at all. Dust.

Dried curry leaves are a bit better. Maybe a 1 out of 10 on the flavour scale. If I’m feeling generous.

Just can’t get fresh? Don’t let that stop you. It will still be good. Just won’t be the same. The spice mix is amazing. It will totally carry the dish. Not exactly what I intended. But tasty.

If you want the real deal though try to find fresh. Where I am it’s not that hard. You do have to work a bit. But they are around. Just have to hunt.

If you live in a town with a South Indian restaurant go ask them. They will have them. Tell them you are making nadan kohzi. They will be impressed. Beg. It’s worth it.

And when you get them, they freeze pretty well. Way better than dried…

Table scene of hotel style Kerala chicken curry with rice, dal and chapatis.

Hotel style kerala chicken curry

Hotel style curry gravy is the other thing that’s different about this curry. You probably know traditional Indian cooking. That’s pretty much everything out there. All the books. The whole internet.

Traditional is fantastic. I love it. Grew up eating it. My comfort food is Bengali chicken curry and dal.

This is different. But similar. It’s a way to prep a foundational base gravy that lets you make curries on demand. You make a bunch of the hotel base gravy and portion it out. You can freeze it for later. Hotel style on demand.

Regular restaurant technique is conceptually similar. But it comes at it a totally different way. It’s good. It’s easy. And it works.

Hotel style is about taking it up another level. Restaurant style is what they serve in your local Indian joint. Hotel style is what they serve at the Indian restaurants you can’t get a reservation at.

You get all the depth of flavour from slowly browned onions like traditional Indian cooking. But with the lush sauce of restaurant style. The best of both worlds.

Hotel style Kerala chicken curry. Nadan kohzi. Doesn’t matter what you call it.

What matters is now you’ve heard of it. Try making it. I think you’ll like it. A lot.

Closeup of Kerala chicken curry garnished with fried curry leaves.
Bowl full of Kerala chicken curry garnished with fried shallots, mustard seed and fried curry leaves - from above.
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4.97 from 31 votes

kerala chicken curry – Indian hotel style

Kerala chicken curry is loaded with big South Indian flavours. A final tempering gives this curry an extra kick.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Keyword kerala chicken curry, nadan kozhi
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 2
Calories 745kcal
Author romain | glebekitchen


kerala masala

  • 1 1/2 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seed
  • 2 tbsp coriander seed
  • 1 tsp fennel seed
  • 1 inch cinnamon bark also known as cassia
  • 1 star anise
  • 8 cloves
  • 8 green cardamom pods

The spice mix

  • 2 1/2 tsp kerala masala – the ground spice. See above
  • 1 1/2 tsp kashmiri chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp kasoor methi – dried fenugreek leaves
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt

kerala chicken curry

  • 3 tbsp coconut oil – any neutral oil will also work or even 1/2 and 1/2 coconut and neutral oil
  • 1 tbsp garlic ginger paste – recipe link below
  • the spice mix from above
  • 2-3 finger hot (jwala) green chilies cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 5 fresh curry leaves
  • 1 cup Indian hotel curry gravy – recipe link below. Don't worry if it seems too thick. The juices from the chicken will thin it out.
  • 1/2 tsp tamarind paste – or tamarind pulp if you make it yourself. Tamarind concentrate is not the same thing as tamarind paste. Watch out for that.
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into 4 pieces each
  • 3 tbsp coconut milk


  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 10 fresh curry leaves
  • 1/2 shallot thinly sliced


Make the kerala masala

  • Pre-heat a small skillet over medium-low heat.
  • Add the spices to the skillet.
  • Toast, shaking the pan, until they start to get fragrant. This should take a two or three minutes.
  • Let cool and grind to a fine powder. I like a coffee grinder for this. The old ones with the blade work well. Bad for coffee. Great for spices.
  • You won't need anywhere near all of it so transfer it to a jar with a tight fitting lid and store in a cool, dark place. Use it as a funky peppery garam masala if you like.

Do your prep

  • Measure out your spice mix. Stem your curry leaves. Prep your chicken. Measure out a cup (237 ml) of Indian hotel curry gravy. Cut up your green chilies. Slice your shallot.
  • Have your garlic ginger paste, tamarind and coconut milk handy. You're good to go now.

Make your tempering

  • Heat 1 tbsp of coconut oil over medium low heat in the same little pan you used to toast the spices.
  • Add the shallots and cook until the shallots start to brown.
  • Add the mustard seed and about 10 curry leaves and cook until the shallots are nicely brown. Set aside.

Make the kerala chicken curry

  • Heat the oil in a medium sized frying pan until the oil just starts to shimmer.
  • Stir in the garlic ginger paste. Gently fry until the garlic ginger paste stops sputtering. This can get a little messy.
  • Turn your heat down to medium low and add your spice mix and the remaining 5 curry leaves. Cook for about 30 seconds. You want to fry your spices in the oil. Don't skimp on the oil. Bad things happen if the spices stick and burn.
  • Add the green chilies. Cook another 30 seconds or so.
  • Add the Indian hotel curry gravy. Stir it really well to get the oil to combine with the curry gravy. You want everything mixed together at this point. Bring to a simmer.
  • Add the chicken thigh pieces in a single layer. Nestle them down into the sauce. Cover and cook about 5 minutes. Remove the cover, flip the chicken and recover. Cook until the chicken is done. Use an instant read thermometer if you have one. You are shooting for an internal temperature of 160F. It will get to 170F as the curry finishes cooking.
  • Add the tamarind paste and coconut milk. Stir well to combine.
  • Look at the consistency. If you are happy with it, cover and simmer for 2 minutes. If it's too thick, add a bit of water and stir to combine. If it's too thin don't cover it to let it reduce.
  • While the curry is in it's final simmer, warm up the tempering over low heat.
  • Transfer the kerala chicken curry to a serving dish and drizzle/sprinkle it with the tempering.
  • Kerala chicken curry is great with rice and chapatis or parathas.


Make your Indian hotel curry gravy ahead of time. It does take time to make so think about doing it the day before.
For maximum flavour consider making your garlic ginger paste from scratch.
1 cup is 237 ml.
You may notice there’s no tomato paste or passata in this recipe. That’s because the tomato flavour comes from the hotel curry gravy. It’s there already.


Serving: 2servings | Calories: 745kcal | Carbohydrates: 30g | Protein: 38g | Fat: 56g | Saturated Fat: 34g | Cholesterol: 161mg | Sodium: 1261mg | Potassium: 1021mg | Fiber: 11g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 692IU | Vitamin C: 119mg | Calcium: 178mg | Iron: 7mg

57 thoughts on “kerala chicken curry (nadan kohzi) – Indian hotel style”

  1. Hi, thanks for this great recipe! Already made it a dozen times! One question though, I’d like to make it for a bunch of vegetarian friends. What do you recommend to replace the chicken with? Plantbased ‘chicken’ pieces/ (brown) chikpeas/ or…??
    Thanks in advance

    • Chickpeas are always a good stand in. I’ve heard seitan works although I haven’t ever tried it. Also, skin on roasted eggplant (the small ones) works very well in a lot of Indian dishes I find.Just be sure to put them in a paper bag to steam when they come out of the oven to soften the skin.

    • This is as it would be cooked in a high end restaurant. Look on the bright side. People make this and become more interested in learning about the wonderful flavours that are South Indian. That’s what I’m trying to do – let people know there is more to India than chicken tikka masala and madras. And yes, I know that both those dishes were invented outside India.

  2. Hi, Romain

    Can I trouble you to start including proper weight measurements?

    For example.

    500g of Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs
    instead of
    4 Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs cut into 4 pieces?

    I want to cook 1KG of your boneless Skinless Chicken thighs, but i’m afraid to guess the calculation after a few times I tried to scale your receipe.

    Also, have you ever thought about using one of automatic calculators that you can embed in the webpage so people can automatically get the right measurements based on the quanitity they want to cook or ingredients they have?

    • I’ll try to remember but I don’t think it needs to be all that precise. To help steer you in the right direction I like about 300g of chicken for this recipe. Boneless, skinless thighs are around 100 g a piece where I am.

      There is an automatic calculator BTW. If you click on the number of servings in the recipe card there is a popup slider that lets you adjust dynamically.

  3. 5 stars
    Hi Romain, just when I thought I had made the best hotel style recipes already… Turns out I was in for yet another absolutely awesome flavor bomb!! Genius stuff! I’m eternally grateful for this site. Thank you!!

  4. Boom! How much taste in that! I made this on your last nights recomendation and my mistake, I normally replace 1/3 of Kashmiri chili powder with cayenne. This curry didnt need it. It has great big bold taste. 1 serving eaten, 1 serving ready for the freezer, 4 portions of hotel gravy left in the freezer and Hotel Style Ceylon curry on the menu for tomorrow night.
    Loving hotel style,
    thank you!

  5. Hi Romain
    Love this curry the only problem I have is grinding the spices finely
    Mine always seems a bit gritty
    Can you recommend a grinder that will do the job


    • I use a Braun coffee grinder (one with a spinning blade) that I have had about 2.8 million years. Terrible coffee grinder but good spice grinder. I had a quick look around and it seems that there are dedicated electric spice/nut grinders available but I have never used one…

  6. 5 stars
    Had this for dinner tonight. Thought the spices gave it a lovely warm taste, and I particularly liked the tempered shallot on top. We had dried curry leaves – agree with your comments on them, and will probably leave them out next time. I also used a tad more coconut milk. A superb full-bodied peppery/warming/coconutty feast! Thanks Romain!

    • I haven’t done any experiments to see how one could make tamarind concentrate work so I’m afraid I really don’t know.

      Sorry I can’t be of more help.

    • The recipe calls for 2 1/2 teaspoons of the Kerala masala. You make your masala (bulk) and then you use that when you make up the spice mix for the actual curry.

    • I’m sorry. I have absolutely no idea. This recipe was developed and tested using stovetop cooking technique. It’s a fun idea though. I will tinker with it when I have some time.

  7. I can’t wait to try this. I once went into my local South Indian restaurant at *lunch time* to ask what they were cooking right then, as it smelled so good out on the street – it was the Kerala chicken curry! Thank you for all your research and recipes.

    • This one is one of my all time favourites. It has everything I love in one dish! Hope it lives up to the standard of your local South Indian restaurant.

  8. Hi Romain,
    Your blog has taught me a lot! The Nadan Khozi is probably my favorite, but just about every one of your recipes that I’ve tried has been wonderful. And it’s fabulous how quick and easy they are with the restaurant base or hotel gravy. Thanks for all you do!

    • You are very welcome! Glad you are enjoying the recipes. This one is way up on my list too. I love South Indian!

  9. Hi Romain,
    This is insanely delicious!
    One quick comment: in the instructions you ask for garlic ginger paste and tamarind paste, however qualities aren’t listed in the ingredients. I guessed and this recipe is pure delight. Just wanted you to know.

  10. I did a couple of these last night. A vegetable one for Mrs G and a chicken one for me. There’s a bit of prep to get this dish up and running but it’s worth all the effort. This is a stunning dish and I’ve made plenty of great tasting curries over the years. This is another level and I can’t wait to try the other hotel styles.

    Thanks for this Romain.

  11. 5 stars
    Thanks for your reply, Romain.

    Perhaps the thermometer did touch the pan and I measured that instead! From now on, I’ll be using it with the tongs. Thanks again!

  12. 5 stars
    Hi Romain,
    10 out of 5 stars for this one! Insanely delicious. I am just loving the hotel style recipes. A silly question if I may. I’m new to the testing with a thermometer. Do I stick it in the chicken while it’s in the pan cooking or do I take out a piece of chook and test it on a plate? Last night I used it directly in the pan and the temperature went through the roof!
    Thanks again.

    • Thank you for saying. I think this one may wind up my favourite of all time.

      I am super happy to hear you have made the jump to instant read thermometers. They are a great tool. You are aiming for the middle. It can be a challenge in the pan to figure out where that is so I usually grab a piece with tongs so I can see what I’m doing – tongs with chicken in one hand, instant read in the other.

      Doing it in the pan is tricky because if the tip touches the pan you wind up measuring the temp of your pan, not the chicken (and the temperature appears to go through the roof:-).

      Use it for everything. Your mouth will thank you:-)

  13. 5 stars
    Doug in Ozz Thanks for this recipe cooked it last night everyone thought it was delicious with sides mango with mint, cucumber with yogurt and lime pickles I over did the fresh curry leaves but that didn’t hurt it at all once again thanks mate Yum

  14. 5 stars
    Looking forward to this one … your Nadan is one of hellen’s favourite curries from your recipes. The hotel sauce is a game changer …

  15. Thank you for this recipe, Romain, I really enjoy cooking and eating and sharing your food! Do you have a recipe for good old fashioned restaurant vegetable curry, the type that often accompanies biryani dishes over here in the U.K.?


    • I don’t and it will be a while I expect before I’m back in the UK to try one to replicate it. That said, my understanding is that it is a simple, mild curry. If you are feeling adventurous I’d try following the video in the introduction to Indian restaurant cooking at home post but limit the spicing to

      1/2 tbsp garlic ginger paste
      1 tsp restaurant mix powder
      1/2 tsp of kasoori methi
      1/2 tsp kashmiri chili powder
      1/2 tsp kosher salt
      1 Tbsp tomato paste in 2 Tbsp water

      No whole spices, chilies etc. Make the curry using the usual amount of base and add in whatever pre-cooked vegetables you want. Heat to warm through.

      Hope this helps.

  16. Romain,
    This looks great – thank you so very much for sharing this recipe. I just know it’s going to turn out fabulous, all your recipes do. I’ll be doing it this weekend and let you know how I get on.
    Very happy tummies in Australia, thank you!


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