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Serving bowl filled with chettinad chicken curry from above.
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5 from 11 votes

chettinad chicken curry

Chettinad chicken curry is a delicious South Indian coconut based chicken curry that anyone can make.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time50 mins
Total Time1 hr 5 mins
Course: Main
Cuisine: Indian
Keyword: chettinad chicken curry
Servings: 4
Calories: 670kcal
Author: romain | glebekitchen


Chettinad masala

  • 1 tbsp coriander seed
  • 3 whole dried red chilies - I like kashmiri
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seed
  • 1/2 tsp poppy seed
  • 1/4 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 inch cinnamon bark
  • 2 arms from one star anise - just break a couple arms off
  • 1 clove clove whole
  • 2 green cardamom whole
  • pinch ajwain

Spice Mix

  • 5 tsp chettinad masala - from above (you will have some left over)
  • 2 tsp kashmiri chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 2/3 tsp coarse black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 lb onions thinly sliced (about 2 large onions)
  • 3 Tbsp coconut or vegetable oil
  • 3 Tbsp garlic ginger paste - recipe link below
  • 20 fresh curry leaves Dried is not a substitute. Frozen isn't really either.
  • 2-3 kashmiri chilies mostly because they look good but I like little bites too.
  • the spice mix
  • 8 skinless chicken thighs - or a mix of thighs and drumsticks
  • 1 15 oz can coconut milk
  • 2/3 cup diced tomatoes


Make the chettinad masala

  • Into one small bowl measure out the coriander seed, cinnamon bark, peppercorns, star anise arms, clove and green cardamom. These are your "big" spices.
  • Into a second small bowl measure out the cumin seed, poppy seed and ajwain. These are your "small spices".
  • Pre-heat a small skillet over medium-low heat.
  • Add the big spices. Toast, constantly shaking the pan until the wonderful smell starts hitting your nose. This should take under 2 minutes.
  • Add the little spices and toast around 30 seconds. Add the kashmiri chilies and toast another 30 seconds or so. Flip the chilies about half way through the final 30 seconds.
  • Remove from heat. Let cool.
  • Transfer the cooled spices to a spice grinder. I have a little dedicated spinning blade style coffee grinder for this. Makes terrible coffee. But it grinds spices well. Set aside.

Do your prep

  • Slice the onions. A food processor works for this. If you are good with a knife that's more fun.
  • Dice your tomatoes. Measure out your spice mix. Put on some good music.

Make your chettinad chicken curry

  • Heat a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat.
  • Add the coconut or vegetable oil and cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until they are a soft, light brown mess. Think French onion soup. You want these onions melting. This step takes a long time. 20 minutes or more.
  • Add the curry leaves if using.  Now add the garlic ginger paste and cook, stirring constantly until the spluttering stops (you will understand when you do it).
  • Add the spice mix and cook, stirring constantly, for about 30 seconds.
  • Stir in the coconut milk and tomatoes and bring to a simmer.
  • Add the chicken and simmer until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 160-170F, about 20-25 minutes. Use your instant read thermometer!
  • Taste. You are likely going to need a bit more salt if you used kosher salt. If you used regular table salt you should be about right.
  • Spoon off any excess fat (or don't if you are OK with a few calories - the fat is loaded with fat-soluble spices and flavour) and serve with rice or parathas or chapatis. Or both!


Think about making your own garlic ginger paste. Fresh is so much better...


Serving: 4servings | Calories: 670kcal | Carbohydrates: 15g | Protein: 47g | Fat: 47g | Saturated Fat: 27g | Cholesterol: 214mg | Sodium: 1151mg | Potassium: 1032mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 500IU | Vitamin C: 110.3mg | Calcium: 91mg | Iron: 5mg