Chettinad Chicken

Spicy chicken curry with fennel, chilli and black peppercorn

Classic flavours of Chettinad Chicken hailing from the community of Tamil Nadu includes a number of whole spices. Roasted until they release their flavour and ground to a fine powder which lend a wonderful flavour to the curry. Cooked at special occasions; this chicken recipe traditionally is cooked with kalpasi (stone flower) which I have excluded due to availability. In the ground spice mix you can opt for dried mild chillies although again for the additional colour and flavour I have used kashmiri chilli powder. One of my favorites dishes I sampled during my travels to Chennai recently and learnt that a vital ingredient in chettinad cooking is Gundu chillies (Mundu). They are round, fat dried chillies with a smoky flavour and a bout of heat. With a thin skin and unique flavour they are renowned in the region due to their longevity and can be used all year round.

Tomatoes are not used in a chettinad gravy like this. I have used boneless chicken thigh which is great as it stay moist in the curry although you could use chicken on the bone for a little more flavour.


  1. Add the spice powder ingredients in a grinder and grind to a fine powder. Add the chicken in a large mixing bowl and mix the ground spice powder. Coat well and marinate for 2 hours or overnight

  2. In a large heavy bottom pan heat the oil over a medium flame. Add the cinnamon stick and fennel seeds. Fry for a few seconds

  3. Add the onions and stir well frying for 15 minute. Continue to stir as they colour evenly all over. Add the curry leaves, garlic and ginger. Fry for 1 minute

  4. Now add the marinated chicken and turn the heat up slightly. Sealing the chicken pieces for 3-4 minutes

  5. Turn the heat low, season to taste and add 50mls water to create a light gravy. Cover and cook for 12-15 minutes stirring half way through. Serve warm with paratha or rice

  • I R HEre

    Is there any point “marinating” the chicken in a spice mixture? My understanding is that, salt aside, dry marinades don’t actually get absorbed?

    • Maunika Gowardhan

      Yes you want the spices to coat the chicken and with the roasting and grinding the flavour is enhanced not just in the curry but also the chicken pieces. Hope you enjoy it!

  • Hema

    Hi Maunika,

    I’ve tried a couple of your chicken recipes and I wanted to say that they have been really great – easy to prepare and super tasty. Thank you for this great site! I look forward to trying some of your vegetarian recipes next.


    • Maunika Gowardhan

      Thank you! So lovely to hear:)

  • Thomas Hogarth

    Hey, I live right near an indian grocery and get ANYTHING, in the eastern subs of Melbourne. already got kalpasi (they even got nag kesar, yeah, its THAT good). How would i incorporate it into this recipe.

    • pj1515

      Hi Thomas, I had the same query as I also managed to get hold of the Gundhu chillis as well as the kalpasi. I ended up asking my mum and she advised adding them to the oil as it was heating up and frying them in the oil for a few seconds to allow the ingredients to flavour the oil. This was a great dish! I also added th cinnamon stick.

  • Sharat Chandra Chennuri

    Hi Maunika
    Sambar is a South Indian lentil and vegetable stew made with lentils, tamarind and a unique spice blend called sambar powder. A basic sambar recipe will have a mix or one or two types of vegetables along with lentils, tamarind, sambar powder and a few spices. It is healthy as well as nutritious.

    It will be a great association with If i can get a backlink from your portal


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