Spicy Keralan Chicken Curry

Nadan Chicken Perelan cooked with curry leaves, chilli and fennel


Nadan Chicken Perelan

One of the most stunning regions within southern India undoubtedly is the state of Kerala. Most people I speak to who have visited always rave on about the scenic views, food, culture and the local people. My first trip and introduction to the Malyali community was at the age of 12 when I made a trip to travel with family and friends across the city. Ever since, I have been so many times to explore the city, cuisine and also by chance for a family wedding! I am always fascinated to see the varied communities within one region including Christians, Muslims and Hindus. For instance the Malyali Hindus have a unique cooking style with recipes and traditions which include religious practises that differ to the Christian and Muslim communities in Kerala. The prevalence of cooking fish, meat or poultry within the coastal region have come from the culinary influences of the Christian and Muslim families. A region renowned for its use of black pepper in curries and stir fried dishes much before chillies made an entrance into India. For me, delving into Syrian Christian cooking hold joyous memories as a young girl. I always turned to Mariam a lovely lady who left Kerala to join our family home years back but brought along with her an abundance of local knowledge and recipes that I have adored. This in its truest form is where my love for (and introduction to!) Kerala and its people began. She used to cook the most delicious Avial, potato curry and plenty of fish as well as meat curries given the proximity of Mumbai to the coast. She would share stories of her hometown and how they grew local veg, went fishing and ground spices. I could listen for ages and it is one of the reasons I thoroughly enjoy visiting Kerala even today. One of my favorite recipes in my book Indian Kitchen is a Malabar Chicken Biryani from this region; a recipe that celebrates some unsung heroes in a biryani with ingredients including coconut milk and black pepper to make up a delicious rice based dish. The uniqueness of recipes like this bring out the best in Indian food and I am always in awe to find so many diverse flavors that are part of this wonderful sub continent.

Last year I ate Perelan chicken during my travels and absolutely loved the flavors which reminded me of when Mariam cooked it. Most family homes I’ve eaten this dish at have cooked the chicken separately to the gravy although I prefer to make it all at the same time rather than in stages. Chicken Perelan has heat so tailor make the level of spice based on how much you prefer. I have added chillies at the end while tempering although you can omit that. Vinegar, curry leaves and fennel add so much more flavour to this dish. With coconut oil being a big food trend at the moment it would be something worth stocking up on for curries like these. They add lots of flavour and a gorgeous aroma too whilst complimenting spices such as mustard seeds and curry leaves. Serve with rice, parotta (paratha) or pathiri.


  1. Add the chicken to a large mixing bowl along with all the marinade ingredients. Mix well and leave to soak in the flavours for an hour or overnight preferably.

  2. Blend the garlic and ginger with a splash of water to a smooth fine paste and set aside. In a separate bowl add the coriander powder, kashmiri chilli powder and turmeric powder along with 4 tbsp of water. Mix this spice paste well and set aside.

  3. Heat oil in a large heavy bottom sauce pan over a medium flame. Add the mustard seeds letting them splutter for 20 seconds. Now add the curry leaves and fenugreek seeds stir and quickly add the onions. Stir well and fry for 18-20 minutes. They will begin to change colour and go brown. Add the garlic and ginger paste frying for a minute. The paste might stick to the bottom of the pan so make sure to stir. Add the spice paste to the pan and stir for 20 seconds.Nadan Chicken Perelan (2)

  4. Now add the tomatoes and fry for 6 minutes making sure to scrape the bottom of the pan as the moisture from the tomatoes is released. Mash the tomatoes slightly with the back of the spoon they will begin to soften and go mushy making a rich thick masala base.

  5. Add the marinated chicken and fry for 8 minutes. Stir well coating the chicken with the masala. Add the vinegar, sugar and season to taste. Stir for 2 minutes and now add the water. Bring to a boil and simmer over a low heat with the lid on for 18 minutes stirring half way through.

  6. At this stage add the fennel powder and black pepper; continue to simmer for 5 minutes. Turn the heat off and let it rest.Nadan Chicken Perelan (3)

  7. In a frying pan heat the oil for tempering over a medium heat. When the oil is hot turn the heat off. Add the curry leaves, slit chillies and coconut (if using) Stir well and pour this over the chicken gravy along with coriander. Serve Perelan warm with rice or paratha.

  • https://outfitsandmakeupblog.wordpress.com/ Ritu
    • Maunika Gowardhan

      Thank you:) Enjoy x

  • soklee2

    Could I make a vegetarian option of this curry?

    • Maunika Gowardhan

      Yes ofcourse! Opt for cauliflower or even just potatoes with green peas. Happy cooking!

  • Christy

    I would like to try this recipe but I do not have access white wine vinegar.Is there any other substitute?

    • Maunika Gowardhan

      Lemon or lime juice would be fine too. Add a bit more though. Hope you like the recipe!

  • Divya

    Maunika , love all your recipes and especially butter chicken and paneer jalfarezi .. Thank you for sharing these recipes ?


    • Maunika Gowardhan

      Thank you so much!! How lovely to hear this. Happy cooking:)

  • Aneta Isaak

    This is just beautiful. I was really craving an authentic Indian curry and this really hit the spot! Thank you xx

    • Maunika Gowardhan

      Lovely to hear that!:)

  • Ant

    I have cooked many,many curries in my life, and this is the first one I honestly couldn’t eat. Why? It was too good.After I served it, I sat and stared at the chicken pieces on my plate, whilst watching my girlfriend and her two kids wolfing theirs down, slathering rotis (parathas?) in the gravy, eating the chicken off the bone, and then sopping up the leftover gravy with more rotis.
    Seriously, this curry blew me away in terms of flavour – I tasted it as it progressed as per your recipe, and it just got better and better- the ground fennel and black pepper at the end is a work of art. As I’ve said, I couldn’t eat the curry after tasting the finished dish. – I was totally gob smacked by how good it was. This is the best curry I never ate…

    • Maunika Gowardhan

      Glad you liked it!

      • Ant

        ‘Liked it’ is the understatement of the year! I’m making it again tonight…

    • Lal Mohan

      This comment made my day!!!… Wow, I am a proud Keralite who now lives in NZ. Way too many good memories about my little state…

      Maunika, Thats a sweet little explanation of Kerala. Please do more Kerala dishes..

      • Maunika Gowardhan

        Thank you!

  • Maximo

    I made this curry today and it was excellent, very nice flavors and succulent. I’ve been wanting to learn Indian cuisine and I think I found a great foundation with your recipes, Thank you from your new fan in California.

    • Maunika Gowardhan

      Thank YOU! Always lovely to connect with everyone and so glad to hear you enjoy the recipes:)

  • Frances

    I can’t find fennel powder locally – I do have fennel seeds. Could I just grind the seeds down in the pestle and mortar and use them?
    P.s LOVE ALL YOUR CURRIES SO FAR. asked for your book for Christmas.

    • Maunika Gowardhan

      Yes absolutely! Enjoy x

  • sean

    can i use qourn chicken pieces instead of the chicken and would 600g be enough

    • Maunika Gowardhan

      Yes ofcourse qourn would be great! The recipe serves 4 so that should be plenty. Enjoy:)

  • Sharon

    Both my husband and myself are great curry fans and always looking for different recipes, found your website yesterday (by mistake) and cooked this last night – incredible am a fan!! Any advice for cooking re cooking times etc re cooking meat/chicken off the bone as my husband/son wont eat meat/chicken off the bone – thanks

    • Maunika Gowardhan

      Hello Sharon! Lovely to hear this:) Follow the recipe for chicken on the bone. For boneless chicken I prefer diced chicken thigh which usually take no more then 15-20 minutes over a medium heat although that does depend on the quantity of boneless chicken so make sure its cooked all the way through. It will cook quicker yet stay moist.

  • Fatumo

    Just made this curry and hands down it’s the best curry I have ever made. The aroma and flavours are amazing. No need for me to go to a curry house from now on. I used boneless chicken thighs and it was moist and juicy. Can’t thank you enough ??

    • Maunika Gowardhan

      Thank YOU for making the time to cook and let us know about it. So glad to hear you are enjoying the recipes!:)

  • Peter

    Made this tonight for my family and it was absolutely delicious, no other words for it. One question that I have though is this: if I was to make twice the amount, I would obviously need to double the amount of chicken and I guess liquid, but do you also double the amount of spices including garlic and ginger? Will adding more spices make the flavour too strong?

    • Maunika Gowardhan

      Yes of course although add the spices to your taste. So lovely to hear you enjoyed the curry! x

  • Toks

    Hi, I have made this several times since discovering your site. Absolutely delish recipe! I have a vegetarian friend coming for dinner, what would you suggest to substitute the chicken for.

    • Maunika Gowardhan

      I love cooking this with cauliflower or mushrooms as well! Hope they like it:)

      • Andrea

        Hi Maunika,
        How would you cook this with cauliflower? Do you treat it just like the chicken or skip a couple of steps?

        • Maunika Gowardhan

          You can par boil the cauliflower and then add it at the end while simmering so the florets stay intact and its cooked all the way through. Enjoy!

  • Kathy Parkinson

    Hi, I made this on Saturday and I found my sauce to be really thin. I also had to make both the garlic and ginger paste and the spice paste twice as they were so runny. I followed the recipe exactly, but had to add cornflour to thicken. What did I do wrong? My other question concerns the fennel. I am not a fan of it anyway but added it so as not to spoil the dish. Unfortunately it totally overpowered it for me, my partner didn’t mind it. Is there a substitute, or should I just leave it out. I suppose I could try it with a bit less, but I can’t stand aniseed. Personally I preferred your chicken achari, it was probably the best curry we have ever had. Got loads of your other recipes to try too!

    • Maunika Gowardhan

      Cook the sauce out to thicken although it doesnt have to be a rich sauce. You can leave fennel out if you wish:)

      • Kathy Parkinson

        Thank you for your reply. Will the lack of fennel really alter the dish? I found it much hotter than the achari, not too hot mind 🙂 Also, do you have any lamb recipes which are not lamb on the bone that I could possibly do in a slow cooker? Not keen on eating off the bone.

  • Thomas Hogarth

    Just made this curry. That gravy is …to die for. Unfortunately the chicken didnt seem to soak up much of the flavor, might use boneless chicken thighs next time ( I used “lovely legs” and drumsticks. Am going to make a vegetarian version for my sister (paneer?), she’d love it.

    • Maunika Gowardhan

      A lot of readers have tried this recipe with cauliflower and potatoes. Also works well with aubergine and green peas!

  • Colin

    Absolutely wonderful – I think it’s the most enjoyable curry I’ve made for a very long time. And our dinner guests loved it too.

    I used boneless chicken thighs, by the way.

    Thanks very much for sharing your recipes, Maunika.

    • Maunika Gowardhan

      Wonderful to hear this and chicken thighs work amazingly well in a curry like this!:)

  • Christopher Chad Charters

    Can this be adapted to a slow cooker? I’m cooking for a buffet at work and want to make this. I love slow cooked chicken thigh in my curry so was going to try the slow cooker. Any tips would be great thank you. It looks amazing

    • Maunika Gowardhan

      Yes ofcourse! Chicken on the bone adds lots more flavour. Hope you enjoy the recipe:)

  • Zoya

    Hi! This is absolutely delicious! I’ve only just started cooking, and I found your instructions easy to follow as well. Would surely be trying out the other recipes soon!

  • Catherine Rhuphus

    Hi, Could you suggest an alternate for white wine vinegar?

    • Maunika Gowardhan

      Malt vinegar works fine too as a its a small quantity.

  • Karen Howe

    Hi, maunika, if i do this recipe in the slow cooker, do i just put all the ingredients in or do i cook anything first and how long do i slow cook it for, thanks, karen.

    • Maunika Gowardhan

      Spices and onions will need to be fried as the onions take a while to cook before the chicken goes in the curry. Although this recipe has not been tested in a slow cooker I’m sure its possible. The key to this recipe is cooking it in stages which is where the flavour develops.

    • Ethan Lyon

      I did this in a pressure cooker, which can act like a fast slow cooker. I did everything in the pressure cooker as the recipe suggests. After I put in the chicken and let it saute for a while, I put it on for 15 mins, which tastes like 2 hours slow cooking. Then finish off with the fennel powder and pepper.

      • Maunika Gowardhan

        One of my favorite things is using a pressure cooker it saves time, locks in all the flavour and is super quick. So happy to hear you’ve enjoyed this! Thank you:)

  • Louise

    This is the most awesome chicken curry. I made it last night and we cleaned it up. Thank you Maunika!

    • Maunika Gowardhan

      Yay! One of my fave recipes.

  • Mark Wilkinson

    Made this a couple of days ago and it is truly awesome. Brilliant. Thank you 🙂

    • Maunika Gowardhan

      Yay!!:) Thank you for cooking this recipe.

      • Mark Wilkinson

        Will be doing your Chicken Korma recipe tomorrow night in preparation for a party I’m preparing for in a few weeks. I’m expecting it to be as delicious as this one..

  • Lesley Grant

    I thought this one of the best chicken curries I’d made in a long time. I’m an avid fan of Indian cooking and have a couple of cookbooks that I rely on.. But I was hankering after some new flavours. The combination of fennel and vinegar caught my eye, along with the magical word ‘spicy’ I followed the recipe exactly finding it very straightforward and it at all time consuming. The end result was a beautiful layering of flavours which me and hubby declared delicious. I have bought your cookbook on the strength of this recipe. It’s our wedding anniversary tonight and I’m too impatient to wait for the book to arrive so I’m scouring your blog! Thank you!

    • Lesley Grant

      Not at all time consuming, sorry for typo

    • Maunika Gowardhan

      Thank you:)

  • Randy S

    Hi, this looks delicious! I am making tomorrow for my Dad’s birthday for 6 people and using boneless thighs. Should I double all the amounts? So 1.6 kgms of boneless chicken thighs? Or does that seem too much? And then double everything else too? – onions/ spices/ liquids? Many thanks! x

  • Jay Weiskopf

    recipe just says “1/2 courtly crushed black pepper”…what is correct quantity, please/


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