Tamil Black Pepper Chicken Curry

Chicken cooked with black pepper, cloves, chilli & fennel

Tamil Black Pepper Chicken Curry

Travelling across the region of Tamil Nadu early last year has been one of the best experiences. And despite having visited cities in this state a few times over the last few years it gives and insight into the diversity within the region (and yes there is more to the food here apart from Chettinad flavours!) but also the variety of spices, techniques of cooking, homemade breads and curries to sample has been an eye opener. From Mudliars, Chettiars, Tamil Muslims and Naidus the food influences are vast. With many of the ingredients used widely even closer to home in the west of India; this sense of familiarity made cooking, exploring and eating curries from this region an absolute joy.

Pepper is such a synonymous spice in Tamil style cooking and gives dishes not just heat but depth and immense flavour. This recipe for a pepper chicken kozhumbu is an absolute winner and perfect for anyone looking for a spicy chicken curry with warmth and heat from whole spices including black pepper, cloves, fennel and dried chillies. The key here is using the ground blend of spices that is a classic in most recipes with families using stone grinders (yendra kal) to pound them realising the aromas and essential oils.

Now of course spice grinders have made way and grind them in minutes! There isn’t any chilli powder in this kozhumbu/ curry and the green chillies add the bout of heat required although feel free to reduce the amount of chillies based on preference. I’ve used chicken drumsticks for this recipe although any cut of chicken would suffice. If you can, make this recipe in a few hours in advance as the curry gets a wonderful taste, it also give the chicken a chance to soak in all the goodness of spices. I know it’s the middle of summer although I can’t resist a plateful of pepper chicken curry with flaky paratha to mop up the delicious gravy and some yoghurt or salad in tow.


  1. Grind the garlic and ginger with a splash of water in a wet grinder to a thick paste. In a large bowl add the garlic and ginger paste along with the turmeric powder and mix well. Add the chicken pieces to this paste and set aside to marinate for a few hours or overnight.

  2. Grind all the ingredients for the pepper masala in a spice grinder and set aside.

  3. Heat oil over a medium flame in a heavy bottom large sauce pan. Add the curry leaves and as they splutter add the onions. Fry the onions for 12 to 15 minutes stirring ever so often.

  4. Now add the green chillies and fry for a minute. Add the tomatoes and fry for 8-10 minutes as they begin to soften stir well and mash lightly with the back of the spoon.

  5. Add the marinated chicken and fry on a medium heat for 5 minutes. Stir well and add the pepper masala powder continuing to fry for 2-3 minutes as the chicken pieces seal.

    Tamil Black Pepper Chicken Curry (3)

  6. Add water and scrape the bottom of the pan making sure it’s a thick paste coating the chicken. Season to taste and simmer over a low heat with the lid on for 25-30 minutes stirring half way through (add an extra 100 mls water if you would like a little more gravy). Take the lid off and stirring well, garnish with fresh coriander and serve with parathas or rice.

  • Craig stewart

    Looks like I have the honour of reviewing this recipe first! I made it yesterday and it’s an absolute delight. I do enjoy recipes that involve grinding up your own masala and making pastes while cooking. It’s true that the black pepper base gives this dish a real depth and my wife agrees.
    Highly recommended. C

    • Maunika Gowardhan

      Lovely to hear you’ve enjoyed it:) One of my fave recipes… Happy Weekend!

  • Gigi Starr

    I made this recipe earlier this week. It was excellent – tasty and flavoursome. I look forward to trying more of your recipes, Maunika. Print-friendly recipe pages would also be appreciated.

    • Maunika Gowardhan

      Thank you! So lovely to hear this:)

  • Kev Spencer

    Made it this evening – Wow ! Such an amazing range of flavours and then finished off with the black pepper warmth. Fantastic ! Thank you once again Maunika !

    • Maunika Gowardhan

      Thank you for your comments! Great to hear you’ve enjoyed it:)

  • Yvonne Tuhacek

    Made this evening. Beautiful curry with well balanced flavours. It was a hit in our household. Thanks very much.

    • Maunika Gowardhan

      Wonderful to hear this! Thank you for cooking the recipe:)

  • Mal Timmons

    OK, this one is next! I can’t always get fresh curry leaves Maunika . My asian shop has always run out! What’s your take on dried? I am going to buy your books too, as it’s easier to cook with. Xx

    • Maunika Gowardhan

      Leave them out as dried dont have much flavour. Hope you like the recipe one of the most popular one’s on the website!

    • Louise

      Grow them, in English weather, they will grow fine, I grow mine in Dubai. I know of a lady who grows them in Toronto

  • Clyde

    Made this tonight with parathas and it was delicious. Have passed it on to family and friends. Thanks! Will have to try some of your other recipes, any suggestions?

    • Maunika Gowardhan

      Lots! The chicken korma, keema, aloo gobi, dal:)

    • Vicki

      Tandoori Chicken skewers (I do them on the coals) with Butter Chicken sauce – this is an absolute winner!

  • Sharmila Pillay

    Just made it. Absolutely delicious! Added extra dried chillies to the dry mix and extra slit chillies to the fried onions as I like my food extra spicy. Thanks for the fab recipe

    • Maunika Gowardhan


  • Vicki

    Making this one tonight. Chicken marinating…

    • Vicki

      This is amazing – just made it and added some red and yellow pepper segments for colour. Taste sensation, thank you Maunika. A keeper!

      • Maunika Gowardhan

        So wonderful to hear this!!:)

  • Radhika Ashok

    I tried the recipe last night for some non-Indian friends and they totally loved it! Had they eaten it with their hands, they would have definitely licked their fingers 🙂
    Thank you for the amazing recipe!

    • Maunika Gowardhan

      One of my faves so happy to hear this!

  • Marc Lee

    Hi, if you was to pressure cook this in the instant pot, could you kindly give info please? 🙂

  • pj1515

    Could I make this with skinless/boneless thighs, do you think? Would the flavour be lacking in depth? It’s just easier for the kids to eat without making a fuss…

  • M Nizam

    I have made this chicken countless times and it is MY FAVE! Thanks for this amazing recipe!

    • Maunika Gowardhan

      Thank you:)


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