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Chicken Chettinad

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Spicy and delicious… chicken Chettinad is a famous curry from southern India.

There are many recipes for chicken Chettinad and I have worked my way through a lot of them. Chicken Chettinad is a curry full of south Indian flavours and can be made really spicy or mild. This recipe is medium heat but you can always adjust to taste.

You will also find links to some hugely popular side dishes to serve with your chicken Chettinad.

Chicken Chettinad

You’re going to love this one!

What is Chicken Chettinad?

Chicken Chettinad is one of the most popular chicken curries from Tamil Nadu in southern India. Recipes vary greatly but the spicing is usually quite similar. Some contain a lot of tomatoes, giving the curry a rich flavour and bright red colour. Others call for less tomato and at times, a little yoghurt, giving the curry a creamier appearance.

I like the tomato version which is what you are going to get here. The spices used are usually quite similar as these are the spices needed for that chicken Chettinad flavour. There are so many delicious flavours in this simple curry you can enjoy it with nothing else but basmati white rice

What do you serve chicken Chettinad with?

If you’d like to make this curry into a feast, you’ve come to the right place. You could just go for a side of Basmati rice or mushroom fried rice.

If you’d like to make naans, why not try one of these?  Instant naans, Peshwari naans, stove top naans, keema naans, garlic naans, tandoor naans (if you have a tandoor oven), or if you’re cooking outdoors, karahi naans.

Want to start your chicken Chettinad meal off with a bang? How about fried shop bought poppadoms or if you’re feeling ambitious, make your own poppadoms from scratch and serve them with coriander chutney, red onion chutney, and/or tamarind chutney.

Working ahead…

You can definitely work ahead if it is more convenient. Although I recommend preparing the spice blend on the day you are cooking the curry, you could make it in advance with little loss of flavour.

As with most curries, chicken Chettinad benefits from cooking early. You can prepare this curry a day or two in advance and then just heat it up to serve. The flavours will develop and the curry will be even better.

Which cut of chicken?

You could use bone in thighs just as I have recommended in the recipe. Thigh meat has the best flavour and it is also cheaper than chicken breast meat.

If you prefer, you could dice your chicken instead of cooking it on the bone. Cooking the curry with bone-in chicken thighs will produce a richer flavour though.

Do I have to use fresh grated coconut in the spice blend?

Using fresh coconut is how it’s done at the best restaurants in Chettinad. You could, however cheat and use desiccated coconut. The flavour will still be amazing.

How spicy is chicken Chettinad?

It’s as spicy as you want to make it. Chicken Chettinad is usually quite spicy. They do love their chillies there!

In the following recipe, you add dried chillies to the spice blend and also add Kashmiri chilli powder to the sauce. You can and should reduce the amount of chilli if you are at all concerned it will be too spicy.

You can always add more chilli powder to taste at the end of cooking should you decide you want more spice. Just be sure to cook it for a few minutes in the sauce before serving. 

Can I use dried curry leaves in this curry?

No! One of the things that makes Chicken Chettinad so good is the variety of fresh flavour. Dried curry leaves have very little flavour and should be avoided.

You can purchase fresh curry leaves and freeze them though with little loss of flavour. Therefore, I recommend purchase a lot and freezing for when you want to next make a delicious chicken Chettinad curry.

Pro Tips…

  1. If using fresh coconut, be sure to toast it until golden brown. This will reduce the amount of moisture and also give it a deeper flavour
  2. Be sure to cook the curry covered as stated in the recipe. This too will build the flavours of the sauce.
  3. Watch for the oil to rise to the top at the end of cooking. When oil appears on top, the curry is ready and the oil has done it’s job of breaking down the sauce. This can be skimmed off if you wish.

Step by step photos of Chicken Chettinad.

Ingredients for chicken Chettinad

Gather all the ingredients together before you start cooking. It’s a lot easier.

Toasting spices for the spice blend.

Toast the spices for the spice blend over a medium heat until warm to the touch and fragrant. Be sure to stir often and take off the heat before they begin to smoke.

Toasting the coconut.

You want to toast the fresh, grated coconut until fragrant and turning a light brown.

Grinding the spices and coconut.

Grind the toasted spices first and then add the toasted coconut. Grind to a fine powder.

Infusing spices and curry leaves into the oil.

Coat the bottom of a pan with the oil and add the star anise. Then add the curry leaves. I though a bit more cinnamon in too because I like it.

Frying onions and garlic and ginger paste.

Fry the onions until golden brown. Then stir in the garlic and ginger paste.

Adding chopped tomatoes to the pan.

Stir in the chopped tomatoes and bring to a simmer over a medium-high heat.

Adding the ground spices and coconut to the sauce.

Stir in the ground spices and coconut. Your sauce will become quite dry so add a little water. I usually add about 250ml (1 cup).

About that chicken Chettinad spice blend…

You might thing it looks like a lot of spices being added. Remember that a lot of that is coconut.

This is what makes a delicious chicken Chettinad so good!

Adding the chicken to the sauce.

Stir the spice blend into the sauce and add a little water. Then add the chicken. You want enough liquid to just cover the chicken. Cover and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes.

Finished chicken Chettinad

After 20 minutes, remove the lid and your curry will look something like this. Squeeze in the lime juice and season with salt. Cook down to preference.

Chicken Chettinad

So good! Really… you need to make Chicken Chettinad soon!

The finished Chicken Chettinad curry.

Dig in! A little white rice is all you need. Garnish with fresh coriander (cilantro).

Yield: 4

Chicken Chettinad

Chicken Chettinad
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes


  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tbsp poppy seeds
  • 5 dry red chillies
  • 1 x 2.5cm (1 inch) cinnamon stick
  • 3 green cardamom pods, seeds only
  • 2 cloves
  • 75g grated fresh coconut
  • 3 tbsp rapeseed (canola) or coconut oil
  • 3 star anise
  • 20 fresh or frozen curry leaves
  • 2 red onions, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp garlic and ginger paste
  • 2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • 400ml (14 oz) chopped tinned (canned) tomatoes
  • 1 kg (2 lbs) bone in chicken thighs, skin removed
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 limes quartered
  • 4 tbsp fresh coriander (cilantro), finely chopped


  1. Toast all of the spice blend ingredients up to and including the cloves in a frying pan over a medium-high heat until warm to the touch and fragrant but not smoking. This should only take a couple of minutes. Transfer these spices to a plate to cool.
  2. Add the grated coconut to the pan and fry until it is turning a light golden brown. Place this coconut and the toasted spice in a spice grinder and grind to a fine powder. Set aside.
  3. Now heat the oil in a large pan or wok over a medium-high heat. Stir in the star anise to infuse into the oil for about 30 seconds. Then add the curry leaves and fry for an additional 30 seconds.
  4. Add the chopped onions and fry for about 5 minutes or until soft and translucent. Stir in the garlic and ginger paste along with the prepared spice blend. Add the chopped tomatoes and stir well to combine.
  5. Place the chicken thighs in the sauce and bring it all to a simmer, stirring often to coat the chicken. Cover the pan and simmer over a medium heat for about 20 minutes, lifting the lid from time to time to stir.
  6. To finish, season with salt to taste. Squeeze in the juice of one lime and garnish with chopped coriander (cilantro). Serve with lime wedges at the table which can be added to the curry to taste. I recommend serving chicken Chettinad with steamed white basmati rice.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 405Total Fat: 28gSaturated Fat: 16gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 60mgSodium: 405mgCarbohydrates: 24gFiber: 7gSugar: 8gProtein: 19g

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I hope you enjoy this chicken Chettinad curry recipe. If you do try it, please leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you. 


Saturday 11th of November 2023

Hi Dan, I'm going to make this tonight. Could I use store bought shredded coconut in place of fresh grated? Thanks! We enjoyed your staff chicken curry immensely! Mo

Dan Toombs

Monday 13th of November 2023

Yes, I think that would work. Thanks Dan


Saturday 22nd of April 2023

Hi Dan,

This one's definitely next on my list. Could you use coconut flour rather than the fresh grated coconut?

Dan Toombs

Tuesday 25th of April 2023

You’d be better off adding a little bit of thick coconut milk as I don’t think coconut flour would work very well. Thanks Dan


Monday 20th of September 2021

This is an interesting recipe, as it is nothing at all like the Chicken Chettinad dishes I've had in various locations around the United States (Seattle, LA, & Chicago specifically). It's a fairly spicy (as in hot) dish driven by black pepper, featuring whole brown mustard seeds and has a rust-red color from turmeric plus tomatoes.

Dan Toombs

Friday 24th of September 2021

Sounds like the recipe differs a bit from country to country. I hope you enjoy mine. Thanks Dan

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