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Sri Lankan Black Chicken Curry

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This is an easy Sri Lankan black chicken curry that also happens to taste amazing.

You are going to love this Sri Lankan black chicken curry! My family and I are currently staying at Ocean Caves Hotel in Balapitiya, Sri Lanka. The whole reason for the trip was to get some writing time in without the normal interruptions and also to hopefully learn a few new recipes for a couple of books I’m working on.

Little did we know that the chef at Ocean Caves Hotel also happens to have worked all over the world as a professional chef. I asked him if he would share a few recipes, including this Sri Lankan black chicken curry. He said yes!

Sri Lankan black chicken curry

About this Sri Lankan black chicken curry.

I have learned a couple of recipes for Sri Lankan black chicken curry but this one is my current favourite. The whole family loves it and that’s saying something.

I was invited into the kitchen to watch as he prepared our lunch and now I get to share this with you. You really need to try this black chicken curry.

I have featured a Sri Lankan black pork curry here on the blog from an earlier visit to Sri Lanka that was also featured in my cookbook ‘The Curry Guy One Pot’. This is a different play on that theme.

How is this recipe different?

In my earlier recipe, you use a Sri Lankan roasted curry powder that is best homemade but it is available online and at specialty shops.

In this Sri Lankan black chicken curry, you use good quality curry powder that you can purchase at most good shops. The curry powder is then roasted in a dry frying pan with Kashmiri chilli powder until it goes a dark brown. There are photos of this process below.

In the end, you get the same result but you don’t have to go to an hour of work roasting your own spices. This easy Sri Lankan black chicken curry can be made in a fraction of the time.

Of course, if you happen to have some Sri Lankan roasted curry powder on hand, you could skip the roasting in this recipe and use that.

But don’t you always say it is best to roast and grind your own spice blends?

Yes I do. That is if you are striving for absolute perfection. In this recipe, we used very good quality shop bought curry powder that was still very fresh. I’m in Sri Lanka after all!

As long as you have a good quality curry powder that is still unopened or has not been open for long, you can use that for this Sri Lankan black chicken curry

What cut of chicken is best for this curry?

The whole bird is most often used and that is what we used today. It is cut on the bone into really small pieces. So you get a good selection of breast, thigh, wings and even the neck.

Do you have to use chicken on the bone for Sri Lankan black chicken

No but traditionally the chicken is cut into small pieces and cooked on the bone. The bone-in chicken adds a delicious flavour to the curry. 

The curry is also often picked up and eaten by hand with rice.

If you must, you could substitute boneless chicken thighs and it will still be good.

When should you throw old packages of curry powder away?

If you have a box of curry powder in the back of your cupboard and it has been there for longer than 2 months. Throw it away.

It is best to use the freshest curry powder you can get your hands on for this recipe.

How long can you store this curry in the fridge?

You should be able to keep it, wrapped tightly in the fridge for 3 to 4 days. Just be sure to reheat it completely as the heavy use of spices will can cake onto the curry. If needed, you could add a little water to thin the sauce while you reheat it.

To reheat the curry, simply heat it over a medium-high in a saucepan on your stove or place it in the microwave for a few minutes.

Can you freeze Sri Lankan black chicken curry?

Yes and it will freeze really well up to 6 months. Just defrost it completely before reheating in a saucepan over a medium heat on your stove or in the microwave.

If freezing, be sure to freeze it in portion sizes that are convenient for you.

Step by step photographs.

Toasting the red chilli powder.

Add 2 tbsp Kashmiri chilli powder over a medium heat in a dry frying pan.

Roasting the chilli powder and curry powder

Add the curry powder and stir it all up to combine. Then dry fry for about 5 minutes to dark roast the spices.

Roasting the curry powder and chilli powder in a dry pan to darken.

As you roast the spices in the pan, they will turn a chocolate brown. You do not want to burn them so take them off the heat before they go black. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

The chicken ready for cooking, coated with salt, pepper and soy sauce.

Mix the chicken pieces with the salt, pepper and soy sauce. Use immediately or allow to marinate up to 24 hours.

Frying onions, curry leaves, chillies, garlic and ginger in coconut oil.

Add the coconut oil to a large saucepan over a medium-high heat and stir in the cinnamon, cloves, cardamom pods, onions, pandan leaf, curry leaves, chillies, garlic and ginger.

Frying the spices and aromatic vegetables in the pan.

Fry over a medium heat until the onion begins to brown. Watch that garlic to ensure it doesn’t burn.

Adding the prepared blackened chilli powder and curry powder to the pan.

Stir in the dark chilli powder and curry powder blend and stir it into the other ingredients.

Adding water and chicken powder to the pan.

Now add about 250ml (1 cup) water and the chicken powder, if using.

Adding the chicken to the pan.

Bring it to a simmer and then add the chicken. Stir it right in to coat and then add just enough water to almost cover the meat if needed. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

Continuing to simmer the chicken, uncovered.

After 10 minutes, remove the lid and continue simmering to thicken the sauce, stirring from time to time.

The finished Sri Lankan black chicken curry.

Continue simmering and stirring until the chicken is cooked through, tender and the sauce is so thick that it coats the meat.

Dan Toombs (The Curry Guy) cooking in a hotel kitchen in Sri Lanka

Me in the kitchen cooking with the chef.

Sri Lankan black chicken curry.

Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve hot with white or red (matta) rice.

If you like this Sri Lankan black chicken curry, you might like to try some of these other Sri Lankan favourites.

Spicy Sri Lankan Fried Cashews
Sri Lankan Fried Calamari
Isso Vade
Sri Lankan Prawn Curry
Beef Curry Sri Lankan Style
Green Bean Curry
Butternut Squash Curry
Prawn Curry with Moringa Leaves
Sri Lankan 3 Meat Curry
Eggplant Curry
Sri Lankan Black Pork Curry
Sri Lankan Chicken Curry
Crab Curry
Black Pepper Chicken Curry
Sri Lankan Fish Curry

Have you tried this Sri Lankan black chicken curry? 

If yes, please give it a star rating in the recipe card below and leave a comment. I love receiving your feedback and I’m sure other readers of my blog do too. Thank you.

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Yield: 3 - 4

Sri Lankan Black Chicken Curry

Sri Lankan black chicken curry

This Sri Lankan black pepper chicken curry is exactly as I enjoyed it in Balapitiya, Sri Lanka. In fact it's the same as it was made there while I helped out in the kitchen. You are going to love this.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes


  • 2 tbsp Kashmiri chilli powder
  • 2 tbsp good quality curry powder]
  • 1 kg (1 1/4lb) small bite sized chicken pieces, skin removed and preferably on the bone
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 4 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken into small pieces, or cassia left whole
  • 4 cloves
  • 2 cardamon pods, lightly bruised
  • ½ medium red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 green chillies, cut lengthwise
  • 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 x 2.5cm (1 inch) ginger, finely chopped
  • 2 small pieces of pandan leaves, about 7.5cm (3 inches) square total
  • 20 curry leaves
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp Chinese chicken powder (optional but it adds a nice flavour)
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Place a dry frying pan over a medium heat and stir in the Kashmiri chilli powder and curry powder. Let these spices roast for a few minutes, stirring often until they turn a deep chocolate brown. Transfer the roasted spice powder to a plate and set aside.
  2. Put the chicken in a large mixing bowl and season with the salt, pepper and soy sauce. Be sure to mix these ingredients right into the flesh of the meat. You can now go straight to cooking or leave it to marinate overnight.
  3. When ready to cook, heat the coconut oil in a large wok or pot over a medium-high heat. Add the cinnamon stick, cloves, cardamom pods, chopped onion, chillies, garlic, ginger, pandan leaf and curry leaves and stir it all up.
  4. Continue frying for about 5 minutes or until the onion is just beginning to turn a golden brown and then stir in the ground turmeric and the prepared roasted curry powder and chilli powder blend.
  5. Pour in 250ml (1 cup) water and bring it all to a simmer. Then add the chicken and add a little more water if required. You want the water level to almost but not completely cover the chicken pieces. Add the Chinese chicken powder, if using.
  6. Cover the pan and continue cooking for about 10 minutes, by which time the meat should be just about cooked through.
  7. Then uncover the pan and let it all simmer gently for another 10 minutes or so to thicken the sauce. This is normally a dry curry with a thick sauce and the black sauce should coat the chicken.
  8. Season with salt and pepper to taste and enjoy with white rice or matta rice.


If you don't like curries with chicken on the bone, you could use boneless chicken. The bone in chicken does add flavour though.

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