Tamil black pepper chicken is a dry “curry” from southern India, it is a delicious fiery recipe that is also known as Chettinad chicken.
Toasted whole spices like pepper, fennel, coriander and cumin form the bedrock of flavour in this dish which is remarkably easy to cook.
Dry Chettinad Pepper Chicken Curry
This recipe is very different, but no less special, it is one of my favourites and the curry that my wife asks me to make most often!
This is my take on a chicken curry from the Tamil Nadu region of southeast India. It is typified by the heat of black pepper and a hint of fennel, I also like to go big on coriander seeds too.
Black pepper is a very different type of heat from chilli, it is one that is fragrant and rounded and it adds a beautiful earthy flavour.
In many ways, it is very similar in flavour profile to my mulligatawny soup recipe.
Toasting off the whole spices for this Tamil black pepper chicken recipe gets the oils in them rocking and rolling and this really shines through in this dish.
It cooks in a shade over 30 minutes and prep takes around 5 minutes which makes this dish a bit quicker than your local delivery joint… it’s much cheaper too!
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I use chicken breast?
Yea, but it does have much less flavour than chicken thighs but it works well. Be careful not to overcook it though because it will go dry.
Can I use pre-ground spices?
Yes, although the flavours will be far less pronounced and a little more “dull” than using freshly ground toasted spices.
Do I have to use mustard oil?
No, you could use vegetable oil, ground nut oil or sunflower oil, but you will miss out on the flavour and aroma of mustard oil.
I believe that mustard oil is not allowed to be sold in the US!
Can I use dried curry leaves?
I personally would not bother because I think that they have very little flavour.
Fresh curry leaves are available from all good Indian stores and the freeze fantastically. I always have them at home and if you are planning to cook Indian food I think you should too!
Can I make this in advance?
Yes, this will store in the fridge for 2-3 days after cooking and will freeze well for up to 3 months.
You should reheat it gently in a small saucepan with a lid adding a little more water if required.
Let’s start with bread… As far as I am concerned Indian food without bread just ain’t right. This Tamil black pepper chicken curry is no different!
This recipe may lack an abundance of chilli but not spicey heat!
Black pepper does all of the heavy lifting in this recipe and serving it alongside cooling elements is always wise.
Plain rice or even a pilau rice is a good option for this!
I will also often serve this with kachumber salad. Yes, it is a Northern Indian dish, but the sweet and sour flavours are a perfect complement to a fiery hot chicken Chettinad-style curry.
I only mention brands of equipment if I think they make a material difference to a recipe. If you have any questions feel free to ask them in the comments section below the recipe.
- Wok, I use a large carbon steel wok.
- Pestle and mortar or spice grinder.
- Large spoon.
- Chopping board.
- Kitchen knife.
- Weighing scales and or measuring cups and spoons.
A fiery hot "dry" curry from the south of India, Tamil black pepper chicken is typified by its reliance on black pepper for both heat and flavour and it is a real barnstormer!
- 400g (14 oz) Chicken Thigh
- 150g (1 Cup) Onion
- 12 Curry Leaves
- 3 Cloves Garlic
- 25g (1 Thumb Sized Piece) Ginger
- 2 Tbsp Mustard Oil
- 1 Tbsp Black Pepper
- 1 Tbsp Coriander Seeds
- 1 Tsp Fennel Seeds
- 1 Tsp Cumin Seeds
- 1 Tsp Ground Turmeric
- ½ Tsp Kashmiri Chili Powder
- 1 Tbsp Black Onion Seeds
- 2 Tsp Sugar
- ½ Tsp Salt
- 125ml (½ Cup) Water
- Cut the chicken thighs into bite-sized pieces.
- Cut the onion in half, peel it, then cut it into half-moon shapes 5-6mm (¼") thick
- Peel and mash the garlic cloves into a paste.
- Peel the ginger and grate it.
- Heat a wok over a medium-high heat and add the black pepper, coriander, cumin, and fennel seeds and toast them for 2-3 minutes, then transfer them to a spice grinder or a mortar and pestle and grind to a coarse blend.
- Return the wok to the heat and when it is hot add the mustard oil.
- Throw in the onion and fry (stirring regularly) until golden which should take around 10 minutes.
- Add the chicken, curry leaves, garlic and ginger, then fry for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the spice mix we made in step 5, the onion seeds, salt, sugar, turmeric and Kashmiri chilli pepper and stir.
- Pour in the water and reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 15-18 minutes, if the water completely evaporates top it up as the chicken cooks.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 599Total Fat: 36gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 27gCholesterol: 256mgSodium: 1130mgCarbohydrates: 23gFiber: 5gSugar: 9gProtein: 51g
Calorific details are provided by a third-party application and are to be used as indicative figures only.