Skip to Content

Tamil Black Pepper Chicken Curry

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.

Tamil black pepper chicken curry, aka Chettinad chicken with naan and salad.

Dry Chettinad Pepper Chicken Curry

When many folk think about curry, particularly in the UK, they think of dishes like chicken tikka masala, chicken dopiaza and lamb rogan josh.

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!

Close-up Tamil black pepper chicken curry, aka Chettinad chicken.

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.

Overhead Tamil black pepper chicken curry, aka Chettinad chicken with naan and salad.

Serving Suggestions

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!

As ever my recommendation for a dryer curry is a roti or chapati, but it works just as well with a tandoori-style naan bread.

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!

In addition, something yoghurt-based works a treat too. I love mint raita, but a good lassi would go down a treat too! 

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.

Close-up Tamil black pepper chicken curry, aka Chettinad chicken with kachumber salad.

Equipment Used

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.

  • Stovetop.
  • Wok, I use a large carbon steel wok.
  • Pestle and mortar or spice grinder.
  • Large spoon.
  • Chopping board.
  • Kitchen knife.
  • Grater.
  • Weighing scales and or measuring cups and spoons.
Tamil black pepper chicken curry with kachumber salad, raita and naan bread.
Yield: 2 Servings

Tamil Black Pepper Chicken Curry Recipe

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

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


  1. Cut the chicken thighs into bite-sized pieces.
  2. Cut the onion in half, peel it, then cut it into half-moon shapes 5-6mm (¼") thick
  3. Peel and mash the garlic cloves into a paste.
  4. Peel the ginger and grate it.
  5. 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.
  6. Return the wok to the heat and when it is hot add the mustard oil.
  7. Throw in the onion and fry (stirring regularly) until golden which should take around 10 minutes.
  8. Add the chicken, curry leaves, garlic and ginger, then fry for 2-3 minutes.
  9. Add the spice mix we made in step 5, the onion seeds, salt, sugar, turmeric and Kashmiri chilli pepper and stir.
  10. 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.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


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.

Did you make this recipe?

If you made this recipe, I'd love to see what you did and what I can do better, share a picture with me on Instagram and tag me @krumplibrian and tell me how it went!


Wednesday 8th of May 2024

Hello, this recipe sounds wonderful. I’m one to go into a store and buy random spices. I happened to grab Black Nigella seeds. Are they by any chance the same as the black onion seed?


Wednesday 8th of May 2024

@Brian Jones, Thank you so much for the fast reply.

Brian Jones

Wednesday 8th of May 2024

Hi Lily... yes they are and strangely enough they have nothing to do with the onion family :)



Thursday 8th of June 2023

Hi, I'm looking forward to trying this, however, I cannot see the point at which the ground spices are reintroduced? Stu

Brian Jones

Friday 9th of June 2023

Hi Stuart, sorry I must of omitted it when I retouched the recipe with a video not so long ago, I have updated to reflect the video at the bottom of the recipe instructions.

Thanks for taking the time to let me know.



Erika Cell

Thursday 24th of December 2020

I just came across your recipes and I like the variety, also that it's for two. Can't wait to try it out.

Brian Jones

Wednesday 30th of December 2020

Hey Erika... There is a huge lack of "dinner for two" recipes out there and I find that automated conversion tools are pretty poor if I were to be honest. I hope you enjoy, you will find a bit of everything knocking around here and I'm only just getting started (he says with 500+ recipes) :D


Thursday 23rd of May 2019

This is the first authentic pepper chicken recipe I came across online. Made it ( I also added some fennel seeds to the dry roast ingredients) and it tastes exactly like the yummy pepper chicken you get in the small and authentic restaurants in the Chetinad region. Thank you Brian ?

Brian Jones

Friday 24th of May 2019

That makes me very happy to hear, I was working on memories of flavour and texture. This recipe took me quite while to get right before I published it, so I'll do a happy dance that you think I got it right :)

BTW I like the idea of adding fennel, I'll definitely give that a try next time I make it!

Daniey Smith

Tuesday 21st of May 2019

Brian absolutely fantastic yet again. This is the fourth of your curry’s I’ve cooked and everyone of them is amazing. Thank you

Brian Jones

Wednesday 22nd of May 2019

Oooo so glad you enjoyed this one, it is one of my least found curries and one I love... The heat from black pepper is so different and such a great flavour.

Skip to Recipe