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Chicken Chettinad Pepper Curry

Fiery Chicken Chettinad is a curry that relies on the fragrant flavour & heat black pepper, a delicious take on a classic South Indian curry.

Portrait image of a dry pepper chicken Chettinad curry served on boiled basmati rice.

Black Pepper Chicken Curry.

Indian food is not all about murgh makhani and chicken tikka masala, this recipe is very different and one of my favourite dishes to cook and eat.

It comes from the southeast tip of India and it is a chicken curry named after a region called Chettinad. Imaginative hey?

It comes in two very distinct “varieties” a wet and a dry dish, this is a dry pepper chicken Chettinad is the one that I always choose to make!

Food from this region is often fiercely hot and this black pepper chicken dish is no different.

However, that spice often comes from black pepper rather than chilli and that is how I roll on this recipe.

It adds a very different type of heat one that is fragrant and rounded and it adds a beautiful earthy flavour that I associate with Chettinad chicken.

Portrait overhead image of a dry pepper chicken Chettinad curry served on boiled basmati rice.

Cooking with Whole Spices.

Black pepper sits at the front of the flavour profiles alongside the slightly tart note of coriander seeds, it is very similar in flavour profiles to my mulligatawny soup recipe.

Behind these two flavours we have a little cumin, fennel and onion seeds.

I highly recommend using whole seeds for all of the spices recommended above.

Spices in seed form have a much longer shelf life than ground spices not matter how you store them.

Also, the intensity and clarity of the flavour that you get from using them is unparalleled.

Finally, I add a foundation background flavour of fenugreek to this recipe.

Yes, it is a flavour more associated with the food of northern India, but I LOVE it so it makes a cameo appearance in my chicken Chettinad.

Portrait close up image of a dry pepper chicken Chettinad curry served on boiled basmati rice.

Serving Suggestions.

Let’s start with bread… As far as I am concerned Indian food without bread just ain’t right. This Chettinad chicken is no different!

As ever my recommendation for a dryer curry is a roti or chapati.

They are perfect for picking up the large chunk of chicken and eating curry with your hands is just magic.

Now we have the bread sorted we must talk about the spice. This recipe is hot, hot hot!

Serving it alongside cooling elements is always wise, I often use rice for this as it has a wonderful neutral flavour.

In addition to this something yoghurt based is a wonderful cooling agent for spice. I love a nice mint raita, but a good lassi would go down a treat too! 

I will also often serve this with kachumber salad, another northern Indian influence.

But the sweet, sour and fresh flavours are a perfect complement to a fiery hot chicken Chettinad curry.

Squre overhead image of a dry pepper chicken Chettinad curry served on boiled basmati rice
Yield: 2 Servings

Chicken Chettinad Recipe

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes

A fiery hot "dry" curry from the south of India, Chicken Chettinad is typified by its reliance on black pepper for both heat and flavour and is a real barnstormer!


  • 400 g (14 oz) Chicken Thigh
  • 50 g (1/3 Cup) Shallot
  • 1 Tbsp Dried Fenugreek Leaves
  • 3 Cloves Garlic
  • 1 Tbsp Minced Ginger
  • 2 Tbsp Cooking Oil
  • 1 Tbsp Black Pepper
  • 1 Tbsp Coriander Seeds
  • 1 Tbsp Black Onion Seeds
  • 1 Tsp Fennel Seeds
  • 1 Tsp Cumin Seeds
  • 1 Tsp Ground Turmeric
  • 1/2 Tsp Kashmiri Chili Powder
  • 2 Tsp Sugar
  • 1/2 Tsp Salt
  • 125 ml (1/2 Cup) Water
  • 2 Tbsp Ghee


  1. Cut the chicken thighs into bite sized pieces.
  2. Dice the shallots as finely as you can.
  3. Mash the garlic cloves.
  4. Add the black pepper, coriander, cumin, fennel and onions seeds to a dry pan and then toast for 5 minutes until they become fragrant.
  5. Grind the toasted seeds in a spice grinder or pestle and mortar.
  6. Then add the oil to this pan over a medium heat.
  7. Add the shallot and fenugreek leaves and fry until golden which should take around 10 minutes.
  8. Add the chicken and stir for 2 minutes.
  9. Throw in the garlic and ginger and cook on for a further 2 minutes.
  10. Add the ground spices, salt, sugar, turmeric and Kashmiri chilli pepper and stir.
  11. Pour in the water and reduce the heat to medium low and allow to cook for 30 minutes.
  12. Add more water if the water completely evaporates.
  13. Add the ghee and stir through just before serving.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 764Total Fat: 56gSaturated Fat: 17gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 37gCholesterol: 289mgSodium: 965mgCarbohydrates: 22gFiber: 6gSugar: 7gProtein: 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!

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.

Helen of Fuss Free Flavours

Tuesday 20th of March 2018

Black pepper is a wonderful strong flavour, and I happen to think it is a great addition to chicken dishes. This recipe sounds delicious, full of warmth and with the kick of the pepper, really tasty. A great idea for a supper dish.

Brian Jones

Tuesday 20th of March 2018

Thanks Helen, I could not agree more, it is a shame that we often take black pepper for granted rather than considering it as being a flavour ingredient that we add to recipes.


Tuesday 20th of March 2018

I love a good chicken dish and this one looks and sounds absolutely delicious. Perfect idea for a healthy dinner!

Brian Jones

Tuesday 20th of March 2018

I never really consider how 'healthy' any of my particular dishes are I suppose this one is fairly well behaved :)

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