Chettinad Chicken

On a trip to Australia I had the opportunity to grab some Indian take-away and ate a delectable dish I have never heard of before, Chettinad Chicken. Typically, I've had dishes from the more northern areas of India as that is generally what is more available in my area. Chettinad Chicken hails from the Southern region in the state of Tamil Nadu and boasts an extremely flavorful and hearty dish. Plenty of spices to excite the taste buds and this variation adds quite a bit of spice as that is my preference. The dish does require a pretty large variety of spices but once you have them all you should be able to make a wide variety of Indian dishes so they won't go to waste. When preparing this dish it will appear quite dry after adding the tomatoes and chicken. Refrain from adding any liquid as the 25 minutes of covered time will produce a lot of liquid which will need to be reduced. Adding additional liquid will add to your cooking time.

4-6 People

40 Minutes

100 Minutes

For the Spice Blend

  • 1 Tbsp White poppy seeds
  • 1 tsp Coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp Cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp Fennel seeds
  • 4 Dried Arbol chilies
  • 1/2 Cinnamon stick
  • 2 Cardamom pods
  • 3 Cloves
  • 50 grams Coconut flakes

    Dried, unsweetened

For the Garlic Ginger Paste

  • 2 tsp Ginger, fresh

    Finely diced

  • 2 large cloves Garlic

    Finely diced

For the Dish

  • 10 Curry leaves
  • 2 Large, 700 grams Onion, large

    Grated, Food processor

  • 1 Star anise
  • 2.5 Pounds Chicken thighs

    Boneless, skinless

  • 2 Large, 350 grams Tomatoes


  • 1/2 tsp Turmeric
  • 1 tsp Cayenne
  • 1 tsp Chili powder
  • To taste Chili flakes
  • 1 Tbsp Lime juice

    Up to 2 Tbsp, based on personal taste

  • To taste Garnishes

    Lime wedges and cilantro

  • 2 TBSP Neutral Oil

    Grapeseed, Olive Oil, Canola


  1. Assemble all of the ingredients and begin measuring out the items in the spice blend. Heat a saute pan over medium heat and toast the spices swirling the pan frequently for 3-4 minutes until fragrant. Use the coconut flakes as a visual guide as they will begin to brown at the edges and the spices will become fragrant. Rely on these queues over the timer, as the spices can burn in a matter of seconds. Remove from the heat, transfer to a bowl and allow to cool.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in sauce pan over medium high heat until shimmering. Working in batches, taking care not to overcrowd the pan, sear the chicken without moving the pieces for about 3 minutes a side or until no longer sticking. Move the chicken to a bowl to cool. Chop the chicken into one inch, bite sized pieces after it has cooled.
  3. Transfer half of the spice mixture to a mortal and pestle and pulverize, repeat with the remaining half. The mixture should resemble a fine crumble. Set aside.
  4. In the same mortar and pestle, crush the garlic and ginger to a fine paste and set aside.
  5. In the same sauce pan that was used for the chicken add the curry leaves. Cook for 30 seconds and then add the grated onions, stirring occasionally and cooking until a light brown about 3-4 minutes.
  6. Add the garlic ginger paste and cook for 30 seconds.
  7. Add the ground spices and the star anise, and cook for one minute.
  8. Add the tomatoes, turmeric, salt, cayenne, chili flakes, and chili powder.
  9. Return the chopped chicken and any accumulated juices to the pot, cover and bring to a simmer, cooking for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  10. Uncover the pot, add the lime juice and let the mixture reduce for about 35 minutes continuing to stir occasionally.
  11. Serve over basmati rice and garnish with fresh cilantro and lime wedges.