Chicken Chettinad

Chettinad is a region in Tamil Nadu renowned for its subtle yet spicy cuisine. There are many iterations of this curry. It highlights black peppercorns, a signature spice of the region, which have originated from the south of India.

makes 3-4 cups


4 chicken legs (thighs with drumsticks)

1 Tbsp black peppercorns, lightly pounded

2 tsp minced garlic

2 Tbsp plain yogurt

10-15 kari leaves

4 Tbsp ghee or oil

2 cups onions, chopped

2 Tbsp ginger purée

1  14 oz can coconut milk

2 Tbsp ground black pepper

1 tsp salt

1 tsp ground cardamom

2-3 serrano peppers, sliced lengthwise

juice of one lemon

2 Tbsp chopped cilantro

handful of pomegranate seeds (optional)

dollop of plain yogurt


  1. Place the peppercorns in between a cloth towel and pound with a hammer until the pieces are broken up. Cut the chicken thighs in half and marinate in the peppercorns, garlic, yogurt and kari leaves. Let the chicken rest for 15-20 minutes up to 24 hours. 
  2. In a heavy bottom stock pot, heat the ghee and fry the onions until translucent or lightly golden brown. Add the marinated chicken and fry for another 5-7 minutes on medium heat. Lower the heat then add the ginger purée, coconut milk, ground black pepper and salt. Cover the stockpot and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the chicken is tender. 
  3. Stir in the cardamom, sliced serrano peppers and the juice of one lemon. Garnish with chopped cilantro, pomegranate seeds and a dollop of yogurt.

ideas / variations

  • If using boneless chicken, reduce the cooking time in half. 
  • For a vegetarian option, replace chicken with large chunks of butternut or chayote squash. 
  • Sub ½ cup of cream for the coconut milk. Add a bit more if you see it is getting dry.