The fiery meat dishes in Chettinad are world-famous and this pepper chicken masala truly lives up to the Chettinad chicken recipes fame. Freshly roasted dry red chilies, whole peppercorns along with an array of other spices gives this chicken curry a very characteristic flavor.

Chettinad chicken is considered as one of the spiciest and the most aromatic in India. The cuisine is famous for its use of a variety of spices used in preparing mainly non-vegetarian food. Dry roast all the ingredients in a pan until they are slightly browned and fragrant.

Grind the ingredients in a blender to make a coarse powder. Keep aside. Heat oil in a pan. When the oil is hot, add bay leaves and mustard seeds. Add the masala powder, tomato, salt, red chili powder, and turmeric powder along with a cup of water. Cover the pan and let the chicken cook for 45-50 minutes on low heat.


  • 1 1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 5 cardamon pods
  • 1-inch cinnamon stick, broken
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 3 cloves
  • 15 to 20 fresh curry leaves
  • 2 medium sized onions, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • One 2 1/4 lb. chicken skinned and cut into small serving pieces
  • 5 tablespoons oil

Spice Paste:

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cumin seeds
  • 8 to 10 dried hot red chilies, broken into halves
  • 3 tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons white poppy seeds
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped


  1. Make the spice paste: In a small frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add cumin seeds, chilies, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, black peppercorns, and poppy seeds.
  2. Stir and fry briefly until lightly roasted. Put these into a large coffee grinder and grind to a powder. Empty into the container of an electric blender.
  3. Add garlic, ginger, turmeric and salt to the blender as well, along with 6 to 8 tablespoons of water. Process until you have a fine paste, pushing down with a rubber spatula if needed.
  4. Heat remaining 4 tablespoons of oil in a large saucepan over a medium to high heat. When hot, add bay leaves, cardamom pods, cinnamon, fennel seeds, cloves, and urad dal.
  5. Stir and fry briefly until urad dal turns red, then add curry leaves, if using. Stir once or twice and add onions. Fry onions until they are soft and lightly colored.
  6. Add the spice paste. Continue to stir and fry for about 4 to 6 minutes, adding a little water to prevent sticking.
  7. Add the tomato and stir and fry for another 3 to 4 minutes.
  8. Add the chicken pieces to the onion and spice mixture. Stir until they are well coated then add 2 1/2 cups water, just enough to cover. Bring to a boil.
  9. Turn the heat to low, cover and simmer until the chicken is almost cooked about 20 to 25 minutes.
  10. Using a slotted spoon, remove the chicken pieces. Turn the heat up to medium-high, and reduce the sauce until very thick. This should take about 6 to 8 minutes.
  11. Replace the chicken, fold gently into the sauce, and cook for a further 5 minutes before serving.