South Indian Chicken Curry with rice

South Indian Chicken Curry

This South Indian Chicken Curry is warming, comforting and packed with flavour. It is streets ahead of anything you can make with a pre-mixed spice blend or store-bought curry paste.

If you’ve never made your own curry from scratch, this recipe is a great place to start. Don’t be put off by the long ingredient list. The only complex thing about this dish is the flavour! The extra few minutes it takes to roast and grind your own spices will take your dish to the next level. And it’s still quick enough to throw together after work.

One of the best things about curry is that it tastes even better the day after you make it. This makes it ideal for dinner parties because you can make it up to three days ahead.

You can make this curry as mild or as fiery as you like, by adjusting the amount of chilli. Either way, a cool, refreshing Tangy Mandarin Sorbet is the perfect dessert to follow.

South Indian Chicken Curry in a bowl

Tips for Making South Indian Chicken Curry

  1. Use whole spices. Don’t be tempted to skip the first two steps by using pre-ground spices. Toasting whole spices and grinding them yourself makes a world of difference to the flavour. You can even use a 3cm cinnamon quill instead of the ground cinnamon if your spice grinder is powerful enough.
  2. You can use 3 whole dried chillies instead of chilli flakes if you have them. Modify the quantities if you or your family are spice sensitive.
  3. We use Kashmiri chilli for most of our Indian-style recipes. Kashmiri is a mild, dark red chilli that brings sweetness and gentle warmth to a dish. You’ll find it at Indian grocery stores and some specialist food retailers. If you can’t find Kashmiri chilli, you can use 2 parts sweet paprika to one part hot chilli powder instead
  4. You can use whole, skinned chicken thighs on the bone if you prefer. This will bring extra flavour to the dish. Chicken pieces on the bone may need a little extra time to cook. Always check that the meat nearest the bone is thoroughly cooked –  no pink!
  5. Curry leaves are a delicious addition to this dish if you can find them. You’ll need about 10 curry leaves for a serving this size. Add them at step 3 and wait until they start sizzling before adding the onions.

Over to you now. Happy cooking

South Indian Chicken Curry

A hearty, warming chicken dish with complex spices from the south of India
Course: dinner, lunch, Main Course
Cuisine: Indian
Servings: 4 people


  • 1 TBS poppy seeds
  • 30 g desiccated coconut
  • 1 TBS dry chilli flakes
  • 4 pods cardamom
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 TBS oil
  • 2 onions finely sliced
  • 1 TBS fresh ginger grated
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
  • 2 tsp cooking salt
  • 2 tomatoes blanched, peeled & chopped
  • 500 g skinless chicken thigh fillets cut into bite-size pieces
  • 2 limes
  • 1 handful fresh coriander leaves to serve


  • In a large, heavy-based pan over medium heat, dry-roast the poppy seeds, coconut, chilli flakes, cardamom, cloves, fennel seeds, coriander seeds and cumin seeds for 3 or 4 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  • When cool, add the ground cinnamon and blend the spices in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. The coconut will make the spices stick together like a thick paste. Don't worry! Just break this up with a spoon before using.
  • In a large pan or wok, heat the oil and fry the onions until they are translucent. Add the ginger and garlic, stir to combine, and then add spice blend and star anise. Cook, stirring for a minute or two and then add ½ cup water to loosed the mixture.
  • Add the turmeric, chilli powder, salt and tomatoes, and stir to make a masala.
  • Add the chicken pieces and stir to ensure all pieces are well coated with the masala. Cover the pan and simmer on low for 30 minutes, or until chicken is tender.
  • When chicken is cooked, remove from heat and squeeze in the lime juice and stir through the chopped fresh coriander. Serve with steamed basmati rice.

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