Chettinad chicken curry / kuzhambu

Chettinad food is very popular for its non-vegetarian dishes from Chettinad region in Tamil Nadu. I am sharing this authentic restaurant style Chettinad chicken curry/kuzhambu, which is spicy, hot and aromatic flavoured with distinct spices like kal pasi (dagad phool or black stone flower), nutmeg and mace (jaiphal and javitri), star anise in addition to other spices. Do not compromise with the ingredients mentioned in this recipe if you want the real Chettinad taste. Chettinad chicken curry/kuzhambu goes well with anything – plain rice, roti, chapathi, parotta, biryani, pulao, idiyyapam, dosa, set dosa, idli, etc.

Preparation time: 20 mins

Cooking time: 1 hour

Cuisine: Chettinad

Serves: 3 to 4

Spiciness: Hot


  • Chicken – 650 to 700 gms
  • For Chettinad masala

  • Cloves – 4
  • Green Cardamom – 4
  • Cinnamon stick – 1 inch
  • Star anise – 1
  • Kal pasi (Dagad phool or black stone flower) – 1 tbsp
  • Mace (javitri) – 1 flower
  • Nutmeg (jaiphal), grated – 1/4 tsp
  • Coriander seeds – 2 tbsp
  • Dry chillies (seeds removed) – 3
  • Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
  • Black pepper corns – 1 tsp
  • Fennel seeds – 2 tsp
  • Fresh coconut (grated) – 3 tbsp
  • For the curry

  • Gingelly oil (Nallennai) – 1/3 cup or 1 ladle
  • Bay leaves – 2
  • Mace – 1 flower
  • Dry chillies – 4
  • Fennel seeds (saunf) – 1/2 tsp
  • Cloves – 3
  • Green cardamom – 3
  • Cinnamon stick (2 inch pieces) – 1
  • Star anise – 2
  • Kal pasi (Dagad phool) – 1 tbsp or 2 big flowers
  • Curry leaves – 20 or more
  • Shallots – 100 gms
  • Onion – 100 gms
  • Tomato – 3 (350gms)
  • Ginger and garlic paste – 1 tbsp
  • Chilli powder – 2 tsp
  • Coriander powder – 1 tbsp
  • Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp
  • Water – 3 cups
  • Additional ingredients

  • Coriander leaves (chopped) – 1/4 cup
  • Curry leaves (again) – 10
  • Green chillies (slit) – 3
  • Lemon juice – 1 tbsp


  • Chop shallots, onion, tomatoes and coriander leaves. Slit the green chillies. Keep them ready.
  • Wash the chicken and drain well.
  • Take all the ingredients under “For Chettinad masala” and dry roast it in a low flame until you get the aroma and the spices change colour lightly. In the end, add grated coconut and roast for another 2 mins on a low flame. Switch off. Add nutmeg and mix well. Allow to cool and grind to a powder.
  • Place a cooking vessel over heat and add oil. When hot, add bay leaves, dry chillies, fennel seeds and other whole spices. Cook for about 30 seconds and it will splutter.
  • Add curry leaves, shallots and saute until soft and golden in colour.
  • Add ginger and garlic paste and sauté for about 2 mins.
  • Add tomatoes and mix well. Cook until the tomatoes are soft and liquid is absorbed.
  • Add chilli powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder, the roasted spices and saute for about 2 mins. Add 100 ml water and mix well. Cook for about 4 mins until all liquid is absorbed.
  • Add chicken, mix and saute for 5 to 7 mins until the oil starts to separate. Keep stirring so that the spices do not get stuck to the bottom of the vessel. Reduce the flame half way through to avoid burning.
  • Add 2 1/2 cups of water and mix well. Cook for about 12 to 15 mins with the lid closed. Stir in between.
  • When the chicken has cooked well and enough oil has separated from the curry, add coriander leaves, curry leaves and green chillies.
  • Simmer for about 12 to 15 mins with the lid closed. Stir the curry occasionally. Switch off.
  • Add lemon juice and mix well. Allow it to rest for about 10 mins.
  • Serve this hot and spicy Chettinad chicken curry with parotta, plain rice, idli, dosa or idiyappam.


  • You can reduce the amount of chillies or chilli powder as per your taste.
  • Sesame oil (nallennai) is used in this recipe. You can choose to use vegetable oil or sunflower oil.
  • Add water as per the amount of curry required and as per the consistency you require.
  • This Chettinad chicken curry is more of curry type, so that the parotta/idli/idiyappam can be drenched well while eating.
  • When the curry gets cold, it becomes thick. Add water as required and heat again to get the consistency required. I added 3/4 cup of water and cooked for 5 mins.
  • While tempering the whole spices for the curry, you can just add bay leaf, fennel seeds, dry chillies and avoid other whole spices.
  • As I have used nutmeg powder, I added in the end after switching off the heat to prevent it from burning. If you are adding nutmeg pieces, then you can roast with the other spices.
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