Kerala Chicken Curry

Ann Ittoop shares her mother's recipe, a family Easter staple.

Ann Ittoop's Kerala Chicken Curry
Photo: Antonis Achilleos; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall; Prop Styling: Buffy Hargett Miller
Cook Time:
40 mins
Active Time:
40 mins
Cool Time:
15 mins
Chill Time:
30 mins
Total Time:
2 hrs 5 mins

This Easter, treat your loved ones to a very special South Indian dish. A first-generation Indian American who grew up in North Carolina, Ann Ittoop runs her own food blog, The Familiar Kitchen, where she celebrates both her South Indian heritage and her upbringing in America's South. Here, she's sharing her recipe for Kerala Chicken Curry, a staple of her childhood Easter table.

Ittoop fondly recalls the Easter celebrations of her childhood—her mother marinating the chicken a day early and making each appam to order on Easter Sunday. The ultimate expression of love? Her mother's Kerala Chicken Curry, passed down in a family recipe book, which Ittoop has adapted herself and continues to cook for her family's Easter meal. It all starts with the Meat Masala Blend: fennel seeds, cardamom pods, whole cloves, and a cinnamon stick create an aromatic spice rub that infuses flavor into every layer of the dish. Ittoop toasts the whole spices before grinding them to make a sweet-and-smoky rub for the chicken.

The curry base gains much depth from the spice mixture; it's especially vibrant with a shot of freshly toasted spices in the tempering mixture at the end. This final touch brightens the whole dish—add the tempering right before serving.



  • 3 - 4 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, skin and most of the fat removed

  • 10 yellow baby new potatoes, halved

  • 1 cup well-shaken and stirred coconut milk

  • ¼ cup white vinegar

Meat Masala Blend 

  • 2 tablespoons fennel seeds

  • 10 green cardamom pods

  • 6 whole cloves

  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken in half


  • 1 medium-size white onion, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)

  • 2 small serrano chiles, stems removed and chiles halved lengthwise

  • 8 garlic cloves, minced (about 2 ½ Tbsp.)

  • 1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced (2 Tbsp.)

  • 2 tablespoons ground coriander

  • 2 tablespoons Kashmiri red chili powder, plus more for garnish

  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric, plus more for garnish

  • 12 fresh curry leaves

Tempering Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons virgin coconut oil

  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced (about ½ cup)

  • 2 teaspoons brown mustard seeds

  • 12 fresh curry leaves, plus more for garnish

  • 2 dried red chiles, broken in half crosswise

  • Kosher salt


  1. Prepare the Chicken: Separate meatiest side of each chicken thigh from bone, and then cut each meaty piece of chicken in half. Leave whatever meat is left on bone as is. Transfer all chicken pieces to a large Dutch oven.

  2. Prepare the Meat Masala Blend: Place fennel seeds, cardamom pods, whole cloves, and broken cinnamon stick in a small skillet. Cook over medium, stirring often, just until fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove from heat. Cool completely, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a spice grinder. Process until a slightly coarse powder forms, about 40 seconds.

  3. Prepare the Marinade: Add onion, serrano chiles, garlic, ginger, coriander, Kashmiri red chili powder, turmeric, curry leaves, and 2 tablespoons of the Meat Masala Blend to chicken pieces in Dutch oven; toss together until evenly coated. Cover and chill at least 30 minutes or up to 12 hours.

  4. Remove Dutch oven from refrigerator. If you marinated chicken more than 4 hours, let stand at room temperature 1 hour. Scatter potatoes around chicken mixture in Dutch oven; pour ½ cup water on top. Place Dutch oven over low heat. Cook, covered, until potatoes and chicken are tender, about 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. During this time, moisture should naturally release from chicken mixture and cooking juices should rise up sides of Dutch oven, partially covering chicken mixture. Stir in coconut milk and vinegar. Bring to a gentle simmer over low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken easily pulls away from the bone and flavors meld, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.

  5. During final 5 minutes cook time for chicken mixture, prepare the Tempering Ingredients: Heat coconut oil in a medium skillet over medium until hot and fragrant. Add shallots; cook, stirring often, until light golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in mustard seeds, curry leaves, and dried red chiles. Cook, stirring constantly, until mustard seeds pop, 10 to 30 seconds. Remove from heat, and stir in remaining Meat Masala Blend.

  6. Stir about ¼ cup chicken curry liquid from Dutch oven into Tempering Ingredients in skillet to gather all the spices. Stir mixture back into chicken curry in Dutch oven. Season with salt to taste. Sprinkle a pinch of turmeric and Kashmiri red chili powder on top for color. Garnish with curry leaves.

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