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Kerala Style Chicken Curry (Nadan Kozhi)

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Kerala Style Chicken Curry, aka Nadan Kozhi, is a fragrant South Indian creamy coconut curry.

Generous pieces of chicken in a rich aromatic Kerala curry sauce bursting with South Indian flavours of curry leaves, black pepper, fennel and coconut. Our Nadan Kozhi is guaranteed to become your favourite chicken curry.

Kerala Style Chicken Curry in a skillet with a bowl of rice.

Streets ahead on flavour, this is a truly spectacular chicken curry. Quite simply, its distinctive flavour sets it apart from other chicken curries.

Kerala is famous for its spices, particularly black pepper. So it’s little wonder pepper is an essential ingredient of this classic dish. Pepper blends with curry leaves, fennel seeds and coconut to produce the unique and complex flavours of a Kerala curry.

Nadan Kozhi being served with a spoon and a bowl of rice garnished with coriander.

Our Chicken Balti and Jalfrezi are popular curries here at the Kitchen Shed, both rated highly by family and readers. But, more and more people are telling us how much they just love the flavours of our Kerala curry.

Ten minutes prep, fresh curry leaves, Indian spices and a few basic ingredients deliver your Nadan Kozhi Curry. Fresh curry leaves are easier to find locally these days but it can depend on where you live. I usually buy fresh curry leaves when I’m in Leicester but I’ll order online when back home in West Wales.

Quick and straightforward to make, your authentic Kerala Chicken Curry can be on the table in just under 45 minutes. This makes it a perfect midweek meal as well as part of your weekend curry night.

Nadan Kozhi in a skillet with a bowl of rice.

A guaranteed crowd pleaser, this Kerala Style Chicken Curry is a pure delight served with homemade naan bread and rice. Add our Bombay Potatoes and you’ll forget all about restaurant takeaway menus and supermarket ready meals.

Why you’ll love this recipe

Here’s why this is the best South Indian Chicken Curry recipe.

  • We’re not talking any old generic chicken curry. Each mouthful excites your tastebuds as the layers of authentic Kerala spices unfold. Aromatic curry leaves combine with the natural sweetness of coconut cream to give that umami flavour of a special dish.
  • Easy and quick to make with straightforward step by step instructions.
  • It’s adaptable – add a bit more heat or tone it down with more or less chilli flakes. Replace chicken thighs with chicken breast for a lower fat content. Can be made without coconut and still deliver the true flavours of Kerala cooking.
Nadan Kozhi being served with a spoon and a bowl of rice garnished with coriander.

What equipment do I need ?

  • Shallow casserole pan – I used an enamelled cast iron shallow casserole.

What ingredients do I need ?

Passata, coconut oil, creamed coconut, chicken thighs, Indian spices, ginger, garlic, onion, salt and curry leaves on a worktop.
  • Coconut oil – gives the curry its coconut flavour but you can substitute with vegetable oil.
  • Black mustard seeds – these tiny black mustard seeds are peppery and add a warming heat to the Kerala Chicken Curry.
  • Curry leaves – I used fresh curry leaves. Don’t be tempted to use dried curry leaves, they simply don’t deliver on flavour.
  • Red onion – you only need one finely diced onion.
  • Salt – I used sea salt.
  • Garlic and fresh ginger – both freshly grated.
  • Black pepper – it’s best to grind your black pepper for a fresher flavour.
  • Turmeric – known for its earthy flavour.
  • Kashmiri chilli powder – gives the Kerala curry its characteristic red colour. Alternatively, substitute with paprika.
  • Chilli flakes – omit the chilli flakes if you prefer a milder curry.
  • Garam masala – this Indian spice blend is an aromatic mixture of spices including cardamom and cinnamon, essential in a Kerala curry.
  • Chicken pieces – chicken thighs are more flavourful and less likely to dry out in cooking. Chicken breast also works well in this recipe if you prefer a lower fat content.
  • Passata – I like to use sieved tomatoes for a smoother sauce.
  • Creamed coconut or coconut cream – you only need a small amount. If you prefer you can omit the coconut and still have a very tasty Kerala curry.
  • Optional topping: Toasted coconut flakes
Nadan Kozhi being served with a spoon and a bowl of rice garnished with coriander.

How to make Kerala Style Chicken Curry AKA Nadan Kozhi

  • With your pan over a medium heat, add the coconut oil. When it’s nice and hot, add the mustard seeds, fennel seeds and curry leaves.
  • When the mustard seeds start to pop, add the diced onion and salt. Cook until the onion has softened – about 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Add the garlic, ginger and the rest of the spices. Cook out for a couple of minutes.
4 step process showing fat being heated and spices added, then onions and more spices.
  • Add the chicken thigh pieces and coat with the spicy onion mixture. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4 step process showing chicken frying in spices and onion base, passata added and curyy being stirred.
  • Stir in the passata and water before placing the lid on your pan. Cook on a gentle simmer for 30 minutes. Check the chicken pieces are cooked through and not pink at their centres.
  • Crumble in the coconut cream and stir in until melted completely. If using coconut cream or milk, thoroughly stir this into your curry.
Chicken frying in a pan with spices and onions.

How To Serve

Sprinkle with coconut flakes (if using) and serve with basmati rice and naan bread or roti.

Finished creamy coconut masala sauce in a pan.

Recipe FAQs

Is Kerala Chicken Curry spicy ?

Our Kerala Style Chicken Curry has a medium heat which is tempered with coconut cream for a comforting spicy glow. If you prefer a milder curry simply omit the chilli flakes.

Can I freeze Kerala Style Chicken Curry ?

Yes you can. Cool the Kerala Style Chicken completely and then portion into airtight food safe containers. Kerala Chicken can be kept for up to 3 months in the freezer.
Defrost overnight in the fridge. Reheat in a pan on the stovetop over a medium heat for about 10 minutes. Check the chicken is piping hot all the way through before serving.

More Indian Style Curry Recipes….

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Creamy coconut chicken curry in a black skillet with a bowl of rice.
A spoonful of chicken curry .

Kerala Style Chicken Curry (Nadan Kozhi)

Kerala Style Chicken Curry, aka Nadan Kozhi, is a fragrant South Indian creamy coconut curry. Generous pieces of chicken in a rich aromatic Kerala curry sauce bursting with South Indian flavours of curry leaves, black pepper, fennel and coconut.
Our Nadan Kozhi is guaranteed to become your favourite chicken curry.
4.98 from 45 votes
Print Pin Rate this Recipe Save Recipe
Course: Main
Cuisine: South Indian
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 4
Calories: 379kcal
Author: Sarah James

Equipment

  • Shallow casserole pan – I used an enamelled cast iron shallow casserole

Ingredients

  • 2 tbs coconut oil or vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 10 curry leaves
  • 1 red onion finely diced
  • 3 garlic cloves crushed
  • 3 teaspoons freshly grated ginger about a 2cm piece
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 2 teaspoons Kashmiri chilli powder or paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chilli flakes
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 250 grams passata
  • 125 ml water
  • 750 grams boneless and skinless chicken thighs- about 8 to 10. Cut each thigh into 3 for generous chunks of chicken
  • 25 grams creamed coconut from a block or 3 tablespoons coconut cream or 100ml coconut milk
  • Optional: toasted coconut flakes to serve.

Instructions

  • With your pan over a medium heat, add the coconut oil. When the oil is nice and hot, add the mustard seeds, fennel seeds and curry leaves.
  • As the mustard seeds start to pop, add the diced onion and salt and cook until the onion softens. This should take about 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Add the garlic, ginger and remaining spices. Cook out for a couple of minutes.
  • Add the chicken pieces and evenly coat them with the spicy onion mixture. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Stir in the passata and water, place on the pan lid and cook for 30 minutes at a gentle simmer. Check the chicken pieces are thoroughly cooked and not pink in the centre.
  • Crumble in the coconut cream and stir until completely melted. If using coconut cream or milk, pour in and stir until fully incorporated.
  • Optional – sprinkle with toasted coconut flakes.
  • Serve with basmati rice and naan bread or roti.

Notes

  • Chilli: If you prefer less heat in your curry, use less chilli flakes or omit them altogether.
  • Chicken: For a lower fat alternative, use chicken breast pieces in place of chicken thighs.
  • Coconut: Can be made without coconut and still deliver the true flavours of Kerala.
  • To store: Cool the Kerala Style Chicken completely before dividing into portions. Store in airtight food safe containers. Keep Kerala Chicken for up to three days in the fridge or three months in the freezer.
  • To Reheat: Defrost in the fridge overnight if frozen. Reheat in a pan on the stovetop over a medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Check the chicken is piping hot all the way through.
  • Nutrition information is approximate and meant as a guideline only.
Calories: 379kcal | Carbohydrates: 13g | Protein: 39g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 0.04g | Cholesterol: 178mg | Sodium: 196mg | Potassium: 885mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 1029IU | Vitamin C: 60mg | Calcium: 66mg | Iron: 4mg
Recipe Rating




Kath

Wednesday 5th of April 2023

Gorgeous flavours, cooked it twice in the last week! Any suggestions of good veggies to put in if I wanted to make a vegan version?

Sarah James

Wednesday 5th of April 2023

Hi Kath, that's great to hear. Cauliflower works well, just omit adding the chicken and add the passata and water and cook for 10 minutes. Add the cauliflower in florets and cook for 15 to 20 minutes until tender. Green beans or spinach and chickpeas are on my list to try, hope this helps, Sarah.

Biana

Sunday 19th of February 2023

Always looking for more chicken recipes and this one looks delicious!

Tara

Sunday 19th of February 2023

This chicken curry looks absolutely fantastic! I can definitely see why it is a favorite. Such a wonderful combination of flavors.

Sarah James

Sunday 19th of February 2023

Thanks Tara, the flavours are delicious.

Ned

Sunday 19th of February 2023

Oh as soon as I saw cast iron, I jumped at the chance to make this for my wife. She LOVED it! Thank you!

Sarah James

Sunday 19th of February 2023

Hi Ned, great to hear you made our Kerala Curry for your wife and so pleased she loved it.

Kushigalu

Sunday 19th of February 2023

Love recipes from Kerala cuisine, and this looks delicious. Thanks for sharing.

Sarah James

Sunday 19th of February 2023

You're most welcome Kushi.