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Keralan chicken curry with coconut milk

Tara O’Brady gets 'Run the Burbs' star Rakhee Morzaria in the kitchen to cook up a mouthwatering South Indian coconut milk curry. 



  • 1 chicken, cut into 10 pieces, skin removed but bone in
  • 1 teaspoon medium grained kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon Kashmiri chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 12 curry leaves (approximately 1 sprig)
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole peppercorns
  • 3 cloves
  • 2 green cardamom pods
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
  • 2 to 3 dried red chilies
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 2 teaspoons ginger garlic paste
  • Medium grained kosher salt, as needed
  • 1 cup ground coconut, fresh preferred, or packaged unsweetened finely grated coconut
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, depending on taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Madras curry paste
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • Water, if needed
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 shallot, sliced lengthwise
  • 2 to 3 fresh red chilies, sliced down their length, or whole dried ones, optional
  • 1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 12 curry leaves (approximately 1 sprig)


  1. Start by marinating the chicken. Sprinkle the salt, Kashmiri chili powder, and ground turmeric over the chicken pieces, massaging seasoning into the meat. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour and up to six hours.
  2. To make the curry, melt the coconut oil over medium-low heat in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Once melted, stir in the mustard seeds, curry leaves, peppercorns, cloves, cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks, and dried chilies. Cook, stirring, until the mustard seeds start to crackle and pop, about 30 seconds. Stir in the onion and ginger garlic paste with a good pinch of salt and cook until the onion is translucent, about three minutes more. Follow with the ground coconut and toast for one minute. Stir in the black pepper, turmeric, and curry paste, and cook for one minute.
  3. Raise the heat up to medium. Add in the chopped tomato and fry, stirring regularly, until the tomato starts to break down and release its juice, two minutes or so. Tip in the marinated chicken pieces and turn in the onion-tomato mixture to coat thoroughly. Keep turning the pieces until they begin to turn opaque (they will not sear or take on much colour), for about five minutes. If the coconut milk has settled with the cream on top, spoon only that cream into the chicken, reserving the liquid, and cooking, scraping up any browned bits that have stuck to the pan. (Alternatively, pour in half the coconut milk if not separated.) Pour in the remaining coconut milk.
  4. Raise the heat to bring the liquid up to a simmer, adding water if needed to barely cover the chicken pieces, then lower the flame to maintain a simmer. Cover and cook, stirring now and again until the gravy splits with pools of fat coming to the surface, and the chicken is cooked through about 25 minutes. Taste and season with salt as needed.
  5. To finish the curry, melt the coconut oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add in all the shallot and cook, stirring constantly, until golden at its edges but not shriveled, 90 seconds or so. Add the remaining ingredients, stirring to coat in the oil, then let sizzle until the curry leaves begin to curl and the mustard seeds pop, 20 seconds more. Serve over rice, porottas, parathas, or appam. Enjoy! 

TIP: Boneless, skinless chicken pieces can be used instead of bone-in, they will cook faster. Dried and fresh red chiles, ginger garlic paste, fresh curry leaves, and ground coconut can be found at Asian grocery stores and some larger supermarkets. To replace the paste, use three cloves of garlic and a one-inch piece of peeled ginger, grated on a Microplane. If guests are not used to whole spices in their food, remove them before serving. The curry can be made a day ahead, covered, and refrigerated overnight, the flavour will improve as it sits.

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