Chicken Chukka

By Lee Jackson ↣ Published on: October 5, 2020

Last Updated: November 15th, 20232 Comments on Chicken Chukka

The aroma and flavour of fresh curry leaves are in full effect in this delicious Indian Chicken Chukka curry. A fragrant, spicy and tangy dish that is packed with flavour. A true stand out and one of our personal favourites!

A bowl of chicken chukka curry with rice.

Chicken chukka is one of my most favourite Indian curries. Rich, impossibly fragrant and full of wonderful authentic South Indian flavour.

I first experienced Chicken Chukka in Kerala, India - served as part of a shamefully huge feast for two people. I was wholly embarrassed at the sheer amount of food we ordered - it filled the table without a scrap of space to spare. I was even more embarrassed that we ate every last grain of rice.

Two stems of fresh curry leaves

Curry Leaf tip:

Buy them fresh and freeze for months in a zip-lock bag. They defrost in a matter of seconds and don't lose any of their flavour.

What is Chicken Chukka?

Chicken chukka is a curry that originates in the South of India. The key ingredient and the stand out flavour of any authentic chicken chukka recipe are fresh curry leaves. If you haven't tried fresh curry leaves, you're in for a life-changing treat. They quite literally smell and taste like the essence of curry.

The word "Chukka" in Tamil means "dry," which refers to the dish having a semi-dry or dry consistency rather than being saucy.

I love curry leaves so much that I planted a plant in my back garden which is now the size of a small tree! They're excellent both cooked and raw and when combined with other Indian spices, finish off this dish to perfection.

You can buy fresh curry leaves from any good Indian supermarket and online. You can also grow your own plant too. They're super low maintenance and grow an abundance of leaves.

Why it works?

The aroma - Chicken Chukka has the most wonderful aroma, mainly coming from the fresh curry leaves. Fresh curry leaves are the essence of curry and I use both in the cooking and also stirred through at the end and eaten fresh.

whole spices (cumin seeds, peppercorns and cardamom pods) on a small pottery plate with fresh curry leaves beside.

Stuff You'll Need

There aren't that many ingredients to hunt down for Chicken Chukka. Here's the breakdown of what you'll need to make it at home.

  • Ground Spices: cumin, coriander, Kashmiri chilli powder, cayenne pepper and turmeric create a 'curry powder' that will bring the main flavour and spice to the dish.
  • Whole Spices: cumin seeds, cardamom pods and black peppercorns
  • Fresh curry leaves - are non negotiable. They bring the unique flavour so can't be replaced. Don't use dried curry leaves either, they don't have any taste. You can find in any Indian market or online. They freeze well, so buy a lot and pop in the deep freeze for later use.
  • Onion, garlic and ginger - gives the backbone to the dry sauce
  • Chicken thighs - thighs are best for most curries. They stay juicy when cooked and won't dry out like breast can.
  • Tomatoes - The tanginess comes from tomatoes. I use tomato passata (or blended canned tomatoes) and then also cherry tomatoes at the end of cooking. (they have a sweeter, more intense flavour than a regular tomato).
A bowl of ground spices. Cumin, paprika, coriander, turmeric, garam masala and cayenne pepper

Step by Step

Making Chicken Chukka is not difficult. Here's how to make yours at home...

  1. Step 1 - Combine the ground spices together and set aside.
  2. Step 2 - Sauté the whole spices and some fresh curry leaves briefly, to season the oil and then add the onion, followed shortly after by the garlic and ginger and cook until soft.
  3. Step 3 - Stir in the spice powder followed by tomato passata and then the chicken and cook for a while.
  4. Step 4 - Add some water and then let this simmer for 30-40 minutes to reduce into a rich, thick sauce. Remove from the heat.
  5. Step 5 - Stir in the cherry tomatoes and a few more fresh curry leaves and you're done.

Pro Tips

  • Dry or sauce? - Chicken Chukka is also sometimes called a 'curry leaf fry' - the word chukka means 'dry' so generally means it's a very reduced sauce - similar to a stir-fry. Over the years of making this dish, I like it dry, but not bone dry - so my version adds a little more water to give some sauce.
  • Curry leaves - Fresh curry leaves are essential. They're available in most Indian food stores. They freeze for months, so buy a lot and store in a freezer bag. They defrost in seconds. Don't substitute with dried, they have no taste.
  • Spicy or not? - My recipe uses cayenne pepper or a hot chilli powder to create a spicy sauce (about 7/10 spicy), you can dial the heat up or down to your own taste.
A bowl of chicken chukka curry with rice.

Serving Suggestions

  • Chicken chukka is often served very dry as a thali style dish, accompanied by other vegetable and meat dishes, as an appetiser dish with breads or on its own as the main course with rice and Indian breads.
  • I like to serve mine with simple boiled rice and a fresh, crunchy kachumber salad.


  • Fridge - chicken chukka will stay fresh in the fridge for 3-4 days. Store in an airtight container and reheat in a pan or microwave until piping hot.
  • Freezer - you can freeze the curry for 3+ months in an airtight container (I also like to add about 1/4 cup water to the top to avoid it drying out too much. Defrost and reheat in a pan or microwave until piping hot.

Ready to get cooking?

In essence, the Chicken Chukka recipe is one of my most favourites to make at home - it's the best curry to use fresh curry leaves while creating a truly unique and authentic taste of South India, jam packed with flavour and a delicious healthy sauce too. I hope you enjoy!

A bowl of chicken chukka curry with rice.

Any Questions? (FAQ)

Have a question about Chicken Chukka? Let me know in the comments.

What is Chicken Chukka?

Chicken Chukka is a popular South Indian dish known for its spicy and flavorful preparation. It is made using chicken pieces that are marinated with various spices and then cooked to perfection. The word "Chukka" in Tamil means "dry," which refers to the dish having a semi-dry or dry consistency rather than being saucy.

Is Chicken Chukka Spicy?

Yes, Chicken Chukka is typically a spicy dish. It is known for its bold and flavorful taste, often featuring a combination of spices that can add heat and depth to the dish. The level of spiciness can vary depending on the recipe and individual preferences. Some versions might be milder, while others can be quite fiery. If you prefer a less spicy version, you can always adjust the amount of chili powder or other spicy ingredients to suit your taste.

What are curry leaves?

Curry leaves (Murraya koenigii) are aromatic leaves that come from the curry tree, a small tropical tree native to India and other parts of South Asia. Despite their name, curry leaves are not related to curry powder, which is a spice blend commonly used in Indian cuisine.

The leaves are an essential ingredient in various Indian, Sri Lankan, and other South Asian dishes. They have a unique flavor profile, adding a citrusy, slightly bitter, and aromatic taste to the food. When used in cooking, curry leaves release a delightful fragrance that enhances the overall taste of the dish.

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A bowl of chicken chukka curry with rice.

Chicken Chukka

Rate this recipe

4.75 from 4 votes
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Recipe by Lee
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time1 hour
Total Time1 hour 15 minutes
Servings (adjustable) 4
Calories (per serving) | 708

Video Recipe


Spice powder mix

Other Ingredients


  • To make the spice powder, combine all the powder ingredients and set aside.
  • Heat a large pan with the vegetable oil and when hot add the cumin seeds, cardamom pods, peppercorns and half of the curry leaves (around 20 leaves) and let them sizzle for 30 seconds before adding the onion.
  • Let the onion sauté gently for 7-8 minutes, until browned and lightly charred on some edges.
  • Stir in the garlic and ginger and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Add a little water (about ¼ cup) if the garlic starts to stick.
  • Stir in the spice powder along with the tomato pasata, chicken and salt and stir to coat well. Let this cook for 5-6 minutes until the pan is hot again, stirring frequently.
  • Add 2 cups water, let this come to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer very gently for 40 minutes uncovered. Stir frequently to avoid sticking. The sauce should thicken, but after 40 minutes, if it’s thin, turn up the heat to high and simmer to reduce the liquid. The chukka curry has quite a dry sauce so don’t be afraid to keep reducing.
  • Stir in the remaining fresh curry leaves and cherry tomatoes and serve with breads or rice.


Serving Suggestions: Chicken Chukka is traditionally served in a dry thali style, along with other vegetable and meat dishes. It can be enjoyed as an appetizer with bread or as the main course with rice and Indian breads. For a delightful combination, serve with boiled rice and a fresh kachumber salad.
Storage: In the fridge, chicken chukka remains fresh for 3-4 days when stored in an airtight container. Reheat in a pan or microwave until piping hot. For freezing, use an airtight container with a 1/4 cup water on top to prevent excessive drying. It can be frozen for 3+ months and reheated when needed.


Calories: 708kcal (35%) | Carbohydrates: 16g (5%) | Protein: 44g (88%) | Fat: 53g (82%) | Saturated Fat: 20g (125%) | Cholesterol: 244mg (81%) | Sodium: 870mg (38%) | Potassium: 946mg (27%) | Fiber: 4g (17%) | Sugar: 6g (7%) | Vitamin A: 1360IU (27%) | Vitamin C: 39mg (47%) | Calcium: 93mg (9%) | Iron: 4mg (22%)
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