Food is not only a way to feed the body, but also the soul, and that is what this Sri Lankan Chicken Curry does… it feeds your need to explore.
Exploration, especially during the pandemic, has mainly been through food and movies, but when a dish brings back feelings as well as flavors and memories, then you know you have a winner.
We remember things, we like flavors, but we live to feel; feel loved, alive, happy, excited.
This post seems to be traveling in its direction, what does this have to do with chicken curry?
Well, as an Italian who never had a curry until moving to the UK, curries now mean love to me, as I cook them for Jay, my husband, who’s Indian. So yes, seeing him love his meal, makes me feel happy, but surely, makes us both feel loved, as he always ensures I have at least a bite from his plate.
‘’You have to try everything I love!’’ he says and there I know, over and over again, how he loves me – as you don’t automatically share if you do not care.
This is the best Sri Lankan Black Pepper Chicken Curry recipe you will try – there is no other way.
The homemade masala is easy to prepare in two steps using Indian spices and the cooking method is straightforward and doesn’t require any special equipment, ingredients, or steps. Very little oil is used and the flavor comes from the spices, the chicken thighs, and the coconut oil, giving this dish the soul South Asian dishes have.
~~ For the love of coconuts! Try this delicious (and so easy!) Potato Curry with Coconut (Aloo Mappas)!
Let’s talk nutrition!
The star of this dish is chicken, thighs specifically, and, although this is known as a great source of proteins, there’s so much more to know about this ingredient that is so versatile, as it is nutritious.
While chicken has long been associated with healthy eating, it is important to be mindful of the cut of meat of the bird, how it is cooked, and the portions size. While a skinless boneless chicken breast is relatively low in saturated fat, the same amount of chicken thigh, can have nearly three times the amount, but not too many calories more; should one be calorie counting, it is recommended an eye on this factor is kept as well.
As a font of low-fat proteins, chicken can be a good choice, especially when looking for phosphorus, selenium, Vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), and B-3 (niacin).
While the nutrition provided by this ingredient is very important, it is probably even more important how this is stored and cooked; raw chicken can easily contaminate other ingredients and it can’t be eaten raw.
Always ensure your chicken is cooked through and through and, while each country has different guidelines, most recommend using a food thermometer to ensure this happens. The guidelines in the US, recommend cooking chicken until it reaches 165 * Fahrenheit, while the UK says 75* Celsius, which is not a big difference.
After using a surface or utensil to handle raw or partly cooked chicken, it is important these are thoroughly cleaned; furthermore, it is recommended plastic chopping boards are used, rather than wooden, as these can be placed in the dishwasher and cleaned at higher temperatures.
~~ Looking for a quick and easy recipe that tastes as good as – if not better – than the restaurants’? This Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe definitely fits that bill!
How to cook Sri Lankan chicken curry?
You’ll find this recipe easy and straight forward and you’ll change your opinion about most pre-prepared masalas, once you get this one done yourself!
Start by dry roasting the fennel seeds, coriander seeds, cinnamon stick, cloves, star anise, cardamoms, and cumin seeds; once the smell of the spices is fragrant, put them on a plate to slightly cool down. Once these have cooled down a bit, add them to an upside-down grinder together with the whole peppercorns, and grind until fully powdered.
This is your Sri Lankan Black Pepper Masala ready, so set it aside.
Note: This next step is optional, but its main purpose is to maintain the color of this curry as black as possible; should you wish to follow this step, I’d recommend opening the windows and extractor fan. This second step of the recipe involves dry roasting the red chili powder until it has browned and gone dark, without burning it; once this is done as well, set it aside to cool down.
Step three (or two if skipping the second one) is the first marination of the chicken; deseed a tablespoon of tamarind and, make a paste of it in a blender using a bit of water. Using this pulp of tamarind paste and a bit of salt, coat the chicken, ensuring it is fully covered. If you do not have tamarind pulp, you can use some tamarind paste instead.
After 5-10 minutes, proceed with the second marination of the chicken, by coating it with the black pepper masala, roasted red chili powder, and turmeric powder. Set the fully coated chicken aside and start preparing the curry.
In a pan, add the coconut oil and once this is warm, add the curry leaves, onion, ginger, and garlic and allow to cook until brown. While this cooks and browns, blend a small raw onion on the side.
Once the curry base is cooked, add the onion paste to it and allow the onion to cook thoroughly, which will take 4-5 minutes. Once this is cooked, add the marinated chicken, ensuring all of the masalas go in the pan as well; mix the chicken well and allow it to brown on all sides, while the spices continue to cook as well.
Once the chicken has been browned on all sides, add two cups of water to the pot where the chicken was marinating, so to get all the spices, and add it to the curry; mix the chicken curry well and put a lid on the pan and allow this to lightly simmer until the chicken is thoroughly cooked.
Serve and enjoy!
Start: Homemade Sri Lankan Chicken Curry Masala
Optional Step: Dry Roast the Red Chili Powder
Note: this step is optional. Should you decide to follow it, ensure your kitchen is very well ventilated (ie: open extractor fan and windows).
Ensure the red chili powder does not burn, but only browns on a low flame.
Prepare the tamarind paste
Marinate the diced chicken thighs
Final stages: Sri Lankan Black Pepper Chicken Curry
What can I serve chicken curry with?
This curry works well with most types of flatbreads, such as whole wheat parathas, chapattis, or simple naans. I like to serve it with some form of rice, such as masala rice, simple pulao rice or even a nice tadka rice, as this curry is very juicy and it coats the rice nicely, giving it a rich flavor.
When counting calories, a great option is to serve this with some boiled cauliflower or broccoli, cauliflower rice, or an alternative, such as Barenaked rice, which is made using konjac flour.
How can I make this curry less spicy?
The main spice here is brought by the red chili powder, which can be easily reduced; to further tone down the heat, try using Kashmiri chili powder, as it is less spicy.
Can I use chicken breast instead of thighs?
You surely can; follow the recipe the same way and always ensure the chicken is cooked thoroughly. As chicken breast can get dry quite quickly, cook it until it is ready, but do not let it simmer for hours.
~~ Love making your homemade masalas? Try this glorious, flavorful, easy Kolhapuri Chicken Curry!
This Sri Lankan Chicken Curry without coconut milk is tasty, easy to prepare, and low in calories, so a delicious option to add to a diet (I’d call it a great fakeaway!).
If you are looking for a Sri Lankan chicken curry that tastes authentic, this is it!
This easy chicken curry uses traditional whole spices to make a delicious homemade masala, that offers a flavorful gravy that coats bread or rice easily… calling you into the next bite.
This Sri Lankan chicken curry recipe will take you back to your travels, to your memories, and to the freedom felt during those days.
~~ Want the real taste of Delhi in your kitchen? This Butter Chicken will do the trick!
The Best Sri Lankan Black Pepper Chicken Curry Recipe
For the homemade Sri Lankan Black Pepper Masala
- 6 Green Cardamoms
- 6 Cloves
- 1 tsp Cumin Seeds
- 1 tbsp Coriander Seeds
- ½ tsp Fennel Seeds
- 1- inch Cinnamon
- 1 Star Anise
- 2 tsp Black Peppercorns
For the curry: other ingredients
- 1 tbsp Tamarind Pulp
- 2 tbsp Red Chili Powder
- 1 tsp Turmeric Powder
- 900 g Skinless Chicken Thighs Diced
- 2 tbsp Coconut Oil
- 2 Red Onions
- 1 Garlic Clove Peeled and Thinly Chopped
- 1 inch Ginger Peeled and Thinly Chopped
- 20 Curry Leaves
- 2 Cups of Water
- Salt to taste
Prepare the Sri Lankan Black Pepper Chicken Curry Masala
- Start by dry roasting in a pan on a medium flame the green cardamoms, cloves, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, cinnamon stick, and star anise until they smell fragrant and have turned golden; once this happens, remove them from the flame and put them on a plate to lightly cool down.
- After five minutes add the roasted spices to an upside-down grinder together with the black peppercorns and blend until you have a fine powder. This is your Sri Lankan Black Pepper Chicken Curry Masala, which you can set aside.
- OPTIONAL: this is an optional step, but if following it, I’d recommend turning on the extractor fan and opening the windows. Roast the red chili powder on a low to medium flame until it browns, without burning it; as soon as this is done, remove it from the heat and set it aside.
Start preparing the chicken
- For the chicken’s first marination, deseed the tamarind pulp and blend it with a couple of tablespoons of water until a rich paste is achieved; using this paste and a little bit of salt, coat the chicken in what is its first marination and allow it to rest for 5-10 minutes. Should you not have tamarind pulp, you can use tamarind paste instead to coat the chicken.
- After 5-10 minutes have passed, pass to the chicken’s second marination and coat it with the Sri Lankan Black Pepper Chicken Curry Masala, roasted red chili powder, and turmeric powder and set it aside.
Start putting the Sri Lankan Black Pepper Chicken Curry together
- In a deep saucepan, add the coconut oil and allow it to warm up on a low to medium flame; do not allow the oil to overheat.
- Chop one of the two red onions thinly and add it to the pan with the ginger, garlic, and curry leaves; mix well and allow to cook until the onion turns golden in color and the smell of rawness of the garlic has gone.
- In the meantime, bled to a paste the other onion and add it to the saucepan once the ingredients have cooked.
- Allow the onion paste to cook for 2-3 minutes, then add the marinated chicken.
- Mix the chicken well, browning it on all sides of it and allowing the spices to coat the onions as well; this will take 4-5 minutes on a medium flame.
- While the chicken browns, add two cups of water to the bowl where the chicken was marinating, trying to take all of the spices in, then add it to the chicken curry.
- Mix the curry well, put a lid on the pan and allow it to cook until the chicken is thoroughly cooked, which should take about 20 minutes.
- Allow the curry to rest for 5 minutes, serve and enjoy!