Ashlesha’s Coconut Chicken Curry

I am back from my wonderful trip to India. My daughter and I went for four weeks to visit family and friends. When in India, I divide my time between Mumbai and Nashik (an industrial city about 3 hours away inland) where my sister and her family live. My sister is a wonderful cook and went all out in preparing some of the most delicious food I’ve ever tasted – every day. This coconut-based chicken curry is one such preparation.

Onions and copra (dried meat or kernel of coconut) are first dry roasted on a pan till brown and then ground to a fine paste along with fresh ginger, garlic, cilantro, green chillies and tomatoes. In case you are unable to find copra (dry coconut) just use freshly grated coconut and then dry roast. Spices like cloves, cinnamon, poppy seeds, coriander seeds, black cardamom, green cardamom, sessame seeds are also dry roasted and then ground to a fine powder.  Serve this flavorful preparation with Indian bread or white rice and a salad for a complete meal.


  • 2 pounds chicken
  • 1 big onion sliced
  • 1 cup copra, (you can use freshly grated coconut if you are unable to find this) It is readily available in any Indian grocery store
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground ginger
  • 5 big cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, washed clean
  • 3 green chillies
  • 2 medium sized tomatoes- pureed
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon red chilly powder
  • salt to taste
  • 6 tablespoons oil

Spices to be dry roasted and ground:

  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5- 6 green cardamoms
  • 1 big black cardamom
  • 2 teaspoon poppy seeds
  • 1 teaspoon sesame  seeds
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1  1/2  inch cinnamon stick
  • 3-4 whole black peppercorns
  • 4 cloves

Dry roast the above spices on a pan and cool. After it’s cooled, grind to a fine powder in a coffee grinder.


Wet Masala-Dry roast the onions on a pan till brown. Be careful, not to burn as the chicken might taste bitter. Keep aside. Dry roast copra or freshly ground coconut till it turns brown. Grind the onions, copra, ginger, garlic, cilantro, green chillies to a fine paste by adding as much water as needed. Make a fine paste of this and keep aside. Using the same mixer, puree the tomatoes and keep aside.

Dry Masala-On another pan, dry roast the bay leaf, green and black cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, coriander seeds, cinnamon stick,  black peppercorns and cloves till it gives off an aroma. Cool this and grind it in a coffee grinder to make a fine powder and keep aside.

Heat oil in a vessel. Add the wet masala and saute. Careful, this mixture will splatter as it will have lots of water used during grinding. Cover and let this cook on medium heat for 10 minutes. Add the pureed tomatoes along with the dry masala, red chilly powder, turmeric and cook for another 10 minutes stirring occasionally, till the oil separates.

Add the chicken and mix well making sure the masala has coated the chicken well. Fry this for 5 minutes and season with salt well. Add 1 cup hot water and let it cook for 20-25 minutes till the chicken is cooked. If you like the gravy thick add less water while cooking the chicken. Serve hot with rice and salad. Enjoy!


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