Utah Bites

Kerala-Style Black Pepper Chicken

If you like black pepper, black pepper chicken in the style of the Indian state of Kerala is a great dish for you



I recently came across a recipe from The Splendid Table for a preparation of black pepper chicken in the style of the Indian state of Kerala. If you like black pepper, this is a great dish for you. Fennel seeds and ginger help to make the dish slightly sweet tasting to balance out the large amount of black pepper. I suggest serving the chicken with basmati rice and/or naan or paratha. 


  • 8 skinless, bone-in chicken thighs
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • ½ tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp. fine sea salt
  • 1 tsp. fennel seeds
  • 2 Tbsp black peppercorns – preferably Tellicherry
  • 2 Tbsp coconut or neutral oil
  • 3 large onions, peeled and finely sliced lengthways
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 6cm (2½ inches) fresh ginger, peeled and minced (2 tablespoons)
  • 1–2 green chilies such as serranos, slit lengthways (optional)
  • 1 tsp. garam masala
  • 1 Tbsp coconut vinegar or other vinegar


  1.  Turn the chicken thighs in the lemon juice, turmeric, salt and a few grinds of black pepper (we are layering the pepper flavor; the full hit comes later). Set aside to marinate while you proceed.
  2. Tip the fennel seeds and peppercorns into a dry pan and heat until they are toasty and aromatic. Use a pestle and mortar or spice grinder to crush/grind them coarsely.
  3. Heat a large frying pan or wok over a medium heat, add the oil and fry the onion slices with a pinch of salt until they soften, then turn golden. Add the garlic, ginger and green chilies and stir-fry for another couple of minutes. Stir in the garam masala.
  4. Add the chicken to the pan along with any marinade and the vinegar. Cover, turn down the heat and leave to simmer for 15 minutes. The chicken will release liquid as it cooks.
  5. Remove the lid and turn up the heat. Add the crushed peppercorns and fennel seeds. Stir-fry until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce is dry and caramelized. Taste for seasoning. Set aside to rest for 10 minutes before serving.



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Food writer Ted SchefflerOriginally trained as an anthropologist, Ted Scheffler is a seasoned food, wine & travel writer based in Utah. He loves cooking, skiing, and spends an inordinate amount of time tending to his ever-growing herd of guitars and amplifiers.

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