Curry Leaf Popcorn Chicken

Recently I came across this recipe in Bon Appetit and knew that I had to try it as it had curry leaves in the ingredients. Chicken nuggets + Curry leaves = a winning combination!

Curry leaf plants can grow in tropical places similar to its native region of India. As it gets cold in the Carolinas, I have to bring the plant indoors in the winter.

Curry leaves can be found in Indian grocery stores (and some organic stores like Mom’s).
Storage Tip: After washing and drying the leaves, rub the leaves with a little oil and place them in a jar or zippered bag to freeze.

In most recipes curry leaves are tempered in oil, but in this recipe you simply blend them for the marinade and some chopped leaves are added to the flour coating as well.

The recipe calls for the chicken to be fried, but I made them successfully in my air fryer. They can be reheated in the air fryer or in a toaster oven.


1/4 teaspoon cardamom seeds or 1/8 tsp. cardamom powder

2 teaspoons coriander seeds

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

1/4 teaspoon whole black pepper corns

2 cups buttermilk

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

2-3 green chillies, chopped

1 -1″ piece ginger, grated

4-5 cloves garlic, minced

25- 30 fresh curry leaves, divided

2 teaspoons cayenne pepper, divided, reserving a little for garnish

2 pounds boneless chicken breasts, cubed into about 1″

2 cups all-purpose four

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Oil for frying (or brushing on)

2-3 green chillies, fried for garnish

5-10 curry leaves, fried for garnish


In a small dry skillet, toast the cardamom, coriander, cumin seeds and black peppercorn, stirring until fragrant.

Cool and transfer half of the mixture to a spice mill and blend to a fine powder. Set aside.

Blend the remaining whole spices, buttermilk, lime juice, chillies, ginger, garlic, 15 curry leaves, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon cayenne to a blender until smooth.

Add the chicken to this, mix well and add to a resealable bag or covered bowl. Chill overnight or at least 4-8 hours.

Combine the reserved spice mixture, flour, baking powder, baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon cayenne in another resealable bag. Chop the remaining 10 curry leaves and add to the flour mixture. Stir to combine well.

Heat about 1 1/2 ” oil in a wok , or pre-heat the air fryer to 400 degrees.

In the mean time, remove the chicken from the marinade and let the excess drip.

Add the chicken in small batches to the flour bag and coat well. Remove and set the coated chicken over a wire rack.

Repeat with the remaining chicken

Fry small batches of the chicken for 6-8 minutes until golden brown. Transfer to wire rack with paper towels below to drain.

If using the air fryer, brush the chicken pieces with oil and add to air fryer (do not crowd) and cook for 5 minutes… Turn the chicken pieces and continue to cook for about 3-4 minutes to a golden brown. Repeat with the remaining chicken nuggets.

Garnish with fried chillies and fried curry leaves



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