Chicken 65 is a popular South Indian restaurant-style appetizer. Batter-fried crispy chicken is tossed in a tempering of curry leaves and spices and served hot! Read on for my top tips to make perfect Chicken 65
What is Chicken 65?
A very popular spicy appetizer or side dish served in Indian restaurants, Chicken 65 is a spicy, batter-fried chicken dish. It has a distinct flavor of curry leaves and garlic, a slightly tangy and subtle sweetness in the coating, and a classic fiery-red color.
Chicken 65 is very popular in South Indian cities regions of Madurai and Andhra Pradesh. My chicken pakora recipe is very similar to chicken 65, with one key difference - we don’t use egg in the batter for Chicken 65. The batter-fried chicken is then tossed in the chili-garlic and curry leaf tempering which gives it all that fiery (and delicious!) flavor.
This dish is so popular that you will see several spin-offs of the classic Chicken 65 in Indian restaurants, such as Chicken 65 biryani, which is made by layering rice and chicken with the chicken 65 masala ingredients and then cooking them together like a classic Chicken Biryani.
To make this dish healthier than normal, simply air-fry the batter-coated chicken in an Air Fryer, instead of deep frying it. You will be able to enjoy chicken 65 with a fraction of the calories!
Why you will love this recipe
If you like Indian food, you will love this recipe for all the below reasons:
- Incredible flavors from fresh curry leaves, garlic, and Kashmiri chili powder
- Tender, batter-fried chicken that is so much better than any fried chicken from a restaurant-chain
- A touch of vinegar and sugar are added to the tempering to make it taste just like authentic restaurant-style chicken 65!
- Healthier option - Air fry the batter coated chicken instead of deep-frying
Chicken 65 is super easy to make at home. A very popular store-bought masala to make the marinade is the Aachi chicken 65 masala mix. However, to make chicken 65 at home, I highly recommend not using any store-bought masala - you don’t need any store-bought pre-packaged mix to make this recipe. Make it with this recipe, and the flavors will be fresh and authentic!
Ingredients for the marinade
Boneless chicken: Use boneless thigh pieces or chicken breast, cut into cube-like chunks.
For the marinade: Yogurt, chopped curry leaves, salt, ginger-garlic paste, Kashmiri chili powder, cumin powder, fresh black pepper (don’t skip this!)
Ingredients for the batter and tempering
For the batter: Rice powder and cornstarch
Vegetable oil for deep frying – I use rapeseed oil, you can use any neutral oil that is suitable for deep-frying.
For the Chicken 65 tempering: Curry leaves, Kashmiri chili powder, vinegar, sugar, garlic cloves, Vegetable oil
Step by Step recipe
To start, you will need to marinate the chicken in all the ingredients listed for the marinade, for at least 2 hours. Mix all the marinade ingredients with the chicken pieces, in a large mixing bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.
After two hours, take out the bowl. Add the rice powder and cornstarch slowly, mixing the pieces as you add the flours. The batter shoudl be thick, and coat the chicken pieces well, as you see in the image below.
Heat oil in a frying pan or wok or Dutch oven – the oil should be at least two inches in depth. Once the oil is hot, you can test it by adding a little batter. The batter should bubble and come up to the surface. This indicates it is hot enough for deep frying. Add the chicken pieces one by one. Fry in batches, and do not over-crowd the oil.
After the chicken pieces are deep fried, keep them aside on kitchen paper to drain the excess oil.
For Airfrying the batter-coated chicken
To air-fry the chicken, simply place the batter-coated chicken pieces in a single layer in the basket of your air fryer. Do not overcrowd the chicken pieces. Air Fry at 400 F for 10 minutes. Your crispy, batter-coated chicken is now ready to be tossed in the Chicken 65 tempering!
In a separate skillet or frying pan, add a teablespoon of vegetable oil and add the garlic and curry leaves. Heat for a minute, until curry leaves are fragrant. Then add the Kashmiri chili powder and saute for a minute more. The Kashmiri chili powder will become deep red in color. Turn off the heat. Add the vinegar and sugar and mix well to Combine. Take the skillet off the heat.
Add the batter-fried chicken pieces. Toss them well in the tempering in the skillet, until the pieces are well coated with the tempering.
Your Chicken 65 is ready to be served!
Oil should be very hot - Before you start adding the chicken pieces, test the heat of the oil by adding a drop of batter. The batter should bubble and come up to the surface. If it doesn't, they wait until the oil is hot enough. If the oil is not hot enough, the batter will soak up the oil.
Fry in batches - Do not overcrowd the wok while deep frying. Make sure you are frying the chicken pieces in batches, to avoid overcrowding.
Use Kashmiri Chili powder - Kashmiri chili powder is an excellent spice powder for attaining a deep reddish color, without extra heat. I highly recommend using this for the tempering, instead of any other red chili powder. Paprika is a close substitute. (Read my guide to Indian spices to know more).
Use fresh black pepper powder - For a truly authentic-tasting Chicken 65, you need to add freshly cracked black pepper powder to the chicken marinade(not pre-ground pepper). Black pepper is a very common spice used in South Indian cooking and gives it an authentic taste. You can adjust the amount of pepper depending on your tolerance for the spice.
Frequently Asked Questions
There are many stories around the name 'chicken 65' and why it is called as such - some say that the chicken needs to be marinated for 65 days, some say that the dish was invented when a chef added 65 chilies to the recipe, and so on! The dish was said to have been invented in 1965 in Chennai (then Madras), which is why it has '65' in its name!
Chili chicken is an Indo-Chinese dish, in which the batter-fried chicken is coated in a sauce made with Asian ingredients such as soy sauce, chili sauce, etc. Chicken 65 is also a batter-fried chicken, but the sauce used for the tempering is different - it is made with curry leaves, garlic, red chili powder, and vinegar.
Popular Indian Chicken Recipes
Chicken 65 Recipe
- 500 grams boneless chicken thighs or use chicken breast pieces
For the marinade
For the batter
- 3-4 tbsp rice flour
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
For the tempering
- 1 spring curry leaves around 10 leaves
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- ½ tbsp vinegar use regular table vinegar
- ½ tbsp Kashmiri Chili Powder
- ½ tbsp sugar
- Mix all the marinade ingredients with the chicken pieces, in a large mixing bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.
- After two hours, take out the bowl. Add the rice powder and cornstarch slowly, mixing the pieces well, as you add the flours. The batter should be thick, and coat the chicken pieces evenly.
- Heat oil in a frying pan or wok or Dutch oven – the oil should be at least two inches in depth. Once the oil is hot, test it by adding a drop of batter. The batter should bubble and come up to the surface. This indicates it is hot enough for deep frying.
- Add the chicken pieces one by one. Fry in batches, and do not over-crowd the oil.
- After the chicken pieces are deep fried, keep them aside on kitchen paper to drain the excess oil.
- In a separate skillet or frying pan, add a tablespoon of vegetable oil and add the garlic and curry leaves. Heat for a minute, until curry leaves are fragrant.
- Then add the Kashmiri chili powder and sauté for a minute more. The Kashmiri chili powder will become deep red in color. Turn off the heat.
- Add the vinegar and sugar and mix well to combine. Take the skillet off the heat.
- Add the batter fried chicken pieces. Toss them well in the tempering in the skillet, until the pieces are well coated with the tempering.
- Chicken 65 is ready to be served as an appetizer or main.
Do not overcrowd the wok while deep frying. Make sure you are frying the chicken pieces in batches, to avoid overcrowding.
Use Kashmiri Chili powder for the tempering. Paprika is a close substitute.