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Best Homemade Chicken 65

Chicken 65 is a spicy, crispy fried chicken recipe from South India. It’s loaded with intense flavors of ginger, garlic, curry leaves, cumin, and chilies.

overhead shot of a plate of chicken 65

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To make it, you marinate chicken pieces, dredge them in cornstarch and rice flour, deep fry or air fry them to a crispy golden brown, and then toss them in an irresistibly spicy sauce.

I’m a sucker for crunchy chicken bathed in spicy sauce. I just can’t get enough of the play of textures and flavors. This spicy chicken is marinated in yogurt and Indian spices, tenderizing and flavoring the meat.

Cornstarch and rice flour give it a coating of starch to help it brown and crisp up in the air fryer or deep fryer. Air frying or deep frying the chicken gives it a crispy, crunchy exterior. The inside stays tender and juicy.

The sauce is a punchy mix of garlic, ginger, chiles, and cumin.

Whether you choose to deep fry or air fry Chicken 65, it’s a dish that will surprise you with its intense flavor and you’ll crave it again and again.

I love Air Fryer Chicken 65 because it’s easy to cook, there’s less to clean up, and the chicken pieces turn out nice and crisp without using a lot of oil. But traditionally deep-fried Chicken 65 has a super satisfying crunch. Either way, the flavors are intense and totally habit forming.

low angle shot of chicken 65 on a plate with sliced onions and rice on the side

What is Chicken 65?

Chicken 65 has become a classic of Indian cuisine, though it was only It was created in 1965. It was the invention of chefs at the Hotel Buhari in the city of Chennai in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. To this day, this delicious chicken dish is a popular South Indian appetizer or main dish.

There are lots of theories and myths about how Chicken 65 got its name—that the marinade takes 65 days to prepare, that the chicken is cut into 65 pieces, that it was listed on the Buhari Hotel’s menu as #65 and non-Tamil-speaking customers would simply order it as “Chicken 65,” or that the recipe uses 65 different chiles are just a few of them.

But it seems like the simplest answer is most likely the truth—the dish was first created in 1965.

overhead shot of the ingredients needed to make chicken 65

What ingredients do you need?

It may at first glance look like a lot of ingredients in this dish, but most are common pantry items. If you don’t have ginger garlic paste, you can substitute half minced fresh ginger and half minced fresh garlic. Rice flour is easy to find in Asian markets or online. Curry leaves are also available in Asian markets or can be ordered online.

  • Chicken (use boneless skinless chicken thigh or chicken breast)
  • Cornstarch (corn flour)
  • Rice flour
  • Yogurt
  • Chile paste or red chili sauce
  • Ginger garlic paste
  • Curry leaves
  • Black pepper
  • Salt
  • Cooking oil
  • Dried hot red chiles, red chili flakes or substitute Kashmiri chili powder or any red chilli powder
  • Egg white
  • Cumin seeds
  • Sugar (optional)
  • Red food color (optional)

Why do you use both cornstarch and rice flour?

I like to use a combination of rice flour and cornstarch because they react differently to heat. Cornstarch thickens sauces really well and also browns nicely when deep frying or air frying. Rice flour will make a crunchier coating after air frying or deep frying. So by combining the two, you get the best of both worlds.

You can buy rice flour in many supermarkets (usually shelved near the wheat flour and cornstarch, but you might find it in an Asian foods or international foods aisle), in Asian grocery stores, or online.

Be sure to buy white rice flour, not brown rice flour or glutinous rice or sweet rice flour.

How does it get its bright red color?

You may have seen this bright red fried chicken dish and wondered what it was or how it gets its red color. The red color actually comes from food coloring. You can use liquid, gel, or paste food coloring.

For a more natural approach to coloring, you can try beet powder or natural food colorings that you can find in health food stores. The color likely won’t be as bright, though.

The coloring is optional, but it does give the dish a distinctive look that calls to mind the original recipe of chicken 65.

How do you make Chicken 65?

  1. Combine the marinade ingredients (yogurt and seasonings), add the chicken, cover, and refrigerate to marinate the chicken for 30 to 60 minutes.
  2. Add the cornstarch and rice flour to the bowl with the chicken and marinade and stir to mix it in well.
  3. To cook in the air fryer, preheat the Preheat the air fryer and brush the basket with oil. Arrange the marinated chicken pieces in the air fryer basket in a single layer and then spritz or brush with oil. Cook until golden brown on one side, flip and cook until golden brown on the other side. You will likely have to cook in 2 or 3 batches to avoid crowding the chicken.
  4. To cook in a deep fryer, heat oil in a high-sided pot filled (the oil should be about 3 inches deep) oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Drop the coated chicken pieces into the oil and fry, turning occasionally, until golden brown on all sides. Cook in batches to avoid crowding the pot. Transfer the cooked chicken to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
  5. To make the sauce, heat a bit of oil in a skillet and add the cumin seeds, ginger, and garlic and stir for about 30 seconds until it becomes aromatic. Add the curry leaves and dried chiles and cook, stirring, about 30 seconds more.
  6. In a small bowl, stir together yogurt, cornstarch, chile paste, salt, pepper, sugar, if using, and food coloring if using. Stir this mixture into the mixture in the skillet and cook just until the sauce bubbles and thickens, about 30 seconds more.
  7. Add the fried pieces of chicken and toss them with the sauce to coat well.
  8. Serve hot.
close up low angle shot of the dish

Tips for Success

  • For the best flavor, use boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into about 1 ½- to 2-inch pieces. You can use chicken breasts, but the meat will be drier and less flavorful.
  • Since the marinade has yogurt in it, which breaks down and tenderizes the chicken, you don’t want to marinate the chicken for too long. If you do, it may become mushy. Marinate the chicken for no longer than 60 minutes.
  • If you don’t have dried red chilies you can substitute a red chili powder. Use as much or as little as you like to make the dish to your preferred level of spiciness.
  • You can store leftover Chicken 65 in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. You can also freeze it for up to 3 months.
  • To make the dish ahead of time, refrigerate or freeze the cooked chicken and cooked sauce separately. To serve, place the frozen chicken pieces in a preheated 400-degree oven and heat for about 15 minutes, until they are heated through and crispy on the outside. Thaw the sauce in the microwave or a saucepan over low heat and then toss with the chicken pieces.

What do you serve with it?

Serve Chicken 65 hot with lime or lemon wedges, sliced red onions, rice, or a cooling Cilantro Yogurt Chutney or a cooling Cucumber Raita (here’s a great list of 10 raita recipes)!

I love to make a big Indian meal for company, including homemade naan, raita, rice, and other dishes like Palak Paneer, Instant Pot Biryani, or Tandoori Chicken.

low angle shot of the dish with a fork

More great chicken recipes you’ll love

Yield: Serves 4

Chicken 65

Chicken 65

This dish was first introduced in 1965 by the Buhari Hotel, which is where the name comes from. The spicy marinated boneless chicken pieces are fried and tossed in a flavorful and spicy sauce. The hero ingredient in this recipe is the curry leaves, which give it a unique flavor. You can go the traditional route and deep fry it, or you can cook it in the Air fryer without compromising on its taste. Serve this as a starter or enjoy it as a side dish with your favorite rice.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Additional Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes

Ingredients

For the chicken

  • 3 tablespoons rice flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons yogurt
  • 1 sprig curry leaves, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons chili paste
  • 1 egg white (optional)
  • Few drops red food coloring (optional)
  • 1 pound boneless chicken thighs or chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces

For the sauce

  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil
  • 1 ½ teaspoons whole cumin seeds
  • 2 sprigs curry leaves
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 dried red chilies, crushed or sliced
  • 3 tablespoons yogurt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon chili paste
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon sugar (optional)

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, mix together the rice flour, cornstarch, yogurt, curry leaves, ginger, garlic, salt, pepper, chili paste, egg white, and food coloring, if using. Mix well. Add the chicken and toss to coat well. Cover and refrigerate for 45 to 60 minutes.
  2. To air fry: Preheat the air fryer for 5 minutes at 350º F. Brush the basket with little oil and arrange the chicken pieces in the basket in a single layer (cook in batches if needed to avoid crowding the
    basket). Brush or spritz some oil on the top of the chicken pieces. Cook for 7 minutes, flip over and cook for 5 to 7 minutes more, until the chicken is golden brown and crisp.
  3. To deep fry:  Heat about 3 inches of cooking oil in a wide, deep pot until it shimmers. Add the chicken pieces (cook in batches to avoid crowding the pot) and cook, turning once, for about 7 minutes, until the chicken is golden brown and cooked through. Transfer the cooked chicken to a paper towel-lined plate.
  4. Add ½ teaspoon cornstarch in yogurt, mix, and set aside.
  5. While the chicken is cooking, make the sauce. In a small bowl, stir together the 3 tablespoons of yogurt, 1 ½ teaspoons of cornstarch, chile paste, salt, pepper, and sugar, if using.
  6. Heat the tablespoon of oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the cumin seeds and garlic and cook, stirring, for about 20 seconds. Add the curry leaves and dried chiles and cook for about 30 to 40 seconds longer.  it for a few seconds. Next add curry leaves and dried red chilies and cook for another 30 seconds or so. Stir in the yogurt mixture and cook another minute or so to heat through.
  7. Add the chicken to the skillet and toss to coat well in the sauce.
  8. Serve hot.

Nutrition Information

Yield

4

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 373Total Fat 14gSaturated Fat 4gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 10gCholesterol 165mgSodium 1098mgCarbohydrates 22gFiber 1gSugar 7gProtein 40g

Nutrient values are estimates only. Variations may occur due to product availability and manner of food preparation. Nutrition may vary based on methods of preparation, origin, freshness of ingredients, and other factors.

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By on September 27th, 2021

About Robin Donovan


Hi, I’m Robin! I am a full-time food blogger, recipe developer, and cookbook author. I spend my days cooking, writing about, and photographing food.

I’m the author of more than 40 cookbooks, including Ramen for Beginners, 5 Ingredient Cooking for Two, Sushi at Home, The Baking Cookbook for Teens, and the bestselling Campfire Cuisine.

My food writing has also been featured in major print and online pubications including Cooking Light, Fitness, San Jose Mercury News, San Francisco Chronicle, and other popular publications.

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