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Chicken In Creamy Coconut Milk And Spices- Kerala Kozhy Ishtu

“I love love love this! No Kerala meal is  complete   without  Appam and  Stew !” N exclaimed.  I wanted  to  disagree,  but  her  excitement  was so genuine that I didn’t  have the  heart.    I can  list  a few  other  Kerala meals  that  could  equal or  rival this, but  I get  it.  Lacy appams  and  creamy stew  are  always a  winning  combination !

Kerla Style Chicken Ishtu or Stew

I have  talked  about Appam  and  the  Potato Ishtu  earlier . It  may be  one  of  the  few  meals that   everyone in the house  sits  down to  eat  without  any complaints !   While  the  vegetable  stew  was  is so popular here many of  my friends  prefer  the   meatier  cousin – Chicken Ishtu.  Just like the potato Ishtu  it is creamy and   fragrant, but  with  some added  protein.

Appam   is  the  perfect  side  to  scoop up the   very many spicy and   non spicy  curries.  Varutharacha  chicken currychole ,  peas curry ,  and  beef  fry  all being  popular  ones.  But  the  creamy Ishtus  are  extra  special –  whether  made  with   vegetables  or  meat.

Ishtu  is a   classic  Kerala  dish –  homes style , mildly  fragrant, light   and utterly delightful.  “Utterly delightful” , really ??  Agreed  the  descriptors need a  bit of  work, but once  you taste it you will agree.   This is  one  of those  dishes   that  look  very  unassuming ,  and  makes you rethink    Indian  food.   No elaborate spices,  no  diary –  just  light  refreshing  flavors.

Keral Style Chicken Ishtu or Stew

Though this  can  be made  with  red  meat , I prefer  to use  chicken.  The  milder flavors  of  the  chicken  works  better  as   does  the   white  meat.  I have  to   confess, I am  a  little  partial to  the   white  color of  the  stew.

For  ages  I  thought  that there was only one  version of Ishtu – the  vegetarian  version ,  white, creamy and  made with just potatoes.   It is  still my favorite, but  now  a  days I add  peas , carrots  and  sometimes  beans  as  a  way of  sneaking in  more  veggies  to the  diet.   The  non veg  version  of  the  stew  was  something   I was  introduced to much later ! Thank god for friends ! Kerala Style Chicken Stew -Ishtu

This is not an elaborate dish.   There is  no powdering of spices or making spice paste business  here.  The  vegetables  and the  meat  is  cut to size and simmered in light coconut milk until done ! Everything stays soft and tender – no caramelization , no sauteing …

I am not  sure   where I had  it  first – probably at a   friend’s  house.  It is   an   eye  opening  experience  to see  that  some  of  the  things  that  you  grew  up with had  an  entirely different   version in your  friend’s  home.

Pardon me, I digress .

Chicken  stew follows  the  same  recipe as  the  potato   stew .  There is  coconut,  whole  spices  and  curry leaves , onions  and  garlic. There is  no powdering of  spices or making elaborate pastes  and   marinades.    You could  throw  everything  together into the  pressure  cooker   with a  little  water  and  salt.  Cook  following  the  directions  for  chicken ( In  the  standard  stove top –  1  whistle  for boneless  chicken  or 2  for  with  bones). Let  the  pressure  release naturally.   Open  and  adjust  salt  and  add  enough   coconut  cream (thick coconut milk). Simmer  for a  few  mins  and  serve !

Kerala Style Chicken Stew - Ishtu

With bone in chicken it could look a little more creamier and yellowish. As I mentioned above I am a little partial to the white color and  often  makes  it  with  boneless  chicken  breasts.  The  bone in   version  on the  other hand is definitely more  creamier  and  flavorful,  though   the  stew has  a  slight yellow color.

Using  fresh  coconut  milk adds  more  flavor  to the  dish , but  canned  milk or powdered  milk  works  well too.

Kerala Style Chicken Stew - Ishtu

Kozhy Ishtu

By Syama
A creamy chicken dish with coconut milk and spices.  The  flavors  are mild  and  aromatic .  For a  spicier   version , increase  the number of  green  chilies, but  we  prefer it  mild. 
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Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Course Breakfast
Cuisine Indian


  • 1/2 Kg Chicken Skinless
  • 1 Onion Medium White
  • 1- 2 Green chilly To Taste
  • 1/2 Inch Ginger
  • 1 - 2 Garlic Cloves
  • 1 Potato Medium
  • 2 Inch Cinnamon
  • 4 Green Cardamom
  • 4 Cloves
  • 1/2 Tsp Whole Pepper Crushed
  • 1/4 Tsp Fennel seeds Optional
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 1 Cup Thin Coconut milk See Notes
  • 1/2 Cup Thick coconut milk See Notes
  • Salt To Taste
  • 1 -2 Sprigs Curry leaves
  • 2 Tbsp Coconut Oil


  • 1/4 Cup Diced Carrots
  • 1/4 C Peas



  • Chop the onions into thin slices. Slit the green chilies For more heat else leave whole. Thinly slice or finely chop the ginger and garlic. Peel and dice the potato into 1 inch cubes.
  • Cut the chicken into 2 " size pieces .

Stove top

  • Heat oil in a pan and add the whole spices. Keep the heat at medium. As the aroma fills the air add the onions along with garlic, ginger and green chilies and curry leaves. Sprinkle 1/2 Tsp salt and cook till the onions soften.
  • Add the potatoes and chicken along with thin coconut milk. Add enough water to barely cover the chicken. Increase heat and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over low to medium heat till done (20 to 30 minutes). Half way through cooking check if the water is drying out. If needed add more water.

Pressure Cooker

  • Add 2 Tbsp oil . When the oil is warm enough add the whole spices. Heat for 30 seconds and add onions, ginger, garlic, 1/2 Tsp salt, chilies, chicken , potatoes and thin coconut milk in that order.
  • Place the lid on.
  • In electric pressure cooker set to manual mode and cook at high pressure for 5 minutes
  • For traditional stove top models cook till 1 whistle.
  • Release the pressure naturally.

Season and Serve

  • Open the lid stir the stew , taste and adjust salt. Sprinkle the crushed black pepper on top and add the thick coconut milk. Mix well , bring to a simmer and turn off the heat. Serve!


  • Add 1 to 2 Tbsp of coconut cream from the can to 1 C warm water and mix to make 1 C thin Coconut milk.
  • For thick Coconut milk use the full fat can version or just dilute the
    cream with enough water to make a thick paste.

Important: Nutrition Values are estimates. Actuals vary based on ingredients and serving size.

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Kerala Chicken Ishtu or StewDo you have a  preferred  version of  Ishtu ?

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Recipe Rating


Monday 7th of May 2018

Looks delicious, will definitely give this a recipe a shot, thanks.


Tuesday 8th of May 2018

Awesome ! Hope you like it .