Chicken 65 Gravy: What’s in that Amazing Sauce?

If you prefer a saucier finish, Chicken 65 can be more than just fried chicken. Cooked into a unique spicy gravy it becomes a very different dish.

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What is Chicken 65?

Chicken 65 is India’s version of Southern fried chicken, Korean fried chicken or Japan’s karaage chicken.

Pieces of chicken are marinated in a mixture of Indian flavours and spices, then deep fried until crispy and golden. And some versions then cook it in a spicy sauce as well.

You can learn more about the history of the dish on my ultimate guide to Chicken 65.

Before we jump into it though, a word on terminology.

Indian gravy

When you read the word gravy, your mind probably jumped to a traditional brown gravy made from flour, meat drippings or stock, etc. But like so many words, gravy has a different meaning in Indian cuisine.

An Indian gravy is still a sauce, but it’s not poured over meat. Instead, it’s the sauce base of a dish. If you think of a dish like butter chicken, the gravy is the red sauce. Here’s a great overview on Indian gravies if you want to learn more (including the different types – white, red, green and more).

Chicken 65 with gravy

A typical Chicken 65 and gravy recipe brings three components together:

  • Crispy fried Chicken 65 pieces.
  • A tadka (spices tempered in oil).
  • A spicy (and often creamy) sauce.
Closeup of a white plate full of bright red dry Chicken 65, garnished with onion slices and cilantro.

Making your Chicken 65

Whether you’re making a simple snack, or a more complete dish with a sauce, the foundation of Chicken 65 is the same:

  1. Prepare a masala of red chili powder, turmeric, garlic, ginger and possibly more.
  2. Mix your masala with plain yogurt or lemon juice, cornstarch (corn flour) and egg.
  3. Marinate chopped boneless chicken thigh pieces in the mixture for at least an hour.
  4. Deep fry the chicken until crispy and cooked through.

While the ingredients above are the most popular, some authors add other flavours to their masala. If you’re interested you can read more detail on making dry Chicken 65 (without tadka or sauce).

Closeup of a tadka of onion, garlic and green chilies being fried and stirred with a large ladle.

Chicken 65 tadka

A typical Chicken 65 gravy is essentially a tadka with the addition of a few ingredients.

If you haven’t come across the term before, tadka is fat infused with spices and aromatics. Typically it’s created by sauteing the spices and other ingredients in ghee (clarified butter) or oil. The result is a deliciously flavoured liquid that can be used to enhance a dish, or garnish it at the end.

The tadka for Chicken 65 usually includes:

  • Fresh green chili peppers, either sliced or at least cut open.
  • Curry leaves. More on these in a moment.
  • Fresh garlic.

Curry leaves are a unique ingredient that aren’t easily substituted. Belonging to the same family as citrus trees, the flavour of curry leaves is difficult to describe. Words like citrusy, nutty, aniseed and bitter are often used, but the mix is hard to pin down.

Fortunately they’re easier to find for sale than they used to be, especially dried. And if you can find them, they’re worth the effort for an authentic and more flavoursome Chicken 65.

You can actually skip the next step, and simply toss your fried chicken in the tadka. Check out my post on Chicken 65 with a tadka if you’re interested in this approach.

What’s in a Chicken 65 gravy?

Once the tadka is done, more ingredients are added to make a thicker saucy coating for the chicken. Based on the recipes I reviewed, there are a number of popular choices:

  • Most authors include some red chili powder, often Kashmiri.
  • More than half of the recipes are made creamy with the addition of an acidic dairy product, either curd, buttermilk or more commonly plain or Greek yogurt.
  • Cumin, mustard seed and/or garam masala are also commonly added.
  • A few authors include a touch of tomato, either as tomato paste or ketchup.
  • Some add a bit of lemon juice for additional tartness.
  • Red food colouring. A number propose this optional addition to help emulate the vivid red colour of the dish as seen in restaurants.
Closeup of a white plate loaded with sticky Chicken 65 in gravy.

Making Chicken 65 gravy

As I mentioned above, your Chicken 65 gravy is made from a tadka, with the addition of liquid and other flavour ingredients to build it into more of a sauce.

  1. Saute your tadka ingredients briefly in hot oil until they’re aromatic.
  2. Add the additional sauce ingredients, and cook until they’re well combined and heated through.
  3. Add your freshly fried Chicken 65 pieces and toss well in the sauce. Then cook it until most of the moisture evaporates.

Because it’s mainly eaten as a snack or appetizer, simply garnish the dish with lemon wedges, sliced onions and cilantro (fresh coriander) leaves, and you’re ready to serve.

Chicken 65 recipes

If you’re keen to try making a batch, you can find all the recipes I reviewed on my Chicken 65 Pinterest board.

I’ve also picked out a couple of my favourites (with gravy) on my Chicken 65 recipes page.

Chicken 65 gravy frequently asked questions

What’s an Indian gravy?

Indian gravy is the sauce base of a dish (like the red sauce for butter chicken), not a pourable dripping or stock-based sauce like traditional brown gravy.

What’s a gravy for Chicken 65 like?

Rather than a saucy gravy, the gravy on Chicken 65 is usually cooked down to create a thick, sticky coating on the fried chicken.

What’s in a Chicken 65 gravy?

Green chili peppers, curry leaves, fresh garlic, ground red chili, plain yogurt or curd, and spices (especially cumin, mustard seed and garam masala) are the most popular ingredients.

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