Ayam Panggang Kunyit (Grilled Turmeric Chicken)

Ayam Panggang Kunyit (Grilled Turmeric Chicken)

A long long time ago, the European and the Arabs used to call the Malay Archipelago the fabled Spice Islands. In fact, Portuguese apothecary Tome Pires who was in Malacca between 1512 to 1515 said, “Whoever is the lord of Malacca has his hand on the throat of Venice!” Such was the allure of the spices from Malaysia. Surely the early European visitors must have noted with wonder as they saw locals marinating meat with an abundance of spices to be grilled over open fires.

The Malays are very adept at marinating meats and fish with spices. The most renowned is of course satay (grilled spiced skewered meat) but other equally delicious dishes include ayam percik (grilled chicken slathered with spices) and ayam golek (grilled chicken rolled in spices), all liberally marinated with spices like turmeric, lemongrass, ginger, galangal (lengkuas), cumin, coriander, and the likes. Fishes are normally slit and stuffed with spices. They are then clamped on split bamboo sticks or placed in a grill basket over wood or charcoal fires.

Ayam Panggang Kunyit (Grilled Turmeric Chicken)

This month’s theme for World on a Plate is GRILLING. This time I am sharing a dish from the Malay community in Malaysia. Ayam means chicken, panggang is grill, and kunyit is turmeric. This dish is often goreng or deep fried in which case it is called ayam goreng kunyit. This simple but tasty and aromatic dish is a favorite at a typical Malay rice stall.

Turmeric is a member of the ginger family with a central bulb and numerous short “fingers”. It has a brownish yellow skin and a bright yellow-orange flesh. Ground turmeric has an earthy scent, with hints of pepper and ginger. Fresh turmeric smells brighter and spicier. When working with fresh turmeric, do wear a pair of rubber gloves if you do not want to have yellow fingers.

Ayam Panggang Kunyit

I made two versions of this Ayam Panggang Kunyit, one using turmeric powder and the other fresh turmeric. Both can be purchased at the Asian grocery stores. Turmeric powder is very convenient and I always have a jar of it in my pantry at all times for flavoring curries, meats, fish, vegetables, and rice. Fresh turmeric is great and when I get a chance to buy them, I keep them frozen. Turmeric stains and so you want to be careful not to get them on your clothes or dish towels.

Ayam Panggang Kunyit (Grilled Turmeric Chicken)
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 4 to 6 servings
  • 1 3½ lbs (1.6kg) chicken, cut into 10 to 12 pieces
  • 2 tsp turmeric powder or 4 knobs of fresh turmeric, ground or pounded into a paste
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • Canola oil
  1. Place chicken pieces into a large Ziploc bag. Add turmeric powder (or ground turmeric paste), salt, and pepper. Press out as much air as possible from the bag before sealing. Mix everything well by kneading the bag to make sure chicken pieces are well coated with spices. Place in the refrigerator and allow it to marinate for at least an hour.
  2. Pre-heat an outdoor grill to medium heat, about 250°F to 300°F (120°C to 150°C). Brush the hot grates of the grill with a little oil. Arrange the chicken pieces on the preheated grill. Brush the tops of chicken pieces with oil. Allow it to cook for about 20 minutes, turning once mid-way. Increase heat slightly to brown meat, turning whenever necessary. This will take another 5 minutes.
  3. Remove and serve immediately.
To cook chicken in the oven, arrange chicken pieces onto a baking tray. Roast chicken in a pre-heated 375°F (190°C) oven for approximately 1 hour 15 mins.

Ayam Panggang Kunyit (Grilled Turmeric Chicken)

The Ayam Panggang Kunyit below is marinated with freshly pounded turmeric and roasted in the oven. I prefer to pound the fresh turmeric in a stone mortar and pestle and not grind it in my Kitchenaid food processor as it does stain the container. My sons call this dish “yellow chicken”. :)

Ayam Panggang Kunyit (Grilled Turmeric Chicken)

Enjoy…..and have a wonderful day! 😎

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    • Biren says

      Hi Anna! Nice to meet you and welcome to World on a Plate. Good to have you join us. I like turmeric and use it every now and then in my cooking. I hope you will give this a try. :)

  1. says

    Ayam panggang is just music to my ears….this looks really good (I think I should get a grill too to make this!). By the way, what’s the sauce in the bowl? Looks delish!

    • Biren says

      This chicken is so easy to prepare yet it is so tasty. I don’t make it often enough. :) The sauce in the bowl is a quick version satay sauce made with peanut butter.

  2. says

    Awesome! I love turmeric powder and as you said its a staple in South Asian homes. We make a similar version of grilled chicken. Grilling sounds easy to me as most recipes called for less than 5-8 ingrdients. I love yours too as this needs just 2 main ingredients. Hope you are having a great time for the long weekend Biren.

    • Biren says

      I always have a jar of turmeric in my pantry. I like the taste and also the natural coloring. Yes, this dish is so simple yet so tasty. I need to make it more often. :)

  3. says

    I love these tumeric chicken, so flavorful and delicious, one piece is not enough! I think your grilled version looks nicer, more burnt parts, which I love:D

    • Biren says

      For sure one piece is not enough. So simple, yet so flavorful. My hubby did a great job grilling it. I just marinade the chicken and then watch him do the grilling and take pictures. 😀

  4. says

    Wah! Wah! Wah! Sedapnya!! Mana acar sama sambal belacan? hee hee hee! Oh boy! If hubs sees this, you know what I will have to cook for dinner! I love kunyit because it makes foods golden, crisp, neutralises unpleasant odors in food and is one of nature’s wonder foods! And I actually love the flavour of turmeric, though some find it a bit astringent and bitter. This looks scrumpelicious!

    • Biren says

      Would love to have the acar but it is a lot of work. Maybe I should try your quick version. 😉 Kunyit is the best. Sometimes I use it in place of saffron.

  5. says

    Wow.. what a fantastic chicken dish! I have never used fresh turmeric! I also have never just used turmeric to season something (other than my lentils). Well done! Hope you are having a wonderful day! ~Ramona

    • Biren says

      Fresh turmeric has a brighter taste. You should give it a try one of these days. In Malaysia, turmeric is used to marinate all kinds of meats, seafood, and vegetables. Love the taste. :)

  6. says

    Biren, I can smell the Kunyit from here. Lol! I love adding this when making chicken & fish, it really gives the dish a aromatic scent. I want to eat now! Looks soooooo good! Hahaha!

    • Biren says

      I don’t blame you as turmeric is really good with chicken and fish. I always have ground turmeric in my pantry. :)

    • Biren says

      Try looking for fresh turmeric at the Asian market. It is usually placed next to ginger. They are usually sold in bulk or pre-packaged.

  7. says

    I’m trying to add a lot more turmeric to my diet because of its anti-inflammatory properties so I thank you for this wonderful recipe! We’re deep into grilling season so this is perfect!

  8. says

    Turmeric powder…this is one of the must-have spices in any Asian kitchen. It can last for ages and it tastes as good as ever if kept in an airtight jar. I’ve used fresh turmeric recently in making my laksa paste 😀 The yellow colour is amazing and coupled with the health benefits, this spice is a keeper! Your ayam panggang kunyit looks DELISH. BTW, is that peanut sauce in the bowl?

  9. says

    Yum, I love this dish, especially with nasi kunyit or nasi lemak! Love that you got to get hold of fresh turmeric, so would you say there was much of a difference between using fresh vs dried? Also, I recently had to wear rubber gloves too in cooking haha, but that was because I was cooking stinging nettles!

  10. says

    I use dried tumeric all the time, but have never seen the actual plant. Sounds like it’s fun to use – although somewhat messy, as you point out. And grilled chicken is always great – grilled with tumeric, it’s gotta be better! Thanks for this.

  11. says

    That looks really flavorful and yummy, Biren! I have never heard of turmeric chicken, but I want to try your recipe… We get fresh turmeric only in some stores and it is sometimes hard to find… I think I will try it with turmeric powder first… Thanks for sharing :)

  12. says

    It was so very interesting to learn a little bit about Malaysian way of grilling. Yor chicken looks so well cooked and perfectly browned!

  13. says

    Wooo, the end results of grill and oven are so different! Of course, grilled is better but for one without a grill (me!), I have to make do with oven-roasted. Also fresh turmeric and powder-form should also be different but guess I have to make do with the latter as well :(

  14. says

    So glad to see thism I have been wanting more dishes to try fresh turmeric in. I was first able to find fresh turmeric in Grand Rapidsm Michigan when I was home visiting my parents. I was thrilled all the stuff they could find in this store near her house. I brought some homw and planted it in my yard and some in a pot. I got a new harvest so I was able to keep up the supply. I have planted more of it and it is looking pretty good. Funny the turmeric planted in the yard came up befoer the potted one did. I hope to use the leaves this summer.

  15. LynnS says

    Hi, I found your blog when I was doing a Google search for a turmeric marinade recipe. I can’t get fresh turmeric in my hometown so I made do with powder. All I can say is wow! The chicken was so juicy and delicious and a lovely yellow colour – such an easy recipe too. I made the dish for my niece and she’s threatening to move in with me!

    I look forward to trying out more of your recipes.

    • Biren says

      Hi Lynn! Thank you for your lovely comment. It put a smile on my face. I am glad to hear that both you and your niece enjoyed the recipe. It is a favorite of ours as well. Please do continue to visit and I hope you find more recipes to try. :)


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