Coconut chicken curry is one of my all time favorite comfort foods, especially this version: Malaysian-ish coconut curry chicken. The saucy, coconutty curry sauce spooned onto rice is so, so good.

I grew up eating chicken curry. It was my family’s all time favorite dish and we would make it at least once a week, sometimes eating it two days in a row and no one would ever complain. So, of course I had to develop my own version, right?

This is my ultimate chicken curry: flavorful and savory, with a hint of spice and a coconutty base; tender, large, juicy pieces of chicken; soft and tender potatoes that still hold their shape; and a sauce thick enough to coat a spoon but not so thick that it doesn’t flow over rice easily.

coconut chicken curry | www.iamafoodblog.com

This chicken curry recipe is the best of all worlds

This curry is a mix of Malaysian, Singaporean, and Indonesian styles. It’s thickened with coconut milk, seasoned with fish sauce, and scented with lemongrass, star anise, and cinnamon. It’s a flavor bomb of savory with just a hint of sweet and spice.

It’s 100% a labor of love: hand pounded aromatics, a custom mix of spices, and a slow gentle simmer, long enough for the oils to separate out and float on top for those glorious pools of seasoned oil on top of the saucy yet thick coconut curry sauce.

The sign of a good curry

Those pools of oil on top are a sign of a really good curry, by the way, if you’re asking Malaysians or Singaporeans or Thai or Indians or anyone who knows curries.

You want your coconut milk and spices to split into two: a flavorful infused oil and a rich, dense, coconut base. When your curry splits, it means that all of the excess water that was in the coconut milk has evaporated and your curry is now concentrated, leaving only the flavorful good stuff.

chicken curry recipe | www.iamafoodblog.com

Is this chicken curry spicy?

A good chicken curry is adaptable – you should be able to make it spicier if you’re a spice fiend, and slightly milder and sweeter if you’re looking for a comforting easy curry. If you don’t want it spicy, leaving out the fresh and dried chilies will make this a family friendly affair.

How to make coconut chicken curry

  1. Make the curry paste. Crush all lemongrass, garlic, shallots, ginger, and Thai chilis together with a mortar and pestle. You can use a food processor too. Stir in the curry powder, turmeric, chili flakes, and a bit of oil.
  2. Marinate. Let the chicken absorb ALL the flavors. Longer is better, but at least 30 minutes.
  3. Sear. Give the chicken skin a nice golden sear. This also fries the curry paste a bit to bring out the flavors.
  4. Simmer. Simmer everything together until the chicken is juicy and cooked through and the potatoes are nice and tender, about 1 hour.

chicken curry | www.iamafoodblog.com

Instant pot chicken curry

To make chicken curry in the instant pot instead: After the chicken has been marinated, heat up 2 tablespoons of oil in the Instant Pot insert over saute high. When the oil is hot, sear the chicken, skin side down, until golden. Flip the chicken skin side up and add the coconut milk, chicken stock, cinnamon stick, star anise, and lime leaves. Cook on high pressure for 10 minutes. Quick release when the cooking time is done and reduce the liquid on sauté high if desired.

Crockpot chicken curry

To make chicken curry in a crockpot instead: After the chicken has been marinated, heat up 2 tablespoons of oil in a frying pan. When the oil is hot, sear the chicken, skin side down, until golden. Remove the chicken from the pan and add to the slow cooker. Stir in the coconut milk, chicken stock, cinnamon stick, star anise, and lime leaves. Cook on low for for 4 to 5 hours.

Curry powder

If you’re feeling ambitious, you can make your own curry powder at home. You’ll need:

  • 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon whole black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon crushed Chinese chili flakes
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 2 inches cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
  • 1-2 whole cardamom pods
  • 5-6 dried Chinese chilis
  • 3 tablespoons ground turmeric

Toast all of the spices minus the turmeric in a dry pan over low heat, stirring occasionally until fragrant. Let cool completely then grind in to a powder. Stir in the turmeric. If you can find dried curry leaves, add to the mix when you’re grinding everything into a powder.

chicken curry ingredients | www.iamafoodblog.com

Chicken curry ingredients

It looks like you need a lot for this chicken curry, and I’m not going to lie, the ingredient list is on the longer side, but it’s well worth the shopping and time investment. Along with the standard chicken, potatoes, garlic, ginger, coconut milk, and chicken stock, you’re going to need the following:

  • Lemongrass – These days you can find lemongrass paste at the grocery store, but the flavor difference between chopping your own and store bought is intensely different. It’s better to stick with fresh lemongrass: just pull out your favorite knife and go to town.
  • Shallots – Shallots are going to add a bit of extra sweetness and onion flavor without onions. They’re sweet and mild and used extensively in Southeast Asian food.
  • Curry Powder – Try to buy a Malaysian curry powder mix from an Asian grocery store but if you can’t, regular curry powder will do.
  • Turmeric – A bit of turmeric goes a long way. It’s healthy, earthy, and adds a sunny orange hue to the curry. Turmeric is an absolute must for curry.
  • Cinnamon stick – A whole cinnamon stick adds a bit of warmth and a bit of sweetness.
  • Star anise – Use whole star anise when you’re simmering the curry, the slight licorice bitterness really compliments all the other flavors.
  • Fish sauce – Instead of salt, we’re going to be using fish sauce to season. It’s rich and full of umami and really enhances the chicken flavors.

Optional

  • Thai chilis – These little red peppers pack a punch. I love adding fresh chilis to curry because it brings the heat, but if you’re head adverse, you can leave these out or seed them.
  • Crushed Chinese chili flakes – Really you can use any crushed chili flakes, but Chinese crushed chili flakes have less seeds and are toasted in such a way that the smokiness and pepper flavor really shines through.
  • Lime leaves – These are optional because I know how difficult it can be to find fresh lime leaves. If you do find them, they will add a light citrus freshness.

chicken curry with roti | www.iamafoodblog.com

What to serve with chicken curry

Sometimes I like to have some lime on the side to squeeze some freshness on and serving up cucumbers with this is a pro move, the fresh juicy crunchiness of a good cucumber plays nice with the spice.

I hope you give this curry chicken a try. It’s near and dear to my heart.

kari ayam and roti prata forever!
xoxo steph

chicken curry recipe | www.iamafoodblog.com

Coconut Chicken Curry

Slightly spicy, coconutty and comforting Malaysian curry chicken.
Serves 4
5 from 6 votes
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Total Time 1 hr 30 mins

Ingredients

Curry Paste

  • 2 stalks lemongrass sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 shallots peeled and chopped
  • 1 tbsp ginger minced
  • 2 tbsp curry powder Malaysian/SE Asian preferred
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes Chinese preferred
  • 1 Thai bird’s eye chili sliced, optional (or more, you monster)
  • 2 tbsp oil

For the Curry

  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 8 chicken thighs bone-in, skin-on
  • 3-4 potatoes small, peeled and quartered
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 star anise pods
  • 5 lime leaves optional
  • 1.5 cups coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tsp brown sugar

Instructions

  • Crush lemongrass, garlic, shallots, ginger, and Thai chilis in a mortar and pestle (or a food processor but it'll be less tasty) until it resembles a paste. Stir in curry powder, turmeric, crushed chili flakes, and 2 tablespoons oil. Coat chicken throughly with the curry paste and let marinate for 30 minutes.
    marinating chicken for chicken curry | www.iamafoodblog.com
  • In a large dutch oven, heat up another 2 tablespoons of oil and fry the chicken, skin side down, until golden. Flip the chicken skin side up and add the potatoes. Stir in coconut milk, chicken stock, cinnamon stick, star anise, and lime leaves.
    curry chicken recipe | www.iamafoodblog.com
  • Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 1 hour, or until chicken is soft and tender. Season with fish sauce and brown sugar and enjoy!
    chicken curry | www.iamafoodblog.com

Estimated Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Coconut Chicken Curry
Amount Per Serving
Calories 809 Calories from Fat 504
% Daily Value*
Fat 56g86%
Saturated Fat 26.6g166%
Cholesterol 114mg38%
Sodium 569mg25%
Potassium 1369mg39%
Carbohydrates 42.1g14%
Fiber 7.5g31%
Sugar 6.9g8%
Protein 38.2g76%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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43 Comments

  1. Disa Rastogi says:

    This looks really great..going to give it a try.

  2. Andrew says:

    Replace Itadakimasu with SEDAP GILER.
    That’s what you’ll probaby hear in all the mamaks that dot Malaysia ;)

  3. I cannot wait to try this. Something warming and delicious that’s not soup – thank god!

  4. Eileen says:

    Looks delish! I’m loving all the malaysian recipes on your blog lately! Maybe malaysian fried chicken next?

    1. Ellie says:

      Yes please!

  5. Sophie says:

    Amazing! I can’t wait to try this! I’m vegetarian, how would you recommend cooking with aubergine?

  6. Jill says:

    Sounds delicious, but I think the instructions are missing when to add the potatoes.

    1. Stephanie says:

      hi jill,
      thanks for that! they get added when all the liquid is added. i updated the recipe :)

    2. Nicky says:

      Just before you add the coconut oil, it sYs to add the potato

  7. Jen says:

    Hi! What are the shallots for?

    1. Stephanie says:

      hi jen,
      thanks for catching that! they go in right at the beginning with the lemongrass to get crushed up for the chili paste mixture.

  8. C says:

    We usually cook the curry paste/spices until the oil splits off in order to maximise the aroma and flavour, just so you know. Then you can add in the santan and etc. I think a good English speaking cooking show that explained it was John Torode’s Malaysian Adventure.

  9. Miriam says:

    Are the instructions missing when to add the shallots?

    1. Stephanie says:

      hi miriam,
      the shallots go in the mixture (lemongrass, garlic, shallots, ginger, and Thai chilis) that is pounded with the motar and pestle at the beginning.

  10. Lynda says:

    Cannot wait to try this! Winter is coming and this recipe conjoured up memories of walking through the Penang markets many moons ago. Will report back, I’m a Malaysian food tragic and salivating as I type.

  11. Lynda says:

    Stephanie I said I’d report back. You’re to be congratulated for making an authentic curry easy! I have books full of wonderful recipes that require one to jump on a plane to find many of the ingredients.

    Your recipe is quick with easily accessible ingredients and is delicious. The lime is the hero for me. I had a little cauliflower I needed to use so threw that in at the very end and blanched some snow peas I also had to use (it’s Sunday, clean out the fridge night), and mopped it up with a store bought roti. I wish I had an authentic paratha, you can’t beat those.. Thank you, this recipe will make frequent appearances at my table.

    1. Stephanie says:

      hi lynda,
      thanks so much for taking the time to write and for making this!! so exciting that you loved it :)

  12. Lynda says:

    Ok so I’m about to make this delicious curry for the second time in a week and only have one lemongrass stalk. It seems the zest of one lemon with some rocket or baby spinach works as a substitute for lemongrass so I’ll be using spinach as I have that. Just thought I’d let people know in case they’re caught out like me. It’s short work for such an authentic result and well worth trying.

  13. Neha says:

    Hi! This looks great! Do you know what kind of curry powder can be used?

    1. Stephanie says:

      i neha, i just used a chinese malay curry powder, but any will do!

  14. Marta says:

    5 stars
    Delicious! Made it tonight for dinner with friends and the pan was practically licked clean! Thx for sharing :)

    1. Stephanie says:

      yay! so glad you guys had a good time :)

  15. Nicola says:

    I bought a Malaysian curry from a country fayre but find it quite bitter ? What would you recommend for me to add please ? Thanks for any advice !

    1. Stephanie says:

      hi nicola,
      i’m not sure if you are looking for ingredient suggestions (protein, vegetables) or suggestions on what to add to the paste (coconut milk, etc).

  16. Madhuka says:

    5 stars
    It was delicious. This would definitely be a frequent dish at my home. Thank you.

  17. Amanda says:

    5 stars
    I threw in some tomato’s at the same time as the potato. Didn’t marinate the chicken just fried the chicken spice paste together till it split. Great recipe had it with roti. Yum!

    1. Stephanie says:

      hi amanda,
      ooh tomatoes in there sound amazing! thanks for letting me know how it went :)

  18. Jill-Ann says:

    Curry comes not from India but from the British and people in India do eat beef openly and behind closed doors.

  19. Jules says:

    5 stars
    I made this last night, it was fantastic and I thought I’d fallen asleep and was dreaming I was in a restaurant in Malaysia. Easy to make, delicious and made me look like a curry star! I couldn’t get my hands on any free range chicken thighs with skin on, and used thighs with skin off that was good but next time will source chicken thighs with skin on and bone in, as I think this would add to the fabulousness that this dish was. It’s going into my food library for sure! Thanks

    1. Stephanie says:

      jules – this comment made my day :)
      and now i’m craving kari ayam. can’t wait until you try with bone in skin on chicken!

  20. Gillian says:

    I am making this now… like right now… this instructions mention ginger but there is no ginger in the ingredients. I am going to wing it for now, but what is the amount meant to be please?

    1. Stephanie says:

      hi gillian,
      it’s one tbsp freshly minced. hope the curry came out okay with you winging it :)

  21. Black Cat says:

    It looks really delicious.

  22. Liz Anderson says:

    Can curry paste be used? If so, is there a difference?

    1. Stephanie says:

      hi liz,
      you can use curry paste but there will be quite a difference in flavor because all curry pastes have different ratios. that being said, you can use it, just know that it’ll taste like whatever curry paste you use!

  23. Edelstahl-Mischbatterie says:

    5 stars
    This is great informative information you have been shared…

  24. Seema says:

    If making in an instant pot or a slow cooker, when should I add the potatoes?

    1. Stephanie says:

      hi seema,
      for both, add the potatoes at the same time as the chicken. for the instant pot, just halve the potatoes (keep them very large), for the slow cooker the potatoes can be regular sized.

  25. Karimi says:

    Do you put in salt at all or just the fish sauce- should that make it salty enough? Trying out this recipe right now and I am going with not adding salt…

    1. Stephanie says:

      i find that the fish sauce makes it salty enough, but you can add some salt too, if you want a bit more :)

  26. Leigh-Anne Mick says:

    5 stars
    Nice curry. Threw in some carrots for extra veg and cooked in the instant pot (multicooker). Thanks for sharing.

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Thanks for reading as always!
-Steph & Mike