Chicken curry with coconut milk | Indian Coconut Chicken curry
Last Updated on April 2, 2023 by Santosh Allada
Chicken curry with coconut milk is a South Indian curry dish made by simmering chicken in coconut milk and basic Indian spices. Creamy coconut milk-based curry is mostly served with rice but tastes equally good with Indian flatbread.
In India, there are tons of chicken curry recipes. And, with variations, no two are exactly the same. When your family members demand something different on weekend, try this recipe and delight them.
This traditional coconut milk chicken curry recipe was passed on by my grandmother to my mother. During my childhood in Maharashtra, my mom used to make this dish quite often, especially on Sundays. Being a coastal area, coconut trees were in abundance.
I’m glad to share the same recipe with my few tweaks.
About the Indian Coconut Chicken curry recipe
The Coconut Chicken curry recipe is a straightforward regular chicken curry with mildly flavored coconut gravy.
The preparation will seem like a regular chicken curry. But the ingredients in this recipe make the dish special.
Coconut milk decreases the spice level and adds richness, creaminess, nutty flavor, and a hint of natural sweetness to the dish.
I have already shared a few non-vegetarian recipes that are on the spicier side. But, in this chicken curry, coconut should be the star. So, I prefer to keep this coconut-based chicken curry on the milder side.
The best part of the chicken curry with coconut milk recipe is that the curry requires limited ingredients which are easily available in any store or supermarket. One-pot and basic everyday spices are all that you need for this scrumptious dish.
Family members do not prefer tang in coconut milk chicken curry, so I have not added tomatoes. However, you can customize this chicken curry with coconut milk recipe in many different ways to suit your family member’s palates.
Reasons to make
Simple and easy to make.
Novice, beginner, or bachelor-friendly recipe.
Authentic South Indian recipe.
The mild flavors of spices and creaminess of coconut milk make the dish kids-friendly.
Perfect to serve as the main course for lunch or dinner on weekdays or weekends with rice or roti on the side.
Fresh herbs are flavor enhancers that add a distinct aroma, and wonderful taste.
Tastes better the next day.
Ingredients to make creamy coconut chicken curry
Chicken: Chicken on the bone is best for this curry. I prefer to use curry cut which is a mix of chicken wings, breast, rib, thigh, and drumstick parts of the chicken. You can follow the same recipe with just skinless chicken breast or chicken thighs and adjust the cooking time accordingly.
Onion & Ginger-Garlic: The primary ingredients for the Indian base gravy are used to give texture and flavor up the curry. They also help to get rid of the meat smell.
Coconut milk: The key ingredient of the recipe. I have used fresh coconut to extract milk. You can use canned or packaged coconut milk.
Whole spices: cloves, cinnamon stick, bay leaf, green cardamom, star anise, and mace. Each spice plays a vital role in flavoring the curry. So, try not to skip them.
Spice powders: turmeric powder, red chili powder, coriander powder, and garam masala.
Herbs: curry leaves, mint leaves, and coriander leaves.
Salt to taste.
There are some tips you should always follow when preparing chicken dishes. If you do not cook it correctly, you will be stuck with rubbery and tasteless meat. Follow these secret tips to make chicken that’s juicier and more flavorful than ever.
Use a heavy bottom skillet/pan instead of a non-stick.
Add whole spices to hot oil to unleash their flavor.
Saute the onions till light golden color on medium flame to get the most flavor out of them.
Always sear/saute the chicken pieces on medium-high heat and then finish simmering it at low heat. Searing on the medium-high flame will lock in moisture in the meat. Whereas simmering helps to retain the moisture and the meat will be moist and juicy.
Rest the chicken curry once you take it off the heat. There are many reasons to do so;
1. The gravy gets creamier, thicker, and tastier.
2. During resting time, the gravy acts as marination and you know marinated food always tastes better.
3. Though the chicken is cooked in spices, the absorption of flavors is best in a relaxed state.
4. The protein breakdown continues to happen even after you stop cooking, making the meat tender and tastier.
When you are making this dish for a party or guests, make it a day ahead or at least a few hours before. Reheat before serving for optimum taste.
While refrigerating the leftover, always cover the container. If you do not, the meat will dry out and even turn black.
Fresh herbs are the best choice for any curry.
How to make Chicken curry with coconut milk
Step 1: How to make coconut milk
To extract coconut milk at home, add fresh coconut slices or grated coconut in a grinder jar. Add 1 cup of water and grind on high for 1-2 minutes.
Strain through a fine sieve or cheesecloth. Put back the coconut residue into the grinder jar, add 1 cup of water, and grind on high until the coconut is ground well.
Strain in the same bowl. Press the remaining solids with the back of a ladle as much as possible. Discard the coconut residue.
Keep the coconut milk aside.
Step 2: Make the coconut chicken curry
Heat oil in a pan over medium flame. When hot add bay leaf, cumin, cloves, cinnamon stick, green cardamom, star anise, and mace. Saute until aromatic.
Add thinly sliced onions, curry leaves, and green chilies.
Saute until the onions turn a light golden color.
Add ginger-garlic paste and saute till the raw smell goes away.
Next, add mint leaves and saute for 5 seconds. Add turmeric powder and mix well.
Add chicken pieces and cook on high heat for 5 minutes, mixing once in a while.
Add salt and give a good mix.
Adding salt at this stage helps the seasoning seep into the chicken pieces.
Reduce the heat to low. Cover the pan and cook for 10 minutes stirring once in a while.
Add red chili powder and mix well.
Note: adding red chili powder at this stage will make the meat taste better. Can add more chili powder at the end, according to your spice preference.
Next, add the coconut milk and give a good mix.
Add coriander powder and garam masala. Mix well.
Cover the pan again and simmer for 10-15 mins or until the chicken is tender.
Remove the cover and cook on medium flame until the gravy is thickened and the oil separates.
Lastly, add coriander leaves.
Chicken curry with coconut milk is ready to serve.
You can also enjoy it with Indian flatbreads like chapatis, rotis, phulkas, jowar bhakri, rice flour bhakri, plain parathas, laccha paratha, kerala parotta, or dosa by its side.
In my house, sometimes we have the leftovers in the morning for breakfast with sliced bread, bread rolls, or laadi pav.
If you have leftovers or made a large batch for a later date, then pour the curry into an airtight container and refrigerate. It will last for 3 to 5 days, but I recommend consuming the curry within 2 days.
The curry will thicken as the starchy ingredients in the dish will soak up the liquid. While reheating, add water and adjust the gravy consistency as desired.
I will not recommend you to freeze this coconut-based curry. Because of the coconut milk, there is a risk the coconut milk will split while thawing or reheating and the slightly grainy texture won’t taste good.
You can modify the chicken curry with coconut milk recipe according to your taste.
If you like potatoes or drumsticks in chicken curry then go ahead and add cubes.
For a tang, you can add tomatoes or curd. Also, add a pinch of sugar to take away the acidity.
Add a tempering (tadka) – Heat oil in a small pan and add mustard seeds, cumin, dry red chilies, and curry leaves. Let the seeds crackle and the leaves turn crisp. Pour it immediately over the coconut milk chicken curry.
More Chicken recipes to try
If you’ve tried this Creamy Chicken curry with coconut milk recipe, then don’t forget to rate the recipe and leave a comment below! Feedback and suggestions are highly appreciated. Also, please share the recipes with your friends and family members.
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Chicken curry with coconut milk
For Coconut Milk
- 1 small Fresh Coconut
- 2 cups Water
For Chicken curry
- 1 kg Chicken (with bone)
- 1/4 cup Oil
- 3 Cloves (laung)
- 2 Bay leaf (tej pata)
- 1 inch Cinnamon stick (dalchini)
- 2-3 Green cardamom (elaichi)
- 1 Star anise (chakra phool)
- 1 Mace (javithri)
- 3-4 medium Onion (finely chopped or sliced)
- 5-7 Curry leaves
- 2-3 Green chilies (roughly chopped)
- 1-2 tbsp Ginger garlic paste
- 1/2 Turmeric powder
- 1 tbsp Red chili powder
- 1/2 tbsp Coriander powder
- 1 tsp Garam masala or curry powder
- Coriander leaves
- Salt to taste
How to make coconut milk
- To extract coconut milk at home, add fresh coconut slices or grated coconut in a grinder jar. Add 1 cup of water and grind on high for 1-2 minutes.
- Strain through a fine sieve or cheesecloth. Put back the coconut residue into the grinder jar, add 1 cup of water, and grind on high until the coconut is ground well.
- Strain in the same bowl. Press the remaining solids with the back of a ladle as much as possible. Discard the coconut residue.
- Keep the coconut milk aside.
Make the coconut chicken curry
- Heat oil in a pan over medium flame. When hot add bay leaf, cumin, cloves, cinnamon stick, green cardamom, star anise, and mace. Saute until aromatic.
- Add thinly sliced onions, curry leaves, and green chilies. Saute until onions turn a light golden color.
- Add ginger-garlic paste and saute till the raw smell goes away.
- Next, add mint leaves and saute for 5 seconds. Add turmeric powder and mix well.
- Add chicken pieces and cook on high heat for 5 minutes, mixing once in a while.
- Add salt and give a good mix.
- Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and cook for 10 minutes stirring once in a while.
- Add red chili powder and mix well. Next, add the coconut milk and give a good mix.
- Add coriander powder and garam masala. Mix well.
- Cover the pan again and simmer for 10-15 mins or until the chicken is tender.
- Remove the cover and cook on medium flame until the gravy is thickened and the oil separates.
- Lastly, add coriander leaves.
- Chicken curry with coconut milk is ready to serve.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I exclude the whole spices?
Yes! If you are making this for kids. However, these ingredients elevate the aromatic flavor of this curry. Alternately, you can remove them after tempering them in the hot oil.
Apart from coriander leaves, what can I garnish this dish with at the end?
For special occasions or while serving guests, I add a tempering of mustard seeds, cumin, dry red chilies, and curry leaves. The tadka will elevate the aroma of the curry.
How can I make this dish spicier?
You can add green chilies paste or add slit green chilies in the curry.
Can I use Coconut cream instead of coconut milk?
Sure can! In this coconut chicken curry, we use coconut milk to add a hint of sweetness and thicken the gravy.
Coconut cream, when compared to coconut milk has an overpowering coconut flavor. Because of the higher fat content, it is also much thicker in consistency and creamier.
So while using unsweetened coconut cream, dilute it with water to make coconut milk. The quantity of water will depend on the fat content.