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.

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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 | sharefavoritefood.comchicken curry recipe |

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 | sharefavoritefood.comchicken curry |

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.

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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.


  • 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.

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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 | sharefavoritefood.comchicken curry recipe |

Coconut Chicken Curry

Slightly spicy, coconutty and comforting Malaysian curry chicken.
Serves 4

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4.67 from 51 votes
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Total Time 1 hr 30 mins


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


  • 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 | sharefavoritefood.commarinating chicken for chicken curry |
  • 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 | sharefavoritefood.comcurry chicken recipe |
  • 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 | sharefavoritefood.comchicken curry |

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.