Bring the intoxicating aroma of Thai curry and all its spices to your own kitchen! Learn the signature ingredients for making this quick and easy chicken curry recipe, and how to create your own curry dishes with ease from scratch. It's a great method to learn so you can make it your own and whip it up in a flash!
A tale of two curry recipes
Curries are highly regional cuisines. What someone in India calls curry is very different from what you might eat as curry in Thailand. The chicken curry recipe below is in the style of Thai curries.
North Indian curry recipes
North Indian curry recipes generally call for garlic, ginger, onions and a large dose of freshly ground spices. The minced vegetables and curry spices are fried in the cooking oil, and ultimately thicken the sauce. Ground tomatoes and water or stock thin out the concentrated spice paste, which becomes the cooking medium for meat and vegetables.
South Indian + Thai curry recipes
Thai curries are my favorite to cook and eat because I love the richness of coconut milk. I don't pretend to be an authority on chicken curry or Thai flavors, but at the Culinary Institute, I studied the cuisine. And here are the signature ingredients that lend any curry authentic Thai flavor.
The essential ingredients for any Thai curry recipe
- Coconut milk (or cream)
- Curry paste
- Curry powder
- Thai bird chilis (or another strong, smaller chili pepper like serrano)
- Kaffir lime leaves
- Fish sauce
- Palm sugar, optional
Even if you can't find all of the ingredients in the list, coconut milk and curry paste/powder will get you halfway to Thailand.
If you can find fish sauce by all means use it! Look for one without any artificial ingredients - just anchovies and salt. ANCHOVIES?! I know, but think about how much umami you're getting from just a few drops!
What's in curry powder?
Curry powder is a blend of traditional Southeast Asian spices. The following list is not all-inclusive, but many available will include most of the following spices:
- black pepper
- fennel seed
Choosing a curry powder
Any curry powder you find is most likely going to be so loaded with spices, unless you're after something specific, you can't go wrong. I like the one I order through our subscription to Thrive Market. It's organic, reasonably priced, not too spicy and includes eleven of the fourteen spices above.
The traditional curry spice method
You'll find A LOT of curry recipes call for toasting and grinding each individual whole spice, before combining them in the pan. This is the authentic method for Indian-style curries. And A LOT of work. And measuring with teaspoons.
Depending on how fresh the spices, you may notice a slightly heightened intensity of flavor. Another added benefit is you can customize which spices are prominent in your curry recipe. I just don't have the patience for it at 4:47 p.m. on Tuesday, when I'm trying to get dinner cooked amidst homework and whining. Pleas don't tell anyone at the Culinary Institute.
Substitutions for curry recipe ingredients
Kaffir lime leaves
If you aren't interested in searching high and low for kaffir lime leaves, a lime will do. Using a peeler, scrape a large strip of lime zest off and simmer it with the sauce. A squeeze of juice at the end or on the plate adds a subtle touch of sour.
Palm sugar is perfectly okay to omit (of course)
Even just five years ago, finding palm sugar at your local grocer would've been surprising. If you did find any, it most likely would've been a hard, deep orange paste you'd need to warm to loosen and cook with.
Because of a cultural movement toward so-called "better sweeteners", coconut palm sugar is easy to find. Don't kid yourself, sugar is sugar at the end of the day and should be used sparingly. If you eat keto, paleo or the GAPS diet, leaving it out here will not affect the finished Thai flavors of your curry.
More fun Thai curry recipes
Want Chicken Pad Thai? Mix in a good portion of natural peanut butter, chopped roasted peanuts and serve with rice noodles, sprouts and green onions.
Love pineapple? Simmer small shrimp in the sauce with loads of diced bell peppers until cooked and tender, then add pineapple chunks before serving.
Curries are typically served with basmati rice. Due to arsenic levels found in rice in recent years, we often pair this chicken curry recipe with cauliflower rice. It cuts out the starch and packs in the veggies.
Whichever way you cook and serve curry, it's great on day one. And two. And day three. You get the waft of spices I'm sending your way.
Yours in curry,Print
- Avocado oil
- 1 small onion, diced small
- 1-2 small chili peppers, seeds removed and diced small (Thai bird, serrano or even jalapeño work)
- 2-4 tablespoons red curry paste, any kind
- 1 tablespoon curry powder
- 2, 14-oz cans full-fat coconut milk or coconut cream
- 1 lime, thick strip of peel removed, then quartered
- 10-20 drops of fish sauce
- few pinches of salt (to your liking)
- Basil leaves, sliced thin
- 1-2 tablespoons palm or coconut sugar
- 3-4 lime leaves (these can be hard to find)
Chicken Curry Ingredients
- 1 green or red bell pepper, medium dice
- 1 cups green vegetables, sugar or snap peas recommended
- 2-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, sliced thin
- cooked rice for serving, basmati recommended
- In a large pan over medium heat, cook the onions and chili peppers in a little oil for a couple minutes.
- Add the curry paste and/or powder, and fry the spices in the oil until fragrant.
- Add the coconut milk, lime leaves (or lime peel) and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat.
- Add the vegetables and chicken, and simmer until all ingredients are cooked and tender, about 20 minutes.
- Curry can simmer for several hours to develop flavor, add a little water if the sauce gets too thick.
- Finish curry with fish sauce to taste. Serve over basmati or cauliflower rice with a squeeze of lime.
Sit, stay, drool with Sadie Mae
Hiding underneath the tablecloth waiting for a curry casualty.