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5 from 5 votes

Coconut Milk Chicken Curry Recipe

Flavorful south indian style coconut chicken curry made with bonelss chicken thighs, spices and creamy coconut milk. IP instructions added
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time45 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Indian
Servings: 5
Calories: 523kcal


For Rubbing on Chicken

  • 6 dried red chillies or use 1 teaspoon cayenne powder
  • ½ teaspoon black mustard seeds or use 1 teaspoon ground yellow mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon fenugreek seeds skip if not available
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds or use 1 teaspoon ground cumin powder
  • 8-10 black peppercorn or use ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 3 cloves or use ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoon coriander seeds or use 2 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1.25 lb chicken thighs boneless & skinless
  • 1 teaspoon salt or to taste

For The Coconut Sauce

  • 4 tablespoon oil
  • 1 large onion thinly sliced, about 1 cup onion
  • 1-2 green chlilies any hot variety like serrano or thai bird, adjust to taste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 inch cinnamon
  • 3 green cardamom pod cracked open
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1.5 tablespoon fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoon tamarind pulp adjust to taste
  • 8-10 fresh curry leaves skip if not available
  • 1 cup unsweetened full fat coconut milk


Rub the Spices on Chicken

  • If you are using fresh ground spices - In a small sauce pan, dry roast the spices on low till you smell a nice aroma. Do not let them turn dark brown. Let cool once roasted.
  • Grind the roasted spices (not too coarse or too fine ).In a large bowl, add the chicken, sprinkle salt and ground spices (fresh or ready to use). Combine so that chicken is coated in spices, cover and let stand nearby while you make the sauce.
    Tip : - If you are able to marinate for at least 4 hours or overnight, that would make for extra flavorful curry.

Making the Coconut Chicken Curry

    Stove Top Method

    • In kadhai(indian wok) with lid or dutch oven, heat up the oil on medium. Once the oil is hot, add the bay leaf, green cardamom, cinnamon stick and wholes spices crackle for 10-12 seconds in oil.You can also add a small piece of star anise. 
    • Next, add the onions. Saute the onions for 6-7 minutes until they are golden brown.
    • Add the ginger garlic, curry leaves and turmeric next and saute for 15 seconds or so.
    • Add the spice rubbed chicken to the pot, sprinkle ¼ teaspoon salt and stir around so that chicken is well combined. Let cook on medium heat for 5-8 minutes or till you see that the chicken pieces have started to become whitish and light brown on the edges.
    • Cover the pot, reduce stove to low medium and let the chicken cook in its own juices until about 90% cooked, about 12-15 minutes (note that this time will depend on the cut and size of chicken pieces). You can check 1-2 times in between to make sure that the chicken is not sticking. On low heat, chicken will release and cook in its own juices.
    • Uncover and add the coconut milk. Do not stir immediately. Let the coconut milk combine on its own at first. Very gently stir the coconut milk. Check and adjust the salt in the sauce. You can add green chilies and extra curry leaves(if desired) at this point. Cover and let simmer on low for 5-7 minutes or so until chicken is cooked through.
      Tip :- Dont let coconut milk come to a boil, it may curdle.
    • If at the end of cooking you want a more saucy/runny curry add ½ cup water and cook for additional 2-3 minutes or till water that you added is is part of sauce.
    • Finish with tamarind pulp.Serve with warm rice.

    Instant Pot Method

    • Set the instant pot on saute mode.
    • Warm up the oil and temper with bay leaf, cardamom and cinnamon. Add the onions and brown them lightly for 6-7 minutes.
    • Then, add the ginger & garlic, green chili, curry leaves and turmeric powder and saute for 20 seconds. Add the chicken, sprinkle ¼ teaspoon salt and saute with everything else for good 3-4 minutes until you see that the chicken is whitish and starting to get lightly browned.
    • Close the lid of the Instant pot fitted with vent in the sealing position. Set to pressure cook mode and cook on high pressure for 3 minutes.
    • Let the pressure realease naturally. 
    • Open the lid and put back the IP in saute mode. Add the coconut milk and tamarind. Stir around and cook the coconut sauce for 4-5 minutes. Dont let coconut milk come to a boil. Check and adjust salt to taste.
    • If at the end of cooking you want a more saucy/runny curry add ½ cup water and cook for additional 2-3 minutes till water that you added is is part of sauce.
    • Finish with tamarind pulp. Serve with warm rice.


    • Cut chicken thighs into a bit large pieces - 2.5 to 3 inch chunks. As they cook the release their juices and shrink in size.
    • This is particularly useful tip for boneless chicken cooking. At any stage of cooking, dont let chicken cook on high heat for long to avoid tough chicken. When we use IP, just 3 minutes of his pressure cooking and rest everything is on saute mode. When cooking on stove top, you should make sure that the curry cooks on low to medium, there should not be any bubbling/boiling, only simmering.
    • Don't let the curry boil once you have added the coconut milk because there are chances of sauce getting curdled.
    • Tamarind sauce/pulp/paste available in stores can be sweetish to very salty depending on the brand. Make sure to taste it before adding to the sauce.
    • Use light coconut milk if you wish. 
    • Use lemon juice to finish if you dont have tamarind. 
    Serving, Storage & Variations 
    This curry is best served with some plain steamed basmati rice. You can serve a few pieces of naan and a fresh salad to go along. You can also serve it with quinoa.
    This chicken curry freezes so well. Cool it completely, portion it in carry out boxes, cover with lid and freeze for 2 months. Thaw for a few hours before reheating.
    • Add vegetables - You can add baby potatoes, green beans, carrots or broccoli to this chicken curry to make it extra wholesome. Potatoes can be added with chicken and for other vegetables, blanch them before adding.
    • Make it Non Spicy - Skip or reduce the dried and green chilies.
    • Make it With Seafood - You can use the same recipe and add firm fish like salomon or cod. You can add extra large shrimp and make shrimp coconut curry.
    • Make Egg Curry- This is the easiest. Make the sauce, add harboiled eggs and egg curry is ready!
    • If you are making a fresh spice powder, toast some dry or desiccated coconut with the spices and grind together to bump uo the coconut flavor.


    Calories: 523kcal | Carbohydrates: 18g | Protein: 22g | Fat: 42g | Saturated Fat: 16g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 7g | Monounsaturated Fat: 16g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 111mg | Sodium: 105mg | Potassium: 678mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 625IU | Vitamin C: 83mg | Calcium: 61mg | Iron: 3mg