Basil Chicken in Coconut Curry Sauce

Updated, from the recipe archive. Originally posted October 2006.

One of the things I love about curries is that they are so varied and adaptable—from soupy to thick and creamy, from mild to fiery, in colors yellow, green, red, or brown. This is one of my favorites, a yellow curry in a coconut milk base, with chicken, onions, jalapeños, lime juices, and plenty of fresh basil. We use chicken thigh meat because its stronger flavor holds up well to all the spices. It comes together quickly, and makes for good leftovers too!

  • Prep: 15 minutes
  • Cook: 25 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4.

We use chicken thigh meat because of the deeper flavor, but you can use chicken breast meat if you prefer. This is a mild curry. You can increase the heat with more cayenne. Please note that jalapeños vary greatly in heat.  Check the spiciness of your jalapeños and adjust the recipe to taste.

Note that what we usually buy labelled "curry powder" is just a spice mix, made up of various spices, like those in the following ingredients, including a good portion of turmeric, which gives the curry powder its yellow color. Feel free to experiment a little with the spices listed here to get the taste you like the best.

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • A small pinch of ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne, or more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 lb skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
  • 1 large onion, sliced root to tip
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1-2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and minced
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil, rice bran oil or Indian ghee
  • 1 14-oz can coconut milk
  • 1 Tbsp lime juice, or to taste
  • 12-20 fresh basil leaves, torn roughly
  • Hot cooked rice for serving

Method

1 In a small bowl, mix together the salt, ground coriander, cumin, ground cloves, cinnamon, ground cardamom, black pepper, cayenne and turmeric. Set aside.

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2 In a wok or deep sauté pan, heat the oil over high heat. The moment the oil begins to smoke, add the onions and jalapeños and toss to coat in oil. Sear the vegetables for 3 minutes, stirring only enough to keep them from burning, but still allowing the onions to sear.

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3 Add the ginger, garlic and spice mixture and toss to combine, cook for 1 minute. Add the coconut milk and chicken. Stir the mixture so that the chicken pieces are coated in the coconut milk. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat, cover and cook for 20 minutes.

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4 When the chicken is tender, turn off the heat and add the basil and lime juice. Add more lime juice and salt to taste and serve over rice.

Main Ingredients

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