Basil Chicken Coconut Curry


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!

Basil Chicken Coconut Curry

Basil Chicken Coconut Curry Recipe

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 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.


  • 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


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

2 Sauté onions, jalapeños, ginger, garlic, spices: 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.

basil-chicken-coconut-curry-method-1 basil-chicken-coconut-curry-method-2

Add the ginger, garlic and spice mixture and toss to combine, cook for 1 minute.

3 Add coconut milk, chicken, simmer:  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.


4 Add basil, lime juice: 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.


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 Thai Green Basil Curry with Chicken, from The Perfect Pantry

Jungle Curry, from Rasa Malaysia

Thai Green Curry with Fish and Basil, from Hunter Angler Gardener Cook

Basil Chicken Coconut Curry

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Showing 4 of 108 Comments

  • Vanessa Kohlhaas

    I want to double this recipe but it won’t all fit in my skillet. Can I make it in a heavy soup pot?

  • Johanne

    I made this dish tonight, it was so very flavorful and delicious! Will definitely make this again, I added veggie noodles the last 5 minutes to heat up in the sauce, wonderful taste and aroma. Thank you for the recipe, I plan on trying more of your recipes!

  • NativeAtlantaGirl

    Absolutely delish – adapted to make it Paleo. Sauteed in coconut oil, added dried basil to spice mix, and a splash of Red Boat fish sauce. Added thinly sliced carrots, mushrooms (red peppers would be tasty as well). Not only topped with lime juice but added lime zest as well. My sauce was quite thick, added 2/3 tsp of arrowroot. Considered serving over cauli rice, but I tripled the veggies, so it was super filling and reheated was even better. This will definitely be a keeper in my rotation.

  • Natalie

    Wow! Really lovely recipe, thank you :) I used light coconut milk though and needed to add a little cornstarch and curry sauce slurry (I used a little under a tsp of cornstarch) to thicken it back up to what it would have been with regular milk. Definitely a keeper of a recipe for me!

  • Mellinda

    I love this recipe and have made it several times. Even my extremely picky kids love it! They amazingly actually like a little spice.
    The only thing that I would change about the recipe is to put a simple “mise en place”, before the ingredients list. Things move very quickly with this recipe once the oil has been heated up and there is not time to mince garlic or ginger, or anything else for that matter. All ingredients, other than the basil and lime juice, need to be ready to go before you begin.
    Otherwise, this recipe is delicious and has turned out great every time that I have made it.

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