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!

Basil Chicken in Coconut Curry Sauce 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 In a small bowl, mix together the salt, ground coriander, cumin, ground cloves, cinnamon, ground cardamom, black pepper, cayenne and turmeric. Set aside.

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

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.

basil-coconut-chicken-curry-3 basil-coconut-chicken-curry-4basil-coconut-chicken-curry-5 basil-coconut-chicken-curry-6

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.


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.

Hello! All photos and content are copyright protected. Please do not use our photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish this recipe, please rewrite the recipe in your own unique words and link back to the source recipe here on Simply Recipes. Thank you!


 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 with Coconut Curry Sauce on Simply Recipes

Showing 4 of 100 Comments

  • Gloriana

    Excellent, just lovely…my boyfriend was very impressed (thanks, Elise). This was my first attempt at curry from scratch and I can’t wait to do it again. Not overly complicated or time consuming but memorable enough to make a splash at a dinner party. I added a bit of red curry powder at the last minute to turn the heat up a notch and next time I will try it with light coconut milk instead of full fat. Wonderful dish!

  • Sudesna

    I think I’ll try this out for a weekend special – it might be a popular one! I had made shrimp with coconut curry earlier but never tried chicken….from all the reviews it might be worth it. The shrimp one is done exactly the same way – its called Malai curry and is a famous dish in India. Thanks.

  • jeeves

    I made this. It tasted good! But being a novice cook I did not realize the hazards of jalapenos.. I got the jalapeno juice on my hands and now they are burning up!!!! ugh!!!

  • Denise

    For all you folk who like the dish a bit spicier. Don’t de-seed the jalapeno. A lot of the ‘hot’ in hot peppers is in the seeds.

View More Comments / Leave a Comment