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South Indian Chicken Curry

Susan Kahn

Servings: six.

The southwestern part of India known as Kerala, where I was raised, is endowed with lush, tropical growth year-round—coconut trees along the coast and, at higher elevations, an abundance of herbs and spices. So it’s no wonder that in this region, highly spiced curries flavored with coconut milk are an important part of every dinner. If you don’t have time to make your own fresh Curry Spice Mix, you can substitute a store-bought garam masala or curry powder.


  • 1 Tbs. vegetable or canola oil
  • 1/2 tsp. black mustard seeds
  • 3 medium onions, sliced thin
  • Stems from 3 sprigs fresh cilantro, chopped, plus 1/4 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1-inch piece of ginger, minced
  • 3 potatoes, diced into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 green peppers
  • 2 lbs. chicken thighs, skinned
  • 2 to 3 Tbs. South Indian Curry Spice Mix
  • 2 cups fresh Coconut Milk (1 cup thick, 1 cup thin)
  • Kosher salt
  • Cooked long-grain rice, for serving


  • In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat until it is very hot. Add mustard seeds and let them sizzle for about 1 minute. Add the garlic, ginger, sliced onion, and cilantro stems, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the ground spice mix and continue cooking for 6 to 8 minutes until the onions are very soft, stirring often so that the onions cook evenly.
  • When the onions and peppers are soft and have absorbed the spices, start adding the chicken, a little at a time. Stir the pieces until they’re coated with the spices, and then add more chicken. When all the chicken has been stirred in, pour the thin coconut milk over the chicken, add the salt and the potatoes, reduce the heat to medium low, cover and simmer until the chicken is cooked and the potatoes are tender, about 40 minutes.

    To soften the flavor of the spices, and to make a creamy sauce, the author simmers the chicken for her curry in coconut milk.
  • Remove the cover from the pot and bring the liquid to a boil. Boil for 3 to 5 minutes, until the sauce is thickened. Then add the thick coconut milk and the cilantro leaves. Return liquid to a simmer, season to taste with salt, and serve with rice.


Rate or Review


  • Maya_B | 08/31/2017

    I really enjoyed making this. I had less coconut milk than was required, but added a bit of water to simmer instead. I would use more curry mix next time for more flavor. Also, this recipe (like many stews) is even better if you give it time to sit, so the flavors blend more. It's amazing the next day, heated up!

  • User avater
    sbreckenridge | 07/18/2017

    Hi Trish, in a can of regular coconut milk, the thick coconut milk is the layer that's on top, that you can spoon out, and the thin coconut milk is the layer beneath that's pourable (this recipe references homemade coconut milk, but same principle).

  • trishsd | 07/17/2017

    I'm confused by the thin and thick coconut milk. Where/how do you find that?

  • gailandjeff | 01/21/2008

    we've been making this recipe since fine cooking issue 2 came out, sometime in the mid 90s. it's terrific and we use every few weeks. It's a great standard. A hint, we used to make our own curry spice mix from scratch for this, but now we have a toddler and there just isn't time, but you can use a GOOD mix (from an indian grocery, wet or dry curry mix) and the combination still holds up. Note, DEFINITELY remember the thin-then-thick cocoanut milk in two steps, and DON'T FORGET THE CILANTRO AT THE END!

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