This Basil Chicken in Coconut Curry Sauce is incredibly easy to make and absolutely packed with delicious spice and flavor. Make it once and your family will request it again and again!
(This recipe for Basil Chicken in Coconut Curry Sauce was originally published in February 2010, but was updated with new photos in 2019).
Sometimes I spend more time trying to decide what to make for dinner than I do actually making dinner. But when I just can't decide what to make, I usually head over to my favorite blogs and just browse.
You all know I'm obsessed with Martha Stewart and everything she does, but her website is not easy to navigate for inspiration.
Most blogs are much easier to browse and find yummy dishes to make. One of my favorite blogs to browse is Simply Recipes. I can head over there when I have NO idea what to make and usually come away with at least three ideas in no time at all.
This time one of those ideas was Basil Chicken in Coconut Curry Sauce. It went on my must-make list immediately. Basil Chicken is good, but basil chicken curry is way, way better, especially if that curry is a coconut curry sauce!
Should I Use Chicken Breasts or Chicken Thighs?
You can use either chicken breasts or chicken thighs for this recipe, so it's totally up to you. Though chicken breasts have fewer calories and less fat (including saturated fat) than chicken thighs (source) and are often more expensive than thighs, a lot of people like the flavor of thighs better.
Though the original basil chicken curry recipe called for thighs, I opted for breasts and I have to tell you that this dish makes chicken breasts taste absolutely incredibly!
I totally get how people often think they're dry, bland, and boring, but this recipe really makes them delicious (if you're looking for another great chicken breast recipe, try my Panko Crusted Chicken). That said, I'm absolutely positive thighs would be amazing, too.
Why is There No Curry Powder in This Coconut Curry Sauce?
A couple people have commented on this recipe and asked why there is no curry powder or garam masala listed in the recipe ingredients. That's because curry powder is really just a blend of spices and rather simply use curry powder here, we're making our own custom spice mixture.
Do you have to do this? Well, no. If you don't have these spices in your pantry and prefer to keep things simple, you can use curry powder or garam masala and end up with a fairly similar recipe.
However, I've found that the blend of spices used in this recipe makes my ideal coconut curry sauce, which is why I'm sharing it here.
In fact, you might try this recipe and decide you'd adjust the spice mixture next time due to your own personal preferences.
Feel free to experiment and come up a spice mixture that appeals to you and your family best!
Is the Curry Sauce Spicy?
There are many different kinds of curry sauce and some are spicy and some aren't. This particular coconut curry sauce isn't very spicy (there's just a little chili powder in it), but because there are jalapeño peppers in the dish, it can get a little spicy.
If you're not a fan of spice or are serving this dish to kids, I recommend being sure to scrape the seeds out of the jalapeños before chopping. The seeds hold most of the heat, so if you just include the pepper part, you'll mainly be getting the flavor.
However, you can always cut down on the amount of jalapeño, too.
How to Make Basil Chicken in Coconut Curry Sauce
With all that said, please don't be intimidated by the seemingly long list of ingredients in this basil chicken curry recipe. Lots of them are spices that you probably already have in your pantry (if not, you should because you'll definitely use them again!).
Despite all those ingredients (spices), this basil chicken in coconut curry sauce is so, so easy.
Start by mixing all those beautiful spices together in a small bowl. Then put your chicken pieces in a large bowl and sprinkle the spice mixture all over it. Let the chicken rest for about 30 minutes.
Heat 1 Tbsp of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion and jalapeño and cook for about 3 minutes. Then add the garlic and cook for one more minute.
Remove the vegetables from the pan and put in a medium sized bowl and set aside.
Using the same pan, add another Tbsp of oil and add half of the chicken pieces, spreading them out to make sure they're not overcrowded. Cook for a few minutes on each side to brown.
When they're cooked through, remove from the pan and add them to the bowl of onion/jalapeño. Repeat with remaining chicken and remove that to the bowl, too.
Now for the coconut curry sauce! Add the coconut milk to the skillet and cook on medium-high and stir until it thickens a bit and gets bubbly.
Then mix in the Worcestershire sauce.
Add the chicken and onion/jalapeño, along with basil and ginger and cook for 2 more minutes.
Serve the basil chicken curry over rice... brown is always best! But obviously you can use whatever kind of rice you want. Or even quinoa. Or cauliflower rice.
Heck, eat it right out of the skillet with a spoon if you want with nothing on the side. I won't tell.
Oh my goodness, this basil chicken in coconut curry sauce is so incredibly flavorful and satisfying! I didn't scrape the seeds out of my jalapeños (because we love heat in my house!), so this definitely had an extra kick to it.
I also decided to add more fresh basil over the top since I legit love fresh basil so much. And since this dish is called basil chicken curry and all, I figured it needed some extra!
I've never actually attempted making my own curry, but this coconut curry sauce is something I'll most definitely be making again.
There are sooo many things that can be done with curry and I love it so much.
There are also so many kinds of curry and I want to make them all!
Like I mentioned, you can definitely use chicken thighs for this recipe, but I was really happy I used chicken breasts because they ended up being so moist and flavorful when cooked in the spices and in the coconut curry sauce.
Some people prefer using chicken thighs to breasts because breasts can be drier and less flavorful, but that is not the case with this recipe!
More Easy Chicken Dinner Recipes
There are so many boring chicken recipes out there, so I've made it one of my goals to only share chicken recipes that are incredibly flavorful and delicious. Oh, and they have to be easy, too! Here are some of my favorites:
- Baked Chicken Chimichangas
- Greek-Stuffed Chicken
- Chicken Pad Thai
- Garlic Habanero Chicken Meatballs
- Chicken Avocado Burritos
- Spinach and Brie-Stuffed Chicken
- Chicken and Spinach Calzone
- BBQ Chicken Pizza
- Peanut-Braised Chicken Breast (from SkinnyTaste)
- Easy Chicken Noodle Soup (from Family Food on the Table)
Really, there is absolutely nothing I didn't like about this basil chicken curry dish. In case you haven't been able to tell by this whole post.
And it's the perfect warm-up dish for today's GROSS and RAINY weather in Boston.
Do you like curry sauce?
If you're looking for more recipes that really highlight basil, check out my Thai Beef Basil with Coconut Milk or my Basil and Garlic White Pizza.
Basil Chicken in Coconut Curry Sauce
- ½ tsp cumin
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground cloves
- ½ tsp ground cardamom
- ½ tsp ground black pepper
- ½ tsp chili powder
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp ground turmeric
- 1 lb. skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces (you can substitute for thighs)
- 2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
- ¾ cup chopped onion (from 1 medium onion)
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 jalapeño peppers, minced (remove seeds if you want to cut down on heat in dish)
- 1 14 oz. can coconut milk
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- ⅓ cup fresh basil leaves, chopped (plus more for topping, if desired)
- 1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger
- 2-3 cups cooked brown rice (can also use white rice, quinoa, cauliflower rice, or whatever you desire!)
- Mix all the spices (from the cumin to the turmeric) in a small bowl.
- Place chicken in a large bowl and sprinkle the spice mixture over it. Let it sit for 30 minutes.
- Heat 1 Tbsp of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and jalapeño and cook for about 3 minutes. Then add the garlic and cook for one more minute, until fragrant. Remove mixture from skillet and place in a medium size bowl.
- Add remaining Tbsp of oil to the same skillet and add half of the chicken pieces, spreading them out to make sure they’re not overcrowded. Cook for a few minutes on each side to cook through and lightly brown. When cooked through, remove from the skillet and add them to the bowl of onion/jalapeño. Repeat with remaining chicken and remove that to the bowl, too.
- Pour the coconut milk into the skillet. Cook on medium-high and stir until sauce thickens and starts bubbling a bit. Mix in the Worcestershire sauce.
- Add the chicken and onion/jalapeño mixture back into the skillet, along with basil and ginger and cook for 2 more minutes.
- Serve basil chicken over rice. Spoon more coconut curry sauce over the top. Top with more basil if desired.
- Recipe adapted from Simply Recipes
View Web Story
That looks SO good! I love basil and anything coconut works for me 🙂
Chris Williams says
Now I'm starving. Looks like Thai food for lunch. Thanks for the craving Sues 🙂
Sassy Molassy says
Ooh, this sounds awesome and not too complicated!
Um, wow. This looks so delicious and I might even actually - gasp! - try it. Like for real.
I totally agree about the Martha website. It's overwhelming and sometimes, you just don't know where to go and to look for a recipe. But, Simply Recipes is awesome. And, their recipes are so simple (obvi)! This Thai dish looks so, so good! I love how there is an abundance of sauce so the brown rice can soak it all up.
Your Chef'n product raves are the cutest! They really do need to pay you...or maybe just give you more stuff to use/review?
two coast table says
This looks delicious Susie. I tagged this under recipes to make and moved it to the top of my list. (steven)
The Duo Dishes says
Mmmm! This looks like one to try. There are a lot of sweet and smokey flavors in there. It'd be nice to add even more spice!
The Partial Ingredients says
I tried this recipe the other day from simply recipes and it turned out great. I changed a few things around and liked what I came up with.
Sounds delish! For those who don't want to invest in many different spices for one dish I think garam masala would pretty much cover the flavour profile they're aiming for with the ground spices.
Mary Kelleher says
Making it now.... can't wait to try it. But I am looking an there is not curry powder? I am confused by the name?!
@Mary- Hi! I hope you enjoy it!! So, curry powder is actually a combination of spices that are sold as curry powder. The spices in this dish are the same ones in curry powder, but in a blend that I think is most delicious (there's no hard and fast rule for the amounts of each spice and everyone likes it a little different!). I hope that helps explain things 🙂
Are there any other vegetables you think would add in well?
@Brittany- Hi! I would recommend red or green bell peppers. Snow peas would be delicious, too!
Have you ever made this in advance? Or reheated the leftovers (if there could possibly be any - LOL).
@Julie- Hi! I've never made this in advance, but have heated the leftovers and they're still great! I do always keep the rice and chicken/sauce mixture separate until right before I serve. I also recommend adding some fresh basil on top right before you eat 🙂
I never comment on recipes but this one was out of this world delicious! I love the depth of the flavors and the heat from the peppers. I will make this recipe over and over again. Mouth wateringly scrumptious!
This may sound silly but could you use a tablespoon of curry powder in place of the list of spices? I don’t cook a lot with those and I really want to try this!!! Thank you
@Keri- Not a silly question at all! You can definitely do this. The flavors might be a little different, but it should be wonderful! Let me know if you try it and like it and I will add a note to the recipe for others.
Diana Truro says
This is a new family favorite! I worried my kids wouldn’t be into the curry but they both ate it without complaining and my husband couldn’t stop raving. Will definitely make again!
Do I use sweetened or unsweetened coconut milk?
Do you need to use full fat coconut milk?
@Christie- Hi! I've only ever made this with full-fat coconut milk. I do think you could use light if you'd prefer, but the sauce wouldn't thicken as much. I'd recommend adding a little cornstarch to it to thicken more. Let me know if you try it!
Made this tonight and it was absolutely delicious!
I made this for dinner tonight. i only used one jalapeño. It is a very quick dinner once ingredients are gathered. I give it a thumbs up!
It will definitely go on my make again recipe list!
Wonder if this can be converted to Instant Pot?
@Robin I haven't tried and I am not an Instant Pot pro by any means, but I imagine it can converted using an Instant Pot recipe with chicken and a sauce as a guide!
Jaimie Harris says
This was sooooo amazing. The flavors of cinnamon, clover and coconut to name a few we’re such a nice balance. We love heavy seasoned dishes like this and had everything on hand to make. All around this is a new staple and can’t thank you enough for the recipe.
Why not use Garam Marsala?
@Gg You certainly can! I like to be able to control what spices I use, so tend not to use spice mixes. A garam masala or curry powder would have a similar result, but I like this particular balance of spices 🙂
I added some toasted sliced almonds for texture and a few currants as well to break up the heat! It was so good!
Do I have to use Worcestershire sauce? Or can I substitute it with something else?
@Gigi If you have soy sauce, that would do the trick! Otherwise, a little steak sauce or fish sauce would work, too.
Eating it right now. Yum! We didn't have jalapenos, but the chilli powder adds enough heat. I also used coconut aminos and a little extra salt rather than worcestershire sauce.
Holy crap this is delicious!!! I will definitely be making it again and again.
Donna Slovak says
This was really delicious and easy! Will try it with chicken thighs next time.
Most worschestire sauce is not gluten free- it must be labeled as such. Just a note as it says gluten-free on your recipe but if cooking this for a celiac you would need to make sure you found one that is labeled G free.
@Megan- Thank you for your note, but can you let me know where you saw the gluten-free label? I definitely didn't label it as such and I don't want to mislead!
I did not like this meal at all. I actually have never commented on a recipe but this was so weird. I guess im just not a fan of curry but it was pretty weird. It was very different tasting than anything ive ever had and it gave me quite the stomach ache from all the spice. I was really excited about this meal but it was wayyy different than i expected.
@Lindsey- I'm so sorry you didn't like this recipe! I know that curry isn't everyone's favorite since it's packed with lots of spices and if you don't like curry, this definitely isn't the dish for you. Thank you for your feedback!
This was so delicious! My kids even loved it, and they are the ultimate test. Love how just a few different ingredients really make this a special curry. Thank you for sharing this!
@Lisa Yay! Thank you for letting me know... I love that your kids love curry- that makes me happy 🙂
Made this two nights ago for my boyfriend and I and it yielding 2 servings for dinner, and 2 servings for lunch the next day. I am making it again tonight except doubling the recipe because it's THAT good!
I added a pat of butter to my rice+water and it made this recipe even more amazing!
Jenny Taylor says
Love love love this recipe!
I add any veggies I have already made w quinoa and extra sauce (the best part) to make a Thai bowl out of it. Def a keeper!!
Left overs are great too w this. I keep quinoa and veggies separate from coconut chicken them mix and reheat. Also once you have spices how you like them put them in an empty spice jar to sprinkle on or fish etc
Super yummy! I used fresh cilantro because I was out of basil - super fresh and rich flavor!
So delicious! We don’t always use jalapeños but this is one of our go to recipes. Especially helpful since it’s df and easily made gf! I like it best with chicken thighs though we have to cook a bit longer. There is never a drop of the coconut sauce left 😉 Thank you thank you!
Your spices are whole or powder form cuz if whole sounds like whole lot of spices used
@Shila- Hi! The spices are ground.
I actually added some Indian curry spice to this and an extra can of coconut milk and it was amazing!
Diane Pompei says
This was amazing. I did it in the Instant Pot and cooked the chicken in a skillet just to brown it before adding to the cooked vegetables, spices and coconut milk in the pot. I also doubled the recipe and pressure cooked it for eight minutes. Perfection. Not a drop left.
debi urschel says
SO DELICIOUS! I used thighs, and added a tablespoon and 1/2 of garam masala at the very end to punch up the flavor a bit
LOVED! will make this one again, and again!
This was very tasty, thank you!
Very very yum!! I didn't have a couple of the spices listed so just skipped them and it was still amazing! Made it exactly as written (minus 2 spices on the chicken).
Big hit with my family. Thank you!
This was absolutely fantastic!! Just can’t rave about it enough!!
This will be a go to for years to come!!
I was wondering if you are using Thai basil or regular basil? Would Thai basil work ?
@Jodi I use regular basil in my recipe, but you should be able to use Thai basil without a problem! The flavor will be slightly different, but still delicious 🙂
One of the best chicken recipes I’ve ever had.
Hi! This recipe sounds amazing and I would love to try it, but have a hubby that doesn’t like coconut. Is it a strong coconut flavor? I can use coconut oil in recipes and he doesn’t seem to mind so hoping I can still make this one work.
@Cory- I don't think the coconut flavor is super strong here (it mostly acts as a base for all the spices in the dish!). If your hubby has had Thai curries before, they're often made with coconut milk, so if he likes those, he should like this! But if you're worried, I think you could probably substitute the coconut milk with light cream. I also just looked and Nigella Lawson recommends substituting the coconut milk in curry with soy or almond milk with about 1 Tbsp cornstarch mixed in to thicken it. I hope that helps and I hope you both enjoy the dish!
Found this recipe today and made it. Followed it to the T and used 2 jalapeno with seeds. Very nice kick! Definitely do not recommend using 2 with seeds for those who can’t handle heat. SO delicious! 10/10 will make again.
Yum! Don’t be scared of the ingredients list, it is actually quite easy! I read some of the comments and added diced green pepper to incorporate more veggies and loved it! I did remove seeds and ribs from the jalapeños and did struggle with the spice. Will probably reduce to one jalapeño in the future.
Nicole Hall says
Great dish! Love the flavors! I made the recipe as written. I don’t like super spicy things, but this was perfect. A slight kick, but nothing overwhelming. My kids even ate it!
This is five stars in our house. I served it on a bed of ginger rice and with a side of steamed broccoli. My wife raved about it.
Natalie V says
Have made this several times and it always turns out delicious! We consume a lot of Asian cuisine and this curry dish is one of our favorites.
I didn’t care for the flavor of this dish, I found it to be confusing, not Thai but also not Indian. The curry flavor seems to be missing something. I will not be making this recipe again.
This recipe was AMAZING!! I doubled it to ensure leftovers... and there's enough for only one of us! I called dibs. Thanks for this... we'll be making it again soon!
I rarely make comments on recipes but this is the first online curry recipe that’s hit a home run. I’d prefer this over my local Thai restaurant. Delicious and so easy to make! I’ll be sharing, and keeping this one! Thanks!
This sounds so delicious - I can't wait to make it! If I sub bell pepper for the jalapeno, do you cook that at the same time as the recipe says for the jalepeno? Thank you!
@Lucia- Yes! You can just substitute the bell pepper for the jalapeño. I hope you enjoy it!
Wow great flavors but not spicy. It was simple and easy. Tasted like it took hours! It’s a keeper.
Hi! Wanted to make this but missing ground cloves & cardamom. Could I use Pumpkin Pie Spice (cinnamon, ginger, lemon peel, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom) to substitute? And if so how much? Thanks!
@Kendall- Pumpkin pie spice would change the flavor profile a bit, but I think it would still work! I'd skip the cinnamon in the ingredients and use 1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice instead. Let me know how it is!
This recipe was delicious!! I made it twice since I found it in May 2021 ( no cumin and Worcestershire sauce) thank you !!!
Wish it had more flavor. Because of the long list of spices I had anticipated this dish being too hot for my kids but it turned out being kind of bland. Everyone really liked the unexpected cinnamon flavor though. Also, my coconut milk never thickened so it just dropped to the bottom of the dish. Next time I’d add curry, some vegetables and thicken the sauce up with sour cream or yogurt.
I haven’t made this yet, but it looks delicious! What are the calories per serving in this dish. Look forward to trying this recipe!
@Anthony Thank you! I don't calculate nutrition, but you should be able to plug it into MyFitnessPal or a similar site. I will say it will be lower calorie if you use chicken breasts rather than thighs 🙂
Thank your for your feedback! It's funny because some people have said it's TOO spicy and some have said it's barely spicy at all. I know everyone has different tastes (and depending on the spices and jalapeños, they can bring different levels of flavor).I do wonder why your coconut milk didn't thincken at all, but adding sour cream or yogurt is a great idea!
Allison moore says
Any chance anyone has done the nutritional markup on this one? It’s one of our faves but trying to determine calories, protein, carbs etc . Figured I’d ask before doing all the math.
I have yet to get tired of this recipe. It's so easy to adapt to any veggies you have in your fridge. Tonight I added mushrooms, red bell pepper, and asparagus.
Wow this recipe is delicious! Even my two year old son gobbled it up. I didn’t add jalapeños because I can’t handle any heat. I served it over basmati rice and a side of broccoli. Reading through the comments, I’ll have to try adding different vegetables to it next time. This will definitely be part of our regular rotation.
This recipe was so good! My whole family liked it (even my picky kids). I left out the jalopeno and put in carrots and it was amazing. Kind of like a massaman curry if your familiar with Thai food. I didn't have cardamon so I used allspice I would probably cut back on that in the future but I will definitely make again!
Made for the second time. Absolutely love this recipe!
Is perfect as is, but I do bump up the measurements on the sauce as my husband likes a lot. Really great weeknight supper!
I made this last night for dinner and it was a hit! Love the smoky chicken (breast) flavor and sauce. I used one large jalapeño with seeds removed and it was perfect for kids that hate spicy food. Love the flexibility of the recipe and will keep these ingredients on hand for a quick, delicious weeknight family meal!
Fiona-Grace Fearon says
A-MAZEEEEEE-ING such a quick and easy recipe! I love food! And why wait to go to a fancy restaurant to eat good food? So I’m always hunting out good recipes that I can cook at home with the quality I would eat if I were out. This was absolutely it! Thanks Sues all the way from England 😊
I really would like to give this a go! Did you use just normal sweet basil for this or Thai basil? 🙂
Hi Alicia- I used sweet basil, but Thai basil would work, too!
My family loved this meal!!! It is definitely going into the rotation! Super easy and I had everything on hand already to make it! Thank you!
There are so many types of chili powders, by chili powder, do you mean the regular labeled chili powder used for making chili and beans?
@Yvonne- Yes, the regularly labeled chili powder is what I use for this recipe. However, this recipe is very versatile so if there's a different chili flavor you prefer, you can certainly use it!
I didn't have cardamom but it still tasted fantastic! I used one less jalepeno because it was for children and ... I'd have used 2 jalepenos for adults because it didn't have enough heat for me with just one. The kids liked it too, and usually every meal has at least one complainer out of my 4 kids. Great job!
TBH I really didn't think this tasted good. I served it over basmati rice and I found myself trying to go for the rice that had been touched by the least amount of sauce as possible. The cinnamon and clove was too much for me and I tasted absolutely no basil or even a hint of coconut.
Stephanie Mott says
This was amazing…so much so that I’m making it for my mates this week again!
This was the most delicious recipe I have tried in a long while! I only wish I had doubled it because there wasn't a bite left over. I'm tempted to go to the grocery tomorrow and buy more ingredients to make it again haha
Is this using sweetened coconut milk or unsweetened? Is this meant to be a slightly sweet curry dish (like choo chee) or not?
Hi Denise! I use unsweetened coconut milk for this!
Kaitlyn Lind says
Very tasty! I did feel like something was missing for my own personal liking. I added sweet Thai chili sauce on top for an extra flavor in there. Loved the spice, the basil flavor, and the sweetness from the chili sauce. Will make again.
This was absolutely delicious and pretty simple to make. So fragrant and flavorful!! My only changes were as follows: instead of removing the chicken when it was finished cooking, I added the cooked veggies back into the pan, along with the coconut milk to simmer for about 5-10 mins. I also added additional salt and about a tablespoon of honey. This really rounded out the flavors. This recipe will be a regular at my house!!
Wondering if I can season the chicken and leave in the fridge for a few hours, sort of like a dry marinade? Looking forward to making this in a few days
Hi Jonalee- I think this would be fine- I hope you enjoy it!
do you think a bag of baby spinach would work in this?
Hi Catherine- Yes, that would be delicious!
Thank you for a wonderful recipe. The house was permeated with the scent of the curry. I doubled the sauce and added a bit more salt, coarse black pepper, and a dash of cayenne. We served it with a side of sauteed kale and warm naan. Delish!
It's great to see that your recipe is still going strong since the original post over 13 years ago. Congratulations!