Make Ahead

Cheap Creamy Chicken Curry

May 15, 2011
42 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
Author Notes

This is a very mild curry that's rich and comforting. The chicken and onions are braised in coconut milk which make this dish creamy and delicious. The total cost for this creamy chicken curry is roughly $10 to serve 4. Using my math team skills, this comes out to $2.50 per person, you just cannot beat it! Enjoy this flavorful, healthy, and cheap dinner. —Table9

Test Kitchen Notes

"Table9's Cheap Creamy Chicken Curry is a lovely, subtle curry that tastes anything but cheap! The spice blend is flawless and packs just the right amount of punch, and the use of coconut milk is canny indeed, lending the dish a wonderful richness and complexity. The only thing I would change is to hold back on half the water, adding more as needed." –wssmom

"Just as others mull the future of the commerce clause, I ponder possibilities for the chicken breast. I always seem to have this protein on hand, and I am in perpetual search for something quick to do with it, using the ingredients I have around the house.

Pleased was I to stumble upon Cheap Creamy Chicken Curry. Most people, even those too young to realize it, like chicken curry. Even mediocre chicken curry gets the job done on a weeknight, but this dish is well beyond that, elevated with an injection of coconut milk and a sort of shake 'n bake technique that more or less seals the lovely spice mix. If you are missing one of the listed spices here, do not fear, as the lime will bail you out in the end.

The main thing I suggest you do with this recipe is make the third step first, so that your chicken is hanging out in its spicy overcoat, maybe watching a little “I love Lucy” reruns while you sauté the onions and garlic. (That isn’t nice I guess. Chunks of chicken breast don’t watch TV. But you get the idea. I will try to show more respect.)

Once your other spices are letting off a nice aroma in the pan, add your chicken. Do not crowd please. Next comes the big show -- coconut milk YUM -- followed by a nice simmer. Do not forget the lime, as it sort of brings all these flavors and the creamy punch of fat together in the pan, finished on the plate with the dash of cilantro. Serve over basmati rice. Have a small slice of cake for dessert. Ask the kids to clean up. Think about what it would be like to visit India, wonder about who has a house there you might scam your way into, think some more about what footwear is best for an Indian sojourn, then go to bed." –Jestei

—The Editors

  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 25 minutes
  • Serves 3
  • 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  • 2 fresh garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 pound boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 cup hot water (optional)
In This Recipe
  1. In a wok, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onions, cook for 6-8 minutes or until transparent. Add garlic and cook for 1-2 more minutes.
  2. Stir in cumin, turmeric, 1 teaspoon curry powder, red pepper flakes and 1 teaspoon salt- cook for 1 minute. Add tomato paste. Mix to combine.
  3. In ziploc bag, toss chicken pieces in remaining curry powder, season with salt and pepper. Add to wok, and cook for about 5-6 minutes until outside is golden brown.
  4. Pour coconut milk into the wok-if coconut milk has separated from the fat, pour the liquid in and add a tablespoon or so of fat until you have the creamy consistency that you desire. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally for 7 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Add hot water if there is not enough liquid, because it has cooked down.
  5. Serve hot with white rice if desired. Sprinkle with cilantro and a squeeze of lime if desired.
Contest Entries

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • nextdaycatering
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  • Alisa Loughlin
    Alisa Loughlin

141 Reviews

nextdaycatering February 12, 2021
I'm trying this for valentines day, just going to stick to the original recipe though as all the added ingredients would just confuse things once i get the right Cooking Equipment
CG December 20, 2020
My curry blend already had a lot of turmeric so the additional tsp of turmeric made it bitter, however the lime at the end saved it. Next time, I won’t add the extra tsp of turmeric.
Farina M. October 21, 2020
i made tonight - didn't have an onion so I used a big shallot. i also took spice mixture out of pan when I browned chicken (in 2 batches) - took chicken out of pot and then added coconut milk, then added spice mix, stirred it all together and added chicken back in and let simmer for 10 min - was sooo good!
bas26 September 24, 2020
I forgot to mention that I used 1 cup of coconut milk and used just enough hot water to loosen up the sauce--about a 1/2 cup.
bas26 September 24, 2020
I agree this is perfect as is. The only thing I would change is to slice the onions next time. I found the chopped onions melted into the sauce and didn't have any flavor on its own. Otherwise, the spice mix and the portions came out perfectly. I can't wait to make it again.
Carrie S. July 23, 2020
made it 100 times, just perfect as is!
Sarita March 30, 2020
So good! It was quick and easy and my whole family loved it. There were no leftovers!
I didn't use turmeric as I didn't have any and I was bummed that I didn't have cilantro, but it was still really yummy. Will definitely make again.
Alex S. December 9, 2020
My husband & I always buy cilantro and Italian parsley as a staple.
Dean P. February 24, 2020
Excellent dish! Easy and quick to prepare. This was a hit with the family. I will definitely make it again!
Sheri February 21, 2020
This is a wonderful dish. Very flavorful and made with ingredients we usually have on hand. I added petite green peas and diced potato because we happened to have them available. Even my picky 10-year old enjoyed it! Great dinner for a chilly weeknight.
Arielar February 17, 2020
I am in love with this recipe. I did add fire roasted crushed tomatoes and cilantro to the soup during cooking (i always do, and it’s amazing), I also added chicken and shrimp! I served it over rice and devoured it in a matter of minutes. I love that this recipe is very flexible, it makes the house smell amazing. Will surely make this again!
Yasmanc December 7, 2019
Looks So Good😍!
Krispyecca December 2, 2019
This was very good and pretty easy to make. I substituted coconut oil for vegetable oil to get even more coconut flavor. I reduced water to 1/2 cup. Near end of cooking I added frozen green peas. We enjoyed this curry over brown rice garnished with toasted slivered almonds and plain yogurt. A very satisfying weeknight dinner.
Marianna October 26, 2019
Why does food 52 (which I love) promote unhealthy oils to cook with? Veg & canola oils eww. How about avocado oil or coconut oi?
elizabeth October 28, 2019
Coconut oil is actually not as healthy as people make it seem it may be a popular oil to use but it is actually fairly high in saturated fat, which could increase your cholesterol. Canola oil is known for being a good anti-inflammatory so maybe they aren't as bad as you think :)
Marianna October 29, 2019
It’s a different kind of fat, lots of good stuff for brain. Besides canola & veg oils are not good for you. Most are GMO. Not in my pantry. Ghee is also a great option.
kasia S. October 31, 2019
So don't use it.
judy January 21, 2020
Medium chain fatty acids. Good for you NOT bad. So coconut oil is very god for us. does NOT elevate cholesterol.
elizabeth January 22, 2020
"Coconut oil is about 90% saturated fat, which is a higher percentage than butter (about 64% saturated fat), beef fat (40%), or even lard (also 40%). Too much saturated fat in the diet is unhealthy because it raises "bad" LDL cholesterol levels, which increases the risk of heart disease"
-Harvard Health Letter, Harvard Medical School
tony January 7, 2021
Coconut oil is one of the most unhealthy oils there is
Elisie October 20, 2019
Another thought for thickening. Add veggies which makes it healthier too. Then after they cooked, scoop them out. Purée all or some veggies. Then add them back to the curry.
Alisa L. October 9, 2019
I searched for the perfect curry recipe for a long time and now I can stop. This is perfect and is now in my regular rotation. I love this preparation.
Robin September 10, 2019
Super easy and delicious!! Omitted the hot pepper during cooking because my kids don’t enjoy spicy food yet - but sprinkled some on my husband’s and my servings. Keeper!!
Justine July 19, 2019
This curry was a hit with our family. It was mild enough for our heat averse teens, yet with plenty of flavor. We added tiny diced zucchini , potato and some peas. The starchy veggies helped thicken the sauce. I'm sure we'll have this more frequently as the weather gets colder.
elizabeth June 18, 2019
I've made this recipe many times...however I recently got a crock pot for a wedding gift so I threw all of the ingredients into the crockpot on high for 2-3 hours and it was so delicious!! On low I would say 6-7 hours
Luce June 8, 2019
Made this tonight for dinner and I LOVED it. Due to dietary restrictions... I used light coconut milk, which is not as thick and creamy as I’d like. Would corn starch thicken this appropriately? Or maybe some Greek yogurt?

I will have to lessen the amount of chili flakes if I want the kids to eat it!!!

ctgal October 14, 2019
Yes, corn starch will thicken it, as will potato starch. I always use them since I have to be gluten free.
Rick May 18, 2019
Simple, straight forward curry chicken recipe, with a light creamy coconut palate pleasing flavor. I did top it off with some lime. Much enjoyed, its a keeper.