Print Options

Basil Chicken in Coconut Curry Sauce

Basil Chicken in Coconut Curry Sauce

This basil coconut chicken curry recipe is a favorite of my friend Heidi H. It's fairly easy to pull together, and tasty (no leftovers!). Use chicken thigh meat instead of breast meat for a richer chicken flavor.

Print Options

Basil Chicken in Coconut Curry Sauce Recipe


1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1 lb skinless, boneless chicken thighs (you can use breasts, but the thighs are more flavorful)

1 large red onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and minced
2 Tbsp olive oil or grapeseed oil
1 14-oz can coconut milk
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
3 Tbsp fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger

Hot cooked rice


1 In a small bowl, mix together the salt, ground coriander, cumin, ground cloves, cinnamon, ground cardamom, black pepper, chili powder, and turmeric. Set aside.

2 Rinse chicken, pat dry. Cut into 1-inch pieces. Put into a bowl and sprinkle the spice mix over all the pieces. Coat well and let sit for 30 minutes at room temperature or in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours.

3 In a large skillet heat 1 Tbsp oil on medium high heat. Add the onions and jalapeños and cook for 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Remove the onions, peppers and garlic from the pan and put into a medium sized bowl. Set aside. Use the same pan for the next step.

basil-chicken-1.jpg basil-chicken-2.jpg

4 Add 1 Tbsp oil to the skillet and heat on medium high heat. Add one half of the chicken pieces, spreading them out on the pan so they are not crowded. Brown for a few minutes on each side. When the chicken pieces are cooked through, and no pink remains, remove from pan, add to the bowl with the onions. Cook the second batch of chicken pieces the same way. Remove from pan, add to bowl with onions.

5 Add the coconut milk, minus a couple tablespoons, to the skillet. In a small bowl, mix the remaining coconut with the corn starch to dissolve the corn starch. Add the corn startch mixture back to the skillet with the coconut milk. Cook on medium heat and stir till thick and bubbly. Mix in the worcestershire sauce. Add chicken mixture, basil, and ginger. Cook 2 minutes more to cook through.

Serve over rice. Serves 4.

You might also like...


That looks very good; thanks for sharing once again. I love curries with coconut milk in them.

Posted by: Lisa on October 11, 2006 3:12 PM

Tasty! Honestly, I can't wait to cook this over the weekend. My husband's coming back from LA, and I know he'll rave about it.

Posted by: Shelly on October 12, 2006 12:13 AM

I love coconut milk based food. My girlfriend and I often do some thai-inspired food and this one pretty much looks like the one we cook. We always had a problem with making the sauce thicker but i believe you just solved my problem thank you.

If you believe you will like this recipe, I recommend you try it with jasmin rice or basmati rice, they blend so much nicer with the taste of curry.

Posted by: Stephane on October 12, 2006 7:29 AM

That looks simply amazing! I can't wait to try it out.

Posted by: Gluten Free By The Bay on October 12, 2006 3:54 PM

I made this tonight, and it's tasty! I forgot to make rice, but my fiance is around the corner at the local thai carryout getting rice to go. I can't wait for dinner!
This is plenty flavorful, even though the chicken comes after the onions/garlic/peppers.

It reminds me of the steps to making stew.

Posted by: Mina on October 12, 2006 8:06 PM

I made this last night - wow, was it tasty! Very easy to make, too. The combination of spices for the dry rub marinade is just out of this world, it smells so good! And tastes great, too :) I used a regular type skillet (not non-stick) so that the chicken pieces really browned up and left lots of tasty bits in the pan to get deglazed with the coconut milk. My dish turned out looking just like the pictures! With only two of us eating this, we finished off nearly the entire recipe. Given that, I think next time I'll try experimenting with replacing some of the coconut milk with chicken broth. I don't usually mind a higher fat content for something this flavorful, but with coconut milk being mostly saturated fat.. well.. I'd like lighten it up a bit. I also needed to add a little salt to my dish; my dinner companion thought hers was fine without. I served it with a big bowl of fragrant jasmine rice. Would definitely make this one again, thanks for posting a great recipe!

Posted by: Felicia on October 15, 2006 5:14 PM

I am with Jeff. I think I would do the chicken first and utilize the flavor of the fond. This does look really good, and would be popular in my house.

Posted by: Kate on October 16, 2006 6:09 AM

I made this last night and I'm still thinking about how good it was. I used *lite* coconut milk, which seemed to have the same ingredients as regular, but fewer calories and less fat. It might have taken a little longer to thicken, but eventually did. I think I'll try cooking the chicken first next time--good idea. My husband thought it was a little heavy with the onion, I guess I used an extra-large onion instead of large. He also added salt to his, I didn't think it needed it.

Posted by: Mary on October 16, 2006 7:02 AM

Excellent, just 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!

Posted by: Gloriana on October 16, 2006 1:06 PM

I also like coconut milk based curries. I made this about a week ago for my family. Thought it was a little mild, heat wise, compared to other curry recipes we've tried. So the next time I make it I'll add a 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper to the spice mixture.

Posted by: RD on October 20, 2006 6:25 PM

This was a fabulous dinner....I agree that it could definetely use some more heat though. Overall this was phenomenal.

Posted by: Emilio on October 31, 2006 11:07 AM

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.

Posted by: Sudesna on November 14, 2006 1:14 PM

I made this tonight! The kitchen smelled great as my hubby was walking in. The chicken was spicy (nice blend of flavors) but wasn't hot enough for our taste. After reading the suggestions from the reviews, I had already added more salt to the chicken and also added 1/4 tsp of cayenne pepper for heat. Also upped the chopped ginger to 2 tbsp. (but I sauteed the ginger with the onion/garlic/jalapeno mixture instead of adding it at the end). But we felt that we could take a bit more heat. Maybe I will add a pinch of red pepper flakes in the mixture next time. Also, to cut down the fat, I used lite coconut milk. This part disappointed me a bit. The sauce was a bit bland to my taste. It lacked that rich coconut flavor and a bit of sweetness I think which would have made the curry dish better. All in all, this is a definite keeper. I think full fat coconut milk (with added chicken broth) will be a good choice here. Can't wait to make it again with some new modifications. Thanks.

Posted by: Jennifer K. on November 14, 2006 4:18 PM

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!!!

Posted by: jeeves on January 6, 2007 8:24 PM

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.

Posted by: Denise on April 1, 2007 9:47 AM

I agree with the above posters that this dish was fantastic and every step made my kitchen smell better. I seem to be the only one who found it a tad complicated, but that might be because it was my first try. I felt like I was chopping, dicing, mincing, stirring, measuring and turning for hours. It was worth it though. Next time I will add a bit of salt to the sauce.

Posted by: Cate on April 17, 2007 8:30 PM

I made this 1st for myself to test it out and as soon as I finished eating a plate of it immediately called my boyfriend and told him to prepare for a real treat the next night. His 1st words after eating a plate of it were, " I Love you!" Thanks a million for this terrific recipe!!!!

Posted by: Nina on April 18, 2007 5:54 PM

Made this tonight and as it was cooking I liked the saucy consistency so left out the starch. This was a good plan since the sauce is wonderful with the rice. Next time, as suggested, I will leave in the seeds from the peppers to kick up the heat a bit. This is a keeper. Thank you.

Posted by: candy on April 22, 2007 5:50 PM

I made this again tonight and added more jalepeno since I had extra around. It has a nice pique to it now. But, it just dawned on me that Thai basil is maybe what it is calling for. Elise, what say you? As Thai basil is heavenly, I have a feeling this would be even BETTER with that.

Posted by: candy on April 28, 2007 5:56 PM

I made this today and it turned out deeee-licious! I added about 1/2 tsp more red pepper powder and the heat gave it that extra flavor kick. Thanks a lot for the recipe...I'll look around your blog for more :)

Posted by: Anonymous on May 7, 2007 5:26 PM

I made this for lunch and it was YUMMY!! Thanks heaps Elise for the delicious recipe

Posted by: RR on May 27, 2007 9:37 AM

I made this recently...holy cow, it was great!!! The coconut milk, the heat from the peppers...this one is a real winner. Thank you!

Posted by: laura on August 29, 2007 7:13 AM

Great recipe..tried it tonight and it was wonderful.

One thing to remember...since I am fairly new to the cooking scene...wear gloves when handling jalapeño peppers. My hands have been burning the whole night...and worse of all...I tried to take out my contact lenses after cooking...BAD IDEA. It burned my eyes.

However, I must say, this is a darn good recipe!!!!

Posted by: TBD on September 4, 2007 9:27 PM

This is one of my absolute favorite recipes, Elise! It is delicious.

Posted by: caitlyn on September 6, 2007 8:42 AM

This looks great! I knew someone that put basil in their chicken curry but I have never had it that way...although basil is one of my favorite herbs. This looks and sounds really delicious, I will have to try it out.

Posted by: meeso on September 6, 2007 9:57 AM

It must be a sign. This is the second delicious sounding recipe I've come across in a week that calls for coconut milk. Can you believe I've never used the stuff?

Now to see if I can find a can of it out here in the middle of Missouri nowhere. You should have heard me last year trying to explain to the helpful guy at the supermarket what chipotle chiles in adobo sauce were. I didn't think they'd have them but figured it couldn't hurt to ask. The ensuing conversation was borderline hysterical. But then again we're easily amused out here! : )

Posted by: farmgirl on September 6, 2007 1:27 PM

Amazing blog. Thighs instead of breasts. I'm going to do this recipie with figs, sautée in butter and use shaved coconuts. Can't eat much curry because of my stomach, but what do you think about nutmeg?
Thanks! MR/Paris

Posted by: MATTHEW ROSE on September 6, 2007 4:37 PM

Well... it smelled great and tasted fine. But it was more like curry soup than I would have liked. Maybe it was because I used lite coconut milk? Anyway, next time I would use the full fat kind regardless; it's worth a few more calories to get that rich taste!

Posted by: Harmony on September 7, 2007 3:05 PM

Everything tastes good in a coconut curry sauce.
This looks yummy.

Posted by: chigiy on September 7, 2007 9:11 PM

This looks so delicious! I always have trouble getting curries that strike the sweet-hot-savory balance, so I am anxious to try this one!

Posted by: Deborah Dowd on September 8, 2007 5:19 AM

I made this for dinner last night and it was tasty and went together very quickly. I added the juice of 1/2 of a lime, because to me, the sauce needed a little something tangy. Next time I make it, I will omit the cornstarch because I like the texture of coconut milk without the added thickening. I also used chicken breasts because that is what I had on hand. I am not a big fan of white meat, but it stayed moist and worked well in this dish.

Posted by: Christine on September 11, 2007 5:53 AM

Could one substitute the long list of spices for a store-bought curry powder or paste? Looking to get into making curries but don't want to build a spice cabinet to do so (student budget).

Love the site!

Posted by: mike on September 11, 2007 7:05 PM

Made this last night and added all the "spicy" suggestions, (i.e. 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, a few red pepper flakes, and left the seeds and veins of the jalapenos in) and WHOA, was it a spicy one - even my boyfriend who needs hot sauce on everything was reaching for the iced tea every other minute (hehe). I had the same trouble with the lite coconut milk being too thin, but overall it was very flavorful and relatively quick.

Posted by: Suz on September 12, 2007 7:27 AM

I've been a long-time reader of your site, but this is my first time commenting. I just made this recipe, and its wonderful! I also did the onions first and then the chicken - this is the traditional way to make a curry (heat oil, add onions, add chili, garlic, add the meat to so that it absorbs the maximum amount of the flavors of the onion-garlic mix).

Posted by: Joyti on September 14, 2007 7:33 PM

Holy smokes, this was fabulous!!! You've convinced me to keep a can of coconut milk in the pantry at all times! I'm going to try this with eggplant next.

Posted by: Jess on September 27, 2007 8:29 AM

I made this tonight and was highly disappointed, especially with all the rave reviews in the comments section. Biggest thing was that it was super bland. And I'm not talking about a lack of heat (I'm a mild/medium heat kinda person), but just a general lack of flavor. Second was the cooking method. I did the onions on med-high and in the 3 minutes they were nearly burnt. And then when I ate it, the onions were still crunchy. I don't know if the Teflon mattered - I see in the photos, the author used a Teflon pan. I did not.

Posted by: Marie on November 9, 2007 6:18 PM

I made this tonight for my husband and I. Wow, was it great! You won't regret it! Thank you so very much.

Posted by: patra May on December 18, 2007 6:05 PM

I am definitely going to make this tonight, thanks for the recipe! I have a question though: can I use dried basil instead of fresh? Thats all I have on hand today.

If you try this with dry basil, use a third as much basil, so 1 Tbsp not 3 Tbsp. ~Elise

Posted by: Stephanie on January 3, 2008 10:22 AM

I have been making a ton of your recipes lately and I really enjoy them. We made this recipe last night and it was a hit. It is on the list of "to make" dinner recipes. This is how I know it was good!! However, I felt like it was missing something. I tried putting a few pinches of sea salt at the end but I still felt like it needed something. This recipe reminded me of a Thai curry and Thai curries usually have fish sauce in them. So, I put about 2 tbls. of fish sauce and that is what it was missing. The fish sauce really gave it so much more flavor. I would highly recommend the fish sauce. Thanks for another great recipe.

Posted by: Chanda on January 21, 2008 4:07 AM

"Long list of spices" substitution: it sounds like you could use garam masala, because the spices from coriander to cardamon are what make up this indian blend of spices. I'll try it out and post a review.

Posted by: Sheila on January 29, 2008 6:29 PM

My neighbor and I have a dinner swap every week. I cook for her and her husband on Tuesday and she cooks for us on Thursday. I made this for us and it was a big hit! The flavors are phenomenal. The only change I made was adding some chicken broth to the sauce at the end to make it looser. It seemed way too thick for me. The chicken broth worked or alternatively I guess you could use less cornstarch. This is a keeper -- thanks!

Posted by: Janet on February 19, 2008 9:25 AM

We love this recipe. I made it for my husband and i and i will definitely cook it again. We love it so much we almost finished the whole pot. I agree with everyones suggestion, if you want it a bit spicy leave the seeds in jalapeño pepper.

Posted by: Shakirat on March 18, 2008 1:03 PM

My husband and I loved this dish! Thanks for the recipe!

Posted by: Lex on April 7, 2008 12:12 PM

This recipe is very nice, we made it, here in Bangalore, India... The cooker is Barti. We enjoyed a lot.
Cheers, David

Posted by: David on April 16, 2008 7:49 AM

I love this recipe! I didn't have any Worcestershire sauce but I did add a tablespoon of Thai fish sauce. I found that a squeeze of lime juice just before eating really enhanced all the flavors. Yesterday I took leftovers to work and several people stuck their heads into the lunch room to find out what smelled so good!

Posted by: Kelley on April 22, 2008 2:38 PM

I made this last week and Wowza! I think this was the best dish I've ever whipped up in the kitchen. I doubled the recipe since I had a feeling that we would want leftovers. The flavors of all the spices and coconut milk - delicious! My wife loved it, but the kids (6 and 3 year old girls) weren't too crazy about it. I understand - it's an acquired taste. But I told them to acquire it fast since I plan on making this once a month.

Posted by: Gary on May 28, 2008 12:55 PM

This was so yummy! Since the stores aren't selling jalapenos in CA right now I had to skip those. It was still delicious and I can't wait to taste it with the added spicyness! We love things hot.

My husband and three year old both gobbled it up!

Posted by: sharla on July 8, 2008 9:22 AM

This is amazing! There are so many wonderful recipes on this website--thank you for such thoughtful and delicious ideas.

Posted by: Campbell on September 22, 2008 5:16 PM

I tried this recipe last night for dinner. this is Professional stuff. my husband raved about it. he loved how it tasted & said he felt as if he's ordered a meal from an excellent Thai restaurant. I made Jasmine rice & it went perfectly well with it.
Thanks alot for sharing your delicious recipes with us. BTW this is my second recipe to try from your site & I'll keep trying more of them.

Posted by: Jazz on October 24, 2008 6:53 AM

I've made, easily, dozens of recipes from your site over the years I've been following it. This is the first one that was a miss. I put two strong jalapeños in, marinated the thighs for 2 hours, and somehow it all came out flavorless. Too bad, maybe I'll try some of the adaptations suggested: cayenne, cut the coconut milk with broth.

Posted by: Alex D on November 12, 2008 7:37 PM

After reading the many rave reviews about this recipe I just HAD to try it. Wow! It was impressive. The spices create a wonderful flavor and the coconut milk is very unique and scrumptious. I used thighs as called for in the recipe but will probably use breasts the next time I make it. The thighs were very moist and flavorful but I just prefer the white meat. I made your Broccoli Stir Fry with Ginger and Sesame as the side dish (along with rice) and it all went together beautifully. My husband and I both agreed this was a top-of-the-line meal and of the quality you would expect from a fine restaurant. Thank you!

Posted by: Rhonda on December 3, 2008 1:15 PM

I would leave out the cinnamon next time, omit the corn starch, so it is saucier, and add some fish sauce next time. I would also cut back on the jalapeno a little. I would also use half the onion and saute the onion much longer so it is soft and not crunchy.

Posted by: Amy on December 17, 2008 4:31 PM

This was iiincredible! Loved it. I will definitely be making this one again. It was nice and spicy just the way we like it and it gave me a chance to use my basil. A new fave :)

Posted by: Kate on March 25, 2009 5:02 PM

I made this recipe last Saturday. It was fantastic!! Very easy to make.

I love the rub! The flavor and aroma is wonderful.

I used Thai Basil for this recipe. I also added lemon grass along with jalapenos and onions. Next time, I will try it with lighter version of the coconut milk.

This one is going to be a family favorite.

Thanks for posting this recipe.

Posted by: Esther on June 1, 2009 9:21 PM

This was pretty good. Although, it needs curry powder since it called Basil Chicken in Coconut "Curry" Sauce. I added about a 1/2 a teaspoon of curry to the rub, and probably another 1/2 to full teaspoon of curry to the whole mixture at the end. I substituted Serrano pepper for the Jalapenos to give more heat and Added some soy sauce to it at the end to salt it up some more. Fed it to my Thai friend and he thought it was really good too.

Hi Dough, FYI curry is a generic term. You do not need to add curry powder to something to make it a curry. ~Elise

Posted by: Doug on August 4, 2009 5:09 AM

The dry rub was fantastic - and I would have been perfectly happy with the combination of chicken, onion, jalapeno and rice. The problem for me was with the curry. There didn't seem to be enough flavor to offset the coconut milk. I was prepared to enjoy using it as a sauce over the rice, but instead everything just tasted like it was coated in mildly coconutty oil. What do you think I could do with the curry? Did I not thicken it enough? Add more Worcestershire sauce? Lemon juice? Halve the coconut milk? I would like to get this right, it sounds amazing, and I'm not sure why the curry was so bland.

Posted by: Joy on August 14, 2009 9:23 PM

I've tried a couple of your recipes and they have been excellent. Been waiting to try my hand at this one for a few weeks now and after ripping up the town to find all the spices needed, I finally made it tonight.

Unlike pretty much everyone who commented, I thought it was extremely spicy!!! What can I do to make it a bit (or a lot) more mild? Is it the spices or the jalapeño peppers? It was certainly delicious, just really, really hot!

Not all jalapeños are alike, some are much hotter than others. Helps to taste a small bit of one first. Also make sure that you have removed all of the seeds from the jalapeños. You can also take out the ribs, which tend to be hotter. (Make sure you wash you hands thoroughly with hot soapy water after handling chile peppers.) Next time just use half a jalapeño and increase if you think it needs more heat. ~Elise

Posted by: Mauricio on September 15, 2009 7:06 PM

Thanks for the response! And thanks for the website, you have done a really great job!! I'll try half a jalapeño next time :-)

Posted by: Mauricio on September 24, 2009 9:41 AM

This recipe was great! I did alter a few things:

Preheat oven to 350. Heat a ovensafe pan with oil. In a small bowl, mix spices together and add 2 TBS of olive oil. Brush 3 whole chicken breasts with rub. Add chicken to pan and brown both sides. Remove from pan and set aside. Saute onions and peppers till cooked through, add cocounut milk, ginger and basil as stated. Replace chicken in pan, and cover. Put chicken dish in oven 40 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. This keeps the chicken incredible tender, makes sure the veges are cooked well, I did not add cornstarch to the cocunut milk and it turned out the perfect thickness. Great with white rice. Awesome flavors!

Posted by: Megan on October 4, 2009 7:20 AM

I made this dish the other night for some friends and everyone loved it! I normally find that I have to tweek recipes that I find to make them tastier, but this one was perfect! The only change I made was to use a chile paste that I keep on hand instead of going out to buy fresh chiles every time I need them! Thanks for this awesome recipe! Definitely going to be making it often!

Posted by: Briony on December 15, 2009 7:40 AM

I love coconut milk based food. always had a problem with making the sauce thicker but i believe you just solved my problem thank you.

If you believe you will like this recipe, I recommend you try it with jasmin rice or basmati rice, they blend so much nicer with the taste of curry.I often do some thai-inspired food and this one pretty much looks like the one we cook.

I often do some thai-inspired food and this one pretty much looks like the one we cook.

I've tried a couple of your recipes and they have been excellent. Been waiting to try my hand at this one for a few weeks now and after ripping up the town to find all the spices needed, I finally made it tonight.

Posted by: JOANNA SZANDROCHA Marble Arch, London W1C 1H on December 31, 2009 3:37 AM

I agree with using chicken thigh instead of breast for extra chicken flavor. People can simply ask their butcher to take off bone from chicken thigh.

Or buy already de-boned chicken thighs. ~Elise

Posted by: Selera Malaysia on February 16, 2010 4:50 AM

Do you have to use the Jalapeño peppers. I'm worried it will be too spicy...

If you don't like things spicy, I would just leave them out. Either that or use just a very small amount. ~Elise

Posted by: An No Nymous on March 7, 2010 12:41 PM

This was an amazing recipe. I made it for cookbook club last night and there truly were not any leftovers! Now, I'm missing it... I might have to make it again today.
This is also an amazingly easy recipe to put together, it can be made on the fly.
I only used half a red onion, but did include both jalapenos. I was a bit worried about the kick but I have to tell you - it just made your mouth warm - it wasn't spicy - just warm... mmmm - so good!!! Will make it again and again!

Posted by: Melanie on May 15, 2010 10:09 AM

This was delicious and not at all difficult for me as an aspiring cook. My 7 year old daughter said it was the best food in the world, ever. Thanks for making this non-cook mom a hero!

Posted by: Tanya on July 4, 2010 10:10 AM

Post a comment

(Your comment may need to be approved before it will appear on the site. Thanks for waiting. First time commenting? Please review the Comment Policy.)

Link to this recipe

Bookmark this page using the following link:

Do you have a website? You can place a link to this page by copying and pasting the code below.

<a href="">Basil Chicken in Coconut Curry Sauce</a>