Weeknight dinners were getting a bit redundant until I resurrected this super simple Coconut Chicken Curry recipe that is super easy to make vegetarian for meatless meals. We have enjoyed this curry as a family and I’ve made it for dinner guest. I’ve even been told that it’s way tastier than take-out which is a huge win in my book. Curry in a hurry, yes it is. On the table in 20 minutes, this flavorful and warming one pot meal allows the cook in your house to get creative with spices and add-in’s. Our current favorites? Sweet potatoes, kale and the ridiculously easy honeydew salad pictured above.
Medicinal Benefits of Curry
Sure, curries are flavorful but this ancient blend of spices is medicinal to boot. While no two curries are even the same, the foundation is often created by number of spices including turmeric (hello beautiful yellow color), coriander, ginger, cardamom, cumin, mustard seeds, hot peppers and more). Many of these spices are digestive aids, helping to stoke our digestive fire. They also boast a number of anti-inflammatory properties.
- Inflammation: the active ingredient in turmeric (curcumin) is known to fight inflammation, but it’s not very bio-available on it’s own. Studies show that heat, fat and pepper can improve the bio-availablity of turmeric and we have all of those covered with this curry. A nod to the brilliance of our ancestral cooks. Read more: Everything You Need to Know About Turmeric
- Cancer-Fighting: Deep, rich colors in foods is a good indicator of antioxidants, which I like to think of as armies of vaccum cleaners coursing through our bodies, sucking up the free-radicals that cause disease. Many of the spices in this curry, along with the vegetables we add to it, have strong antioxidant properties.
- Improved Digestion: Between turmeric’s anti-inflammatory properties, cardamom’s ulcer preventative properties, and ginger’s ability to dampen indigestion and nausea, this is a great spice to be using to improve digestive health.Plus, this combination of spices is known to strengthen digestive fire.
- Natural Antibiotic: Coriander has been shown to have anti-bacterial properties which sounds lovely considering it is cold and flu season.
Does it have to be spicy?
One of my favorite things about a curry is that you can make it to meet your needs. Hate spice, it’s really easy to keep it mild. I usually make a mild batch of curry and allow guests or family members to spice it up as they please. That way we can all enjoy the dish. Hudson and Ash aren’t into spicy even though I enjoy it. Most store-bought curry powders are fairly mild and even if it says spicy, rest assured that the coconut milk and the touch of honey I added to the dish, balance out any underlying heat.
The base of this curry is a full-fat coconut milk and please, use the full-fat variety if you can. Rich and creamy, it is the perfect foil to this robust blend of spices. Just to be clear, we are talking about cooking coconut milk which differs in consistency to the milk alternatives that you would purchase for your cereal. You can purchase the cooking cooking milk in the international food section of your grocery store. It usually lives by the soy sauce and Indian sauces.
If chicken and/or meat isn’t your thing, you can easily swap veggies to create a hearty, plant based dish. Here are my favorite substitutions which I laid out in the recipe as well.
- butternut squash or sweet potatoes
Curries are often served with a sweet chutney which balances out the heat, if you choose to make it spicy. Either way, we love the refreshing, naturally sweet flavor of this salad as a topper to the curry. Made with diced honeydew (or cantaloupe), some shallot and a splash of white wine vinegar, the tangy, bright flavor is a fun add-on.
20 Minute Coconut Chicken Curry
Gluten Free/Dairy Free: A quick and simple coconut curry that can be made with chicken or a variety of vegetables.
- 1 cup basmati rice (cook per package instructions)
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs (see notes for vegetarian options)
- 2 teaspoons mild curry powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons virgin coconut or avocado oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 inches fresh ginger, peeled and grated
- 1 (14-ounce) can full-fat coconut milk
- 2 teaspoon honey
- red pepper flakes, optional
- fresh chopped cilantro for garnish
- 1 cup diced honeydew melon
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
- 2 teaspoon white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon chopped shallot
- red pepper flakes (optional)
- Get your rice on the stove using the package instructions.
- In the meantime, in a medium bowl, toss the chicken with curry powder, cumin, salt, and pepper.
- Heat oil in large pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, ginger and a pinch of salt and cook, until softened, about 2 minutes.
- Add the chicken, any additional vegetables/beans except for the greens (see notes) and the coconut milk to pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked through and sauce has thickened, 10-15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the honeydew, cilantro, vinegar and shallot. Set aside
- Add the honey to the curry and season with salt and pepper. If you are using greens like kale or spinach, this is the time to fold them in as they will simply wilt into the the dish.
- Serve with basmati rice. Divide among 4 bowls. Top with honeydew salad and freshly chopped cilantro.
- 1-2 cups sweet potato, potato or butternut squash
- 1 cup of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 2 cups of chopped greens like kale or spinach
- 1 cup of diced tomatoes
To make vegetarian, add the following instead of the chicken:
- 3-4 cups of sweet potato, potato or butternut squash
- 1-2 cups of chickpeas
- 2 cups of chopped greens like kale or spinach