Skip to Content

South Indian Coconut Chicken Curry

Indian coconut chicken curry, a wonderfully fragrant & spicy dish that combines fresh coconut & coconut milk with tamarind in a silky sauce.

This curry features influences from Kerala and Goa in the south of India and it is the perfect way to change up your curry game!

Indian coconut milk chicken curry with tamarind and fresh coriander.

South Indian Chicken Curry

As a Brummie growing up in the 80’s and 90’s Indian food was as ubiquitous in my food experience as traditional British food.

My love of “Indian” style curries was initially heavily influenced by the Bangladeshi, Punjabi and Pakistani restaurants that were so common and the diaspora that I grew up alongside.

Dishes like my beef dopiaza, chicken rogan josh and king prawn bhuna all cemented their place in my foodie heart in my formative years and are heavily influenced by flavours from the North of the Indian subcontinent.

This coconut chicken curry is a little different, it takes its influences from the south of India, from places like Kerala and Goa and is the influence for my squid ring curry.

It goes heavy with coconut and features both coconut milk and fresh coconut, which gives the dish a beautiful mouth feel and flavour but also a sweetness that I adore.

Coconut milk is often associated with South East Asian curries, but I features in Indian food too and it is the bedrock of recipes like my monkfish curry and Indian-influenced curry mussels.

That creaminess is balanced out with tamarind, that wonderful earthy sour ingredient that I use a great deal!

You will adore the complex yet complimentary and delicious flavours of this awesome chicken curry!

Overhead close-up Indian coconut milk chicken curry with tamarind and fresh coriander.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is fresh or frozen coconut better in this recipe?

I usually use frozen coconut because it is incredibly convenient and I don’t cook a lot with fresh coconut and as a result, it often goes to waste.

If you are using fresh coconut I have added a section with detailed instructions as to how to open and prepare the coconut in the next section down.

Can I use tamarind concentrate?

You can, however, you will need to use your judgement on how much to use.

I personally find that tamarind concentrates vary significantly and can add an almost metallic “tinge” to dishes if overused. This is the reason that I prefer to use a block of tamarind.

Can I use low-fat coconut milk?

I would personally never use low-fat coconut milk, it is essentially “watered” down coconut milk and fat plays an important role in how spice works in a recipe.

Can I use frozen curry leaves?

I would advise against using dried curry leaves, as far as I am concerned they have very little flaovur.

Fresh curry leaves are relatively easy to find in good Indian and Pakistani food stores and thy freeze wonderfully!

Can I make this in advance?

Yes this dish will sit in the fridge for 2-3 days is stored well and the flavour will improve over time.

Overhead Indian coconut milk chicken curry with tamarind and fresh coriander.

How to Open a Fresh Coconut

If you want to use fresh coconut in this recipe but you are not sure where to start, here is a guide in pictures.

Take a look at a coconut, it has 3 dark “holes” at the top, running between these you have 3 seams that run top to bottom.

Illustration of the seam to strike when opening a coconut

These are the seams you need to hit with a hammer. Hold the coconut in your weaker hand with the holes facing you.

Then firmly strike the seam, working from the hole end toward the bottom. You do not need to leather the snot out of it, just firm clean strikes.

Hammer striking a seam when opening a coconut

Then move on to the next seam and then the third. By the time you have finished, you should be able to peel away the husk.

Removal of coconut shell

Once this is done you can peel the outer layer with a vegetable peeler. This takes a bit of effort but it will come away once you get started. Finally, you can open your coconut and shred it, grate it or chop it how you want. You need around a third of a coconut for this recipe, but it does freeze wonderfully!

Peeling a coconut after opening

Serving Suggestions

Curries, in my opinion almost always are better when served with some form of Indian flatbread and this coconut chicken curry is no different to my mind!

The almost “soupy” nature of the curry makes the good old tandoori-style naan bread the perfect option. But if you are a chapati or roti fan, don’t sweat it, they work well too!

Of course, rice is always a solid option with a curry and this recipe is awesome with either plain rice or a good pilau rice.

Potatoes also make a nice side with this dish, both my roasted Bombay potatoes and aloo methi are solid options.

However, I am much more likely to keep this curry fairly light and fill up on poppadoms, kachumber salad, mint raita and mango chutney as a starter.

Close-up Indian coconut milk chicken curry with tamarind and fresh coriander.

Equipment Used

I only name-check brands of equipment if I think that they make a material difference to a recipe. But if you have any questions feel free to ask them in the comments section below the recipe.

  • Stovetop.
  • Wok.
  • Blender.
  • Kettle for boiling water to soak the tamarind.
  • Small mixing bowl.
  • Small fine mesh sieve.
  • Stirring and serving spoons.
  • Chopping board.
  • Kitchen knife.
  • Weighing scales and or measuring jug, cups and spoons.
South Indian influenced coconut chicken curry with tamarind served in an iron karai.
Yield: 2 Servings

Indian Coconut Chicken Curry Recipe

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes

Fresh coconut, coconut milk & fragrant spices are the stars of this spicy hot Indian chicken curry with influences from Goa and Kerela in South India.


  • 300g (10oz) Skinless and Boneless Chicken Thighs
  • 25g (25mm or 1" Cube) Tamarind Pulp
  • 25ml (2 Tbsp) Boiling Water
  • 75g (¾ Cup) Grated Coconut (Defrosted if Frozen)
  • 2 (70g Total) Banana Shallots
  • 35g (Thumb Sized Piece) Ginger
  • 3 Dried Kashmiri Chilli Peppers
  • 4 Garlic Cloves
  • 2 Green Chilli Peppers
  • 2 Tbsp Cooking Oil
  • 250ml (1 Cup) Chicken Stock
  • 18-24 Curry Leaves
  • 1 X 10cm Piece of Cassia Bark
  • 4 Green Cardamom Pods
  • 1 Star Anise
  • 200g (7oz) Tin Coconut Milk
  • 2 Tsp Kashmiri Chilli Powder
  • ½ Tsp Ground Cumin
  • ½ Tsp Ground Coriander
  • ¼ Tsp Ground Turmeric
  • ½ Tsp Salt
  • ½ Tsp Jaggery (or Dark Brown Sugar)
  • 2 Tsp Dried Fenugreek Leaves


  1. Place the tamarind in a bowl, pour over the boiling water, give it a rough mash then let it sit for 10 minutes. After the tamarind has soaked pass it through a fine mesh sieve.
  2. Cut the shallots in half, peel them then cut them into a rough 1cm (½") dice.
  3. Crush the garlic cloves with the heel of your hand then peel them.
  4. Peel the ginger and then roughly chop it.
  5. Cut the green chilli peppers in half lengthways.
  6. Cut the chicken thighs into 1½-2cm (½-¾") thick strips across the thigh.
  7. Heat one tablespoon of the oil in a wok over a medium-high heat and add the garlic, ginger, shallots, dried chillies and grated coconut and cook until the coconut begins to colour up, this will take around 4-5 minutes. Then transfer this to a blender.
  8. Pour the chicken stock into the blender and blitz the coconut to a smooth paste.
  9. Return the wok to a high heat and add another tablespoon of oil add the curry leaves, green chilli peppers, cassia bark, green cardamom pods and star anise and fry for 30 seconds.
  10. Add the chicken thighs and fry for 2 minutes, then add the chilli powder, cumin, coriander, turmeric, jaggery and salt and toss to coat.
  11. Add the coconut puree that we created earlier along with the coconut milk and tamarind, then stir to combine everything and cook for 8-10 minutes.
  12. Crush the dried fenugreek leaves between your palms over the wok and cook for a final 1-2 minutes then serve.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 1032Total Fat: 61gSaturated Fat: 34gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 24gCholesterol: 187mgSodium: 1251mgCarbohydrates: 86gFiber: 13gSugar: 44gProtein: 49g

Calorific details are provided by a third-party application and are to be used as indicative figures only.

Did you make this recipe?

If you made this recipe, I'd love to see what you did and what I can do better, share a picture with me on Instagram and tag me @krumplibrian and tell me how it went!


Thursday 15th of March 2018

Curry is my favorite and I tried curry dishes but never tried this one. By the look of the images this is more delicious and I will saved this for tomorrow. Thank you..

Brian Jones

Thursday 15th of March 2018

Enjoy :)


Thursday 15th of March 2018

Oh my !! Brian, you hit me hard with this curry. Absolutely mind blowing I must make a curry tonight or else and this is definitely on the priority list. I love the chapatis, do you make those as well, do you have a recipe for them? Beautiful pictures too! Waw!!! ??

Brian Jones

Thursday 15th of March 2018

Thanks Ramona, as you can probably tell I am rather fond of Indian flavours ;) Here is my chapati recipe


Thursday 16th of July 2015

Hey, I'm trying to make this recipe right now and I noticed it says "add cinnamon" to the ghee, but the ingredients list never mentioned how much cinnamon. How much cinnamon should go in the ghee?

Brian Jones

Thursday 16th of July 2015

Wow quite an oversight, it is one stick of Cinnamon, approx 7cm long.

Thanks for bringing it to my attention and sorry :)

Shashi at RunninSrilankan

Wednesday 10th of June 2015

Hi Brian, just stumbled on your blog and this chicken curry sounds so wonderfully aromatic and flavorful! I have an affinity to Indian food - my mom loves using tons of the fiery red Kashmiri Chili powder in her curries - and I am betting this is totally delicious.

Brian Jones

Thursday 11th of June 2015

Thanks Shasi... I love Indian food and this really was a bit of a triumph :)

I'll pop over and take a poke around your site for some inspiration some time in the next couple of days.

Skip to Recipe