Thai Coconut Chicken Curry (With/Without Red Curry Paste)

Now this is a dish that is so quick and easy and delicious! perfect to make for a regular weeknight dinner by your lonesome or for a crowd. it’s a guaranteed pleaser. this recipe offers you substitutions for red curry paste, which can often be too spicy for some or hard to get a hold of for others.

I whipped this Thai Coconut Chicken Curry up just a few nights ago for the family, and boy did it satisfy! Safe to say, there were no leftovers. And what I love about this recipe is how deceivingly quick and easy it was to make. I have to say, the sauce was the highlight. Although, admittedly, I never ate the chicken. Being pescatarian, I decided to stick with simple sauce and rice and it was absolutely heavenly for me!

Don’t have Red Curry Paste or find it too spicy?

I think the biggest issue for me in making Thai Coconut Chicken Curry was getting a hold of the Red Curry Paste, which is an essential in all Thai Coconut Curry recipes. In Turkey, I can’t find it in any grocery store, which forced me to get a bit creative. Fortunately, what we do have in abundance in Turkey is Red Pepper Paste, which has a lovely bitter-sweet flavor. And also Tomato Paste, which adds a layer of savory, warm depth to the dish. This worked out perfectly for me because I really don’t enjoy spice. So being able to substitute it such that it tasted as good as the original but wasn’t spicy was very rewarding.

Make it vegan/vegetarian/pescatarian!

I live in a family of meat-lovers, and since this was made for a family dinner, we went with the classic chicken curry. But what’s amazing about this recipe is that the star of your dish can be anything! See below for some of my favorite substitutions.

I live in a family of meat-lovers, and since this was made for a family dinner, we went with the classic chicken curry. But what’s amazing about this recipe is that the star of your dish can be anything! See below for some of my favorite substitutions.

Thai Coconut Fish Curry

This pescatarian-friendly, low-fat version is my favorite. You’ll need filleted fish with the skin removed. Cut it into large chunks. Add in place of chicken in Step 3, and cook fish only half-way through or a little more than half way. Flip gently to ensure cooking on all sides. Before it’s fully cooked, proceed to Step 4. Fish cooks quickly and will continue cooking as the curry simmers.

Thai Coconut Tofu/Potato/Mixed Vegetable Curry

For all vegetarian/vegan friends, here’s what you can do. Use tofu, cubed potatoes or any combination of mixed vegetables you liked (I personally prefer some red and yellow peppers, green onions, carrots, leeks, peas, spinach or kale or anything else you have lying in your fridge). Add in place of chicken in Step 3, and cook as you would till completely done. The potatoes should be cooked al dente as they will continue to soften while the curry simmers. Then proceed to Step 4.

Thai Coconut Lentil Curry

Another one of my favorite vegan/vegetarian-friendly version. Any kind lentils will work here, though I prefer yellow or red lentils. Soak lentils in water for at least 2 hours. Add in place of chicken in Step 3, stir to coat with the paste mixture. For every 1 cup of lentils, add 3 cups of water and bring to a boil. Once lentils are cooked, proceed with Step 4.

Thai Coconut Chickpea Curry

An easy vegan/vegetarian-friendly option for a super quick and delicious dinner. Use canned chickpeas (1 can should serve 2 people) for a quick curry by adding in place of chicken in Step 3 and then immediately proceeding to step 4. If using dry chickpeas, soak overnight, add soaked chickpeas in Step 3, cover with water and bring to a boil (for every 1 cup of chickpeas, add 3 cups of water). Once chickpeas have cooked through, proceed with Step 4.

There’s not much else to this recipe. Once you make it, you’ll want to keep making it again and again. Serve over some white or brown rice, or with a side of naan. The flavors will amaze you!

Let me know how this quick and easy, creamy Thai Coconut Chicken Curry turns out for you guys! Post in the comments below or share a picture on instagram or twitter with the hashtag #hungrybyayesha

Quick & Easy Coconut Chicken Curry (With/Without Red Curry Paste)

A creamy, sweet-umami flavor from the tender chicken and the coconut milk. A perfect all-rounder recipe, whether you're cooking for one or a crowd!
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Total Time40 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Thai
Keyword: chicken, coconut, curry, easy, low calorie, quick, savory
Calories: 330kcal
Author: Ayesha Bilal


  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium white onion, finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro or parsely, finely chopped (20-30g)
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 2-3 tbsp red curry paste (substitute with red pepper paste and/or tomato paste)
  • 1 lb boneless chicken, cut into 1 inch cubes (450g)
  • 1 13 oz. can coconut milk (400ml)
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp salt (or to taste)


  • Heat 2 tablespoon olive oil on medium heat in a large pan or skillet. Add fincely diced onions, saute for 4-5 minutes, or till translucent and softened. Add the minced garlic and minced ginger and cook for another 1-2 minutes till the garlic begins to get some color.
  • Add the curry powder, ground coriander and red curry paste. Stir well to combine into a paste-like mixture. Note: if using spicy curry paste, opt for 2 tablespoons if you don't prefer it very spicy. Replace completely with red pepper paste or tomato paste (or a combination of the two) if you would not it to be spicy at all or if you don't have red curry paste.
  • Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Add the cubed pieces of chicken. Stir gently to coat all the chicken completely with the curry mixture, and cook for 5-6 minutes, gently stirring and flipping the cubes around to ensure even cooking till chicken is just done.
  • Add the coconut milk, lemon juice, brown sugar and salt and stir to combine. Turn the heat down to a simmer. Add the chopped cilantro or parsely and let simmer for 4-5 minutes, or till the consistency of the sauce reaches your desired thickness. Taste and adjust for salt or brown sugar if necessary.
  • Serve over long-grained rice or with naan bread. Garnish with some roughly chopped cilantro.


  1. Red Curry Paste substitution: if red curry paste is hard to come by where you live, or too spicy for your taste, you can easily substitute with red pepper paste or tomato paste, or a combination of the two. I have used 2 tbsp tomato paste and 1 tbsp red pepper paste in the past. 
  2. Make vegetarian/vegan-friendly: use tofu or vegan meat instead of chicken. You can also replace chicken with canned chickpeas, lentils, potatoes or combination vegetables. If using tofu, vegan meat, potatoes or vegetables: add instead of chicken and cook as per the recipe before continuing with Step 5. If using lentils: add 2 cups pre-soaked lentils instead of the chicken with 4 cups water. Simmer till cooked and the water has evaporated, then continue with Step 5. 
  3. Storage: store in air tight container for 3-4 days in the refridgerator.
Ayesha Bilal
Ayesha Bilal

A 25 year expat, living currently in Turkey, and living my happiest life exploring the world, bit by bit, with my favorite travel buddy, and my partner, Argun. Follow my travel across England on FellowPrimo, and check out delicious recipes and the best spots to grab a bite around the world.

Articles by Ayesha Bilal


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