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Thai red curry chicken sounds kind of exotic, but don’t worry, it’s easy to make, and even easier to love!
Chicken and veggies are quickly sautéed and then cooked in a creamy coconut milk and Thai red curry paste sauce. Served over rice, it’s filling, comforting and delicious.
This is a super quick meal that you can get on the table in 30 minutes. It’s better than takeout and a go-to weeknight dinner in our house. You can pack a lot of protein and vegetables in this curry!
There is no shortage of Thai red curry recipes on the web. The recipe below is something I make often and usually adapt to what I have on hand, in terms of vegetables. It can be made in many ways, and you can modify it to suit your tastes.
Is Thai Red Curry Spicy?
In short, it depends.
Like most Asian curries, Thai red curry has a lot of complex flavors. All of the ingredients in the paste, which is then simmered with broth and coconut milk, give the sauce a complex flavor with many layers. It has both sweet and savory flavors and is quite rich.
If you only look at the color, you might think Thai red curry chicken is very spicy, but it really isn’t. The way I make it is pretty mild. But if you’re looking for more of a spicy kick, you can adjust the heat level by increasing the curry paste or using a spicier blend.
Thai Red Curry Paste
Thai red curry paste is easily found in the Asian section of most grocery stores. The components can vary but most often include dried red chilies, galangal, shrimp paste, coriander, cumin and lemongrass.
The spice level may vary with the brand you use, so proceed with caution. This popular brand is not too spicy.
The sauce is mild, creamy, and pretty kid-friendly. You can add some minced jalapeño, or crushed red pepper if you do want more of a kick.
Kaffir Lime Leaves
You’ll notice that I’ve listed a couple of ingredients – kaffir lime leaves and fish sauce – as “optional”. Kaffir lime leaves are very aromatic, but can be hard to track down outside of Asian markets. If you can’t find them, don’t worry, this curry will still taste great without them.
That said, if you make Thai food regularly, they are definitely worth hunting down, and you can find dried ones here and fresh ones in Asian markets.
Now…fish sauce. This ingredient is quite easy to find in most grocery stores (or, of course, here), and does add great flavor to this dish. If you have it on hand, definitely go for it.
BUT, if you don’t have any, and it just sounds weird to you, or not like something you’d use again, I’d say don’t bother. I’ve made this Thai red curry with and without it and loved it both ways. If you really want to add something in place of it – soy sauce works great too.
If you’re a stickler for authenticity though, you might disagree.
For me, there’s a time and a place for authenticity and that time is not at 6:00PM on a weeknight when I need to get dinner on the table in 20 minutes before the famished toddler has a meltdown ;).
Coconut milk is one of my favorite ingredients and makes for a deliciously creamy curry without all the saturated fat found in heavy cream.
I go for full-fat coconut milk here for the creamiest curry.
- Thinly slice some chicken breast, red peppers, onions, and zucchini.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large non stick pan over medium high heat. Sprinkle salt over the chicken breast and cook until lightly browned. Remove to a plate.
4. Return the pan to the heat, add another tablespoon olive oil and sauté the onion until lightly browned. Add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring constantly until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
5. Add red pepper and zucchini to the skillet and cook until softened, about 4-5 minutes longer.
6. Stir in the red curry paste and kaffir lime leaves and cook for another minute. Stir in the coconut milk, sugar, fish sauce and lime juice. Add the chicken back to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally until heated through.
You can serve this over coconut lime rice, or plain rice, with a sprinkle of cilantro and a wedge of lime.
Vegetarian Thai Red Curry
To make this Thai red curry vegetarian, you can just skip the chicken and add more veggies to it. But, if you’d like to add some protein – go for tofu. I would bake it first and then add it in step 4 with the coconut milk.
Raw tofu will soak up too much of the liquid, and baking it makes the texture much better anyway. And to make it vegan, skip the fish sauce or substitute it with soy sauce.
What kind of vegetables would work in Thai red curry?
This curry is very forgiving in terms of the vegetables and proteins you use here – as the magic happens with the sauce. You can use bamboo shoots, spinach, carrots, baby corn, snap peas, broccoli, and even cauliflower. Just remember to adjust the cooking time according to the vegetables you are using.
Leftovers keep well in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
I don’t recommend freezing this recipe as any recipe with a high proportion of dairy or nondairy milk doesn’t freeze particularly well. The sauce may split when thawed.
Thai Red Curry
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts, sliced into strips (see note)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 1/2 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
- 1 large clove garlic, minced
- 1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 1 small zucchini, cut in half lengthwise and sliced about 1/4 inch thick
- 1/2 red bell pepper, sliced
- 1/2 yellow or orange bell pepper, sliced
- 1 13.5 oz can coconut milk
- 2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
- 2 Kaffir lime leaves (optional)*
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce (optional)
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- coconut lime rice for serving (see note)
- Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and cook until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Remove the chicken to a plate.
- In the same skillet, heat another tablespoon of olive oil. Add the onion and sauté until softened. Add the ginger and garlic and cook, stirring constantly until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Add the bell peppers and zucchini, and continue cooking until softened, about 4-5 minutes longer.
- Stir in the red curry paste and lime leaves, and stir-fry for another minute. Add the coconut milk, sugar fish sauce and lime juice and stir until well combined, Add in the chicken and simmer for 2-3 minutes until chicken is cooked through.
- Serve over plain or coconut lime rice (see note), and sprinkle with cilantro.