A simple Sri Lankan chicken curry can be too overwhelming with different spices and ingredients but If you are looking for a flavoursome chicken curry recipe that has a big depth of flavour then look no further because I will give you a hassle-free chicken curry that is not only flavoursome but uses the least possible ingredients.
Being Sri Lankan, I can say with a lot of authority that this is one dish that I can prepare in less than 15 minutes while doing the laundry and cleaning the house. The Sri Lankan chicken curry is prepared by every household at least once a week.
Which part of Sri Lanka does the authentic chicken curry come from?
In Sri Lanka, the chicken curry you would eat in Colombo will be different from the one you eat in Galle or Kandy or Jaffna, because each part of the country has different flavours for the same exact curry and they are all called Sri Lankan chicken curry. Now what makes it different from region to region is the curry powder used. There are few different versions of curry powder as well, like raw curry powder, roasted curry powder, black curry powder. So this simple curry can get quite complex depending on the household and region.
Now I have always stated, I will give hassle-free easy recipes, because if I give the recipe of traditional and authentic chicken curry from Sri Lanka, you will not find the ingredients very easily especially in foreign countries, and some of the ingredients need to be purchased from Sri Lankan speciality stores. so to avoid all that I will give you an authentic tasting Sri Lankan chicken curry with limited ingredients.
Where did I learn to make Sri Lankan Chicken curry?
I learnt to make chicken curry from a few different people, First, one being my mother who cooked very healthy curries, not a lot of oil, minimum coconut milk. Can you imagine if not how we would have turned out especially because my dad was the executive chef at Hilton Colombo & we ate from Hilton at least once a week.
And then when I did my apprenticeship in Hilton Colombo I learnt their style of cooking chicken curry. Now side story here, when my dad was the executive chef he really invested in people and he believed bringing the right people to the right roles was very important. Hilton Colombo had 10 different kitchens: Italian, fine dining, Chinese, Sri Lankan etc…
The Sri Lankan kitchen had chefs who were very well trained to cook Sri Lankan cuisine and traditional ‘amme’ from the villages made kavum, kokis and all the Sri Lankan sweets, and the hoppers were made in an authentic way and the hopper chef used to work in a street shop in Sri Lanka, so naturally, Hilton had one of the best Sri Lankan restaurants in Colombo and I was privileged enough to learn from all these gurus.
So my chicken curry is the best of both worlds. Authentic and flavoursome taste of what I learnt in Hilton in a very healthy style & using minimum ingredients like my mother’s.
Now many may say in an authentic chicken curry, there needs to be a pool of oil floating on the top, which I don’t disagree like I said everyone makes it very differently, but can you imagine yourself eating that pool of oil every week? so for that reason, I am going to share my flavoursome chicken curry that not only taste good but also very healthy.
How do you add flavour to chicken curry?
Chicken curry develops its flavour by cooking it in the curry for a long period of time, it develops its flavour over time as well, so if you make chicken curry today, tomorrow it will taste even better. Also cooking it a clay pot adds an extra layer of flavour.
Can you put raw chicken in the chicken curry?
Chicken curry is basically a one-pot dish, so yes the chicken will be raw, it doesn’t need to be pan-fried or roasted first. The raw chicken needs to be added into the curry.
What is the secret to a good Sri Lankan Chicken curry?
The secret behind any curry is the cut of meat used, how much of time the curry is actually cooked in the curry sauce, the curry gravy needs to be absorbed into the chicken pieces. And most importantly the Sri Lankan curry powder used makes a huge difference.
You also need to balance the sweet, the sour and the tangy notes of the chicken curry, in order to nail the perfect flavour for this dish.
What kind of curry powder to use for the Sri Lankan chicken curry?
Now I am fortunate enough to be able to bring my own curry powder from Sri Lanka, and I always use mc curry spices. I have tried different varieties and brands and Finally have settled to this one.
I will soon do a recipe of how to make roasted curry powder from scratch. But if you need to buy Sri Lankan curry powder in a foreign country then you will need to go to a Sri Lankan speciality store to buy them, as I don’t believe the normal supermarket sell; Sri Lankan curry powder”
Raw curry powder or roasted curry powder?
The difference is, if you use raw curry powder, you will need to roast it in the pan first. because adding raw curry powder to a curry directly will leave an unpleasant aftertaste and mouthfeel. so to make it easier and time-saving I use roasted curry powder.
Red chicken curry or black chicken curry, is the best curry?
So either you can make it as red chicken curry or black chicken curry. The difference in both is, in the red chicken curry you use more chilli powder and less curry powder. In black chicken curry, you use more curry powder and less chilli powder. I do something in between, so it’s not too spicy to eat.
Is the sri lankan chicken curry spicy?
The best part about any curry is, you can adjust the spiciness according to what you prefer, if you don’t like it too spicy, then reduce the amount of chilli powder specified in the recipe.
What to serve with sri lankan chicken curry?
You don’t need anything else other than white rice to soak up that beautiful thick gravy. But we traditionally eat chicken curry with dhal curry, white rice and some kind of mallum( salad) so it is quite a colourful plate with a few healthy greens, protein and then a grain which is typically the dhal curry.
Does the chicken need to be skin on or skin off?
Again this depends from household to household. My household never ate skin-on chicken in curries, firstly because it adds more fat to the curry also,
if you do have the skin on, then soaking and cooking it in the gravy will only add the fat from the skin, it doesn’t contribute to an overall taste or texture. for example, a roast chicken you would definitely want to have the skin on because the skin crisp up and that’s the best part of a roasted chicken. But in a curry, it just will be soggy and add no value, so I don’t recommend using skin-on chicken.
What cut of chicken to use?
My mum always used the whole chicken cut into pieces, which means, the drumstick, thigh, chicken breast with bone in all of them which many households do. But after moving away from Sri Lanka, I only use chicken thigh cutlets, reason being, its a cheap cut, also succulent and good for flavour. and it’s easy to prepare especially when you need to take off the skin.
Now some like to have the whole chicken thigh, drumstick in the curry, I cut up the chicken to large chunks this way the gravy absorbs to the meat very easily and also it needs less time cooking.
Bone-in chicken or boneless chicken to use in Sri Lankan Chicken curry?
Again this is a personal choice, a bone-in chicken will add more flavour, but I also do the boneless version when I am in a hurry or I want to make a Sri Lankan kottu (Sri Lankan roti dish)
Is Sri Lankan curry same as Indian curry
Not at all, Sri Lankan curry spices are totally different from Indian curry. Once tasted it is very easy to distinguish the difference. Also, Sri Lankan chicken curry is a coconut milk base whereas Indian chicken curry is a cream or yogurt-based curry.
What is the texture of the chicken curry gravy?
My recipe chicken curry will be thick and not a thin gravy. Thick gravy will have more flavour concentrated than in a thin gravy.
You can also check my other Sri Lankan recipes.
Watch how to make Sri Lankan chicken curry
Step by step recipe on how to make Sri Lankan Chicken curry
Sri Lankan Chicken Curry Recipe
- Pot and pan
- 1 kg Chicken Thigh cutlet (Bone in)
- 4 tsp Roasted curry powder
- 3 tsp Chilli powder
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- 2 tsp Mustard paste (Wholegrain, dijon)
- 2 tbsp Oil Olive, canola, veg, coconut
- 1/2 Onion Brown or red sliced
- 2 cloves Garlic Sliced
- 1 Chilli Red, Green, bird eye
- 10 Curry leaves
- 3 tsp Chilli powder
- 4 tsp Sri Lankan roasted Curry powder
- 1 cup Thick Coconut milk ( 2 Tbsp coconut powder+ water)
- 1/2 Lime squuezed or tamarind
- 1/2 Tomato Cut into large chunks
- 1 Lemon grass or Pandan leaves You can add both as well, Lemongrass crushed
- Water As needed
- Salt to taste
- Take the skin off the thigh cutlets and cut them in half
- Add all ingredients listed in the chicken marinade and massage it into the chicken and leave in the fridge for 2 hours or preferably overnight
- Place a pan on medium heat and add oil
- Add onion, garlic, curry leaves, chilli, lemongrass, pandan leaves and cook well until the onions are soft, then add the curry powder, chilli powder, salt and mix well cook for about 1 minute, then add the marinated chicken.
- Add water until the chicken is well submerged in the liquid, close lid and cook for about 30 minutes ( Make sure that the fire is on low heat and check the curry time to time, to see if the water has evaporated, then add more water and keep cooking)
- After 30 minutes add the tomatoes, thick coconut milk, and if using tamarind, then add the tamarind at this point. ( At this point check the seasoning, by tatsing the curry, if it needs more salt, then add more)
- Cover with a lid and cook for further 15 minutes or until the chicken is fully cooked and succulent. If it doesn't have enough liquid or curry gravy add more water.
- Turn off the fire and add lime juice to balance the seasoning of the whole dish
- Serve with hot rice
8 thoughts on “Sri Lankan Chicken Curry Recipe”
This recipe sounds so easy to follow, but so packed full of incredible flavours! It’s going on our meal plan!
Thank you Andrea, yes it’s definitely very flavoursome.
Oh my mouth is watering, that looks delicious! Curry definitely tastes better the next day. I love the way you’ve taken a traditional recipe and made it acceptable:)
Thanks, Sarah. Yes definitely, we all love a good curry but have limited time, so I hope this recipe helps most of the people juggling with time.
I have been wanting to try different chicken curries, and this one sounds so packed with flavour and delicious – I can’t wait to make it!
Definitely packed with flavour. Thank you
Thank you much, travelled to Sri Lanka this year and loved the food, I’m so happy to find your blog with all great sri lankan recipies. Would love to see a recipie for the great curry side dishes 🤩
Thank you, Linda, I will surely post a few more very soon.