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Coconut Curry Chicken

Updated: 8/14/21 1:00 amPublished: 8/26/19
By Catherine Newman

By Catherine Newman

Makes: 4 – 6 servings

Total carbohydrates: 6 – 9 grams per serving

Hands-on time: 30 minutes

Total time: 1 hour (or 3 hours, if not using Instant Pot)

This is, of course, insanely delicious. I mean, as soon as you’re talking about a rich, creamy curry, everyone in my family is all in. Well, all the chicken eaters, that is (note that you can sub in cubed tofu to feed vegetarians). If you have an Instant Pot, then this is really, really quick and you can even use frozen chicken that you forgot to thaw. But even if you make the curry in the oven, it’s still pretty easy—just a little more time-consuming. If you’re a person with lots of nice, fresh Indian spices around, then skip the curry powder and add 2 teaspoons cumin, 1 teaspoon turmeric, 1 teaspoon paprika (smoked if you have it), ½ teaspoon cayenne, and 2 teaspoons garam masala. But it’s really pretty excellent even with a store-bought curry blend! Just make sure it’s is nice and fresh; if the tin has rust on the bottom and a thick, greasy coating of dust on the top, consider replacing it. Serve the curry with cauliflower rice.


1 tablespoon coconut oil (or vegetable oil)

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger

2 tablespoons curry powder

1 cup canned tomato puree mixed with 1 cup of water (or 1 [15-ounce] can diced tomatoes with their liquid)

Kosher salt

1 package skinless, boneless chicken breasts (around 1 ½ pounds), trimmed of extra fat

½ cup full-fat canned coconut milk (you can use cream, if you’d prefer)

½ stick (1/4 cup) butter, cut into small pieces (or more coconut oil)

Cilantro leaves for garnish


1. Turn your instant pot to the “low sauté” function and heat the coconut oil. Add the garlic and ginger and sauté just until fragrant, around 1 minute. Add the curry powder and sauté for just a few seconds, until you can smell it, then add the tomato puree and water. Turn off the instant pot and taste the sauce. If your curry powder has salt in it, you may not need any more; if it doesn’t, then add salt to taste.

2. Nestle the chicken breasts in the sauce, then close the instant pot and set it to pressure cook for 9 minutes (10 minutes if you’re using frozen chicken breasts). After the pressure cooking is done, allow the pressure to release naturally for 10 minutes, then turn the knob to vent the rest of the pressure.

3. Take the chicken out of the pot and put it on a cutting board. Now take a look at the pot. Does the sauce look watery? If so, then turn the pot to the “high sauté” function and cook it, stirring occasionally, until it thickens up a bit—5 or 10 minutes. Meanwhile, use two forks to pull the chicken apart into smaller pieces.

4. Now let the sauce cool for 5 minutes or so, then stir in the coconut milk and butter. (At this point, if you used tomato puree, the sauce should be fairly smooth. If you used diced tomatoes, then either use a hand-held blender (also called an immersion blender) to blend the sauce, or transfer it to a regular blender and blend briefly before returning it to the pot.)

5. Return the chicken to the sauce, then serve garnished with cilantro leaves.

Note: If you want to make this in a regular pot, then heat the oven to 300 degrees F, heat a Dutch oven (or another heavy, oven-safe pot) over low heat, and follow steps 1 and 2, through nestling the chicken in the sauce. Put the lid on the pot, put the pot in the oven, and cook the chicken for 1 ½ hours, covered. Uncover the chicken and cook for another ½ hour, then follow steps 3-5, above.

About Catherine

Catherine loves to write about food and feeding people. In addition to her recipe and parenting blog Ben & Birdy (which has about 15,000 weekly readers), she edits the ChopChop series of mission-driven cooking magazines. This kids’ cooking magazine won the James Beard Publication of the Year award in 2013 – the first non-profit ever to win it – and a Parents’ Choice Gold Award. She also helped develop Sprout, a WIC version of the magazine for families enrolled in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), as well as Seasoned, their senior version. They distribute over a million magazines annually, through paid subscriptions, doctor’s offices, schools, and hospitals. Their mission started with obesity as its explicit focus – and has shifted, over the years, to a more holistic one, with health, happiness, and real food at its core. That’s the same vibe Catherine brings to the diaTribe column.

[Photo Credit: Catherine Newman]

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About the authors

Catherine loves to write about food and feeding people. In addition to her recipe and parenting blog Ben & Birdy (which has about 15,000 weekly readers), she edits the ChopChop... Read the full bio »