Thai Massaman Chicken Curry

Massaman curry
Peter Stuckings/Getty Images
  • 50 mins
  • Prep: 10 mins,
  • Cook: 40 mins
  • Yield: SERVES 3-4 (with rice)
Ratings (62)

Try this homemade Thai massaman curry, which is made entirely from scratch (no packaged curry pastes required!). This famous Thai curry is rich and very flavorful. Made with chicken, beef, or lamb, it's a fragrant yellow curry that incorporates lemongrass and nuts together with other key Thai ingredients. Coconut milk is always used in this curry, as are bay leaves (instead of the harder-to-find kaffir lime leaves). Makes a sumptuous dish to serve on a chilly fall or winter night, and leftovers are just perfect for hot weekday lunches. Serve with plain jasmine rice, or, for special occasions, with saffron rice or coconut rice.

What You'll Need

  • 1/2 to 1 pound chicken pieces OR chopped chicken breast/thigh
  • 1-2 medium potatoes, cut into chunks
  • 1 14 -ounce (400 ml) can coconut milk (not lite)
  • 1 small red pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium tomato, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil OR vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup onion, sliced
  • 1 thumb-piece ginger, grated
  • 4-5 cloves garlic
  • 1 red chili, sliced, OR 1/2 to 3/4 tsp. chili flakes/cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup good-tasting chicken stock
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, minced, OR 2-3 Tbsp. frozen/bottled prepared lemongrass
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 cup chopped unsalted dry-roasted cashews (+ handful more to finish)
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon whole cumin seed
  • 1/8 teaspoon cardamon
  • 1 teaspoon tamarind, or substitute 1 Tbsp. lime juice*
  • 3/4 teaspoon shrimp paste OR 1 additional Tbsp. fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon palm sugar OR brown sugar

How to Make It

  1. Heat a wok, large frying pan, or soup-type pot over medium-high heat. Drizzle in the oil and swirl around, then add the onion, ginger, garlic, and chili. Stir-fry 1-2 minutes to release the fragrance.
  2. Add the stock plus the following: lemongrass, bay leaves, turmeric, chopped cashews, ground coriander, whole cumin seed, cardamom, tamarind (or lime juice), shrimp paste, fish sauce, and sugar. Stir with each addition and bring to a light boil.
  1. Add the chicken, stirring to coat with the spicy liquid, then add the coconut milk and potatoes. Stir and bring back up to a boil. Reduce heat to low, or just until you get a good simmer.
  2. Simmer 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until chicken and potatoes are tender. Add red pepper and tomato during last 10-15 minutes of cooking time. Tip: if you prefer a more liquid curry sauce, cover while simmering. If you prefer a thicker curry sauce, leave off lid.
  3. Taste-test the curry, adding more fish sauce for increased flavor/saltiness, or more chili if you want it spicier. If too sour, add a little more sugar. If too salty or sweet for your taste, add a touch more tamarind or lime juice. If too spicy, add more coconut milk.
  4. Add a handful more cashews and fold in. Transfer to a serving bowl, or plate up on individual plates or bowls. Top with fresh coriander, if desired, and serve with Thai jasmine rice. ENJOY!

*Tamarind Substitution Tip: Tamarind paste can be tricky to find, hence I have offered a substitute here. Yes, lime and tamarind are two very different fruits; however, they provide that same sourness you're looking for in this curry (it is balanced out with the palm sugar or brown sugar). Whenever I run out of tamarind paste, I find lime juice works in a pinch. In fact, I have witnessed accomplished Thai chefs create tamarind-based dishes purely with lime juice (such as pad Thai) - good to know if you can't find tamarind paste where you live.