Curry night is an ultimate comfort night. Get ready to whip up and master this delicious Sri Lankan Chicken Curry from the Indian sub-continent.
This creamy, luscious and rich curry happens when chicken is braised and smothered in an onion-tomato based gravy with coconut milk. It has all the earthy, exotic and warm spices to make it an extra special and finger licking delicious treat.
This Sri Lankan curry, lovingly known as “Kukul Mas Curry”, is a perfect example of Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese cuisine, where meat is cooked with their famous spices. Sometimes they use coconut milk, sometimes not.
Chicken curry is a staple cooked with love all over Sri Lanka. It’s something that everyone has grown up on… their comfort food!! You will find so many different versions, as every other house will have their own little tweak, own special homemade curry powder or spices that goes in it. It ranges in spice level too, depending on how much chili powder goes in each pot of curry.
Two Main Variations of Sri Lankan Chicken Curry
1. Kirata Style Chicken Curry: Here, chicken curry is made with coconut milk, and can be less spicy, and richer in taste because of the creamy coconut milk. This one is perfect for non-spicy curry lovers.
2. Mirisata Style Chicken Curry: A chicken curry made without coconut milk. So it turns out spicier and lighter.
We decided to try this curry with coconut milk, as we were looking forward to that creamy rich flavors full of spices that I grew up on. This one turns out pretty mild to my Indian palate, but not lacking any of the spice profile that I am used to.
Sri Lankan Curry Powder/Spices
If you are in search of authentic Sri Lankan curry, you must incorporate all the earthy spices that is famous from this spice country. Every household has their own preferred blend that they mostly make it from scratch.
Most of the times, the whole spices are toasted until fragrant and ground fresh. The main trinity of this spice blend is coriander, cumin and fennel. Then comes the rest of the spices like cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and mustard depending upon the individual preferences.
You can always use whole spices and blend them up for this curry. We are using individual spice powders that do the job equally great.
It’s very common to throw in curry leaves and pandan leaves, which are very popular in the Indian subcontinent. You might find then in an Indian grocery store, but don’t worry too much if you don’t have them in your kitchen when making this curry. It will still turn very, very authentic.
Some people add some lemon grass into their curry, to add a unique citrusy flavor and aroma.
What Part of Chicken to Use in Sri Lankan Curry
Traditionally, whole chicken goes in the curry pot. Like any other stew or curry, dark meat with bones is the best way to make anything more flavorful. The meat is always fall off the bone tender and soft.
If not using whole chicken, we recommend bone-in chicken thighs and legs for the best curry. In its absence, some boneless chicken thighs will still get you a great curry.
If chicken breast is your thing, you can still get the same flavors, though meat won’t be as tender as the dark meat. Adjust the cooking time, so as not to dry out the white meat.
Ingredients for Sri Lankan Chicken Curry
- Chicken – We used bone-in, skinless chicken thighs (you can use thighs and chicken legs together, too)
- Aromatics – Ginger, garlic
- Spices – Cumin powder, coriander powder, fennel seeds, Kashmiri red chili powder (or paprika), turmeric, cardamom, cinnamon
- Veggies – Onion, diced canned tomatoes
- Coconut milk
- Salt and pepper
How to Make Sri Lankan Chicken Curry
Making a perfect curry is a labor of love and attention to the pot. It’s layering the flavors at intervals, rather than dumping everything together and cooking.
Start by choosing a thick bottom pan for your curry, as the chicken is braised for a long time. You don’t want anything sticking to the bottom. Dutch ovens work best for curries and stews.
Heat oil over medium high heat and sauté onion till it starts changing color, about 10 minutes. Add in ginger and garlic and sauté for another 2-3 minutes.
Time to add in all those beautiful fragrant spices… turmeric, red chili powder or paprika, cumin, coriander powder, crushed fennel.
We used Kashmiri red chili powder, which is very common in Indian cuisine and is mild like paprika, but gives beautiful red color. If you happen to lay your hands on Sri Lankan chili powder, go easy on it as its known for its heat (they love it spicy there).
Give it a stir and add in vinegar and tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes. Add in chicken along with salt, pepper, cardamom and cinnamon and cook, covered, for 15 minutes.
Then goes coconut milk. Cook for 45 minutes covered, or till the chicken is fall off the bone, stirring occasionally.
We wanted the curry to be rich and thick, so we didn’t add any water, but you can always add some if it’s getting too thick for your liking. If you happen to have some lemon grass, don’t hesitate to bruise it a little and add it along with coconut milk. You would discard the lemon grass before serving. Garnish it with cilantro and your are done.
This curry turns absolutely fragrant and delicious with beautiful color and will become your new favorite.
What to serve Sri Lankan Chicken Curry With
- My first choice is always with some big plateful of warm, perfectly cooked basmati rice. Can’t get enough of my curry rice.
- Some form of Indian bread like roti, butter naan or chapati is so satisfying, and is my second favorite.
- Make an Indian dal and raita along with rice and roti and you are in for one big feast from the sub continent.
- Serve it with cauliflower rice for a low carb option.
Sri Lankan Chicken Curry without Coconut Milk
Sri Lankan chicken curries can be made without coconut milk, as mentioned earlier. To make the curry without coconut milk, omit the coconut milk altogether. This will be the spicy version of the curry.
This curry would be a little thicker with only onion tomato sauce, along with spices. You would be cooking it till most of the liquid is evaporated, leaving behind sauce glistening with oil… More like my Indian Chicken Curry Masala, a very popular post on GypsyPlate.
How to Store the Leftovers and Reheat
This Sri Lankan Curry is excellent as a leftovers. As like any curry, all the flavors get accentuated as it sits in your refrigerator for a few days. Make a giant batch and enjoy it for next 3-4 days, storing it in air tight containers in your refrigerator.
You can freeze it in airtight container up to 3 months. Simply thaw and reheat it on stovetop or in the microwave.
Well, this is the curry to make if you are a curry aficionado and can’t take too much heat. This is the curry to make if you want to introduce all these beautiful ethnic foreign flavors to your kids. This is the curry to make to wow your guests. And this is the curry to make to make ME HAPPY… Hope you enjoy this special treat! Have fun and get currying…
Sri Lankan Chicken Curry, on my Gypsy Plate… enjoy!
- 6-7 chicken thighs (skin removed)
- 3-4 Tbsp oil
- 2 medium onion, chopped
- 2 Tbsp ginger, finely chopped or minced
- 6-7 garlic cloves, finley chopped or minced
- 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
- 3 tsp Kashmiri red chili powder (or paprika)
- 3 tsp coriander powder
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp fennel seeds, roughly crushed (optional)
- 6 cardamom pods, roughly crushed
- 1 big stick of cinnamon
- 2 Tbsp vinegar
- 1 15oz can crushed or diced tomatoes
- 1 15oz can coconut milk
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- salt to taste
- Heat oil over medium high heat and sauté onion till it starts changing color, about 10 minutes. Add in ginger and garlic and sauté for another 2-3 minutes.
- Add in turmeric, red chili powder or paprika, cumin, coriander powder, crushed fennel, vinegar, tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes.
- Add in chicken along with salt, pepper, cardomom and cinnamon and cook covered for 15 minutes.
- Sir well and add in coconut milk. Reduce heat to medium low and cook, covered, for 45 minutes, or till chicken is fall off the bone. (See note 1)
- If you want thinner sauce, you can add in water while chicken is cooking.
Nutrition InformationYield 6 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 754Total Fat 65gSaturated Fat 22gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 41gCholesterol 194mgSodium 494mgCarbohydrates 11gFiber 3gSugar 4gProtein 39g
Nutrition information calculated by Nutritionix.
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