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Cast iron skillet of chicken curry surrounded by spices and aromatics.

Sri Lankan Chicken Curry

  • Author: Rachel Phipps
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 55 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 2-3 1x
  • Category: Dinner
  • Cuisine: Sri Lankan
  • Diet: Gluten Free


This rich, aromatic Sri Lankan Chicken Curry recipe pairs tender, flavour-infused chicken thighs with a richly spiced coconut and tomato gravy for the perfect introduction to Sri Lankan cooking. 


  • 1 tbsp light oil or coconut oil
  • 4 x skin on, bone in chicken thighs
  • 1/2 tsp flaky sea salt + extra for seasoning the chicken
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 5 cloves
  • 5 green cardamon pods
  • 2 brown onions, finely sliced
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • thumb sized piece fresh ginger, finely grated
  • 1 tbsp roasted curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder (kashmiri for preference)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 medium tomato (approx. 100g), chopped
  • 10 fresh curry leaves
  • 1 green chilli
  • 225ml coconut milk
  • juice of 1/4 large lime


  1. Heat the oil in a large, heavy bottomed cooking pot or casserole dish with a heavy fitting lid over a medium high heat. Season the chicken thighs really well with salt, and brown on both sides until golden, working in batches if necessary. Set aside.
  2. Add the cinnamon stick, cloves and cardamom pods – crushed with the side of your knife to reveal their seeds – to the remaining fat in the pan and cook until sizzling.
  3. Lower the heat to medium and add the onions and the 1/2 tsp of salt, cooking for about 10 minutes until the onions are starting to soften and brown. 
  4. Stir in the garlic and ginger, and cook for another couple of minutes until aromatic.
  5. Stir in the roasted curry powder, chilli powder and turmeric, cooking for another few minutes until the new layer of flavours are once again aromatic.
  6. Stir in the tomato, curry leaves and the green chilli, split in half then nestle the chicken thighs amongst the mixture. Put on the lid and lower the heat for medium low, allowing the curry to simmer for 25 minutes, stirring halfway to scrape up all the flavours from the bottom of the pot, until the chicken has cooked through and the mixture is saucy.
  7. Stir in the coconut milk and allow to simmer, uncovered, for a further 5 minutes.
  8. Stir in the lime juice, to taste, and serve alongside a bowlful of Sri Lankan Yellow Rice, which can easily be made in the time it takes for the curry to simmer. 


If you go to the cupboard and realise you don’t have a can of coconut milk but you do have coconut cream, as has happened to me on occasion making this recipe make coconut milk form coconut cream by blending 1 tbsp of water for every 3 tbsp of coconut cream.

Keywords: curry, chicken curry, sri lankan, sri lankan chicken curry, sri lankan curry, chicken thighs