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one-pot Thai chicken curry with coconut milk and spinach.

Easy, One-Pot Coconut Thai Chicken Curry


I learned to make this chicken curry while working at Fork in Philadelphia many years ago, now. The chef, Thien Ngo, prepared it somewhat differently — he browned the meat first in one pot; browned a ton of vegetables (carrots, parsnips, onions) in another pan; additionally, he deep-fried potatoes; and he cooked everything stove top.

I’ve converted this to a one-pan number, and in place of the carrots, parsnips, and potatoes, I stir in a heap of spinach at the end.

A few notes:

  • If your chicken thighs or drumsticks are particularly fatty, trim the excess fat. This will prevent your sauce from being too fatty in the end.
  • Thai red curry paste. Maesri is the brand I buy at the Asian market. You can find it online, too. I use half a tin for this recipe (which is about 3 tablespoons), which makes it quite spicy but not outrageous. If you are sensitive to heat, start with a tablespoon and adjust the sauce with more at the end.


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • kosher salt
  • 8 bone-in, skin on chicken thighs or drumsticks or a combination of both
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 to 3 tablespoons Thai red curry paste (see notes above)
  • 3 to 4 plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 can (13.5 oz) unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped, or more or less to taste
  •  3 to 5 ounces spinach, optional

For serving:

  • cooked Jasmine or Basmati rice (or any rice you like)


  1. Heat oven to 400ºF.
  2. In a large sauté pan over hight heat, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the onions and a pinch of salt, and immediately turn the heat to medium-low. Stir every so often, and cook until the onions soften and begin browning at the edges, about 5 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, place the chicken in a large bowl and season all over with kosher salt. Use 1 teaspoon per pound.
  4. Add the curry powder, turmeric, and Thai red curry paste to the onions, and stir until onions are coated  in the spices, about a minute. Add the tomatoes, and stir until they just begin to soften, about a minute. Add the can of coconut milk. Fill up the empty can of coconut milk with water and add to the pan. Add the fish sauce and brown sugar and bring to a simmer. (Note: A number of people have had issues with this being too liquidy, so I’ve reduced the amount of water from 2 empty cans to one… hope this solves the issues.).  
  5. Add the chicken pieces and turn to coat. Transfer pan to the oven uncovered and cook for 1 hour or until the liquid has reduced considerably, the chicken skin is brown, and the meat is falling off the bone. If the liquid has reduced too much, add more by the quarter cup. Note: If you make this ahead, you may need to add more water upon reheating. 
  6. Add cilantro and stir. Add spinach, if using, and stir. Spoon rice into bowls. Top with chicken and sauce, and serve immediately.
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Stovetop/Oven
  • Cuisine: Thai

Keywords: one-pan, Thai, chicken, curry, coconut, milk, cilantro, dinner