Thai Massaman Chicken Curry

Thai Massaman
The Spruce
  • 50 mins
  • Prep: 10 mins,
  • Cook: 40 mins
  • Yield: SERVES 3-4 (with rice)
Ratings (179)

Try this homemade Thai Massaman curry, which is made entirely from scratch. 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).

This is 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 to 2 medium potatoes (cut into chunks)
  • 1 (14-ounce/400 ml) can coconut milk (not lite)
  • 1 small red bell pepper (thinly sliced)
  • 1 medium tomato (sliced)
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil (or vegetable oil)
  • 1/3 cup onion (sliced)
  • 1 thumb-sized piece ginger (grated)
  • 4 to 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 red chili (sliced; or 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoons chili flakes or cayenne pepper)
  • 1/2 cup good-tasting chicken stock
  • 1 stalk of lemongrass (minced; or 2 to 3 tablespoons frozen/bottled-prepared lemongrass)
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 cup chopped unsalted dry-roasted cashews (plus handful more to finish)
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon whole cumin seed
  • 1/8 teaspoon cardamon
  • 1 teaspoon tamarind (or substitute 1 tablespoon lime juice*)
  • 3/4 teaspoon shrimp paste (or 1 additional tablespoon 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 to 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 the last 10 to 15 minutes of cooking time. If you prefer a more liquid curry sauce, cover while simmering. If you prefer a thicker curry sauce, leave off the 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.

*Tamarind Substitution Tip: Tamarind paste can be tricky to find, hence the aforementioned substitute. Yes, lime and tamarind are two very different fruits; however, they provide that same sourness you're looking for in this curry, balanced out with the palm sugar or brown sugar.

Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
Calories 745
Total Fat 46 g
Saturated Fat 31 g
Unsaturated Fat 8 g
Cholesterol 71 mg
Sodium 1,666 mg
Carbohydrates 56 g
Dietary Fiber 8 g
Protein 34 g
(The nutrition information on our recipes is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. Individual results may vary.)