Thai Massaman Chicken Curry

Thai Massaman
The Spruce
  • Total: 50 mins
  • Prep: 10 mins
  • Cook: 40 mins
  • Servings: 3 to 4 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
745 Calories
46g Fat
56g Carbs
34g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 3 to 4
Amount per serving
Calories 745
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 46g 59%
Saturated Fat 31g 153%
Cholesterol 71mg 24%
Sodium 1666mg 72%
Total Carbohydrate 56g 20%
Dietary Fiber 8g 28%
Protein 34g
Calcium 157mg 12%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

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 makrut 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.


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  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 small onion, sliced
  • 1 (2-inch) piece ginger, peeled and grated
  • 4 to 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Thai bird's eye chili, sliced (or 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoons chili flakes or cayenne pepper)
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock (good-tasting)
  • 1 stalk of lemongrass (bottom four inches, 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
  • 1 tablespoon palm sugar (liquid or cake form, grated if in cake form; or brown sugar)
  • 1/2 to 1 pound chicken pieces (or chopped chicken breast/thigh)
  • 1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk (not lite)
  • 1 to 2 medium waxy potatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 small red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium tomato, halved and sliced 1/4-inch thick

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Thai Massaman Chicken Curry ingredients
  2. 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.

    Add onion, ginger, garlic, and chili to stir fry in skillet
    The Spruce
  3. 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.

    Add the rest of the Thai massaman curry ingredients and simmer
    The Spruce
  4. 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.

    Add chicken, coconut milk and potatoes to simmer in skillet
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  5. 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.

    Add tomatoes and continue simmering curry
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  6. 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.

  7. 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.

    Serve Thai Massaman Chicken Curry with garnish and rice
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  8. Serve and enjoy!

Recipe Variation

Tamarind Substitution Tip: Tamarind paste can be tricky to find, hence the suggestion for using lime as a 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.