Thai Massaman Chicken Curry

A bowl of Thai massaman chicken curry served with rice

The Spruce Eats / Ahlam Raffii

Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 50 mins
Total: 65 mins
Servings: 3 to 4 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
663 Calories
41g Fat
40g Carbs
38g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 3 to 4
Amount per serving
Calories 663
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 41g 53%
Saturated Fat 23g 114%
Cholesterol 135mg 45%
Sodium 1001mg 44%
Total Carbohydrate 40g 15%
Dietary Fiber 4g 14%
Total Sugars 8g
Protein 38g
Vitamin C 66mg 329%
Calcium 98mg 8%
Iron 9mg 48%
Potassium 1398mg 30%
*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.)

Thai massaman curry is a rich, very flavorful yellow curry. Though the ingredient list is lengthy, it's a one-pot dish that's ready in about an hour, and it's fairly easy to make. This is a rather mild curry that is savory and slightly sweet and the flavor can be adjusted to perfectly suit your taste.

A sort of fusion dish, massaman curry originated in southern Thailand and has Malaysian and Indian influences. The bird's eye chiles are a signature ingredient of curries from Thailand and turmeric gives it a yellow color. The use of whole spices (coriander, cumin, and cardamom) makes it more like Indian curries. This recipe features chicken, though beef and lamb are common in massaman and you can use other proteins, such as tofu, if you prefer.

Unlike many versions, you don't have to seek out a premade massaman curry paste for this recipe. Instead, the curry base incorporates lemongrass and nuts with other key Thai ingredients for a fresher taste. Coconut milk is always used in this curry, and combining it with chicken stock creates a lighter curry. Also, instead of makrut lime leaves, massaman curry uses bay leaves, and there are good substitutions for some of the specialty ingredients, which makes shopping easier.

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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"Massaman Curry is my favorite dish to order at a Thai restaurant and this recipe tastes just like it! I’ve found that Thai flavors are difficult to get right when I'm cooking at home, so I was impressed with this recipe. Shopping for ingredients can be difficult, but I found them at my local Asian supermarket." —Carrie Parente

Thai Massaman chicken curry served over rice in a dark blue bowl
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 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 chile, sliced, or 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon chile flakes or cayenne pepper

  • 1/2 cup chicken stock

  • 1 stalk lemongrass, bottom 4 inches minced, or 2 to 3 tablespoons frozen or bottled prepared lemongrass

  • 3 bay leaves

  • 1 teaspoon turmeric

  • 1/4 cup chopped unsalted dry-roasted cashews, plus a handful more to finish

  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander

  • 1 teaspoon whole cumin seed

  • 1/8 teaspoon cardamom

  • 1 teaspoon tamarind paste, or 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

  • 3/4 teaspoon shrimp paste

  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce

  • 1 tablespoon palm sugar, liquid or grated 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

  • 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

  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, for garnish

  • Cooked jasmine rice, for serving

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients to make Thai Massaman chicken curry gathered

    The Spruce Eats / Ahlam Raffii

  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 chile. Stir-fry 1 to 2 minutes to release the fragrance.

    Oil, spices, and onions simmering in a pan

    The Spruce Eats / Ahlam Raffii

  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.

    Seasoned broth simmering in a pot

    The Spruce Eats / Ahlam Raffii

  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.

    A pot of coconut seasoned broth with chicken simmering

    The Spruce Eats / Ahlam Raffii

  5. Simmer 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until chicken and potatoes are tender. Add the red bell 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.

    Thai massaman chicken curry simmering in a pot

    The Spruce Eats / Ahlam Raffii

  6. Taste-test the curry, adding more fish sauce for increased flavor/saltiness, or more chile 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.

    A spoon stirring a pot of Thai massaman chicken curry

    The Spruce Eats / Ahlam Raffii

  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 cilantro if desired, and serve with Thai jasmine rice.

    Thai massaman chicken curry in a bowl garnished with cilantro and cashews, served with rice

    The Spruce Eats / Ahlam Raffii


  • Leftover massaman curry can be refrigerated in an airtight container for two to three days. Before storing, let it cool to room temperature. Reheat gently in a saucepan or the microwave, stirring often, until heated through.

Recipe Variations

  • Tamarind paste can be tricky to find, but 1 tablespoon of lime juice is a good substitute. While they are two very different fruits, they provide that same sourness you're looking for in this curry and it's balanced out with palm sugar or brown sugar.
  • Many massaman curry recipes use peanuts rather than cashews.
  • If you do not have shrimp paste, add 1 extra tablespoon of fish sauce.
  • Don't have cumin seeds? You can use 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin in place of the 1 teaspoon cumin seeds.