Chicken Curry in a Hurry

So, I have a dear friend here in my little town. Sujoo. I love her guts very much and not just because she makes some of the most killer Indian food I’ve ever eaten in my life. I can’t count the number of times I picked my kids up from school last year and she’d rush over to my car with a container of food she had made that day. Fresh paneer. Spicy Khara bread. Creamy dips. Spiced potato dumpling/fritters.  Gulab jamun. Palak paneer. And on and on. I’m powerless to resist Sujoo’s food and even more powerless to share with my family. Indian food hoarder. That’s me.

Chicken Curry in a Hurry

Well, this one day, I’m at Sujoo’s house learning her method for making ghee (clarified butter) and she asks me what my favorite kind of Indian food is and I start gushing: “oh my gosh, I just love curry, it’s my favorite Indian food everrrr.” Sujoo, too nice to tell me I was being a nincompoop, politely informs me that in India, there is no such thing as curry (the spice that we all keep in our spice cabinets). Instead, curry refers to a gravy or sauce not a flavor or spice. Thankfully this embarrassing experience was months and months ago, but did you know that? Am I late to the curry party? Do I need to get out more? I think I may have heard that important fact once upon a time but clearly forgot it (won’t happen again). I kind of lose my rational mind when it comes to curry.

Chicken Curry in a Hurry

My point? Well, this delicious curry in a hurry is probably not something my friend Sujoo would ever make since it doesn’t scream traditional Indian cuisine, but if you love the flavors of curry and want it quickly, this will definitely fit the bill. It’s simple. It’s lightened up. It’s really flavorful and super yummy. I’ll keep begging authentic Indian food from sweet Sujoo; but on my own, I’ll be making this dish over and over. It’s a perfect weeknight meal and a complete family pleaser (read: no complaining).

Truthfully, it’s so easy, I could pass off the dinner-making responsibilities to a few of my older kids while I lounge on the couch eating dark chocolate covered dried cranberries (modern day equivalent of bonbons) and watching Steel Magnolias, but that would make it much harder for me to snitch a piece or two of the tender chicken smothered in that fabulous curry sauce. And that just isn’t acceptable.

What To ServeNaan (need I say more; this stuff is divine)
Curried Cauliflower or Skillet Green Beans

One Year Ago: Teriyaki Chicken Stir-Fry {30-Minute Meal}
Two Years Ago: No-Bake Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars
Three Years Ago: Strawberry-Lime Cream Cake

Chicken Curry in a Hurry

Yield: Serves 4

Chicken Curry in a Hurry

Fresh ginger is really fantastic in this recipe - if you've never used it or don't know this great tip: buy a knob of ginger, cut it into 1-inch pieces (no need to peel), and freeze it. When you need it in a recipe, take a chunk out of the freezer and grate it on a rasp grater or the small holes of a box grater. Super easy!

Curry powders vary greatly in flavor and spiciness so make sure you use a curry powder you like. My very favorite curry powder is the Sweet Curry Powder from Penzey's. I use it almost exclusively whenever curry powder is called for. You can also substitute curry paste for the powder but start with less (about 1 teaspoon) and add more if you need it.


  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger (see note)
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced or pressed
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder (see note)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 can (13.6 ounce) lite coconut milk
  • 1/2 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch (optional)
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • Hot, cooked rice or quinoa for serving


  1. In a large, 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium heat until hot. Add the ginger and garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for about 30 seconds, until it starts to smell fragrant.
  2. Sprinkle in the curry powder, coriander and cumin. Cook for another 30 seconds, stirring to prevent burning.
  3. Add the chicken and cook until lightly browned, 2-3 minutes (it doesn't need to be cooked all the way through quite yet).
  4. Stir in the coconut milk, brown sugar, fish sauce, salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Cook for 4-5 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.
  5. If you would like the sauce a bit thicker, whisk together the cornstarch with 2 tablespoons cold water in a small bowl. Once combined, stir the mixture into the simmering curry. Simmer, stirring constantly, for a minute or so until the sauce thickens a bit.
  6. Stir in the cilantro. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste, if needed. Serve the curry over hot, cooked rice, quinoa or whatever else you might like (or it can be served on its own).

Recipe Source: adapted slightly from a recipe a lovely reader, Robin. A, sent me (it was a Weight Watchers recipe she tried and passed along) – I decreased the sugar and fish sauce, added cilantro, used curry powder instead of paste, added chicken

72 Responses to Chicken Curry in a Hurry

  1. IG says:

    I recently discovered Indian food and love it! Excited about trying this, I bought the Penzey’s curry powder. I was wondering if ground chicken would work or do you think using chicken breasts would be better? Thanks

    • Mel says:

      I think chicken breasts or chicken thighs would be best in this recipe, but I’m all for experimenting so if you have ground chicken, might be worth a try. 🙂

      • IG says:

        I used chicken breasts and the whole family really enjoyed this! Thanks for the recommendation on Penzey’s curry powder! Another fabulous recipe!

  2. Kami Stewart says:

    Where do you buy Penzey’s Sweet Curry powder? Just from

  3. Michelle says:

    Mel I’m not good about commenting but I have to tell you how I loved this recipe. But I really loved seeing that picture of your beautiful friend each time I pulled it up on my computer. Thanks so much my dear!

  4. Megan says:

    This looks so amazing! I do have two questions. My husband has a huge dislike for anything coconut. How strong is the flavor from the coconut milk, and could it possibly be substituted with something else? Thanks!

    • Mel says:

      You could try substituting half-and-half although I haven’t tried it myself. I don’t think the coconut flavor overpowers but I tend to like coconut so it might be that I just don’t notice it as much as someone who doesn’t like it.

  5. Danielle H. says:

    I should clarify! I wasn’t the only one making curry. I did make a huge vat though:)

  6. Danielle H. says:

    So, once upon a time I was assigned to make curry for the high school cast of “The King and I.” But I sort of forgot until about 2:00 on that very day. Of course I turned to you, and of course it was Mel to the rescue. I was able to feed the cast of 100+ with rave reviews. Thanks for being my happily ever after, Mel!

  7. Elizabeth says:

    this was delicious!! one tip – have all of your ingredients ready, because the garlic and ginger cook very quickly. can’t wait to make it again!

  8. Haley Oakes says:

    Do I peel the ginger before grating it? Thanks!

  9. Andrea says:

    This was great! We added sweet potato cubes to this recipe and served it over cauliflower rice. Next time I want to add carrots & onions. Super yum. Thanks!

  10. Jennifer says:

    I made this last night for supper and it was delicious. Thanks for another great dish. I always like what I make from your website!

  11. Katie says:

    I love all your curry combos. Trying this tonight! If I double the meat do you think I need to double the sauce or will it be ok?

  12. Linda says:

    This dish is so inspirational on so many different levels. Took a trip to Penzey’s for the curry powder, and another to the Asian market for fish sauce. What a welcome change of pace from our routine. The kitchen smelled like a million bucks! Will definitely try the other curry dishes in your arsenal of flavorful and quick meals.

  13. Lori says:

    Dear Mel,
    I made this a week ago for dinner and I subbed the fish sauce for Worcestershire sauce and it was simply amazing!! Thank you so much for sharing this 😀

  14. Edith Foster says:

    I made the “Chicken Curry in a Hurry” for dinner tonight and it was divine!! yes, you never disappoint, another keeper for my family…Thank you, thank you thank you again!! 🙂

  15. I made this last night, and my husband and twin daughters were in total agreement about how delicious this chicken curry is. And so easy to boot! That’s a keeper recipe by anyone’s definition. I did double the chicken without doubling anything else, and it worked fine with plenty of tasty sauce to go around. It was so good that I stayed up until midnight to post it myself! 🙂 I did want to let you know that I am having an issue with my WordPress hyperlinking. It keeps going back to my site rather than to yours as it should. I have got your direct url listed as a temporary work-around until I can get the issue resolved. Bugs–gah! I also wanted to mention that I enjoyed your comments about your friend Sujoo. So nice…

  16. Suze says:

    I often get stuck in a rut, same food every week out of convenience and habit. I’ve started challenging myself to make a new dish every week, and this week, Chicken Curry in a hurry is the winner! You Mel, are my go-to gal. I have never been disappointed by any recipe of yours that I’ve made. On behalf of myself and my boyfriends healthy appetite, I’d like to thank you for getting me out of my food rut.

  17. Brooke says:

    I have been craving Indian food all week — I can’t wait to try this out!

  18. Kim in MD says:

    Foodie friends that share their recipes and love of cooking are the best (like you, Mel!). Sujoo is beautiful! This curry looks so delicious. I am going to ask my family to make it for me while I eat the chocolate covered cherries that I stash in my freezer.

    Oh- and Steel Magnolias is on my top 10 list of favorite movies! 🙂

  19. Sujoo says:

    Love you Mel!!!!!

  20. Melanie says:

    Made this for dinner last night and it was delicious! Just as promised quick and tasty! I did almost double the curry powder as I found it didn’t taste curry enough but my powder may be on the weak side! All in all another great Mel’s recipe!

  21. Lauren says:

    Keep the Indian recipes coming! Love em

  22. Oh who doesn’t love a good curry – this looks beautiful! Must try!

  23. Lori says:

    Can you make this by substituting the fish sauce??

  24. Lesli says:

    This was super delicious! I didn’t plan dinners this week since we’re leaving on a trip so this came at the perfect time. I doubled the sauce, but not the chicken, and added a chopped head of cauliflower and we gobbled it up.

  25. This sounds so good. I am the only one in my house who likes curry, but I don’t mind because I will make this and eat it everyday for lunch. Thanks so much for the recipe. Pinning it now!

  26. Jane says:

    OMG – this sounds divine. We love Indian food but hubby doesn’t like “hot” food (I do) and I think this would fit the bill. I often make Pad Thai so I use a lot of fish sauce – also, my daughter-in-law is Filipino so I’ve learned to use it in other recipes. We use Pufina (Patis) brand which I buy at the local Asian grocery store. It comes in a big bottle with a green and white label and lasts forever – and you don’t have to refrigerate it. Can’t wait to make this. I used to own a food related business and our chef was Indian – he made the most fabulous food out of nothing. It’s all in the spices! As someone else mentioned – this is one of the best food blogs out there!

  27. Natasha says:

    This is excellent! Quite possibly our favorite curry recipe! My family ate it up with no leftovers (next time I’ll double or triple it). Thanks for a fantastic, yummy and simple recipe!

  28. Cammee says:

    Well that makes sense–I like curry and gravy, so that just simplified it for me. I love all of your curry recipes and I need a Sujoo in my life!

  29. Lisa says:

    Made this tonight. So FAST and easy. Loved it Mel! I served it over a bed of brown rice and green beans. Left out the cilantro and put in fresh basil. If it hadn’t been so last minute I would have sauted yellow onions and red peppers in Step 1. Thanks for another great recipe!

  30. Teresa says:

    Making this for dinner tonight! In the picture above, had you used the cornstarch or is that how thick it is without it? Thanks!

  31. Jamie says:

    I moved from a large city with a fantastic international market to a much smaller city in the middle of the desert. Indian food is my favorite and I have missed it SO much. I love your curries and your butter chicken. I am always looking for new Indian recipes from a tried and true source!

  32. Tiffiny says:

    Hi Mel! I love all the curry dishes on your site and can’t wait to try this one. And I’m so jealous you have a great friend to bring you amazing Indian food! Any chance a Sujoo recipe will make it to the blog?! 😉

  33. 3girls1apple says:

    Yuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuum!!! I love chicken curry. My mouth is watering right now. Thanks for sharing!!!

  34. Deanna says:

    Looks amazing and I’m completely jealous of your food connections! Love Indian food. My sister is in Bloomington, MN and married to a guy from Indian and she can cook some pretty mean Indian food now. I love getting to eat it. Naan and butter chicken are my favorites. I make them but I’m sure they aren’t terribly authentic. 🙂

  35. WOW! I love me some curry. And this stuff looks amazing. I gotta make this for dinner sometime this week.

  36. Stacy says:

    We had some Indian neighbors at our last house. There were the best! So kind and friendly and they always wanted to share their food with us!

  37. Angela says:

    This looks delicious, like all your other recipes. I have really enjoyed your blog. I just visited one of my other favorite food recipe blogs, and after looking at how commericial it has become, I really appreciate yours and the lack of you trying to sell me something. I love your focus on making good food and not on products (unless it’s an awesome giveaway, of course). Anyway, keep up the good posts!

  38. Bethany G. says:

    Mel, I read your blog regularly and haven’t commented yet, but I have to on this one. You have to try a chicken curry like this with toppings. We use peanuts, pineapple chunks, shredded coconut, chopped onions, more fresh cilantro, cucumbers, bananas, chopped tomatoes – whatever. It’s great on its own, but even better with toppings (I also add diced carrots to the sauce for a nutrition boost). We just had it last night – the kids love “personalizing” theirs. Love your blog!

  39. Kathryn says:

    Those naughty dark chocolate covered cranberries! I have fallen victim to them as well. Curse you Sam’s Club! However, at least, if I make this for dinner with quinoa I won’t feel quite as guilty sneaking 5 or 6 as my appetizer.

  40. Jill says:

    Mel, what kind of fish sauce do you recommend? In my experience, the fish sauce can make or break a recipe. (also, thanks for recommending Penzey’s curry – I’ve become a fan too!)

    • Mel says:

      Jill – I just used the last of mine and can’t for the life of me remember the brand (it’s the only brand my grocery store carries) but I came across this interesting article with recommendations.

  41. Maria D. says:

    This sounds and looks really good – will definitely try this one out!

  42. danielle says:

    Im all about a good curry – I cant wait to try a quick version!

  43. Lisa says:

    Hi Mel!
    I have been cooking for as long as I can remember, way back to the days of a little girl hanging out in the kitchen with my mom, and that is a long time ago, considering I will be 52 very soon. Considering that, I must say, I’m bit embrassed, (not really) but I do not know what “fish sauce” is!? (Obvisouly, it’s “fish” “sauce”, but how does it come and where in the grocery store do I find it? Thanks in advance for you help with this puzzler!

    • Jennifer G. says:

      Fish sauce is an amber-colored liquid extracted from the fermentation of fish with sea salt. It comes in a glass bottle and is usually found in the Asian section at the market. Thai Kitchen is one brand. It’s awesome in Thai food as well. It’s not as bad as it sounds and gives a more authentic flavor.

    • Emily says:

      I believe this is the kind I buy:
      I shop at a very not fancy Smith’s grocery store, and they carry it in the section with other Asian cooking ingredients.

    • Mel says:

      Lisa – Hi Lisa! Don’t be embarrassed! I appreciate the other couple comments that chimed in to help out. Fish sauce is usually sold in small-ish glass bottles near the other Asian ingredients (like Hoisin sauce, coconut milk, etc.). It’s usually anchovies that are fermented in salt and seasonings for a long time. Sounds gross, but a little bit adds a wonderful depth of flavor to Indian and Thai dishes.

  44. mamanut says:

    I love your blog! Man, receiving tasty food while in carpool would be beyond cool! Sujoo rocks! I’m a total Indian food lover, too! We do not get to eat it near often enough any more. When we lived in England, we had curries often, like, at least once a week, usually more (it’s so popular in there), but here in the US we do not have as many Indian restaurants (at least not in the south, where I live) and also cooking Indian food can be time consuming! I also have a quick curry recipe I love that does not use curry powder (which I don’t actually like all that much) and thought I’d share with you in case you’d like to give it a try:

  45. McKenzie Schellenberg says:

    I am so excited to try this! Seriously I am bouncing in my seat with excitement!!

  46. Alicia says:

    Get. Out. I love fresh ginger, but always have to talk myself (and after giving up I pawn the job off on one of my kids) into peeling and mincing ginger to keep in the freezer so I have a fresh supply. No peeling? Just put it in there SKIN ON and freeze it for later grating? That deserves its own highlight in the “Best” section or somewhere. Seriously. So. Excited.

    We only discovered Indian food at our house within the last year, but we love it, too. Your Indian Butter Chicken is a fav around here. Excited to try this!!

  47. Amanda says:

    Sounds like you’ve got a great friend! Indian food is something we don’t eat enough, I need to change that! 🙂

  48. Curry is probably my all-time favorite dinner. Your friend looks so sweet 🙂 I wish someone would run to my car and hand me delicious homemade Indian food. How does one sign up for that? You’re living the dream life 😉

  49. Sheila says:

    Rejoicing that you have such a lovely friend as Sujoo in your life! She sounds a lot like you – someone who eagerly shares her heart, knowledge, skills, and life with others. So excited to see this posted curry which uses the sweet curry powder I purchased on your advice. Again, quick, easy and delicious . . .be still my heart. As soon as I pick up fish sauce, it will be on the rotation menu. And, thank you, for the humor contained in your post that has me leaving our home with a smile.

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