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Whole Coconut Curry Chicken

June 11, 2024

This Thai-inspired whole chicken is poached in coconut curry broth—a one pot dish that makes for a simple, flavorful weeknight dinner.


Whole Poached Chicken In Coconut Curry in a soup pot with basil and lime

Why We Love This Whole Chicken Simmered in Coconut Curry:

If you get to the meat aisle at your grocery store and see a whole bird for sale, a lot of us feel a pang of intimidation at the sight. But, just maybe that whole bird is just the easy dinner you've been hunting for! We think that learning how to use every part of a chicken is one of the most important skills a home cook can have. In this dish, using a whole chicken—with all that light meat, dark meat, skin, bone and chicken fat—makes for an extra flavorful, richly creamy coconut curry broth.

Bursting with flavor from our favorite Thai red curry paste, this whole coconut curry chicken has become a staple in the TMP staff houses for a few good reasons:

  • It’s cooked in one pot.
  • There is very little prep required.
  • It’s Whole30-approved.
  • It can be made ahead with equally delicious results.
  • You make use of the whole chicken, resulting in very little waste.
Ingredients laid out for Chicken In Coconut Curry red bell peppers, cilantro, onions, basil, lime, red curry paste and garlic

How To Make Thai Chicken Curry

Curries are something that a lot of people think have to be relegated to take out, but they're actually really easy to make at home. The key to a good curry is full-fat, high quality coconut milk, a good Thai curry paste, and a few simple steps.

Coconut Milk:

Good quality coconut milk is the key to great flavor, and not all brands are created equal. If you’re able to hit up an Asian market, we highly recommend Aroy-D or Chaokoh brands. Their standard, full-fat coconut milk is thick and silky in texture, which is exactly what you want in a curry soup broth. If you’re unable to get one of these brands, Trader Joe’s coconut cream is a great second choice. It is slightly thicker in texture, but once cooked down yields similar results.

Looking to cut some calories? Unfortunately, low-fat coconut milk as it is seriously lacking in flavor. If you must cut calories, try subbing some broth for part of the coconut milk.

Curry Paste:

When it comes to curry paste, Mae Ploy Red Curry is our absolute favorite. It can be found at any Asian market, and at many grocery stores. The tub is large, but will last months. We use it in things like Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce, Coconut Chicken Soup, and so much more. If you’re unable to get your hands on the really good stuff, check out the Asian aisle at your local grocery store and see what curry paste they have on hand...chances are it will work just fine.

Whole chicken browned in a soup pot
red curry, canned coconut milk, onions and lime in a soup pot
Whole Poached chicken in coconut curry in a soup pot
red curry coconut broth in a large soup pot with red bell pepper slices

How To Cook A Whole Chicken In Coconut Milk?

Using the whole chicken to make this coconut curry is an excellent idea because when meat is cooked on the bone and under the skin, it’s nearly impossible to dry it out.

  1. Using a large dutch oven, brown the whole bird in a little bit of hot oil until the skin is golden and crispy on both sides.
  2. Remove the chicken and add all of your coconut curry ingredients: the milk, Thai red curry paste, onions, garlic, and ginger. Bring to a simmer.
  3. Add the chicken back into the pot, cover, and cook for 30 minutes over medium heat.
  4. Uncover and add in the bell peppers and lime zest (or any vegetables you prefer) and continue to cook covered for another 10 minutes.
  5. When you’re ready to serve either shred or quarter the chicken off the bone and serve in a bowl along with the broth and a scoop of rice. Top with fresh herbs like cilantro and basil and enjoy!

How to Thicken Thai Chicken Curry:

We like our curry chicken to be nice and brothy (just as it’s served on the street corners of Thailand), but if you’re looking to make your broth a bit thicker you can easily make a slurry using equal parts cornstarch and water to add to your pot. Cook for another 1-2 minutes until the entire liquid thickens.

Whole poached chicken in coconut curry with peppers, onions, cilantro and Thai peppers

How Long Does It Take To Cook a Whole Chicken?

Because this chicken is braised in a simmering broth with a lid on it, the cook time is reduced. With this braising cook method, the chicken only needs about 40 minutes of cook time—cook until the internal temp reads 165°F and meat is falling off the bone.

Whole Poached Chicken In Coconut Curry with limes, basil, onions and red bell peppers

Equipment Needed to Make Whole Coconut Curry Chicken:

Want More Whole Chicken Recipes?

Wondering what else to do with your new favorite cut of poultry? We love this recipe for whole chicken that is cooked in a cast iron skillet over a bed of cabbage. Or, if you’re looking for something a little more traditional, our whole roast chicken with white pan sauce is a winner every time.

Whole Poached Chicken In Coconut Curry with limes, basil, onions and red bell peppers

Slurp It, Slurp It Real Good.

Did you love this simple, one pot coconut curry chicken soup as much as us? Tell us about it! Post a picture to Instagram using @themodernproper and #themodernproper so we can revel in all its simmering goodness right along with you. Happy eating!

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Whole Coconut Curry Chicken

  • Serves: 6
  • Prep Time:  15 min
  • Cook Time:  55 min
  • Calories: 770


  • 1 (3 to 4-pound) whole chicken
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons red curry paste
  • 1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 2 (14-ounce) cans coconut milk, shaken
  • 2 red bell peppers, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice (from 1 lime)
  • 1 (3 to 4-pound) whole chicken
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil


  1. Pat the chicken dry. Discard any "extras" from the cavity. Season the chicken all over with the salt.

  2. Heat the olive oil in a large dutch oven or soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the chicken breast-side up and sear until the skin is golden, 6-7 minutes, then flip and sear 5-6 minutes more. Transfer the chicken to a plate, leaving the pot over the heat.

  3. To the same pot, add the curry paste, onion, garlic, ginger, and 1 can coconut milk. Bring to a simmer, then return the chicken to the pot, cover and cook for 30 minutes.

  4. Stir in the bell peppers, lime zest and juice, and remaining coconut milk; cook, covered for another 10 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165°F on an instant-read thermometer.

  5. Transfer the chicken to a carving board. Allow the chicken to rest for 15 minutes, then carve or shred the meat. Serve the chicken and curry over cooked rice, garnished with parsley and basil.

Nutrition Info

  • Per Serving
  • Amount
  • Calories770
  • Protein65 g
  • Carbohydrates9 g
  • Total Fat54 g
  • Dietary Fiber3 g
  • Cholesterol240 mg
  • sodium1246 mg
  • Total Sugars4 g

Whole Coconut Curry Chicken

Questions & Reviews

Join the discussion below.

  • Ruth

    Can you use chicken pieces instead of a whole chicken? How many pieces or pounds?

    You could use 6 pieces of chicken. Hope you enjoy!

  • Meredith

    This looks amazing but when I make chicken soup from a whole chicken, there is usually a lot of fat there. Does it blend in or do you skim?

    You can skim if you prefer!

  • Amanda

    Hi! Question for you about thickening the curry sauce. What is the best way to do that?

    You could use a slurry. Mix cornstarch, tapioca starch, or arrowroot with cold water or a cup of liquid from the curry sauce to make a slurry. Add this at the end of the cooking process—the sauce should thicken as soon as it returns to a boil.

  • Jessica

    What are the small red peppers in the picture? I do not see them mentioned anywhere. Thanks!

    They are mini red bell peppers

  • Anita

    How do you brown the chicken without the skin sticking to the pan and tearing? I used oil, heated it in my Le Creuset Dutch oven.

    So sorry to hear this happened! It's possible your pan wasn't hot enough before you placed the chicken in or maybe you tried to flip it before it had a good enough sear. You could also try canola oil instead of oil (if you aren't opposed to that). Make sure the pan and oil are hot before placing in the chicken then let it sear undisturbed until browned before flipping. Hope this helps Anita!

  • Patrick

    First of all thank you for writing down a recipe like this what I believe is the real way of cooking curry dishes. In county side Thailand almost nobody is going to any supermarket for chicken breast, they are going to slaughter a fresh chicken the day before and make a fresh curry the next day and they are going to use the whole bird. Cook it in coconut milk and some water with spices and herbs for taste and get the meat of the bone, add some vegetables and have a curry ready with rice on the side. To thicken the curry just cook some potatoes with it as for Thais potatoes a vegetables and not so much a side dish. I just add more ginger and onions as you do but use the same red curry paste, I do use lime leaves instead of zests and add about 4 or more stems of knocked lemon grass and galangal to cook the chicken. As vegetables I use thai eggplants, sugar snaps, young corn on the cob, bamboo shoots and maybe add some bell peppers and spring onions to finish them as I cut the cooked chicken in pieces, finish for taste with fish sauce, palm sugar and a dash of thai oyster sauce. I don't use any other oil as coconut oil is my choice. For serving I top the curry with chopped cilantro, thai basil and a dash of lemon juice to stir in before eating. If you like it hot add some cut chili peppers and you will get a curry like you can't get in any takeaway or in almost no restaurant. Thank you and all the best.

    Thanks Patrick, we are so glad you enjoyed this and love to hear it follows some traditions!

  • Madelin

    This is a classic “I never write reviews but….” post. But it’s true. I rarely write reviews but this was just so dang yummy. My entire family loved it. Even my toddlers. It was so packed with flavor and simple. I love a one pot meal too. I typically add more ingredients to my curry but this wasn’t missing a thing. We loved it. Thank you!

    Thanks Madelin, we are so glad your family loved it!

  • Shane

    Wow, this recipe is truly top notch. I flip the chicken halfway through the 30 min cook, is that necessary? I also add a few lime leaves and a piece of galangal, maybe a chili, really sets it off.