There are moments when I want to take my time and make the best curry possible. Then there are other times ... I just want tasty food on the table as quickly as possible. This is a Thai chicken curry for the latter. With a few shortcuts you will have a still-legit Thai red chicken curry in less than 30 minutes. ... and make sure you get your rice going first cuz your curry will be done fast!
I came up with this recipe for my red curry paste review. Since the purpose was to compare different brands of curry paste, I just wanted a recipe that was quick and simple, but would still yield the true flavour of a Thai red curry. It then occurred to me that this would be incredibly handy for when I actually need to produce a curry fast!
How I made this curry faster
There are a few things I did that contributes to the speed of the curry:
- I used bamboo shoots as my vegetables. Bamboo shoots are a classic veg pairing with Thai red and green curry. It conveniently comes in a can, pre-cut, and pre-cooked, so no cutting board or extra prep required!
- A quick marinade allows for flavourful chicken that doesn't need to be simmered. Normally, I'd use chicken thighs and let it braise in the curry sauce slowly so it would have time to tenderize and absorb flavour. This is the technique I use in my red chicken curry with squash and green curry chicken recipe. But if you've got no time for that, a quick marinade in fish sauce will make sure the chicken is still flavourful.
- Or use shrimp! Another great protein option that doesn't need to be marinated is shrimp. Drop them in at the end and cook for 1-2 minutes as with the chicken.
- Saute the curry paste in oil rather than reduced coconut milk. Traditionally we reduce coconut milk until thick, then use that to saute the curry paste. The shortcut way is to just saute the curry paste in oil. This is a small flavour compromise, but still yields a tasty result. And if you use virgin coconut oil, you will still get that coconut flavour!
Here are the ingredients for a 2-serving curry. If you want to scale it up, or switch to metric units, use the toggle in the recipe card!
- ½ lb boneless skinless chicken breast or thighs, cut into about 1 cm strips.
- 2 tsp fish sauce
- 2 Tbsp virgin coconut oil, or neutral oil
- 2-3 Tbsp red curry paste. The brand of curry paste you use matters a great deal as you can see in my Thai curry paste review. Mae Ploy and Nam Jai are my top brands, but if you need a vegan paste that doesn't contain shrimp paste, Aroy-D in the white plastic tub is a good option. If using Maesri (in a small tin) or Thai Kitchen brands, you will need to increase the amount of paste by at least double. If you're feeling ambitious, here's a homemade curry paste recipe that you can make and freeze.
- ¾ cup coconut milk, always use full-fat coconut milk for Thai cooking.
- ½ cup chicken broth, unsalted or low sodium. Store-bought is fine, but it's very easy to make. Here's my recipe for homemade Thai-style chicken stock.
- 1 Tbsp palm sugar, or light brown sugar. It's not crucial that you use palm sugar here, but if you want to learn more about it here's my post all about palm sugar.
- 4.5 oz bamboo shoots strips (about half a 3can). Be sure to rinse the bamboo shoots very well before using as they can have a bit of a strong smell straight out of the can. You can also substitute other veggies that you have on hand, and if you want to make it a little more colourful, you can add some red bell pepper as well.
- 3 makrut lime leaves (a.k.a kaffir lime leaves). This is optional, but is a nice citrusy touch. If you happen to have some lime, you can add just a touch of lime zest instead.
- 1 tsp fish sauce, if modifying this to be vegetarian, use soy sauce
- ½ cup Thai basil leaves
- Jasmine rice, or brown rice, for serving
How to Make Easy Thai Red Curry Chicken
Here are the steps, and as you can see it's very easy, so make sure your rice is going before you start the curry!
- Mix the chicken with 2 teaspoons (10 ml) of the fish sauce and set aside.
- Put a small pot over medium low heat and add the coconut oil and the curry paste. Saute the curry paste for 2 minutes, deglazing with a little water if the paste starts to stick to the pot.
- Increase the heat to medium-high, then add the coconut milk, chicken stock, palm sugar, bamboo shoots and stir to mix. Grab the makrut lime leaves and twist them to bruise, then tear into chunks and add them to the pot. Simmer the curry for 5 minutes, adjusting the heat as needed to maintain a simmer, not a boil.
- After 5 minutes, add the marinated chicken, and once the sauce comes back to a simmer, cook for another 1-2 minutes - just until the chicken is cooked through. (If using chicken breast, it's important not to overcook them or they will dry out. Small pieces of chicken only take a couple of minutes to cook, and they will continue to cook in the residual heat of the curry after the heat turns off.)
- Turn off the heat and stir in Thai basil. Taste the sauce and add more fish sauce and/or sugar as needed. How much fish sauce you need will depend on the brand of curry paste and how much you use, so it's important to taste before adding.
- Serve with jasmine rice!
Pro Tips: How to "fix" curry that's too weak or too strong.
Using different brands of Thai curry paste can result in vastly different results, as you can see in my curry paste review video. So what happens if you make a curry and it's so weak? Or so spicy? How do you fix it now that it's done?
If you've made the curry and it is too spicy, the only way to fix it is to dilute it with more liquid. Here's what you do:
Add only the curry sauce into a pot (you can strain it or scoop the meat/veggies out with a slotted skimmer). Add more coconut milk to the sauce until it is no longer too spicy; you can also add a mix of coconut milk and chicken stock as per the original curry to keep the richness the same.
Then, add more fish sauce and sugar to bring the seasoning level back up. You can add more meat and veggies at this point, too, if you like, as you will now have more sauce volume.
Finally, add the old meat and veggies back into the new sauce and heat it up just until hot enough to serve.
More importantly for next time, I would use a different brand of curry paste. You can just use less of the same paste in theory, but doing that will also result in a weaker curry overall so it's not ideal. Maesri in a tin and Thai Kitchen are two brands that are milder, but be sure to use double the amount of paste than the recipe calls for.
This is a much easier fix, and in fact, I do this in the red curry paste review video where I was trying to make a curry from the weaker paste.
Simply take more curry paste and saute it for 2 minutes in oil, just like you did the first time. Then pour most of the curry sauce from the old curry into the new paste, and let it simmer for another 5 minutes. (You can just hold the meat and veggies back with a spatula and pour, no need to strain everything out).
Then, add all the meat and veggies back in and heat it up just until hot enough for serving.
Other Thai Curries You Can Now Make
The basic technique for making Thai coconut curries are very similar, you just need to make changes according to different meats and vegetables used. So once you've made this easy Thai red curry recipe, you can now feel confident to make these also:
- Panang Curry Beef - a very quick curry that's more like a saucey stir fry. In this recipe I show you how to make a quick panang curry paste using store-bought red curry paste as a base.
- Green Curry Chicken - an absolute classic with its own unique flavour. The main difference between red and green curry is that green curry paste uses green chilies, while red curry paste uses dried red chilies. But this one difference creates a very distinct flavour profile.
- Yellow Curry Chicken - Curries in Thai cuisine tends to be on the light side, but if you want a chicken curry that is richer and more stew-like, this yellow curry with potatoes is for you.
Quick and Easy Thai Red Chicken Curry
- ½ lb boneless skinless chicken breast or thighs, 1 cm strips
- 2 tsp fish sauce
- 2 Tbsp coconut oil, or neutral oil
- 2-3 Tbsp red curry paste, see note
- ¾ cup coconut milk
- ½ cup chicken stock, unsalted or low sodium
- 1 Tbsp palm sugar, finely chopped, or light brown sugar
- 4.5 oz bamboo shoots strips (about ½ can), rinsed well and drained
- 3 makrut lime leaves, optional
- 1 tsp fish sauce, or to taste
- ½ cup Thai basil leaves
- Jasmine rice, for serving
- Note: Because this is a recipe that I developed for my curry paste review, the video tutorial is actually in the middle of the review video! Also note that this recipe has been slightly modified from the video since it doesn't need to be done in two parts.
FULL VIDEO TUTORIAL
All my recipes come with step-by-step video tutorials with extra tips not mentioned in the blog post, so make sure you watch the video to ensure success. If you enjoy them, consider subscribing to the YouTube Channel to not miss an episode. Thank you!Subscribe to my YouTube Channel
- Mix the chicken with 2 teaspoons (10 ml) of the fish sauce and set aside.½ lb boneless skinless chicken breast or thighs, 2 tsp fish sauce
- In a small pot over medium heat add the coconut oil and curry paste. Saute the curry paste for 2 minutes, deglazing with a little water if the paste starts to stick to the pot.2-3 Tbsp red curry paste, 2 Tbsp coconut oil
- Add the coconut milk, chicken stock, palm sugar, and bamboo shoots and stir to mix. Grab the makrut lime leaves and twist them to bruise, then tear into chunks and add them to the pot. Simmer the curry for 5 minutes.¾ cup coconut milk, ½ cup chicken stock, 1 Tbsp palm sugar, finely chopped, 4.5 oz bamboo shoots strips (about ½ can), 3 makrut lime leaves
- Add the marinated chicken and once the sauce comes back to a simmer, cook for another 1-2 minutes - just until the chicken is cooked through. (Thin pieces of chicken breast do not take long to cook at all, so be sure to check early and don't overcook them!)
- Turn off the heat and stir in Thai basil. Taste the sauce and add more fish sauce as needed. How much fish sauce you need will depend on the brand of curry paste you use, so it's important to taste before adding. Serve with jasmine rice!1 tsp fish sauce, ½ cup Thai basil leaves, Jasmine rice