Thai yellow curry is a classic Thai dish that's a staple in Thai restaurants overseas, and popular amongst Thais and foreigners alike. It's rich with coconut milk, full of aromatic spices, and it's a mildly-spiced curry I recommend for those with low heat tolerance, even kids. If you buy the curry paste ready-made, or make it in advance, it's an easy and quick weeknight meal.
Yellow Curry Ingredients
- Yellow curry paste, store bought or homemade using this recipe. For store bought, I like Maeploy brand, but Maesri and Aroy-D are also great choices. Note that Maesri labels their yellow curry paste as "Karee Curry Paste," and do NOT get the one labelled "yellow sour curry" as that's an entirely different dish.
- Bone-in chicken thighs. Chicken is the most common meat pairing for Thai yellow curry. Other proteins can absolutely be used, just remember to adjust the cooking time accordingly. Boneless chicken thighs will work also, but in that case use unsalted or low sodium chicken stock instead of water.
- Coconut milk. Not sure which is the best coconut milk to get? See my post here with everything you need to know about coconut milk including the best coconut milk to buy.
- Waxy potatoes such as new or red skin potatoes. Starchy potatoes such as russet will also taste great, but you have to be very careful not to overcook them as they disintegrate easily.
- Yellow or white onion
- Fish sauce
- Palm sugar or light brown sugar.
- Tamarind paste, store bought or homemade using this homemade tamarind paste recipe.
- Cherry tomatoes
- Fried shallots. Optional for garnish. You can buy them at Asian markets or make your own following these instructions.
- Jasmine rice for serving
How to Make Yellow Curry
- Reduce some of the coconut milk until thick and the coconut oil separates.
- Add the curry paste and saute for 2-3 minutes until the oil starts to separate from the paste.
- Add the chicken and toss to coat.
- Add the remaining coconut milk, water and all seasonings. Simmer for 30 minutes.
- Add potatoes and onion and simmer for another 15-20 minutes or until chicken is fork tender and the potatoes are fully cooked.
- While the curry simmers, pierce the cherry tomatoes with a knife to prevent them from exploding in your mouth.
- Turn off the heat and stir in the pierced tomatoes and let the residual heat of the cook the tomatoes for a few minutes.
- Sprinkle with fried shallots, if desired. Serve with jasmine rice.
Here are important tips for success:
- Avoid using chicken breast. Dark meat chicken can be slow-braised until tender, and this gives the meat time to absorb the flavour of the curry. If you slow-braised white meat, it just turns dry.
- Piercing tomatoes prevents explosions. I don't like to use halved cherry tomatoes in this because they can disintegrate easily into the curry. But using whole cherry tomatoes can be a bit dangerous because if the tomatoes are heated, but not enough for the skin to break, they become a hot water balloon ready to burst in your mouth. Piercing them prior to cooking prevents this from happening.
- Make the curry a day ahead. As with many stews, yellow curry tastes better the next day after the flavours have had time to penetrate the potatoes and chicken more thoroughly. So this is a recipe that really benefits from an overnight rest. I would add the tomatoes the day-of if possible.
- Leftover curry sauce? Use it as a dip! Thai people often dip roti paratha (which you can buy frozen) in yellow curry sauce. So if you have some curry sauce left, save it for a quick appetizer. You can even use frozen Chinese scallion pancakes or toast to dip.
Yellow curry keeps very well. It'll last at least a week in the fridge, and will taste even better the next day.
When reheating be careful not to overcook the potatoes and tomatoes. I find microwaving better for this, as the stove top takes longer to heat the inside through, making it more likely for the potatoes to be overcooked.
Frequently Asked Questions
Compared to other Thai curries, yellow curry is unique in that it uses curry powder in the paste, so it tastes a little more reminiscent of Indian dishes (which is the original influence of Thai yellow curry). The yellow colour comes from turmeric, both fresh and in the curry powder, which also contributes to its unique flavour.
It's rich, a little sweet, with a subtle hint of acidity from tamarind to keep everything balanced.
Yellow curry is the mildest of all popular Thai coconut milk curries, while green curry is usually the hottest, and red is somewhere in between.
Of course, if you make your own curry paste, you can modify spice levels to your liking, but with store bought pastes, yellow curry tends to be the mildest. This is why it is one I recommend for families with kids who still want to enjoy Thai curries.
You don't! Some people ask me this because when they're done making it, the curry sauce looks thin. And they are a little confused because their idea of curry comes from Indian curries, which are very thick. But rest assured that Thai curry sauces are supposed to pour freely and not be gloopy, but it should taste quite rich from the coconut milk.
If you prefer it even richer and fattier, you can use coconut cream instead of coconut milk in the recipe. Or replace the water with more coconut milk.
Watch The 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 below to ensure success - and if you enjoy the show, please consider subscribing to my YouTube channel. Thank you!
- 1 recipe yellow curry paste (see recipe) or use 5-6 Tbsp store-bought
- 4-5 bone-in chicken thighs
- 1 ¾ cup coconut milk
- 300 g. waxy potatoes, cut into chunks
- Half a medium onion, 1 cm julienned
- 1-1.5 cup water
- 1-2 Tbsp fish sauce
- 1.5 Tbsp palm sugar
- 1-2 Tbsp tamarind paste, store bought or homemade (see note)
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes
- Optional garnish: fried shallots (see Hat Yai Fried Chicken for recipe)
- Jasmine rice for serving
Reduce ¾ cup coconut milk over medium heat until thick and the coconut oil separates. If the oil doesn’t separate after the coconut milk has reduced until very thick, just proceed with the recipe.
Add the curry paste and saute for 2-3 minutes over medium low heat until the oil starts to separate from the paste.
Add chicken and toss to coat in the curry paste, then add the remaining 1 cup of coconut milk and 1 cup water; stir to mix. Add 1 Tbsp of fish sauce, 1 Tbsp palm sugar, and 1 Tbsp of tamarind; bring to a simmer. Let chicken simmer gently for 30 minutes.
Add potatoes, onion, and more water if needed to keep the potatoes mostly submerged. Simmer for another 15-20 minutes or until chicken is fork tender and the potatoes are fully cooked.
While the curry simmers, pierce the cherry tomatoes with the tip of a parting knife, making about a half-inch incision.
When the curry is done simmering, taste and adjust seasoning with the remaining fish sauce, sugar and tamarind as needed. Turn off the heat and stir in the pierced cherry tomatoes and let the residual heat of the curry gently cook the tomatoes for a few minutes before serving.
Sprinkle with fried shallots, if desired. Serve with jasmine rice.
Tamarind paste is sometimes sold as "tamarind concentrate." Be sure the buy a product of Thailand or Vietnam, and it should be brown colour with a relatively loose consistency. Do not use the black, sticky Indian tamarind concentrate.