Learn how to make Authentic Sri Lankan Chicken Curry with these tips and variations for the best ever chicken curry with or without coconut milk! Spicy, flavorful and fragrant!

Sri Lankan Chicken Curry

Course: Curry, Main Course
Cuisine: Asian, Sri Lankan
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Servings: 6 people
Calories: 187kcal
Learn how to make authentic Sri Lankan chicken curry with these tips and variations for the best ever chicken curry, made with or without coconut milk. Spicy, flavorful and fragrant!
EASY - This is a great starting recipe for novice cooks or those who are new to making curries. To make it easier, you can use boneless chicken, or chicken that has already been cut into sections.
US based cup, teaspoon, tablespoon measurements. Common Measurement Conversions
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  • 2 - 3 tbsp coconut oil
  • ½ onion yellow or red
  • 4 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 inch ginger minced
  • 6 - 7 curry leaves or 2 bay leaves
  • 2 ½ tbsp roasted Sri Lankan curry powder
  • 1 cinnamon stick or 1 small regular cinnamon stick
  • ½ tsp salt plus more to taste
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper or chili powder (less if you like it less spicy. PLEASE SEE NOTES)
  • 1 tbsp paprika not smoked or sweet paprika
  • 2 lbs chicken, whole chicken cut into sections OR any bone-in chicken thigh or leg pieces (large thigh pieces should be cut in half)
  • 2 serrano peppers (or regular green chili) cut length-wise, with or without seeds
  • 3 roma tomatoes cut into cubes (or 2 medium-sized regular tomatoes)
  • 2 tsp brown sugar see notes
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • ½ cup coconut milk PLEASE SEE NOTES
  • ½ cup water


  • Add the coconut oil in to a large saucepan and heat the oil over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, ginger to the heated oil and cook until softened.
  • Add curry powder, chili powder/cayenne pepper, paprika, cinnamon, curry leaves and mix to combine. Cook for a few minutes until you start to smell the spices.
  • Add the chicken, serrano peppers/green chili peppers, salt, 3 roma tomatoes, 1 tsp sugar, and mix to coat. Cook for 10 minutes with the lid off, on medium high heat. Stir frequently to make sure the chicken or the spices don’t burn.
  • Add coconut milk, water, vinegar, and bring the curry to a boil. If you want less gravy, add less liquid.
  • Lower the heat, and let it simmer with the lid closed, for 15 - 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt to taste. The chicken should be completely cooked by this point. Taste the curry and season to taste if needed. You can add the rest of the sugar or more salt, or vinegar to your taste. Remember that curries can be adjusted to your taste!
  • If the chicken curry gravy is too thin, or there's too much of it, uncover and simmer the curry for a further 10 minutes or longer. This step is optional, but it will allow the water to evaporate and the gravy to thicken.
  • Turn off the heat and let the chicken cool down slightly. Serve with rice or roti.


NOTE 1 - if you want a less spicy curry, you can reduce the cayenne pepper to 1/4 - 1/2 tsp. If you like an extra spicy curry, you can add up to 2 tsp of cayenne pepper. DO NOT use Mexican chili powder for this curry. You should be able to find regular chili powder at any Asian grocery store.
NOTE 2 - you can replace the 1/2 cup of coconut milk with water. If you're not adding coconut milk, this chicken curry will be spicier. The coconut milk softens the heat.
NOTE 3 - if you want the curry to have a thicker gravy, you can reduce the amount of liquid by half.
NOTE 4 - The sugar is added to balance out the spices, and bring out the saltiness of the curry. If you're using a different curry powder, or you're making curry for the first time, add only half of the sugar initially, and then add the rest of the sugar, if you feel like you need it at the end. I always add both 2 tsp of sugar when I make this curry with my homemade curry powder.  


Calories: 187kcal | Carbohydrates: 5g | Protein: 20g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 258mg | Potassium: 168mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 940IU | Vitamin C: 5.9mg | Calcium: 21mg | Iron: 1mg