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Chicken Massaman Curry

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Chicken Massaman Curry is one of the easiest and most delicious Thai curries.

In the west, chicken massaman is not nearly as well known as beef massaman. This hugely popular curry actaully started as a chicken curry and chicken is still the most popular option in Thailand. That surprised me when I was there but there is good reason for this. All is explained below. You are going to love this very authentic, on pan, sweet, sour and spicy massaman chicken curry with step by step photographs.

Chicken Massaman Curry

This can be made much quicker than beef Massaman and it’s just as delicious.

The origins of chicken massaman curry…

Unlike other Thai curries, massaman curries were first cooked by muslim Indian immigrants to Thailand using both Indian spices and Thai cooking techniques.

Chicken was the preferred meat in this curry due to muslim dietary requirements. Halal chicken was much easier to come by than lamb and beef, so that’s what they used.

You’ll find that many Indian spices are used in chicken Massaman. Other Thai pastes use many more chillies and aromatics. Although many chefs do use more dried chillies in their massaman paste, this is considered one of the milder curries in the west.

About the Massaman paste…

Just as I explained in my cookbook ‘The Curry Guy Thai’, you will get much better results if you make your Thai curry pastes from scratch.

Traditionally, Thai spice pastes were pounded in a pestle and mortar which ideally is still the best option. The problem with that is that it takes 40 to 60 minutes to pound all those ingredients into a paste.

Modern chefs blend the ingredients which only takes a couple of minutes.

What if I don’t want to make my own massaman curry paste?

Purchasing Thai Massaman paste is cheating! No, really, it is quite convenient and from time to time I cheat too.

You need to be careful when adding brand name Thai curry pastes though. Many are really spice and salty. The saltiness of some pastes can quickly ruin a curry.

My massaman curry paste, photographed below, makes a lot more than you would ever add of a brand name paste. So if using a brand name curry paste such as Mae Ploy, (affilliate link) I recommend using only a couple of tablespoons. You can always add more later in cooking to taste.

Where To Find Massaman Curry Paste

You will find all the popular Thai curry pastes at most Asian grocers. They are also available online. I have even seen some at major supermarkets as Thai food is really popular. 

How long can you keep leftover Thai Massaman curry in the fridge?

You can keep your curry in the fridge for up to 3 days. In fact, the flavours will develop over time and your curry will be even better.

To heat it up, simply heat it in a pan or wok over medium-high heat until hot. You could also heat it up in your microwave oven.

Can Chicken Massaman curry be frozen?

Although the answer is yes, I find that curries with coconut milk in them don’t freeze all that well. If you make your own curry paste, however, that freezes really well.

Sometimes I double or triple the massaman curry paste recipe and freeze what I don’t use. Do that and you can whip up this chicken massaman curry whenever you want in minutes.

Can I use something besides chicken?

You bet! Prawns and beef are both really nice. Here is my beef massaman recipe. You can also make it vegetarian by adding the fresh seasonal vegetables of your choice to cook through at the end of cooking

Other ways of making this chicken massaman curry your own…

Yes. You can adjust the paste ingredients to taste, adding fewer or more chillies for example.

At the end of cooking, sugar, fish sauce and tamarind are added. The sweet, salty and sour flavours of these ingredients can also be adjusted by adding more or less of each.

Step by step chicken massaman photographs…

Ingredients for chicken massaman curry

Get all your ingredients together before you start cooking. It’s easier that way.

Roasting whole spices in a wok

If making the homemade massaman paste, toast the whole spices until warm and fragrant but not yet smoking.

Grinding the roasted spices to a powder

Allow to cool some and the grind into a fine powder.

Blending the massaman paste

Blend the spice powder with the other paste ingredients until smooth. You might need to add water to assist in blending.

Heating coconut milk in wok

Heat your wok over medium high heat and add two tbsp thick coconut milk. You will see the coconut oil separate.

Adding peanuts and onions to the wok

Stir the peanuts and quartered red onion in and move it all around with your spoon.

Adding the massaman curry paste to the wok

Now stir in the prepared paste or about 2 tbsp of shop bought paste and fry for about 30 seconds.

Simmering potatoes in stock

Add the potato pieces and about 250ml (1 cup) water or chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Cook until the potatoes are about 80% cooked through.

Adding chicken to the wok

Add the chicken and another 250ml (1 cup) water to stock.

Simmering massaman curry

Cook for about 12 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the potatoes are soft.

Finishing the massaman curry cook

To finish, stir in the remaining coconut milk, the fish sauce, tamarind sauce and lime juice.

Chicken massaman

Serve garnished with Thai basil and a few slices of red chilli.

If you like this Thai chicken Massaman curry, you might like to try some of these too…

Thai Curries

Green Beef Curry
Thai Green Chicken Curry
Thai Red Chicken Curry
Beef Massaman Curry
Duck Jungle Curry
Beef Panang Curry
Thai Yellow Curry
Thai Braised Pork Belly Stew


Authentic Pad Thai
Pad Thai with Peanut Butter
Beef Khao Soy
Drunken Noodles with Chicken
Thai Rice Noodle Salad with Prawns and Pork


Thai Chicken Stock
Tom Yum Gai
Tom Kha Gai

Thai Barbecue

Thai Salted Fish – Thai Pla Pao
Grilled Whole Fish
Thai Grilled Chicken with Fish Sauce
Gai Yang

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Yield: 4

Chicken Massaman Curry

chicken massaman curry

This chicken massaman can be made with shop bought massaman curry paste. Links above with instructions on how to substitute a shop bought paste. The homemade paste is much better though!

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour


  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 11⁄2 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 1 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 1 whole nutmeg
  • Seeds from 6 green cardamom pods
  • 5cm (2in) piece of cinnamon stick
  • 6 to 12 dried red bird’s eye chillies, soaked in water for 30 minutes and then cut into small pieces
  • 8 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 4 small shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1 long lemongrass stalk (white part only), thinly sliced
  • 1 thumb-sized piece of galangal, sliced into thin rounds
  • Zest of 1⁄2 lime
  • 3 makrut lime leaves (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 tsp shrimp paste
  • 900g (2 lbs) chicken thighs cut into bite sized pieces
  • 2 potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces
  • 400ml ( 1 3/4 cups) thick coconut milk
  • 1 red onion, quartered
  • Handful of roasted peanuts
  • 500ml (2 cups) water or unsalted chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp palm sugar
  • 1 tsp tamarind sauce
  • 3 tbsp Thai fish sauce
  • Thai holy basil, to garnish


  1. Place the whole spices in a wok or pan and roast over a medium heat until warm to the touch and fragrant, but not smoking. Allow to cool some and then grind to a fine powder in a pestle and mortar or spice grinder.
  2. Pour the ground spices into a blender with the other paste ingredients and blend to a thick paste. You might need to add a little water to assist blending. Set aside.
  3. When ready to cook the massaman curry, heat a wok or large frying pan over medium high heat. When hot add about 2 tbsp of the thick coconut milk. When it hits the wok, it will bubble and separate because there is so much oil in it.
  4. Add the dry roasted peanuts and quartered red onion and move them around in the wok. Then add the prepared massaman paste or shop bought paste if using that.
  5. Stir well into the other ingredients and fry for about a minute, stirring regularly to cook out the rawness.
  6. Now add the potatoes and about 250ml (1 cup) water or chicken stock. The potatoes can take up to 20 minutes to become tender so add more stock or water as needed.
  7. When the potatoes are about 80% cooked through, stir in the chicken and the remaining stock or water and bring to a simmer. Let this bubble for about 10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the potatoes are soft.
  8. Stir in the remaining coconut milk and bring to a simmer. Then add the sugar, tamarind sauce and fish sauce.
  9. Taste it and add more sugar for a sweeter
    flavour, more tamarind to make it more sour and/or fish sauce for a savoury flavour.
  10. Continue simmering until you are
    happy with the consistency. Serve topped with Thai basil leaves.


You can subsitute

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 417Total Fat: 24gSaturated Fat: 13gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 30mgSodium: 1455mgCarbohydrates: 38gFiber: 6gSugar: 12gProtein: 19g

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Wednesday 3rd of January 2024

Hi Dan, I've recently made your base curry gravy and the Chicken Balti, which was very good indeed! Thought I'd have a look at the Thai recipes as I cook quite a lot of them. One thing I've learnt when cracking the coconut cream is to buy a brand without the added preservatives, otherwise it's almost impossible to crack it and split the oil out, to fry your paste in. A good cheat is to add some peanut or rapeseed oil to the coconut cream if it won't crack. I've found a readily available brand here in the UK to be Aroy-D, makes a big difference to the end product. Also, in Thailand, they tent to use large cuts of marinated chicken leg and deep fry them, the potatoes, and shallots prior to making the curry. These are then cooked slowly in a mixture of stock and coconut milk and spices, before adding them to the cracked coconut milk and curry paste. The braising liquid from the chicken, onions and potatoes is then used to thin out out slightly and makes for a beautifully deep and oily curry.

Dan Toombs

Wednesday 3rd of January 2024

Thanks very much for all that, interesting facts. Dan

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