Coconut Chicken bathed in creamy honey lime coconut sauce on your table in 30 minutes!
This Coconut Chicken recipe is a QUICK one-skillet dinner that’s huge on flavor, low on effort and made with pantry friendly ingredients. Thinly sliced chicken breasts are lightly dredged in seasoned flour, seared until golden, then served in intoxicating, lusciously creamy, wonderfully fragrant, coconut sauce spiked with honey, lime juice, garlic, ginger and Asian sweet chili sauce. You will be obsessed. You can enjoy this coconut milk chicken plain or add in any desired veggies you have on hand. Serve coconut chicken over rice, cauliflower rice, zoodles, etc. with contrasting mangos or pineapple and you have one of the most tantalizing one pot wonders of all time.
COCONUT CHICKEN RECIPE
I am so excited to bring you this coconut chicken recipe! It is inspired by my Thai Sweet Chili Chicken Enchiladas which are bathed in a mesmerizing coconut, honey lime, sweet chili sauce. Ever since I concocted that recipe years ago, I’ve been meaning to bring you a recipe starring the sauce – because you will want to drink the sauce – enter this coconut chicken.
This coconut milk chicken may look impressive, sound exotic and taste sensational, but is uber simple to make with ingredients you probably have on hand right now if you do much Asian cooking at all. In fact, I made this coconut chicken recipe last week when my fridge was running low on everything but these pantry friendly ingredients. I’ve even included powder substitutes for the garlic and ginger so you can literally make this recipe any time.
To make coconut chicken, thinly sliced chicken breasts are dusted in flour, ground ginger, garlic powder, ground coriander, turmeric powder, etc. and sautéed until golden and crispy. Next, white green onions, garlic and ginger are sautéed in the golden drippings and then the coconut sauce is added made of coconut milk, Asian sweet chili sauce, honey, lime, soy sauce and chili sauce. Simmer for just a minute or so to thicken and dinner is served. How easy is that? But more importantly, how delicious!
First, the chicken. These chicken cutlets aren’t just dredged in plain flour or flour, salt and pepper, but the handful of complex-tasting seasonings elevate the chicken to stand-alone worthy and then absolutely hypnotic when bathed in the coconut milk sauce.
To elevate the coconut chicken further, it is lightly pan fried in a mixture of both butter and olive oil just like I do in my Chicken Parmesan recipe and Chicken Piccata. If you’ve never added butter to your pan frying, you will never go back! The enveloping, golden crust is deeply flavorful and the chicken stays delightfully moist (sorry, the M word had to be used).
Next, the sauce. Lusciously creamy, wonderfully fragrant, and 100% hypnotic exploding with layers of multi-dimensional sweet and tangy notes. And again, so easy! Whisk the ingredients together and simmer for a minute or two to thicken.
I like to serve the coconut chicken with fresh stir-fried veggies on the side to compliment the creamy sauce along with textural rice and sweet and tangy pineapple. It’s the perfect, satisfying balance that your whole family will love – and it only took you 30 minutes!
Looking for more 30-minute skillet dinners with coconut milk?
- Thai Peanut Butter Chicken
- Panang Curry
- Chicken in Coconut Mango Verde Sauce
- Rice Noodles in Coconut Curry Sauce
- Red Curry Chicken
- Coconut Chicken Curry
- Yellow Curry Chicken
- Green Curry Chicken
- Tom Kha Gai
- Asian Pomegranate Coconut Chicken
COCONUT CHICKEN recipe INGREDIENTS
Like I mentioned earlier, these coconut chicken recipe ingredients are pantry friendly if you do much Asian cooking at all. If you don’t have them stocked yet, they are easy to find at your local grocery store.
- Coconut milk: if you want to instantly elevate your Thai food, use Chaokoh coconut milk – my absolute favorite brand (Not a paid endorsement)! I love it so much that when my grocery store stopped carrying it, I started purchasing it on Amazon. Chaokoh is creamier than any other brand I’ve tried by FAR and therefore results in the most lusciously creamy, comforting sauces ever.
- Chicken: you can use either two large boneless skinless chicken breasts sliced through the equator to make four chicken fillets, 4 store bought chicken fillets or 4-6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs.
- Honey: adds sweetness to balance the lime juice. You may need more or less depending on your personal preferences and how spicy you choose to make the sauce.
- Lime juice: you may use fresh or bottled lime juice but go fresh if you can. I will freeze lime juice in cubes so I always have some on hand.
- Soy sauce: grounds the sauce. Please use low sodium soy sauce so your sauce isn’t too salty.
- Green onions: we will use all of the green onions – both the white parts and green parts at different times in cooking, so just separate them once chopped. I consider the “white parts” up to where they are noticeably green and beautiful for garnish. One green onion may include 2-3 green stalks – use all of it.
- Aromatics: ginger and garlic elevate the coconut chicken. If you are having a lazy day (I hear ya) or haven’t made it to the grocery store, you may substitute with powders added directly to the sauce.
- Asian sweet chili sauce: is not to be confused with Asian Chili sauce/paste without the “sweet.” It is sweet and spicy and packed with flavor from a combination of red chilies, onion, garlic, brown sugar and fish sauce. It can be found in the Asian section of your grocery store. It is sometimes labeled “Thai Sweet Chili Sauce.” I use Mae Ply brand.
- Asian chili sauce: adds a little heat and rounds out the flavors. You can customize the spice level by adding additional chili sauce to taste. If you aren’t sure how much to add, you can start with less then stir in more at the end if needed. If your coconut chicken is missing something, it is probably heat!
- Cornstarch: is my secret to gorgeously thick coconut milk chicken It is a fabulous trick I discovered and use in all of my recipes using coconut milk to create a creamier sauce – it will BLOW YOUR MIND how creamy it gets!
DO YOU HAVE TO USE FULL-FAT COCONUT MILK?
I don’t insist on full fat coconut milk but I HIGHLY suggest it if you would like the lusciously creamy coconut milk chicken. Light coconut milk simply isn’t as thick or flavorful so you’re missing out on both flavor and texture. If you do use light coconut milk, I suggest adding an additional 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch to help thicken it up.
CAN I ADD TO VEGETABLES coconut milk CHICKEN?
You can certainly add vegetables to coconut milk chicken but I prefer stir-frying veggies on the side so they remain contrastingly fresh and don’t get lost in the rich sauce. If you do want to add veggies to the sauce, some yummy additions would be:
- bell peppers
- bok choy
- snow peas
Stir fry the veggies until crisp tender after you remove the chicken. Add the garlic, ginger and white part of the green onions the last part of stir-frying, taking care not to burn the garlic.
CAN I MAKE COCONUT CHICKEN GLUTEN FREE?
Yes! Simply swap the flour for gluten free flour and use tamari instead of soy sauce. You’ll also want to double check your sweet chili sauce is gluten free.
HOW TO MAKE coconut CHICKEN
This coconut chicken recipe is easy to make by following a few simple steps:
- Whisk sauce ingredients together
- Make chicken cutlets
- Dredge chicken
- Cook chicken
- Sauté aromatics
- Simmer sauce
Each step just takes a couple minutes – or less – so you can be enjoying coconut chicken in less than 30 minutes! It comes together so quickly that I recommend starting your rice first so it can be cooked by the time your coconut milk chicken is done.
Here is a more detailed look at how to make coconut chicken:
Whisk sauce ingredients together
- The very first thing we do is whisk the coconut sauce ingredients together so you don’t have to pause and do this mid-recipe.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together coconut milk, cornstarch, honey, lime juice, Asian sweet chili sauce, soy sauce and Asian chili sauce. If you are using garlic and/or ginger powder instead of fresh, add them to the sauce.
MAKE CHICKEN CUTLETS
- Time permitting, freeze your chicken breasts for 15 minutes before slicing. This isn’t essential, but it definitely helps create clean cuts because the chicken doesn’t wiggle with every movement of your knife.
- Next, lay the chicken flat on a cutting board and hold it in place with the palm of your hand.
- Now get out your sharpest knife or sharpen your knife. A sharp knife helps cleanly cut the chicken instead of tearing/shredding the chicken. Carefully slice through the center horizontally (parallel to the cutting board) to create two cutlets.
- Next, pound the chicken to an even thickness by placing the cutlets next to each other and topping with plastic wrap or I like to place my chicken in a large freezer bags because it seals in all the mess/germs – but you can use whatever you have on hand.
- Gently pound the chicken to an even thickens using the smooth side of a mallet, rolling pin, or side of a can. Take care not to over-pound, we are pounding to make the chicken even, not super thin like in Chicken Parm. You don’t need to be too aggressive.
DREDGE THE CHICKEN
- The flour coating not only insulates the chicken and keeps it moister and more tender inside but it also creates a crust to carry flavor.
- To create the crust, mix the flour in a shallow dish along with ground ginger, garlic powder, ground coriander, turmeric powder, salt and pepper.
- Pat chicken dry and add to the flour mixture; turn to coat, pressing down as needed so the flour sticks.
- Shake off any excess flour.
- Transfer chicken to a dry surface. You don’t want to return the chicken to your cutting board because the moisture left behind from the chicken will make the coating wet and rub off.
- Melt the butter in the olive oil in a large (12-inch) cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until it’s shimmering but not smoking. It should be hot enough that a piece of breading dropped into the oil will sizzle, about 350 degrees F. Don’t add the chicken before the butter/oil is hot or it won’t crisp up.
- Once hot, add chicken and cook for 4-5 minutes per side, depending on thickens, or until cooked through. Browning the chicken that’s coated in spices blooms the spices and unlocks the flavor.
- Transfer to a plate, don’t wipe out the skillet.
- Reduce heat to medium and add a drizzle of olive oil if needed. You may or may not need it depending on how much oil is left in the pan after cooking the chicken. You want at least a tablespoon so your garlic doesn’t burn.
- Once the oil is hot, add white parts of green onions and sauté 1 minute.
- Add garlic and ginger and cook 30 seconds.
- Reduce heat to low and stir in the sauce, scraping up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan.
- Bring to a simmer until sauce is thickened, 1-2 minutes. Add chicken and warm through.
Garnish with cilantro and/or basil and green onions. Serve over rice.
HOW DO I THICKEN COCONUT MILK SAUCE?
The cornstarch in the coconut milk sauce will thicken the sauce as it simmers but some coconut milk brands are naturally thicker than others. For example, my favorite Chaokoh is far thicker than Thai kitchen. So, if you use a thinner coconut milk to start with, you may want a thicker sauce. To achieve this, make a slurry by whisking 1 teaspoon cornstarch in 2 tablespoons water then adding to the simmering sauce. Repeat this as step as desired.
HOW DO I THIN COCONUT MILK SAUCE?
The coconut milk sauce will thicken more the longer it is simmers. If it simmers to the point of too thick, don’t worry! It is easy to thin by whisking in additional coconut milk or water.
COCONUT CHICKEN RECIPE VARIATIONS
You can customize the coconut chicken to suit your personal tastes. You can make it spicier, sweeter, more savory, tangier, less tangy, etc. Here’s how:
- For sweeter: Add more honey
- For saltier: Add more soy sauce
- For tangier: Add more lime juice
- For spicier: Add chili sauce
- For thinner: Add coconut milk or water
- For thicker: Add a cornstarch slurry
TIPS FOR BEST COCONUT MILK CHICKEN
This coconut milk chicken recipe is pretty straightforward but here is a summary of helpful tips:
- Pound chicken. We pound the chicken even for two main reasons: 1) It tenderizes the chicken as it breaks up the tissues 2) the uniform thickness allows the chicken to cook evenly all over – without the thinner bottom becoming overcooked while we wait for the thicker top to cook through.
- Use a cast-iron skillet: Use a large 12-inch cast iron skillet to evenly brown the chicken. The brown bits left behind infuse the sauce with a depth of rich, complex flavor that cannot be achieved any other way.
- Use butter and olive oil. I almost always use a combination of butter and oil whether it’s for making a roux or for pan frying chicken. The butter adds the undeniably scrumptious buttery flavor and the oil prevents the butter from burning. You may use all oil but you cannot use all butter or the butter will burn. I recommend using both for best results.
- Wait for pan to get hot. Note, that hot doesn’t mean high heat, but it means it’s reached full temperature (medium-high in this case). Add your chicken only once the pan is hot – you should hear the chicken sizzle the second it touches the pan. If you add chicken to a luke-warm pan it will not sear – and we want that seared golden crust. Searing the chicken results in the Maillard reaction, also known as the flavor reaction, in which amino acids and reducing sugars produce browning and complex flavor.
- Don’t touch chicken. Resist the urge to move the chicken as it cooks or to flip it more than once. The chicken needs to stay in the same place for a continuous amount of time to brown. When the chicken is browned, it will naturally release from the pan.
- Don’t overcook chicken. Chicken, especially chicken breasts, are juiciest when not overcooked. The best and most efficient way to check for doneness is to insert a meat thermometer into the chicken; chicken breasts are done when they register 165 degrees.
- Use quality coconut milk. Chaokoh coconut milk will instantly elevate this coconut chicken and all of your Thai recipes (NOT a paid endorsement, just my FAVORITE)! Chaokoh is creamier than any other brand I’ve tried by FAR and therefore results in the most lusciously creamy, comforting sauces ever.
- Use full fat coconut milk or add more cornstarch. Light coconut milk isn’t as thick or flavorful so you’re missing out on both flavor and texture. If you do use light coconut milk, I suggest adding an additional 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch to help thicken it up.
- Add powders to sauce: If you are using garlic and/or ginger powder instead of fresh, add them directly to the sauce.
- Garnish! Pick your favorite garnishes such as fresh basil, cilantro and green onions. They add a vibrant freshness to the creamy coconut chicken.
CAN I PREP COCONUT MILK CHICKEN IN ADVANCE?
Yes! While this coconut milk chicken doesn’t require much prep, you can still prep everything in advance so your dinner can come together in minutes.
- Prep chicken. Create chicken cutlets by slicing chicken breasts in half and pounding to an even thickens. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
- Dredge chicken. You can go one step further and dredge the chicken in flour and spices. Transfer the chicken to a parchment lined plate in a single layer and tightly cover with plastic wrap. Store in the refrigerator.
- Sauce: whisk the sauce ingredients together and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days in advance. Make sure to whisk the sauce again before using.
- Chop aromatics. Mince the garlic, grate the ginger and chop the green onions. Store in separate plastic bags in the refrigerator.
HOW TO STORE AND REHEAT Coconut CHICKEN
- Storage: coconut chicken should be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for three to five days.
- Microwave: chop up chicken so it reheats more evenly then transfer a small portion to a microwave safe dish. Heat for one minute, stir, then continue to heat at 30 second intervals.
- Stove: chop up chicken then transfer to a skillet. Heat over medium heat stirring often. You can microwave the rice as you’re warming the chicken on the stove.
how to FREEZE coconut CHICKEN recipe
- Let the coconut chicken cool to room temperature.
- Transfer it to an airtight container or plastic freezer bag and squeeze out any excess air.
- Label and freeze for 2 to 3 months.
- Defrost in the refrigerator before using.
WHAT DO YOU EAT WITH COCONUT CHICKEN recipe?
This coconut chicken recipe is fabulous served with rice to soak up the flavorful, creamy sauce and for a neutral textural component. You can keep the veggies simple with stir-fried veggies or roasted veggies.
- Rice. I prefer jasmine rice or brown rice but any rice will work. Just pop the rice in your rice cooker for a hands-off, easy side. You can also use microwave rice pouches if you’re making a serving for one or meal prep. Pineapple Rice is also fabulous!
- Noodles. Rice vermicelli, ramen, soba noodles, rice noodles or even linguine are a fun way to mix things up!
- Low carb. Cauliflower rice, quinoa, broccoli rice or a blend of brown rice and any of the aforementioned options. You can also use low carb noodles such as zoodles or spaghetti squash.
FRUIT AND VEGGIES:
- Fruit: The fresh, bright, juicy sweetness of mangos and/or pineapple is the bright ying to the creamy sauce’s yang. You can also serve fruit salad such as Summer Fruit Salad, Perfect Fruit Salad, Creamy Grape Salad, and Pina Colada Fruit Salad.
- Veggies. You can stir fry any veggies your heart desires from broccoli, to bell peppers, to mushrooms, to carrots, etc. You can purchase pre-chopped veggies perfect for stir fries or use a frozen stir-fry blend or steam-in-the-bag microwavable frozen veggies. You can also serve with roasted veggies such as Roasted Broccoli, Roasted Broccolini, Roasted Cauliflower, Roasted Carrots, Sautéed Brussels Sprouts, or Roasted Squash.
- Salad. Coconut milk chicken is delectable with Crunchy Asian Salad, Chinese Salad, or Asian Pineapple Salad.
- Turn coconut chicken into a feast with Asian appetizers such as Thai Chicken Satay or Peanut Pineapple Thai Chicken Satay, Pineapple Cream Cheese Wontons, Pork Egg Rolls, Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps, Crab Rangoons, Potstickers, Korean Meatballs or Vietnamese Spring Rolls.
HELPFUL TOOLS TO MAKE coconut milk CHICKEN
- Cast iron skillet: A quality cast iron skillet is a must in your cooking arsenal! It is perfect for searing and creating a deeply golden exterior on everything from roast, to pork to chicken and seamlessly transitions from the stove to the oven. I love my super high quality Staub and Le Creuset. You can also go with a more economical, trusty skillet like this one which also works very well.
- Quality Knives: a chef’s knife will be your most used kitchen tool by far! Quality knives make prep time much quicker and are important for safety as well. If you’re concerned about moola, please remember that your best chef knives, depending on how hard you use them and how well you take care of them, can easily last 25 years or more. I love my Wusthof but there are hundreds of less expensive knives with great reviews such as this one.
- Cutting Board: I use my big solid cutting board daily so it’s worth the investment. This extra-large cutting board allows you to prep all your veggies on one surface and the bamboo is easier on knives than plastic.
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