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chicken and vegetable curry recipe

February 28, 2011

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Growing up in a traditional Italian home, I learned very little about food that wasn’t Italian.  I could tell you the names of about 80 different shapes of pasta (you could, too if you ate it four times per week) and I knew my Parmigiano from my Pecorino.  In the garden, I could differentiate between the many varieties of eggplant or basil plants.  This was my culinary comfort zone.

It wasn’t until I was in college that I was exposed to “ethnic” foods and I fell hard for curries.  Raise your hand if you thought like I did that curry was a spice — one spice.  I imagined fields somewhere in Asia with people picking curry berries.  (Actually, there is such a thing as a curry plant, but it is somewhat like a lettuce and has nothing to do with Indian or Thai curries.)  I learned not too long ago that curry powder is a blend of several different spices and no two curry powders are the same.  Most contain turmeric, cumin, coriander, fenugreek, and red pepper in their blends. Depending on the brand, additional ingredients such as ginger, cinnamon, mace, nutmeg, and black pepper can be added.  Some chefs prefer to toast their own spices and grind them to make their own curry blends, which sounds like such a nice thing to do if it wouldn’t completely put me over the edge.  I give you permission to use a premade curry powder which will not compromise anything in this recipe.

Chicken and vegetable curry is a staple in our house.  It is an incredibly flavorful dish enriched with coconut milk and cashew butter.  I vary the vegetables according to the season:  butternut squash or yams in the fall/winter with cauliflower; asparagus and peas in the spring; green beans and eggplant in the late summer/early fall; and I always throw in a few handfuls of spinach at the end because I will add leafy greens wherever I can.   We love this over brown jasmine or basmati rice, but recently I served this over some leftover soba and it was so tasty with the sauce coating all the noodles — everyone devoured it, especially Mr. Picky!

This curry is gluten-free.  Vegetarians can substitute chickpeas instead of chicken and vegetable stock for chicken stock.  This freezes really well as long as it’s tightly covered with as little air as possible coming into contact with the top of the food.

I love sharing all the nutritional highlights about the recipes I post.   You can read about all the benefits of curry powder’s anti-inflammatory spices, especially turmeric, in the Harira post, and I would likely sound like a broken record if I told you why we need to eat more vegetables and less animal protein.  But don’t make this dish just because it’s good for you.  Make it because it’s delicious.  When I served this to my Italian father for the first time he said, “I have no idea what this is, but it’s fantastic.”

chicken and vegetable curry | pamela salzman

chicken and vegetable curry | pamela salzman

chicken and vegetable curry

serves 6

3 Tablespoons unrefined coconut oil or ghee

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken meat (breast or thigh or combination), cubed

1 large onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 Tablespoon finely chopped peeled fresh ginger

2 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks

2 stalks celery, cut into chunks

4 cups vegetables, cut into same size as carrots and celery (e.g. cauliflower, root veggies, green beans, eggplant, potatoes…)

2-3 Tablespoons curry powder*

1 teaspoon ground cumin

¼ teaspoon ground turmeric

2 teaspoons sea salt

1 ½ cups chicken stock, vegetable stock or 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes

¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

½ cup cashews, finely ground or ¼ cup cashew butter

1 cup coconut milk

A few handfuls of baby spinach leaves

  1. Season chicken pieces with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Heat oil or ghee in a large, heavy pot over medium heat.   Without crowding, add the chicken in batches and lightly brown.  Remove with a slotted spoon to a plate and continue cooking all the chicken in the same manner.
  2. Add the onion, garlic and ginger to the pot and cook, stirring until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the carrots, celery and remaining vegetables.  Cook another few minutes.
  3. Add the chicken and any accumulated juices on the plate back in the pot.  Add the curry powder, spices and salt and cook, stirring, 1 minute.  Add the stock (or diced tomatoes) and chopped cilantro and bring to a simmer.  Cover the pot and simmer gently, stirring occasionally until the chicken is cooked through, about 20 minutes.
  4. Add the ground cashews or cashew butter to the curry along with the coconut milk, and simmer gently uncovered, stirring until sauce is thickened, about 5-10 minutes.  Delicious over cooked basmati or jasmine rice or noodles.

*Different brands of curry powder taste differently.  “Simply Organic” is a little stronger with more depth of flavor than “Spicely Organic.”  You can probably use 2 Tablespoons “Simply Organic” and 3 Tablespoons “Spicely Organic.”

33 Responses to “chicken and vegetable curry recipe”

  1. [...] A: Pamela Salzman’s Veggie Curry  [...]

  2. Lisa Messner says:

    I made this last week and it was delicious. I used califlower, sweet potatoes and green beans in addition to the other ingredients. Wasn’t sure how warm my curry is (Penzey’s) so I only used 2 T. Perfect.

    Thank you so much for sharing your recipes, we just love them. When I make dinner and my husband raves now I just say it’s one of “Pamela’s” recipes. He has shared your website with friends at work.

    • Pamela says:

      What a great combo of vegetables! And thanks for sharing how much Penzey’s curry you used — always good to know. And thank your hubby for me too! :)

  3. Ashley says:

    The fact that I can have something healthy AND so flavorful and satisfying makes this one of my favorite dishes of all time and a weekly staple! I make it with almond butter and its great. I have two questions. 1- When you say “lightly brown” the chicken, do you mean to cook it all the way through, or does it finish cooking once added back in? 2- What peppers or spices do you recommend to make this much spicier? I’m trying one thai red pepper tonight..

    • Pamela says:

      I’m thrilled you feel that way! Making this spicier is easy. You can go the fresh chili pepper route as you mentioned and saute that with the ginger etc. You can also add more fresh ginger which definitely packs a punch. Or you can add 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper when you are sauteeing ginger and garlic. You’ll have to play around until you get to what you’re looking for. Enjoy!

    • Pamela says:

      ooops, never responded to the first part of your question! you do not cook the chicken all the way through. you’re just trying to develop flavor through the color. it will finish cooking as you simmer the stew.

  4. Liz says:

    I’m looking forward to trying this, but I was wondering if there is a substitute for the cashew butter. Maybe another type of nut butter?

    • Pamela says:

      You must try it! I have used peanut butter with success and I’m sure you could use almond butter, too. Let me know how it turns out!

      • Liz says:

        Delicious! I asked my husband to make it last night- he ground almonds to sub for the cashew butter and we both really liked how the nuts added to the flavor and texture. And there are leftovers for dinner tonight! :)

        • Pamela says:

          Your husband is a keeper! :) Thanks for letting me know about the almonds. I am always super interested to hear how you adapt recipes and how they work for you. This is great!

  5. Ashley says:

    Do you have a particular brand of coconut milk that you recommend? Also do you have any thoughts on low fat coconut milk? This looks delicious, I’m looking forward to trying it!

    • Pamela says:

      Yes! I buy Native Forest coconut milk which is supposed to be in BPA-free cans. I heard Trader Joe’s also uses BPA free cans for theirs, but I haven’t confirmed that. In general, I don’t use low-fat anything. I stick with things the way they came into this world :) , but if that’s your only option, use it!

  6. Daniela says:

    Just tried this recipe and it was SO GOOD that I have no words to even describe it. I am speechless!!!!!!!

  7. Marilyn says:

    This is an amazing recipe – flavorful, not too strong – I was amazed when my children said they loved it, because they stay far away from spices (I left the cilantro out). After a few bites, however, they announced it was too spicey for them. What is the best way to make this dish a little less spicey for the little ones – should I reduce the amount of curry powder I used? By the way, I used the Spicely Organic.

    • Pamela says:

      Yes, Marilyn. Just dial back the curry powder until you find a level that your kids like. Cut it in half to start just to be sure. Good luck!

  8. kim says:

    love it!!! best curry recipe i have tried. yummy!! husband and kids loved it.

  9. sarah says:

    I made this for dinner tonight – delicious! my only problem was my husband couldn’t eat it – he’s allergic to ginger and while i left out the chopped ginger, i learned that some curry spices have ginger already in them. do you know of any curry powders that don’t contain ginger? i want to make it again!!

  10. Does your website have a contact page? I’m having trouble locating it but, I’d like to send you an e-mail. I’ve got some creative ideas for your blog you might be interested in hearing. Either way, great site and I look forward to seeing it expand over time.

  11. Lynette says:

    This is so delicious! Everyone in the family loved it — that never happens. Even my Mr. Picky liked it. The first time I made this the chicken (breast) got dry so I used large pieces and it came out great. Thanks Pamela

  12. Emily says:

    I made this curry tonight and we all loved it. Why do you use coconut oil to brown the chicken? I used canola oil instead. Is there a nutritional reason to use it? I bought Whole Foods brand coconut milk and it was solid 1/2 way through the can. I mixed it with the water below but was surprised how much fat there was in each serving. I think I will use a low fat coconut milk next time. What are your thoughts about the fat content in coconut milk? This curry was really delicious!

    • Pamela says:

      Emily,

      My kids like this dish, too!
      I try to use coconut oil as much as possible when I cook with high or medium-high heat. Since coconut oil is a saturated fat, it is less susceptible to damage from heat than mono- and unsaturated fats like olive oil. Also the coconut flavor is very complementary in this dish. Please check out my pantry list to see why I’m not a fan of refined oils like canola. http://pamelasalzman.com/pantry/ Coconut milk is not a low-fat food, but you’re not using that much and it’s a high quality fat — one which contains immunity-boosting compounds and is a medium-chain fatty acid that your body tends to use quickly as energy as opposed to being stored as fat. And good point about stirring the coconut milk really well when you open the can! The fat does rise to the top. Thanks!

  13. Joann says:

    this was an amazing recipe. we used eggplant, chayote squash, and string beans. my girls (4 and 5) really enjoyed it. how do you make sure the cashew butter gets mixed well into the curry mixture?

    • Pamela says:

      It’s always good to hear when kids like a recipe! I just spoon the cashew butter right into the pot and give it a couple of good stirs until it’s mixed through. If you have trouble with the vegetables getting in the way, just move them off to the side and stir the cashew butter into an area with more liquid.

  14. Luisa says:

    The cold is still with us here on the East coast but this wonderful curry dish is a fabulous way to warm up! The seasonings are perfect for winter. My family loved it over brown basmati rice. I used cauliflower and green beans which made for a colorful dish when combined with the carrots and celery. By the way, instead of our usual glass of vino with dinner, we had cold beers which went well with the spices.

    • Pamela says:

      Glad those spices did their job. They actually having a warming thermal nature to them and can literally create some heat in the body without actually being spicy. This is one of the dishes my kids request most often!

  15. Marianna says:

    This recipe looks so good. I can’t wait to try it.

  16. Caryn says:

    This is one of my favorite recipes!!! We enjoy this dish so much!!

  17. Eve says:

    This recipe is one of my favorites! My favorite vegetable combo is butternut squash, green beans and cauliflower.

  18. stephanie says:

    this looks amazing! can’t wait to try it!

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