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Ceylon chicken curry, dal , chapatis and cutlery table scene from the front.
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5 from 14 votes

ceylon chicken curry

Ceylon chicken is about all the wonderful tastes of South Indian and Sri Lankan cooking. Coconut milk, curry leaves and lots of spice!
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Indian
Keyword: ceylon chicken curry, Indian restaurant style
Servings: 2
Calories: 639kcal
Author: romain | glebekitchen


The spice mix

  • 2 tsp Sri Lankan roasted curry powder - Madras curry powder isn't the same but it will do in a pinch.
  • 1 1/2 tsp kashmiri chili powder
  • 1 /2 tsp kasoor methi
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt - a bit less if you use regular table salt

Ceylon chicken curry

  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil - any neutral oil works
  • 1 2" piece cinnamon bark - also called cassia bark
  • 3 green cardamom pods
  • 10 curry leaves - no you don't have to count them. Around 10 is fine.
  • 1 tbsp garlic ginger paste
  • 2 green chilies - jwala type finger hot green chilies cut in half lengthwise, seeded and into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 cup Indian hotel curry gravy - recipe link below
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken thighs - cut into 3-4 pieces each
  • 3 tbsp coconut milk
  • 1 tsp tamarind paste Pure tamarind paste - not tamarind sauce
  • 1 tsp brown sugar or jaggery (optional)


Do your prep

  • This goes fast. Be ready. Make your spice mix. Get your ingredients out and close to the stove.

Make the Ceylon chicken curry

  • Heat the oil in a medium frying pan until it just starts to shimmer.
  • Add the green cardamom, cassia bark and curry leaves. Cook about 30 seconds. You want to see little bubbles forming around your whole spices. It you don't get them right from the start heat your oil a little more next time. What you don't want to do is panic and crank the heat. You will just wind up burning things in the next step.
  • Stir in the garlic ginger paste and green chilies. Cook until the garlic ginger paste stops sputtering.
  • Turn your heat to medium low and add your spice mix. This is why you added a full 3 tablespoons of oil at the beginning. You want your spices to fry in the oil. Too little oil and the spices will stick or burn and you will be starting over.
  • Gently fry the spices in the oil, stirring constantly, for about 30 seconds. This is where magic happens. Volatile compounds in the spices will be released into the oil. And that is big flavour.
  • Turn the heat up to medium. Add the Indian hotel curry gravy. Bring to a simmer. Really stir it to get the oil to combine and cook for about a minute. You don't need it to fry hard like a regular restaurant curry. That's the beauty of hotel style. You already have that done. No need to make a mess of your stove.
  • Add the chicken in an even layer and cover the pan. After about 5 minutes flip the chicken pieces. Tongs are good for this. Can't beat a good set of restaurant tongs in the kitchen. Cook until the chicken is just done.
  • The chicken should take around 8-12 minutes to cook through. It really depends on how large the chicken thigh pieces are. Best bet is to use an instant read thermometer and go for 170F.
  • Once the chicken is done, stir in the coconut milk and tamarind paste. Simmer for one minute.
  • The texture should be about right at this point. If it's too thick add a bit of water or chicken stock Not a lot. Probably a couple tablespoons max.
  • If it is too thin (chicken throws a fair bit of liquid as it cooks) just let the curry simmer uncovered for a minute or two.
  • Taste and decide if you fall in the slightly sweet camp. If you do add the sugar and stir. It will open up the flavours a bit. I like it.
  • Serve with rice or Indian flatbread. Or both!


Make your Indian hotel curry gravy ahead of time. 
I use this Indian restaurant spice mix in all my Indian restaurant style curries.
For maximum flavour you really should make your garlic ginger paste from scratch.
You may notice there's no tomato paste or passata in this recipe. The tomato comes from the hotel curry gravy. It's there already.


Calories: 639kcal | Carbohydrates: 24g | Protein: 35g | Fat: 45g | Saturated Fat: 14g | Cholesterol: 161mg | Sodium: 1415mg | Potassium: 856mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin A: 893IU | Vitamin C: 122mg | Calcium: 93mg | Iron: 4mg