Sri Lankan Chicken curry with pappadams

Sri Lankan Chicken Curry

Sri Lankan Chicken Curry – deeply flavoured, saucy and it packs a punch. I love it for its layers of flavour – lemongrass that adds zing, curry leaves ground it in earthy wonder. Then there are spices to fill it out and chilli for some fire.

I eat curries all year ’round. From Thai style to Indian and I’ve even been known to dabble in curry dishes from the Caribbean. But this Sri Lankan Chicken Curry is a favourite.

Friends in Melbourne first made this for me. I’d go to their place for dinner quite regularly and they became known to me as The Curry Kings. They’d always dish up a wonderful curry meal they’d made from scratch and it was always wonderful. But this particular curry was a favourite from the start.

When asked, they happily shared the recipe with me and I’ve made this several times, with some minor tweaks here and there. Even though there are a lot of ingredients, it’s actually a very simple curry to make and well worth the effort to make your own rather than open a jar of sauce.

You’ll notice I’ve also put some suggested substitute ingredients for things you may not have to hand. For example, I didn’t have any curry leaves for the one pictured, so I added some bay leaves instead. It wasn’t the same, but it was still really good!

Pressure cook it

This was made in my Instant Pot pressure cooker, which is a fabulous way to cook. I’m a fairly recent convert and have discovered how pressure cooking keeps the flavour in while cooking in less time. Only having one pot to wash up is also a bonus. Not being a huge fan of non-stick surfaces, I like the Instant Pot for its stainless steel insert as well. I do make some exceptions, but I’ll explore that in blog post.

On the side

Serve the curry with steamed Basmati rice and pappadams with a side of cucumber raita for a totally delicious dinner.

Don’t forget to let me know if you make this by leaving a comment, plus share and tag this in Instagram and Facebook.

Have a question? Send me a message and I’ll happily respond.

Sri Lankan Chicken Curry

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Recipe by Marti Cuatt Course: Main courseCuisine: Sri LankanDifficulty: Moderate


Prep time


Cooking time




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You will need

  • 750 g 750 skinless, boneless chicken thighs or breasts

  • 1/2 tsp 1/2 salt

  • 2 tbsp 2 white vinegar

  • 2 tsp 2 coriander seeds

  • 1 tsp 1 cumin seeds

  • 2.5 cm 2.5 piece cinnamon stick, broken up

  • 4 4 whole cloves

  • 4 4 green cardamom pods

  • 6 6 fenugreek seeds

  • 4 4 dried chillies, torn into pieces

  • 10 -12 10 12 curry leaves

  • 2 tsp 2 coconut oil

  • 1 large 1 onion, finely chopped

  • 2 tsp 2 grated ginger

  • 2 2 coriander roots, finely chopped (if you have them)

  • 2 tbsp 2 crushed garlic (about 5 cloves)

  • 1 tsp 1 ground turmeric (or 2 tsp fresh)

  • 1/2 -1 1/2 tsp chilli powder

  • 1 1 lemongrass stalk, finely sliced

  • 200 grams 200 canned chopped tomatoes

  • 150 ml 150 water or chicken stock

  • 100 ml 100 coconut milk or coconut cream

  • Optional
  • 1 -2 1 potatoes, peeled and diced into large chunks

  • 1 cup 1 cooked lentils

  • 1 cup 1 cooked chick peas

Here’s what to do

  • Cut the chicken into 5cm chunks and put them into a glass or ceramic bowl. Add the salt and vinegar, mix well and set aside for 30 minutes.
  • Preheat a small heavy-based pan over a medium heat and dry-roast the coriander and cumin seeds, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, fenugreek, chillies and curry leaves until they are dark, but not black. Remove and cool, then grind in a spice grinder or pestle and mortar until finely ground. Set aside.
  • Heat the oil in a medium saucepan and cook the onion over a medium heat for 5 minutes, until transluscent. Add the garlic and continue to cook for a further two minutes, then add fresh turmeric if using, coriander root and ginger.
  • If using powdered turmeric, add this now with the chilli powder, chicken and ground spice mix. Stir and mix well, then add the lemongrass, tomatoes, potatoes if using, water, chicken stock and coconut milk.
  • Bring to the boil, reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and simmer for 1-1.5 hours.
  • Pressure cooker instructions: cook according to your manufacturer’s instructions to your desired time.
  • When the time is up, add the cooked lentils and chick peas and simmer a further 10 minutes.
  • Serve with steamed basmati rice and pappadams.

Tips and tricks

  • Substitutes include:
    ~ bay leaves if you don’t have curry leaves – different flavour profile, but they work
    ~ 1/2 lemon, cut into chunks if you don’t have lemongrass
    ~ save some time and use ground spices if you aren’t able to grind your own
  • You can omit the chillis if you wish, then it won’t have the heat although you’ll still get the flavour

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One Comment

  1. Pingback: Home cooked chick peas are the best

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