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Authentic Thai Massaman Chicken Curry Recipe

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This authentic Thai massaman chicken curry recipe is easy to make in one pot with delicious sweet potatoes and juicy chicken in a creamy coconut milk sauce. Say goodbye to takeout because with this recipe, you can make a delicious authentic Thai curry at home, complete with homemade massaman curry paste and a side of steamed jasmine rice.

Authentic Thai massaman chicken curry served in a clay dish.


A notable difference between massaman curry and other Thai curry recipes like Thai red curry and Thai green curry is the level of spiciness. Massaman is a milder curry, with a thicker and sweeter coconut curry sauce.

Additionally, most massaman recipes like this one and my recipe for gaeng massaman neua, include spices such as cinnamon and star anise, reflecting the influence of Indian cuisine.

What is chicken massaman curry

Chicken massaman curry is a Thai curry made with chicken, potatoes, and a creamy coconut milk sauce enriched with massaman curry paste. It’s a rather sweet and very mildly spicy curry that uses spices like cinnamon and star anise, giving the curry its unique flavor.


In Thai language, this dish is called gaeng massaman gai, also spelled mussuman and massuman. Gaeng is used to describe a curry or soup, or any dish that is not solid, and gai is Thai for chicken.

Thai massaman chicken curry recipe

Massaman is a fusion dish combining Indian cuisine and authentic Thai flavors. It’s a delicious and aromatic dish, packed with rich spices.

In this massaman recipe, I’ve opted for chicken drumsticks. By slow-cooking the curry, the meat literally falls off the bone. It’s so, so delicious! You could also use chicken fillets, chicken thighs, or chicken wings, but be sure to adjust the cooking time accordingly.

Close-up of Thai massaman chicken curry with potatoes and peanuts.

You’ll also find potatoes and roasted peanuts in this recipe, which are essential elements of the curry and a must for achieving the authentic taste. When I eat massaman, I tend to get full quickly, probably due to these two ingredients!

The ingredient list is somewhat lengthy compared to simpler curries like choo chee curry and Thai beef panang curry, but it’s definitely worth the effort. You’ll need traditional Indian spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, and cumin, and also classic Thai spices like galangal, lemongrass, and shrimp paste.

If you’ve ever been to Thailand or tried a real, authentic Thai massaman curry at a Thai restaurant, you’ll love this recipe. I prepared it with my grandmother, following the traditional cooking method of first reducing the coconut milk.

Thai woman cooking curry over charcoal with a rural background.

Many of the authentic Thai recipes you find on this Thai food blog are prepared with tips from my mom and grandmother.

Homemade massaman curry paste

To get the best out of this authentic massaman curry recipe, I recommend making homemade massaman curry paste from scratch. My recipe blends classic Thai and Indian spices, combining the best of Southeast Asian cuisine.

Thai Massaman curry paste in a clay cup surrounded by fresh herbs and spices.

You can opt to use a granite mortar and pestle, or if you’re short on time, a food processor will do the trick. I prefer making curry pastes myself, ensuring they’re made with fresh ingredients and free from preservatives or additives.

If you’d rather use store-bought curry paste, then I recommend the following:

Best store-bought massaman curry pastes

  1. Mae ploy massaman curry paste: A rich curry paste, the number 1 choice in Thai restaurants I used to work at. Perfect for an easy and authentic curry.
  2. Maesri massaman curry paste: A high quality product with a rich taste and authentic flavor.
  3. Aroy D massaman curry paste: Number three on my list. Balanced and flavorful.

You can buy massaman curry paste at any Asian grocery store, at larger supermarkets, or online at Amazon. In Thailand, you can find freshly prepared curry pastes at local food markets.

Ingredients

Ingredients can be sourced at Asian grocery stores and Asian markets.
The exact measurements are in the recipe card at the end of this post.


Ingredients for massaman curry: chicken legs, coconut milk, onions, salt, potatoes, peanuts, curry paste, palm sugar, and tamarind paste.
  • Chicken – Chicken legs absorb the rich curry sauce, making them easily fall off the bone. You can also use other cuts of chicken or a different protein, like pork or beef. Just make sure to adjust the cooking time accordingly.
  • Massaman curry paste – Use my recipe for massaman curry paste or opt for store-bought like Mae Ploy or Maesri. It’s important to use massaman paste and not yellow curry paste or red curry paste, as done in some westernized recipes!
  • Tamarind pasteTamarind paste has a sour tart flavor derived from the pulp of the tamarind fruit.
  • Coconut milk – Full-fat coconut milk is a must for Thai curries. It creates a thick, creamy, and flavorful sauce. My go-to brand is Aroy-D.
  • Palm sugarPalm sugar, a traditional ingredient in Thai cuisine, is preferred over white and brown sugar for its rich caramel-like flavor.
  • Roasted peanuts – See my dry roasted peanuts recipe for instructions on roasting peanuts.
  • Potatoes – Cut these into bite-sized chunks to soak up the curry’s sweet and nutty flavors.
  • Onion – Offers a mild, slightly sweet flavor; red onions can serve as an alternative.
  • Salt – Light soy sauce can be a substitute.
  • Water – Balances the curry’s consistency.

How to make massaman curry chicken

Scoring chicken legs on a wooden cutting board.

Step 1: Make medium-deep cuts in the chicken legs to ensure they cook evenly. Chop the potatoes into bite-sized pieces and finely slice the onions.

Instructions for reducing coconut milk.

Step 2: In a pot or large non-stick pan over medium heat, pour in half the coconut milk. Bring it to a gentle boil and stir frequently to prevent it from burning. Cook until the oil starts to separate from the milk.

Coconut milk with massaman curry paste in a wok.

Step 3: Mix in the massaman curry paste thoroughly until it’s well combined with the coconut milk.

Step 4: Add the chicken legs to the pot. Brown each side until golden, about 3 minutes, ensuring they’re fully coated in the curry paste.

Massaman curry cooking in a wok with palm sugar.

Step 5: Pour in the remaining coconut milk, bring it back to a boil, then add the palm sugar, tamarind paste, and salt. Stir well.

Massaman chicken curry cooking.

Step 6: Reduce the heat and let the curry gently simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the chicken is tender. If the sauce becomes too thick, add up to 100 ml (3.4 fl oz) of water to adjust the consistency.

Massaman curry sauce with potatoes and onions cooking in a wok.

Step 7: Add the diced potatoes and onions to the curry. Continue simmering for another 10 minutes, checking the potatoes for softness with a fork.

Step 8: Sprinkle roasted peanuts over the curry and stir. Serve warm with rice and enjoy!

Kitchenware

Here’s what you’ll need to make this authentic massaman recipe:

  1. Measuring spoons and cups
  2. Mortar and pestle or food processor for making homemade curry paste
  3. Cutting board and sharp knife
  4. Large pot, wok, or Dutch oven
  5. Wooden spoon or spatula for stirring

Thai chicken massaman curry recipe customization

Thai food is versatile, allowing you to customize this recipe to your taste. Feel free to switch up the protein or adjust the flavors.

  • Pick your protein: Duck, beef, shrimp, pork – all work wonderfully. Just remember to adjust cooking times to ensure each protein is perfectly cooked without being overdone.
  • Vegetarian curry: Swap chicken legs for tofu or pile in extra veggies like onions, carrots, bell peppers, snow peas, yard long beans, and Thai eggplants. This curry is already fish sauce-free, making it a great vegetarian or vegan choice.
  • Spice It Up: If you like it hotter, add Thai chilies such as bird’s eye chilies or jinda chilies. You can also increase the heat in the curry paste with more dried chilies. But remember, massaman curry is traditionally milder.
  • Simmer low & slow: Simmer your curry on a low heat to allow the flavors to blend beautifully and to tenderize the chicken to perfection.

What to serve with massaman gai

The best side for chicken massaman curry is a portion of steamed jasmine rice. You can serve the curry over the rice or on a separate plate. In the South of Thailand, people enjoy Thai roti with their curries. One of my favorite sides with massaman curry is toasted bread!

Thai chicken massaman chicken with potatoes and peanuts served in a traditional clay pot.

How to store and reheat

Storing: Allow your leftovers to cool down completely before transfering it into an airtight container. Store it like this in the fridge for up to 3-4 days.

Freezing: You can freeze this curry for later, for about 2-3 months. Thaw it in the fridge overnight.

Reheating: Reheat the leftovers on the stove over low heat, stirring occasionally.

Thai massaman curry facts

  • Massaman curry is a special dish that mixes Indian spices with Thai ingredients. It originated in the 17th century and has roots in Persia, but became popular in Thailand with a sweet flavor.
  • Although pork is frequently used in Thai cooking, chicken is the preferred choice for Massaman curry due to its Muslim origins.This is because it originally came from Muslim culture.
  • In Thai Muslim communities, the curry is known as salaman. Originally, this version was more salty and oily, while the Thai adaptation has become known for its sweetness.

Frequently asked questions

What makes massaman curry different?

Massaman curry is unique because it combines Indian spices like cumin and cardamom with classic Thai ingredients. It’s a sweet curry with a thick, creamy sauce and includes special ingredients such as potatoes and peanuts.

What does massaman curry taste like?

Massaman curry has a rich, slightly sweet flavor with hints of spices like cinnamon and cardamom, combined with the creaminess of coconut milk and nutty flavor of peanuts.

Can I make this ahead of time?

Yes, you can prepare Massaman curry ahead of time. It tastes even better the next day as the flavors have more time to blend. Alternatively, you can cut the vegetables, potatoes, and chicken in advance.

Is this recipe gluten-free?

This Massaman curry recipe is gluten-free, as long as you ensure all your ingredients, especially the curry paste, are gluten-free.

What does massaman mean?

The term “Massaman” is believed to come from “Mussulman,” an old word for Muslims, highlighting the curry’s Islamic origins and its blend of cultures.

Authentic Thai curry recipes

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Authentic Thai Massaman Chicken Curry Recipe

Authentic Thai massaman chicken curry served in a clay dish.
This authentic Thai massaman chicken curry recipe, or gaeng massaman gai, is easy to make with homemade curry paste or store-bought. Serve with jasmine rice.
Praew
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Cuisine Thai
Course Main Course
Serving Size 4 people

Ingredients

  • 600 g chicken legs scored
  • 600 g potatoes cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 onion sliced
  • 700 ml coconut milk
  • 50 g massaman curry paste
  • 5 tablespoons palm sugar
  • 4 tablespoons tamarind paste
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 100 ml water optional, to thin the sauce
  • a handful of roasted peanuts

Instructions

  • Make medium-deep cuts in the chicken legs to ensure they cook evenly. Chop the potatoes into bite-sized pieces and finely slice the onions.
  • In a pot or large non-stick pan over medium heat, pour in half the coconut milk. Bring it to a gentle boil and stir frequently to prevent it from burning. Cook until the oil starts to separate from the milk.
  • Mix in the massaman curry paste thoroughly until it's well combined with the coconut milk.
  • Add the chicken legs to the pot. Brown each side until golden, about 3 minutes, ensuring they're fully coated in the curry paste.
  • Pour in the remaining coconut milk, bring it back to a boil, then add the palm sugar, tamarind paste, and salt. Stir well.
  • Reduce the heat and let the curry gently simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the chicken is tender. If the sauce becomes too thick, add up to 100 ml (3.4 fl oz) of water to adjust the consistency.
  • Add the diced potatoes and onions to the curry. Continue simmering for another 10 minutes, checking the potatoes for softness with a fork.
  • Sprinkle roasted peanuts over the curry and stir. Serve warm with rice and enjoy!

Notes

  • Use the nutrition card in this recipe as a guideline.
  • Massaman curry paste - Use my recipe for massaman curry paste or opt for store-bought like Mae Ploy or Maesri.
  • You can switch up the protein with other meats, seafood, or tofu. Don't forget to adjust the cooking time accordingly.
  • Feel free to add chilies for a spicy curry.

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