Sri Lankan Black Chicken Curry with Roasted Spices

Is this chicken sounding and looking a little familiar to you?  That’s because it’s an adaption of the black shrimp curry that I made just the other day.  I had just a bit of chicken left that I needed to use up so I thought I’d test those same spices and general recipe, which worked so well with the shrimp, on some boneless chicken thighs.

And just like the shrimp, it was a hit.  I hate to play favorites between the two, but if you put a gun to my head, I’d say the chicken was even better.


Sri Lankan Black Chicken Curry with Roasted Spices

Yield: 4 servings


* 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
* 1/3 cup minced shallots
* 1 Serrano pepper, sliced into thin rounds
* 2 teaspoons ground coriander
* 1 teaspoon ground cumin
* 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
* 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
* pinch ground cloves
* 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
* 3 cloves garlic, minced
* 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
* 1 pound boneless chicken, cut into small chunks (I used thighs)
* 1 stalk lemongrass, woody ends removed, and bruised
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1 teaspoon paprika
* 1 cup water
* 1 cup coconut milk
* cilantro leaves, for garnish (optional)


Heat the oil in a large saucepan or large, wide frypan with a cover, over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and Serrano pepper and cook for one minute. Add the coriander, cumin, fenugreek, cinnamon, cayenne, clove, and cardamom and stir to mix well. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture turns a couple shades darker and becomes very fragrant.

Add the garlic and ginger, mix, and cook one more minute. Add the chicken, stir to coat in the spices, and stir fry for three to four minutes. Add the lemongrass, salt, paprika, and water, stir, and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Add the coconut milk and simmer, uncovered, on low heat until the sauce is hot and the chicken is cooked through.

Top with cilantro leaves, if desired.

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12 Responses to “Sri Lankan Black Chicken Curry with Roasted Spices”

  1. #
    jane090278 — May 29, 2011 at 1:07 am

    Very random… I saw a pic of this on Tastespotting – thought the food looked good and the bowl (of all things!) reminded me of my favorite bowls of my mom's when I was young so I had to see more. Tastespotting said nothing about this being a GF site! Or that it explored international cuisines! I feel like the person who won the prize without ever filling out an entry form! Thx.


  2. #
    CATE — May 29, 2011 at 3:03 am

    Jane- you're too funny and sweet! Glad you found your way here :)

    Also, just as an FYI- my bowl is Williams-Sonoma's chili bowl. I'm super in love with these bowls and the whole everyday restaurant dinnerware collection. One of the best kitchen/home purchases I ever made…


  3. #
    Halley — May 30, 2011 at 7:50 am

    This looks fantastic. I love curries but haven't had success at home yet. I can't wait to try this one! It looks rich and flavorful. yay!


  4. #
    SeasonWithSpice — June 2, 2011 at 8:35 am

    Nice one Cate. The texture of the curry looks just right. And I think you broke the record for most variety of spices used in a recipe. A real taste explosion.




  5. #
    Encabezando — June 7, 2011 at 11:34 pm

    Ohhh I just made this recipe !! So delicious…. Now my husband love me more !! Thank you !!


  6. #
    CATE — June 8, 2011 at 6:52 am

    Awesome! It totally makes my day when people comment and say that they've tried one of the recipes I've posted :)


  7. #
    Becca — July 6, 2011 at 12:54 am

    Made this tonight, the flavors were super yummy. I have a curry newbie question though. When simmering covered none of the water can evaporate so it's all still there once I went to add the coconut milk. Basically it was fairly soupy. I cooked for a little while to reduce it a bit, but is that the desired consistency? Or did I do something wrong?


  8. #
    CATE — July 6, 2011 at 5:41 am

    Hi Becca,

    This curry definitely had quite a bit more sauce than some of my other chicken dishes (like the spicy cashew coconut chicken) but I don't remember it being soupy… If you'd like the sauce a bit thicker next time you can always either reduce the amount of water or simmer it uncovered before you add the coconut milk. But glad you still liked it :)


  9. #
    Anonymous — July 20, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    Just had this for lunch. Used soy milk with some toasted coconut flakes instead of coconut milk and it was delicious. Thanks.


  10. #
    CATE — July 20, 2011 at 5:16 pm

    Great! Thanks for writing in to let me (and others) know that soy worked as a substitute!


  11. #
    Christine — June 14, 2013 at 3:15 am

    Served this last night to a group of friends, and it was a huge hit! I served it with coconut sticky “rice” (cauliflower) and it was perfect. I had the same “soupy” problem that another commenter mentioned, so next time I will reduce the water a bit. Great site, can’t wait to try more recipes.


    • Cate — June 15th, 2013 @ 10:45 am

      Thanks Chrisine! So glad you liked it :)


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