If you have ever had Jamaican food in general, you know it’s all about flavor + spice! Embrace the heat with my Authentic Jamaican Curry Chicken. With a fragrant blend of spices and tender chicken simmered in a sauce of hot peppers, chicken stock, garlic, and coconut milk, this dish is sure to transport your taste buds to the sunny shores of Jamaica. A real nostalgic comfort food dish for many Jamaicans. Completely Dairy-free + Gluten-free option.
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This original Jamaican Curry Chicken recipe is definitely one of those recipes that is a must make on any given night especially with a side of Basmati Rice----whether for an easy weeknight meal or a laidback weekend vibe. Plus, this Spicy Butter Chickpeas is such a nice twist of curry flavor to try next! And this Spicy Coconut Curry Chicken Bowl and Weeknight Jamaican Curry Chicken + Gnocchi is a great easy weeknight alternative for the entire family!
Such a long time coming, but I wanted to make sure that I was sharing something tried and true as well as authentic to what I grew up eating. I love sharing classic recipes from my roots, and have a ton of amazing Jamaican Recipes for you to try like this Authentic Jamaican Brown Stew Chicken, this Creamy Jamaican Cornmeal Porridge, these Spicy Jamaican Beef Patties, or this Baked Jamaican Pineapple Jerk Chicken.
Of course, there are varied versions of Jamaican curry chicken available, but this one is sure to knock your socks off-----promise! Plus, you're able to adjust the spicy flavors based on your tastebuds---so don't worry. This will be mentioned more in depth throughout this post. Haha. I also have a list of my Top 10 ingredients that are a must-have for making Jamaican dishes. These ingredients are incredibly important in creating authentic and flavorful Jamaican dishes, especially when it comes to seasonings + herbs.
And if you aren't a meat eater or just want to have a meatless Jamaican indulgence don't worry you're fully covered with options at the bottom of this post.
Traditional authentic Jamaican curry chicken with coconut milk recipe is made with scotch bonnet peppers and curry powder, which is what this recipe entails. In addition, I used browning (a 'coloring' seasoning often used on meats), ginger root, thyme sprigs, potatoes (which helps to thicken the sauce), carrots, garlic, and herbs + spices for a nice marriage of flavor.
There is no singular recipe for Jamaican curry because all families have their own traditions. However, it is generally a mix of locally-found seasonings. You can find either store-bought mixes or you can season your curry on your own using a variety of flavorings.
Scotch bonnet peppers are found in many Jamaican dishes, so I had to include them in this sauce. They add a sweet-spicy kick, but watch out! These guys can get seriously spicy, especially for those with mild heat tolerance. Coconut milk in my curry cools down the dish just enough. So, you won't die of overheating. Haha.
Basically, curry powder is a combination of dried spices often used in Indian cuisine, however, is rather popular amongst other cultures like Asian, Caribbean, etc.
The main difference between curry and Jamaican curry is that Jamaican curry is made with actual curry powder. Despite the newest variations of Indian curries, traditionally, it's usually made as a sauce-base and consists of a blend of coconut milk, tomatoes, fresh herbs, and spices.
Jamaican browning sauce combines brown sugar and hot boiling water to form a syrup-like sauce and it's used to enhance the flavors of many dishes like stews, gravy, cakes, etc. In addition, it give a rich color to your dish.
Here’s what you need to make this Jamaican Chicken Curry:
Curry is one of my go-to meal options on nights when I need something easy and quick to cook, these are some of my favorite defaults, Spicy Curry Vegan Meatballs + Orzo, Easy Spicy Curry Chickpea + Potatoes, and Vegan Pumpkin Curry Butternut Squash.
BUT when I tell you Jamaican Curry is SO special and SO unique I mean it.
Making my Jamaican curry sauce with full-fat coconut milk is something that I love because that's honestly how I saw my parents and other family members do it. Besides, it definitely adds a nice creaminess to things and as I mentioned before, it helps to cool down all of the spicy flavors.
If you aren't a fan of chicken, want to switch things up, or just try something else entirely--no worries! The following meats + meat alternatives are perfect with curry and can easily be substituted for chicken:
Absolutely use those potatoes in your curry. Two reasons why: it adds nice "body" or thickness to the sauce as they cook in with the chicken and sauce; two------it makes for a nice addition when eating the chicken with your favorite side. I'm always big on experimenting and so, I would definitely add sweet potatoes instead to change things up. No harm to me.
Usually, Jamaican curry chicken comes served with a side of white rice along with cooked veggies or fried plantain. I've enjoyed my curry chicken with a side of brown Basmati rice, mashed potatoes, sautéed veggies, etc. for a healthier twist. It's definitely up to you---even serving it with a side of orzo is also a thing. Just have fun with it----neutral sides work best!
For this Jamaican Curry Chicken, I prefer using boneless and skinless thighs. However, if you prefer bone-in chicken, you can use it by cutting it into pieces and removing the skin. It's best to chop larger chicken pieces into smaller ones. I advise against using only chicken breast for this recipe as it contains less fat and can quickly become dry during cooking.
Yes, it uses coconut milk for the creaminess so if you are dairy-free this recipe has you covered!
While traditionally scotch bonnet peppers are used in Jamaican dishes, unfortunately, they might not be found easily in some areas, therefore, substituting them with habanero peppers, jalapeños, etc works just fine! For equal spice to scotch bonnet, you can add a pinch of cayenne pepper and a few drops of hot sauce when substituting.
Unlike regular curry powder, Jamaican curry powder contains more turmeric (hence the bold yellow color) and allspice. Therefore, if you don't have Jamaican curry powder handy, simply use regular curry powder and add additional turmeric powder and a few pinches of allspice powder.
Generally, yes! However, you can create a milder dish by reducing the amount of scotch bonnet peppers used or substituting with milder peppers like jalapeños, etc.
If you love your curry chicken with a lot more gravy, no worries! Just use less potatoes (because they work as a thickener as everything cooks) or add additional liquid (stock or water), about 1 cup halfway through the cooking process for more gravy.
The following tips and tricks will make cooking the best Jamaican curry chicken easier and with greater results:
Marinate the chicken. This is a VERY IMPORTANT step that most overlook but makes a world of a difference. Traditionally, Jamaicans will clean, rinse, and season their chicken 1-2 days prior to making this dish. Simply add your seasoned chicken to a ziplock bag or airtight container and refrigerate overnight (or for up to 2 days). When ready to cook, remove from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes or so.
Remove the skin. Keeping or removing the skin of the chicken is an individual preference for many, however, removing it for curry chicken helps the flavors to soak into the meat better, especially during marination.
Chop the chicken into smaller pieces. Since you can use various pieces of chicken for this recipe, chopping them up into smaller pieces helps the chicken to cook through better and makes for an easier bite.
Browning the chicken first is key. Whether you choose to use browning sauce or not, "browning" or searing your chicken first in oil is imperative to creating a nice crispy outside with a tender inside.
Brown your Jamaican curry powder. Whenever using Jamaican curry powder, it's important to burn the powder first to avoid digestive issues for some people because of its potency. In addition, the "burning" process releases better flavor + color.
Slow + simmer is BEST. With any Jamaican dish, slow and simmer is always the best. Once you add all of the ingredients (including the chicken), cover the pot and reduce the heat to simmer everything until it's all cooked through, tender, and the sauce has thickened nicely.
I personally think that leftovers are even more delicious than the first day! You can keep leftover chicken curry in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days. To gently reheat the leftovers, use a Dutch oven on the stovetop over medium-low heat. Alternatively, you can also use the microwave to reheat the dish as well.
Growing up in a Jamaican household means I learned about a lot of great Jamaican spices. While these spices go great in recipes for their flavor, they also have many healing properties. I'm going to share a list of Jamaican herbs that I always keep on hand for their medicinal purposes.
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