Easy use-what-you-have weeknight dinner using leftover chicken or turkey, this healthy and delicious Thai style chicken vegetable curry can be on the table in about 20 minutes.
Curries made with coconut milk and mild to spicy Thai curry pastes are one of my favorite quick, real food meals.
There are some traditional curries that are made with only onion and meat, but I always try to add as many vegetables as I can, both to be healthier and more convenient (one bowl meals for the win!).
When served over rice or rice noodles, this Thai style turkey or chicken vegetable curry is a great one dish dinner that is light years away from hamburger helper-type skillet meals.
What is the difference between Thai and Indian curry?
There are a few things that set apart the two curry styles from Thailand and India.
- The main difference is the curry spices - in Thai cooking, there are different curry pastes that are used to flavor curries and in India, the spices are typically a dry spice blend.
- Thai curries usually contain coconut milk, while it's used rarely in India which mainly uses ghee, yogurt or cream and often tomato sauce.
- Indian curries are often not as saucy as Thai curries, but both are spicy, adaptable, and contain meat, vegetables, or both.
- You'll often find fish sauce in Thai curry, which is never present in Indian curry.
You'll want to serve Thai curry with rice or rice noodles and Indian curry with rice and/or a flatbread like naan.
I also love that all curries, including this Thai style recipe, are super flexible, using whatever meat and vegetables you have on hand.
Is it really a 20 minute meal?
Yes! And it may be even quicker if you use prepped, frozen vegetables. What makes this recipe that quick is the use of leftover cooked chicken or turkey (either from a slow cooked rotisserie chicken or holiday turkey).
With the poultry precooked, it's a matter of chopping the vegetables, sauteing them, adding the cooked chicken and remaining sauce ingredients and letting it simmer a few minutes. Your rice or noodles can be cooking while you make the curry.
Ta-da - a quality, real-food dinner done in about 20 minutes!
However, if you don't have cooked chicken, you can cut up chicken and cook it first, adding a few minutes to your total time.
Thai Style Chicken Vegetable Curry (or Turkey)
- coconut milk
- peanut or coconut oil
- cooked chicken or turkey (or not - to use uncooked, cut and cook first before adding all the other ingredients in the pan).
- fish sauce (you can do without this, but it adds a distinctive flavor to Thai curries)
- yellow, red, or green Thai curry paste
- choice of vegetables: sliced carrots, cut green beans, sweet peppers, chopped broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, and/or peas, etc.
- rice or rice noodles for serving
I always try to use carrots and my favorite vegetable, cauliflower, though this is a dish that makes great use of seasonal vegetables like zucchini, green beans, peas, and broccoli.
What are the different Thai curry pastes?
The only tricky part of this recipe comes from trying to determine which kind and how much curry paste to use for your family.
Most of the flavor (and heat) of this dish comes from the Thai curry paste - you want enough to be flavorful, but not so much that it causes your mouth to burn, your eyes to water, and your forehead to sweat (don't ask me how I know this).
Here's what I've found out through trial and error about the three most common Thai curries:
- yellow curry paste is the mildest (and tastes more Indian than the other two, I think)
- red is more spicy
- green will blow your head off
There are also Panang and Massaman curry pastes, but they aren't as common (panang is my favorite, though - SO good).
One of my sisters lived in Thailand for a few years and she found that they like to laugh at American's lack of ability to eat spicy food. I think she worked up to more spicy things, but she said their idea of "mild" is our equivalent of smoke coming out of our ears.
For my semi-spicy loving family, I use 1-2 teaspoons of green curry paste to two cans of coconut milk, 2-4 teaspoons of red curry paste, and about a tablespoon of yellow.
The main point here is to go slow, and taste after you've added a small amount.
You can always put more in, but you can't take it out, as we know, right?
Heat oil in a large pan over medium high heat and start cooking in layers:
- Start with the onions and garlic (actually if you're needing to use uncooked meat, start with that and remove it before starting the vegetables).
- After just a minute, add any harder vegetables like carrots, cauliflower, broccoli stems, etc.
- Cook for another couple minutes and then add the remaining vegetables you're using as well as the chicken, coconut milk, fish sauce, and curry paste.
- Bring to a low boil and simmer for about 5 minutes.
You want the vegetables to be crisp-tender, so be careful not to overcook them.
TIP: Start the rice or water for the noodles before cooking the vegetables and it should all be ready at the same time.
Is this Thai chicken vegetable curry really healthy?
Well. You can find lots of places that say that dishes made with coconut milk are to be avoided because of its high fat content.
However, it's a real, traditional food that contains vitamins and minerals, boosts the immune system, and, while the fat is saturated, it is different from other saturated fats and may increase the good cholesterol (HDL). (source)
And we're using it along with LOTS of vegetables and lean protein, both of which are unequivocally healthy. A good sized portion of this recipe is actually under 400 calories with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and very little sugars.
In other words - yep, this is healthy and you can feel good about serving it to your family.
Thai Style Chicken or Turkey Vegetable Curry
- 2 13.5-ounce cans coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon oil, avocado, peanut, or coconut oil
- 3 cups chopped cooked chicken or turkey*
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce, optional but strongly suggested
- 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon yellow, red, or green Thai curry paste according to taste**
- 5 cups mixed vegetables: sliced carrots, zucchini, chopped broccoli, and/or cauliflower, sliced sweet peppers, cut green beans, peas, etc.
- rice or rice noodles for serving
- Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. (Cook the chicken now if not using precooked*) Add the onion, garlic, and any hard vegetable that needs sautéing (carrots, cauliflower, etc.). Sauté for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the cooked poultry, and remaining vegetables along with the coconut milk and fish sauce, stirring well.
- Add the curry paste to taste, being careful to monitor the spiciness. Start with only 1 teaspoon of green, 1½ teaspoon of red or just less than a tablespoon of yellow. You can always add more.
- Bring to a low boil and cook for another 5 minutes to let the flavors meld and cook the vegetables to just crisp-tender.
- Serve over rice or rice noodles.
More Quick Meals Using Cooked Chicken
This recipe has been updated - it was originally published in March of 2010.