Thick, creamy, and luscious. This Coconut Chicken Recipe is a total Caribbean dream. Packed with flavor thanks to the creamy coconut milk sauce with sautéed coconut, veggies, and spices.
Serve with rice, avocado, and fried green plantains if you’re feeling fancy. This chicken will make you feel like you’re living your best life at the tropic.
Coconut Chicken Recipe
You guys. I have the best coconut chicken recipe you’ll ever try. NO JOKE. It’s packed with flavor thanks to the sautéed coconut, paprika, cumin, coriander, and bay leaves and incredibly creamy because of the thick and luscious coconut sauce. It’s a dream. Literally.
Whenever I make this, people inhale it and always go back for more sauce. I highly recommend trying it, especially if you love Caribbean cuisine and savory coconut dishes.
Does this chicken recipe have a specific name? Not really. Depending on the area you’re in (country, region, city – even family), you’ll have a different version. If you want to try and ask for it, just say “pollo en salsa de coco” which means “chicken in coconut sauce”, it’s easy.
Why you’ll love this coconut chicken:
- Packed with flavor thanks to the sautéed coconut and all the spices used.
- Incredibly creamy. Look, the creaminess is on a whole another level: the coconut sauce is thick and so luscious.
- Easy to make. Ready in just 3 steps, anyone can make it.
- Versatile. Don’t have chicken on hand or have a vegetarian or vegan loved one over? Make this sauce skipping the bird and enjoy with rice or over potatoes.
Ingredients for coconut chicken
Achiote or annatto seed (optional). Ground. This is optional but recommended because this is mainly what gives the sauce that delicious golden color that you see in the pictures and it’s also how I learned to make this chicken recipe so it’s a must for me. The taste is very mild but earthy and it’s mostly used as a natural food coloring here in Latin America (and we mostly use the oil version but ground is easier to find in the US).
If you’re in the US, you can find ground achiote here on Amazon and all you have to do is add a pinch to your vegetable oil (allow it to heat and turn into a deep orange/amber color before adding other ingredients) or to the sauce. You can skip it if you don’t feel like trying it. Use vegetable oil instead with a tiny pinch of turmeric if you want some extra color.
Chicken. You can use thick cutlets and even cut them into cubes, skinless drumsticks, thighs, basically whatever you have on hand works.
Paprika. Use good quality paprika because you want to use quite a bit of it.
Oregano. I use dried oregano. You’ll need just a tiny pinch, the flavor is not prevalent at all (as in you can’t tell there’s oregano in the dish).
Salt and pepper.
Onion. Use fresh white onion.
Garlic. Use fresh garlic for this recipe, you need all the flavor of fresh garlic cloves.
Tomato. Large, medium, small, whatever you have on hand works.
Tomato sauce or ketchup. You can also use tomato paste but use much less in that case as the flavor is stronger and tomato isn’t really one of the key flavors here so reduce the amount.
Shredded coconut. The unsweetened kind. Stick to finely shredded coconut for this recipe because you don’t want huge flakes in your sauce. You will sauté the coconut with the other veggies util nice and fragrant and your kitchen will smell absolutely delicious once you do this!
Coconut milk. Use canned coconut milk for this recipe. Make sure it’s room temperature.
Bay leaves. Do not skip this one. You can use fresh or dried bay leaves. I usually use dry because that’s what I have on hand, it’s pretty much everywhere here and it works just as good. It really adds to this recipe and ties the flavors together. I almost left it out once and while tasting the sauce I couldn’t tell what was wrong but I felt like something was missing… it was totally the bay leaf!
Cilantro. Optional but recommended, for topping.
How to make coconut chicken
STEP ONE: Cook the chicken. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Meanwhile, season the chicken with the paprika, cumin, oregano, coriander, achiote, salt, and pepper. Place the seasoned chicken in the skillet and cook until done, then remove it and place it aside.
STEP TWO: Make the coconut sauce. In the same skillet, add the onion, garlic, and tomato. Season with paprika, cumin, oregano, coriander, achiote, salt, and pepper until softened and fragrant. Add the tomato sauce or ketchup and stir. Add the shredded coconut and stir until fragrant. Pour in the coconut milk, add the chicken back in, stir until the chicken is evenly coated with the milk, add in the laurel, and simmer until thickened. Taste and adjust spices or seasoning if desired.
STEP THREE: Serve. Add some chopped cilantro on top and serve along with rice, patacones (fried green plantain), or avocado. Enjoy warm.
Can I make this ahead of time?
No, sorry. This chicken is best eaten as it’s made as you want the sauce to be nice and creamy and warm. You could cook the chicken ahead of time if needed.
How do I store coconut chicken?
Store covered or in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 days. Reheat over medium-low heat with a dash of coconut milk, cream, milk, or water to loosen up the sauce.
Make sure that whatever you’re using to loosen up the sauce matches the temperature of the sauce or it may curdle. I don’t think you’ll have leftovers though lol.
HAPPY COOKING!! I hope you’ll love this Creamy Coconut Chicken Recipe as much as I do!
PS: Please leave a comment and/or give this recipe a rating ⭐️ if you make it! Your comments make my day!! You can also tag me on Instagram @itsdamnspicy 🌈💘
More Latin American Recipes you’ll love:
- Ecuadorian Rice And Beans (Menestra Recipe)
- The Best Coca Cola Chicken
- Pan De Yuca (Ecuadorian Cheese Bread)
- Chicken And Yellow Rice (Arroz Con Pollo)
For The Chicken
- 1 and 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 lb (450 g) skinless chicken
- 1 tsp ground paprika
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1/4 tsp ground coriander
- 1/4 tsp achiote/annatto powder (optional but recommended, you can find it here on Amazon or you can just use regular vegetable oil and a pinch of turmeric for color)
- Salt and pepper (to taste)
For The Coconut Sauce
- 1 medium yellow onion (minced)
- 3 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1 tomato (half of a large tomato or a whole medium or small tomato, minced)
- 1/2 tsp ground paprika
- 1/4 tsp ground cumin
- 1/4 tsp ground coriander
- 1/4 tsp achiote/annatto powder
- Salt and pepper (to taste)
- 1 tbsp tomato sauce or ketchup (or tomato paste but use less if using tomato paste because it's much stronger)
- 1/4 cup (25 g) unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1 cup (450 ml) canned coconut milk (room temperature)
- Salt and pepper (if needed, to taste)
- 1 and 1/2 leaves dried bay leaves (or fresh)
- Cilantro (optional, chopped, to taste, for topping)
- Cook the chicken. Place a large skillet over medium low heat, then add the vegetable oil. While the oil is heating up, season the chicken with the paprika, cumin, oregano, coriander, and achiote, salt, and pepper. Set the heat to medium-high. Place the seasoned chicken in the skillet and cook until golden (about 5-6 minutes), flip and cook until golden again (about 4-5 minutes), then remove it and place it on a clean plate and set aside. You'll add it back in later.
- Make the coconut sauce. In the same skillet over medium heat, add the onion, garlic, and tomato, adding more oil if necessary. Season with paprika, cumin, oregano, coriander, achiote, salt, and pepper and keep sautéing until softened and fragrant (about 2-3 minutes). Add the tomato sauce or ketchup, stir, and sauté (about 1 minute). Add the shredded coconut, stir, and sauté until fragrant (about 2-4 minutes). Lower the heat to medium low. Pour in the coconut milk, add the chicken back in, stir until the chicken is evenly coated with the milk, add in the bay leaves, and simmer over low medium heat until the sauce has thickened (about 10-15 minutes). Taste and adjust spices or seasoning if desired.
- Serve. Add some chopped cilantro on top and serve along with rice, patacones (fried green plantain), or avocado. If you don't have chicken or hand or are vegetarian or vegan, serve over rice or potatoes. Enjoy warm.
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