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  • Curried Chicken in Coconut Milk with Tomatoes, Mixed Greens and Bell Peppers

    Posted on | January 14, 2009 | 36 Comments |

    When I started the South Beach Diet, I naturally assumed that coconut is a big no-no. Since coconut is very high in saturated fat content, nobody would consider it a diet food. As a typical true-blooded mallu, I use a lot of coconut in my cooking, especially coconut milk, so I was sad to lose one of the major ingredients from my pantry. Then a few days ago, I was browsing my South Beach Diet Quick and Easy recipe book and saw a couple of recipes using Coconut milk, that too in Phase 1, which got me all excited and curious.

    The book says that unsweetened, light coconut milk is allowed in South Beach Diet. I did some research online and it looks like the jury is still out on whether coconut milk is actually good or bad, kind of like the eggs per week discussion we had last week. How bad can it be though, after all it is a natural plant product and it is used in abundance in many parts of Asia, including my home state, where coconut is the base for a majority of dishes. Anyway, since I am not really sure about how helpful or harmful it is as far as weight-loss is concerned, I am trying to just incorporate moderate amount of light coconut milk in my meal plan, one dish a week.  I can’t live on bland food, diet or no diet, I have to have my food with flavor, no sacrifices there. Coconut milk sure adds a lot of flavor to the dishes, and makes a great base for curries.If there are any nutrition experts out there, I’d love to hear your opinion about coconut milk.

    This curry was put together as a clean the fridge out project last weekend. There were odds and ends like a red bell pepper, a couple of tomatoes and half a box of mixed greens which were not crisp enough for salad. I decided to just throw everything in together, and the end result turned out to be a delicious curry. I also had some okra in the fridge, but I decided against adding it to the chicken curry lest it turns all slimy, instead I stir fried the okra with some spices. So along with some brown rice and sauteed okra, this chicken curry made a wonderful meal.

    Chicken Curry 


    • 1 lb chicken breast, skinless, bone-in, cut into small pieces
    • 1 tbsp olive oil
    • 1/4 cup diced onions
    • 1 tsp red chili powder
    • 1/2 tsp coriander powder
    • 1/8 tsp turmeric powder
    • 1 can (13.5oz) light, unsweetened coconut milk
    • 2 tbsp thinly sliced ginger pieces
    • 2 green chillies, split
    • 1 whole red bell pepper, sliced
    • 2 small tomatoes, quartered
    • 4 cups mixed greens or spinach
    • salt to taste


    In a large pan, heat the oil and add the diced onions. Saute till the onions are soft. Mix the red chili, coriander and turmeric powder with a little bit of water to make a paste. Add this spice paste to the sauteed onions and stir fry on medium heat till fragrant.

    Add the chicken pieces and mix well so that the chicken pieces are well coated with the onions and spices. Saute till all the water from the chicken pieces are evaporated. Add 3/4 cup of hot water and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cover and cook for 5 minutes. Add the coconut milk, ginger and green chilies and mix well. Bring to a boil on medium heat. Add the pepper, tomatoes, greens and salt and bring to a boil again. Cover and simmer for about 10-15 minutes till the chicken pieces are cooked through. If there is too much liquid, remove the lid and boil on high heat to reduce the gravy.

    Serve warm with rice, this curry goes very well with brown rice.

    Category: Bell Pepper, Chicken, Coconut, Dinner Recipes, Greens, Mains

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    36 Responses to “Curried Chicken in Coconut Milk with Tomatoes, Mixed Greens and Bell Peppers”

    1. sra
      January 14th, 2009 @ 12:42 am

      Sig, I’ve heard that coconut was made out to be a big villain, rather unfairly, by other oil lobbies – I keep meaning to read up on that but keep forgetting.

    2. Nags
      January 14th, 2009 @ 1:03 am

      beautiful lighting for the pic :) and as far as health concerns with coconut/coconut milk goes, i think the unhealthy factor is hyped. a lot. of course i may be biased but let’s face it. in kerala there are families, including mine, that use one coconut a day and most people have a full healthy life. moderation is the key, i would say. i use coconut milk in my cooking about twice a month, mostly because the extraction process is tiresome. i keep away from packaged/canned coconut milk.

    3. Padmaja
      January 14th, 2009 @ 2:32 am

      Amazing recipe Sig, I habe never put chicken and spinach together… the picture n recipe wowed me enough to try…..

    4. Happy Cook
      January 14th, 2009 @ 4:05 am

      Beautiful pic sig.
      Chicken curry looks yumm and that sauce would soak can be used to saok up with rice.

    5. sunita
      January 14th, 2009 @ 5:08 am

      Lovely curry and lovely picture :-)

    6. Mamatha
      January 14th, 2009 @ 5:18 am

      I too have always wondered how harmful can a natural plant product be. I agree, addition of coconut milk transforms even the most ordinary of dishes to something special. If you are concerned about the fat content, you can refrigerate your dish for a few minutes and skim off the solidified fat layer.

    7. Meeta
      January 14th, 2009 @ 5:29 am

      HAHAHA! I had the same doubts about coconut milk too! But my research told me the same – in moderation it’s ok. Last week (week 1 phase 1)O made chicken satay marinated in coconut milk (latest recipe on my blog) and they were delicious.

      I need spice in my meals too – and next week I enter Phase 2 yoohoo then it’s fruit and rice. I’ll be making a variation of this for sure! Lovely!

    8. Soma
      January 14th, 2009 @ 5:36 am

      Beautiful Picture Sig. I love the taste of coconut milk, and use it more in cooking than coconut. that creamy slightly sweet taste is divine. I too had posted a chicken curry with coconut milk (not as healthy as your tho)..& i have used it in dum aloo too:-)

      I’ll try this out.. looks good with the peppers in it.

    9. Manasi
      January 14th, 2009 @ 6:49 am

      Yum yum yum! Eggactly what I was craving. By the way, your posts inspired me to start the South Beach Diet too… well, not phase 1, phase 2 directly. But its a start towards just watching what I eat. Not bad eh?

    10. indosungod
      January 14th, 2009 @ 7:12 am

      Sig, I am firmly in the camp that coconut is healthy compared to animal based fats. If we are active I think coconut would do no harm but the unknown in this whole thing is our sedentary life style :( Moderation is key like you say.

      The curry looks delicious and I am sure coming out of your kitchen tastes super delicious.

    11. Laavanya
      January 14th, 2009 @ 7:14 am

      I love the creaminess that coconut milk lends to curries… that looks great and I have a similar curry with potatoes that I posted today.

    12. Asha
      January 14th, 2009 @ 7:37 am

      I heard that coconut oil added to the dishes in the is very beneficiary to us, our ancestors are not fools after all, right?

      Love the “clean fridge” dish, always delicious with coconut milk.

      I forgot that today is Pongal and posted a pork dish!! Ahhh…..!!! :lol:

    13. Chef Fresco
      January 14th, 2009 @ 7:51 am

      Looks delicious! You can never have too many soup ideas on these cold winter nights.

    14. Vishnu
      January 14th, 2009 @ 9:16 am

      Yummy looking dish. Well done.

      On your concern regarding coconut milk, there are articles out there that blame corn and vegetable oil producers associations portraying all saturated oils as bad. Here is one of them.

      I agree with the arguments of Nags and Mamata. The food-science is very biased these days and it is hard to figure out what is good and what is not. So the natural and time-tested arguments are the way to go.

    15. Sukanya
      January 14th, 2009 @ 11:29 am

      Happy Pongal!!!

    16. Ramya's Mane Adige
      January 14th, 2009 @ 1:06 pm

      Oh, i LOVE your pics.. they are all sooo good!!!!
      And about coconut…. We south-indians would never agree that it has any bad cholestrol :lol: Or even if we did, we wouldnt stop using it… Happy Sankranti!! :)

    17. varsha
      January 14th, 2009 @ 4:13 pm

      Lovely..looks like a Thai Chicken Curry..I have also heard about the dietary concerns of coconut milk,but as everyone told,I guess moderate use can be no harm.How can we mallu’ :razz: s just throw coconut out of our pantry like that..

    18. sathya
      January 14th, 2009 @ 5:46 pm

      Hi Sig,

      Happy Pongal !

      The curry looks yummy !

    19. Raaga
      January 14th, 2009 @ 8:36 pm

      In Mangalore, Saraswat families decide their status based on the number of coconuts used in a household per day… so, it can’t be all bad :-)

      this looks delish :-)

    20. arundati
      January 14th, 2009 @ 10:20 pm

      the way i love coconut milk…i swear i must have been a mallu in my last birth!! i love the flavour it adds to gravies…..used in moderation there’s no harm….(damn…i must stop myself licking straight from the carton!!) curry looks awesome….

    21. aquadaze
      January 14th, 2009 @ 10:28 pm

      This looks delicious! coconut milk does impart that lovely flavour to curries, doesn’t it? Just my two bits…here in singapore, there is something called fish head curry and lots of time there is okra in the curry and it is not slimy at all..infact, it’s yum. So maybe you could put okra in curry!

    22. Purnima
      January 15th, 2009 @ 12:35 am

      Sig, what a innovative curry u came up with using up so many veggies! Wish I was a small percent as creative in such things..:) I use coconut powder and love the flavor, even if my curry goes hot than our family needs, I pull down the spice level by adding half cup of milk, taste which lingers! Lovely pics, lovely recipe! Tks for sharing!

    23. Arch
      January 15th, 2009 @ 4:46 am

      Looks absolutely delicious…I guess people who’ve always used coconuts in their day to day cooking can never believe it can cause harm in any way. My grand parents always believed it was good and healthy in fact.. I simply love flavour of coconut milk..My mom wouldn’t be able to cook a regular meal without coconut…

    24. sk
      January 15th, 2009 @ 8:23 pm


      The curry looks amazing is mouth wateringly inviting…Slurp -:)

    25. Jyothsna
      January 16th, 2009 @ 12:31 am

      My true blood malu family uses coconut everyday and none of us have coconut-related problems. Btw I made the eggs you posted last time and they were great!! Thanks!

    26. Passionate Eater
      January 17th, 2009 @ 1:01 am

      Wow, that is great news about the inclusion of coconut milk into the South Beach Diet! I hope to see many more recipes now! ;) Good luck with your health resolutions!

    27. sig
      January 17th, 2009 @ 5:01 pm

      Thank you all for your comments. Looks like everyone agrees that coconut can’t be as bad as they make it out to be… Moderation is the key, I guess… :)

    28. Miri
      January 18th, 2009 @ 9:01 am

      Love the curry – I have moved from using two coconuts a week to one a week – not for health purposes but to protect my wallet! LOL :) Coconuts in Delhi cost twice the amount they do in Chennai. But I still prefer using fresh milk rather than packed or canned and I cant believe when used it moderation it can be so harmful.

    29. Niha
      January 18th, 2009 @ 2:27 pm

      Just to play devil’s advocate here, isn’t marijuana a natural plant too?

      • Sig
        January 18th, 2009 @ 2:32 pm

        Yes, and I am sure you are aware of its medicinal benefits as well. :lol:

    30. jaya
      January 18th, 2009 @ 11:01 pm

      The curry looks delicious and picture is awesome ,well lighted ..
      Coocnut as such is a very nutritious plant offering to us, the coconut water is a zero-cal heatlthy nutrient packed with high content of iron and proteins ..
      I think our ancestors have always included coconut oil and milk in our cooking, so that means they must have healthy benefits ,Isn’t?
      I like the concept of “clean the fridge” LOL…
      hugs and smiles

    31. Thas
      February 5th, 2009 @ 5:02 pm

      hy sig,

      i had no idea wht to cook for dinner until i saw ths recipe…didnt take me long to hav ths ready on the table..i luved the chicken/coconut milk/spinach/red pepper combi..gotto hav meat nd veggies at the sametime..also i served ths with Couscous(made with veggie/dryfruits)… was totally YUM !

    32. Jill
      May 27th, 2009 @ 2:04 pm

      I have done a lot of research on coconut and coconut oil. 1/2 cup of shredded coconut meat has almost 4g of fiber, 142 mg of potassium, 13mg of magnesium, less thatn 3g of sugar, and 13g of the most heart healthy fat on the planet.

      The saturated fats in coconut are MCT’s (medium chain triglycerides) MCT are different because they are easier to metabolize and are preferentially used for energy rather than stoed fats. Most importantly, they are composed mainly of lauric acid. In the human body lauric acid is antiviral and antibacterial.

      That said, I recently bought a book called “The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth”. It gives facts about many foods and tells you the information that the nutritional labels lack. It has helped me tremendously with my diet.

    33. warda
      October 9th, 2012 @ 7:19 am

      Is there an alternative to white wine?