Thai Red Chicken Curry (Kaeng Pet Kai)

This is one of those dishes that can charge your life. Seriously. Cookbook legend Madeira Jaffrey said: “This dish is absolutely the best of Thai curries”.

The heart and soul of Thai cooking is curry paste. Family recipes for curry paste are handed down from generation to generation. Excellent canned curry pastes are readily available in markets and online. Although every Thai curry is slightly different, there are a few general styles of curry paste: Green, Massaman, and Red. Red curry paste is mildly spicy and based on dried red chilis, lemon grass, and galangal. As the base for the phenomenal Thai Chicken Red Curry, it becomes extra special when mixed with creamy-sweet coconut milk, soft chicken cubes and vegetables, and is enhanced by basil and kaffir lime leaves.

Thai red curry chicken

Kaeng Pet Kai – Red Chicken Curry

This is a dish that is loved by everyone, at least everyone I know. Sweet basil and kaffir lime leaves are important contributors to its unique taste. It can be made several days in advance and refrigerated. The dish can also be made with shrimp or pork. Serve with white rice.
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Course: Brunch, Lunch, Main Course
Cuisine: Southeast Asian, Thailand
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 4
Author: My Hungry Traveler


  • Large skillet
  • Wok


  • 1 lb Boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite size pieces
  • 14 oz Can of coconut milk, 4 tbsp of thick cream on top reserved
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup Zucchini, halved and cut into ½-inch slices
  • ½ Red bell pepper, cored and sliced into strips
  • 1 can Button or straw mushrooms, drained (optional)
  • 4 tbsp Vegetable oil
  • 4 tbsp Red curry paste
  • 2 tbsp Asian fish sauce
  • 1 tsp Dark brown sugar
  • 4 Kaffir lime leaves, fresh or frozen fresh
  • 20 leafs Fresh basil; sweet thai, ordinary basil, or mint


  • Prepare Chicken – Put the thin coconut milk into a skillet. Add salt and stir coconut milk. Add chicken pieces, kaffir lime leaves, zucchini, red bell pepper, and mushrooms. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer 20 minutes. Remove from heat.
  • Make Curry – Bring oil and reserved coconut cream in a wok over medium-high heat. Stir in the curry paste and cook until the oil begins to seperate out and the curry paste is lightly browned. Lower the heat and add fish sauce and sugar. Stir to mix, then add chicken and the coconut milk it was simmered in. Bring to a boil for 1 minute. Up to this point may be done in advance.
  • Serve – Discard kaffir lime leaves. Transfer curry to a serving bowl. Remove any stems and scatter basil leaves over top. Submerge leaves into the curry with the serving spoon. Serve with whit rice.


  • The chicken may be replaced with shrimp. Add one pound of peeled and deveined shrimp to the coconut milk and vegetables immediately as the 20 minute cook period is done.
  • 1 tbsp lime juice can replace the kaffir lime leaves if needed, but the difference in flavor is substantial.


Calories: 484kcal | Carbohydrates: 7g | Protein: 25g | Fat: 41g | Saturated Fat: 23g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 9g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 108mg | Sodium: 1115mg | Potassium: 637mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 2919IU | Vitamin C: 27mg | Calcium: 60mg | Iron: 5mg

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