Jamaican Curry Chicken
New recipes cycle through the kitchen often around here (occupational hazard of writing a food blog), so when one stops us in our tracks, I know I’ve hit on something special. This Jamaican Curry Chicken is one of those unique recipes.
In fact, Ben, who has the happy (or unhappy depending upon the day) task of sampling not only the final versions of the recipes you see here, but also their various testing iterations (some of which are markedly most successful than others), called this recipe “one of the best things you’ve made.”
It’s more than a longing for a Caribbean vacation that will have this Jamaican curry chicken hitting the spot.
While curry might not sound like the typical dinner rut for some, whenever I’m not sure what to cook and need an easy meal (soooo almost every night), curry is one of my defaults: Thai Chicken Curry, Slow Cooker Chicken Curry, and Coconut Curry are three frequent menu items.
This Jamaican curry chicken is different.
While it has some of the usual curry ingredients like coconut milk and spices, the heat has a subtle sweetness to it and the spices are more warm than other curries.
The sauce is thick and rich, so this curry is comforting on a chilly evening if that’s when you are craving it, but the spices also work surprisingly well on even the hottest summer day. I suspect that’s why curry is so popular in countries known for their warm climates, like India and the Caribbean.
Traditional Jamaican curry is made with scotch bonnet peppers and Jamaican curry powder, neither of which I have easy access to here in Milwaukee.
As with any culturally inspired recipe, from my Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala to this Slow Cooker Butter Chicken, I’ll never ask you to go from store to store hunting for specialty ingredients. If I can’t find them, I know there’s a good chance you can’t either, which is why I jerry-rigged this recipe to have the same flavor profile, without actually using these two.
How to Make Jamaican Curry Chicken
This is an adapted, easy-ingredient version of traditional Jamaican curry chicken. If you want authentic flavor, made over to be healthy and done with ingredients you can find at the average American supermarket, you’ve come to the right place.
Traditional Jamaican chicken curry is a bold, flavorful dish that’s cooked slowly over low heat, allowing time for the spices to develop. It’s believed that the dish (and its corresponding spices) came to Jamaica in the 17th century when workers from East India were brought to the British colony.
Here’s how I substituted Jamaican curry powder and scotch bonnet peppers for my at-home version.
How to Substitute Jamaican Curry Powder
- Like all curry powders, Jamaican curry powder is a blend of different spices. There’s no one single recipe for it, though most blends contain cumin, coriander, mustard, anise, fenugreek, allspice, and turmeric.
- Jamaican curry powder is different than curry powder you’ll typically find in the average U.S. supermarkets because it contains more turmeric (which is why Jamaican dishes are often yellow) and more allspice in comparison to the other spices.
To substitute Jamaican curry powder, I started with regular curry powder (which contains most of the same spices), then added extra turmeric and allspice. This allowed me to use ingredients that were easy for me to find, AND I didn’t have to toast and grind the spices myself.
It might not be a perfect, 100% authentic option, but it is a delicious one that gave me excellent results.
Substituting Scotch Bonnet Peppers
Scotch bonnet peppers are the other Jamaican ingredient I couldn’t find easily. They are very spicy but also a little sweet and fruity.
- To substitute scotch bonnet peppers, dice a red bell pepper VERY finely. This mimics the sweetness of scotch bonnets.
- Add a spicy pepper you *can* find. Jalapeno is a good option.
- Up the spice level. Scotch bonnets are spicier than jalapenos. A pinch of cayenne pepper and extra hot sauce are a good way to increase the heat.
Jamaican Chicken Curry From Scratch – Recipe Overview
Here’s what you’ll need to make Jamaican curry chicken with coconut milk. It’s a fresh way to liven up your dinner routine.
- Chicken. Lean, boneless, skinless chicken breasts become perfectly tender and moist as they slowly cook in the sauce. The protein-rich chicken helps make this curry hearty and satisfying. You can also use chicken thighs.
- Red Bell Pepper + Jalapeno. My easy swaps that mimic the flavors of the traditional scotch bonnet peppers. Both red peppers and jalapenos are rich in Vitamin-A and Vitamin-C, making them healthy additions to this curry (see more health benefits of jalapenos here and red peppers here).
- Garlic + Ginger. Essential flavor additions to curry dishes.
- Spices. The flavor powerhouse! A mix of curry powder, turmeric, and allspice make this curry warm, cozy, and deeply satisfying.
- Potatoes. I used Yukon gold potatoes because they have a deliciously buttery flavor, and their texture holds up nicely. Regular russet potatoes would work too. For an extra veggie, you could make this Jamaican curry chicken with potatoes and carrots, swapping out one of the potatoes for two medium carrots.
- Coconut Milk. Making Jamaican curry chicken with coconut milk thickens the sauce and also helps tame the heat. I found light coconut milk resulted in a sauce that was still plenty thick and satisfying, but if you’d like to make it even richer, you can use full fat coconut milk.
- Worcestershire Sauce. Adds a touch of savory, umami flavor to the curry.
- White Wine Vinegar. Brightens up all the flavors and adds a touch of acidity.
- Cayenne + Hot Sauce. To achieve that signature Jamaican curry heat, I used cayenne and hot sauce. Use a little or a lot of each to reach your desired level of spice.
- Cilantro. For freshness and beautiful color.
- Salt the chicken, then saute the onions.
- Add the bell pepper, jalapeño, garlic, and ginger.
- Stir in the spices.
- Saute until the chicken is golden.
- Add the potatoes.
- Pour in the remaining ingredients, stirring before bringing everything to a simmer. Simmer 15 to 20 minutes.
- Serve with cilantro and rice. DIG IN!
Is Jamaican Curry Chicken Spicy?
- Yes, this recipe is spicy, at least compared to most of the other curries on this website. I’d put it at a 3 or 4 out of 5, with “1” being mild and “5” having you mopping your brow.
- If you are sensitive to spice, I suggest dialing back the cayenne and hot sauce to start.
- If you adore spicy food, you’ll go gaga for this. You might want to even add MORE hot sauce.
How to Store and Reheat Jamaican Curry Chicken
- To Store. Leftover chicken curry can be stored in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- To Reheat. Gently reheat leftovers in a Dutch oven on the stovetop over medium-low heat. You can also rewarm this dish in the microwave.
- I don’t recommend freezing this dish, as the potatoes may become mealy once thawed.
What to Serve with Jamaican Curry Chicken
- Rice. This curry was made to be served over rice. White rice, brown rice, or cauliflower rice (for a low-carb option) would all work well. Make this a Jamaican curry chicken with rice and beans by also adding red beans to the rice.
- Salad. For a healthy, simple side dish, pair this curry with Arugula Salad.
- Veggies. Add more vegetables to your meal by serving a side of Tahini Roasted Carrots.
More Delicious Curry Recipes
- Red Lentil Curry with Sweet Potatoes
- Instant Pot Lentil Curry
- Chickpea Curry
- Slow Cooker Red Lentil Cauliflower Curry
- Easy Tofu Curry
Recommended Tools to Make Jamaican Chicken Curry
- Dutch Oven. This is an investment piece, but it will last you a lifetime.
- Measuring Spoons. Easy to store, and perfect for measuring the spices in this recipe.
- Extra Large Cutting Board. The extra space is great for recipes like this one.
Jamaican curry chicken saved us from our dinner rut—at least until it became the only thing either of us wants to eat! I hope it becomes a habit for you too.
If you try this recipe, I’d love to hear what you think! Please leave a comment below and let me know how it turned out for you. I’d especially love to know how you feel about the spice level. Do we want more curry? Let’s discuss!
Jamaican Curry Chicken
- 1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts - cut into 1-inch pieces (about 2 breasts)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion - finely chopped
- 1 red bell pepper - very finely chopped*
- 2 jalapeno peppers - very finely chopped*
- 3 cloves garlic - minced (about 1 tablespoon)
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
- 3 1/2 tablespoons curry powder
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 3/4 teaspoon allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper - plus additional to taste*
- 2 medium Yukon gold potatoes - peeled and diced
- 1 15-ounce can light coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 1/2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon hot sauce - plus additional to taste*
- Chopped fresh cilantro
- Prepared brown rice - quinoa, or cauliflower rice, for serving
- Sprinkle the chicken with salt. Set aside.
- In a Dutch oven or similar deep, sturdy pot, heat the oil over medium. Once it is hot, add the onions, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions begin to soften and turn translucent, 5 to 8 minutes.
- Stir in the red bell pepper, jalapeños, garlic, and ginger. Cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes.
- Add curry powder, turmeric, allspice, and cayenne. Cooking, stirring constantly, until spices turn deep gold and become ultra fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Add the chicken and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring often. It should look golden on the outside but does not need to be completely cooked through.
- Add the potatoes. Cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes.
- Add the coconut milk, Worcestershire, vinegar, and hot sauce. Stir to combine. Bring to a simmer. Continue to simmer, reducing the heat to low as needed, until the chicken is tender and cooked through, the potatoes are tender, and sauce has slightly reduced, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir every few minutes to keep the sauce from sticking.
- Taste and season with additional salt or hot sauce as desired. Serve hot over rice, with a big sprinkle of cilantro.
- *Scotch bonnet peppers are the most traditional for Jamaican dishes, so if you can find one (or if you can find habanero peppers which are the closest substitute), use it here and omit the cayenne and red bell pepper and scale the hot sauce back to 1/2 teaspoon to start. Our store doesn’t regularly carry either of these peppers, which is why I adapted the recipe to use a jalapeno pepper, combined with a red bell pepper and cayenne to mimic the fruitiness and heat of scotch bonnet/habanero peppers.
- TO STORE: Leftover chicken curry can be stored in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- TO REHEAT: Gently reheat leftovers in a Dutch oven on the stovetop over medium-low heat. You can also rewarm this dish in the microwave.
- I don't recommend freezing this dish, as the potatoes may become mealy once thawed.
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