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Classic Red Curry Chicken

I have tried to make an authentic batch of red curry chicken many times. I abandoned my mission, because my boys never liked it. Thai food for them was Pad Thai and only Pad Thai. I get it. I started dabbling with Thai food when I was in high school in Chicago. The now shuttered Thai Star Cafe on State Street was my go-to spot. Like my boys, I stuck to safe bets like Pad Thai, Pad See Ew and Basil Chicken and fried apps like Crab Rangoon. Clearly before my Feal Real days. I watched in awe as my brother ate one red pepper after another. I liked the sweet stuff and shied away from the anything above "mild." 


Then I met Mark. Mark was East coast and had been eating Asian cuisine pretty much since he got out of diapers. His parents would take him and his sister to Indian, Thai, Malaysian with the promise of Burger King on the way back if they didn't eat. Eventually they broke them and not even the allure of a cardboard crown could sway them from some spicy curry over rice. 


So by the time I met Mark, authentic Thai food was as common to him as pasta was to me (remember my mom is 100% Italian). He indulged me in some Pad Thai and I toed dipped into the spicy curry. He soon broke me, and I was eating fish cakes and larb and red curry "medium." It was our go-to meal when we lived in New York and then back in Chicago before kids. But out in the Chicago burbs, Thai food doesn't bring the zing! Recently I caved, though, thinking lame red curry is better than no red curry. So, I ordered red curry chicken for me and Pad Thai for my boys from a new local spot that is actually pretty good. My boys tasted the red curry and liked it - and then asked, "is this healthy?" :) Yes, actually it is! But not knowing exactly how much sugar they put in theirs, I decided it was time to crack open my red curry jar one more time and make my own. (Since writing this article we received a tip from a reliable source for the best red curry paste - comes in a can, not a jar!)


A while ago, Mark's mom sent him some kaffir lime leaves to make his own curry paste. Yes, I just said that. They were in our freezer, so I grabbed a couple, and they truly made it a distinct Thai dish. You can order them, of course, from Amazon. Just stick them in your freezer like we did. The dish is insanely easy, and within one taste, I was back to my Thai food bamboo roots. Boys wanted more, so I had to hurry the photo. Feel free to add any veggies you like. 



  • 1T Extra Virgin Olive Oil

  • 3 Tbs. Thai red curry paste

  • One 13.5 can organic coconut milk (can use lite if you want)

  • 1 large shallot, chopped

  • 1 medium red bell pepper, thinly sliced into 2-inch-long strips

  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced bamboo shoots

  • 3 kaffir lime leaves, whole

  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into 1.5-inch strips 

  • 1 cup loosely packed Thai basil (or regular basil, torn into small pieces)

  • 1 T plus 1 tsp. fresh lime juice

  • 2 T fish sauce

  • 1/2 T coconut sugar

  • Kosher salt to taste



  • Heat the oil in a 3-qt saucepan over medium-high heat until shimmering hot. 

  • Add the curry paste and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, 20 seconds. 

  • Take the pan off of the heat and stir in the shallots, pepper, coconut milk, bamboo shoots, lime leaves (if using), sugar, and 1 cup water. Stir to combine.

  • Add the chicken, bring to a simmer over medium heat, cover, and cook until the vegetables are tender and the chicken is cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes.

  • Stir in the basil, fish sauce, and lime juice. Let rest off the heat for 5 minutes. 

  • Remove the kaffir lime leaves.

  • Season with salt.


HEARTFUL RECIPE - One of our real food recipes that focuses on veggies, protein, healthy fats and/or healthy carbs and doesn't include gluten, dairy, soy, refined sugar, corn or peanuts.

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