Chicken Massaman Curry With Wheat Beer and Potatoes Recipe

This Thai-inspired curry is made with boneless chicken thighs, fortified with potatoes, and scented with the citrusy, bitter flavor of wheat beer.

Chicken massaman curry with wheat beer and potatoes, served in a gray bowl alongside rice and lime wedges.

Serious Eats / Emily and Matt Clifton

Why This Recipe Works

  • Thai massaman curry uses mostly Middle Eastern spices, which create a warmth instead of a fiery burn.
  • Adding peanuts at the end helps them retain their crunch.

There's a kind of masochistic pride in determinedly finishing off a violently fiery curry, dropping the fork into the cleaned-out bowl with tears streaming down your face, nose running, and sweat dripping off your brow. But you don't need to climb way up on the Scoville scale just to get wonderfully complex curry flavor. Massaman is a perfect example of that.

Although it's now considered a Thai dish, massaman came to that country from the Middle East via trade routes and migration. As a result, it doesn't share the intense chile heat of many of the red and green Thai curries you may be familiar with. Instead, it's sweeter, thanks to the addition of palm sugar (though you can substitute brown), and relies on spices that are more warm than hot, like star anise and cinnamon. Chicken is the most traditional protein added to the massaman pot, although you'll often find beef renditions as well. Potatoes are pretty typical, too.

Massaman curry paste is easy enough to find in your local specialty store or aisle, so there's no need to make it from scratch (you certainly can—here's a recipe for homemade massaman curry paste), though we do add a few extra spices of our own to boost the flavor of the store-bought stuff. We often use the Maesri brand, which comes in a small yellow can (you'll need two for this recipe). Its ingredients include the usual suspects—lots of cardamom, garlic, lemongrass, galangal, and, of course, chile. We add some star anise pods and a cinnamon stick on top of that, balancing it all out with a good amount of palm sugar.

Overhead view of chicken massaman curry with wheat beer and potatoes, served in a gray bowl alongside rice, crispy shallots, and lime wedges.

Serious Eats / Emily and Matt Clifton

Fish sauce, a Thai staple, gives the dish a distinct piquancy and savory depth. The whole thing is then made creamy with coconut milk. We also spike the curry with a Belgian-style wheat beer—that might seem like an odd ingredient here, but we find that its citrusy note and slight bitterness play really well with these flavors.

Skin-on, bone-in chicken is the common choice for this type of curry, but we chose boneless, skinless thighs, as they're more readily cut into large chunks for easy eating. This cuts down on the cooking time quite a bit, which makes this suitable for a weeknight dinner. Thighs also have fantastic flavor and remain juicy and tender even after prolonged cooking, so they're a great choice for this kind of long-simmered dish.

For the potatoes, we prefer the waxy, red-skinned variety, which hold their shape and turn silky when simmered, though Yukon Golds also work very well. You'll want to cut the potatoes into large bite-size pieces, a little smaller than the chicken pieces, to encourage everything to cook through at the same time.

Depending on how fatty your chicken is, the curry may end up with a layer of bright red oil on top of the sauce. You can stir it back in before serving (it's damned tasty), or spoon some off if it's excessive.

Photo of finished massaman curry in serving bowl surrounded by garnishes, with bowl of rice in background.

Serious Eats / Emily and Matt Clifton

We finish the curry with peanuts and fresh lime juice; adding them right at the end keeps the nuts crunchy and the lime juice sharp and bright.

Serve the dish with plenty of limes and cilantro on the side, along with some steamed rice. If you're feeling ambitious, make some Thai-style crispy fried shallots to sprinkle on top.

And there you have it: a spicy, sweet, and flavorful curry that doesn't require a damage waiver. Your spice-loving friends will need to find another way to exercise their taste for masochism. May we suggest parkour?

April 2017

Recipe Details

Chicken Massaman Curry With Wheat Beer and Potatoes Recipe

Active 60 mins
Total 60 mins
Serves 6 to 8 servings

This Thai-inspired curry is made with boneless chicken thighs, fortified with potatoes, and scented with the citrusy, bitter flavor of wheat beer.


  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) vegetable oil

  • 2 medium red onions (about 3/4 pound), cut pole to pole into 8 wedges each

  • 8 ounces massaman store-bought curry paste (about 1/2 cup; 300g)

  • 1 (12-ounce; 355ml) bottle Belgian-style wheat beer

  • 1 (14-ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk

  • 3/4 cup (175ml) homemade chicken stock or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock

  • 3 tablespoons (45ml) Asian fish sauce

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons (30g) palm or light brown sugar

  • 2 star anise pods

  • 1 cinnamon stick

  • 8 to 10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 3 pounds; 1.5kg), cut into large pieces

  • 1 1/2 pounds (700g) red or Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into large chunks

  • 1/2 cup (75groasted unsalted peanuts

  • 3 tablespoons (45ml) fresh juice from about 2 limes, plus lime wedges for garnish

  • Kosher salt, to taste

  • Steamed or boiled rice, for serving

  • 1 cup (30g) lightly packed cilantro leaves and tender stems, for garnish

  • Fried shallots, for garnish (optional)


  1. In a Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened slightly and golden brown in spots, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

  2. Add curry paste and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Stir in beer and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add coconut milk, chicken stock, fish sauce, sugar, star anise, cinnamon stick, chicken, and potatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.

  3. Add onions back to pot and continue simmering, uncovered, until potatoes are tender and chicken is cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes longer. Remove from heat. Discard star anise pods and cinnamon stick. Spoon off any excess fat on the surface, if necessary. Stir in peanuts and lime juice and season to taste with salt, if needed.

  4. Serve with rice, garnishing with cilantro, lime wedges, and fried shallots (if using).

Special Equipment

Dutch oven

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Nutrition Facts (per serving)
386 Calories
20g Fat
41g Carbs
12g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6 to 8
Amount per serving
Calories 386
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 20g 26%
Saturated Fat 12g 58%
Cholesterol 18mg 6%
Sodium 961mg 42%
Total Carbohydrate 41g 15%
Dietary Fiber 4g 14%
Total Sugars 8g
Protein 12g
Vitamin C 17mg 85%
Calcium 61mg 5%
Iron 4mg 20%
Potassium 918mg 20%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)