Kaeng Kari Kai (Thai Chicken Yellow Curry) Recipe

An easy Thai yellow curry with chicken, potatoes, and a side of quick-pickled cucumbers and shallots.

A bowl of Thai chicken yellow curry in a cream colored ceramic bowl. On the right side of the image is a smaller bowl holding the accompanying cucumber salad. There are a fork and spoon in the bottom right hand corner of the image.

Serious Eats / Julia Estrada

Why This Recipe Works

  • Coconut milk and a can of prepared curry paste provide the base for this mild, slightly sweet curry. 
  • A side of ajat— a cucumber and jalapeno relish— adds optional heat to the curry.

Oh, this dish. It used to confuse me when I first came to the US and ate at a Thai restaurant for the first time. In ordering "yellow curry," I thought I was going to get one dish only to be presented with another. This is because nobody in Thailand calls this "yellow curry," and what we do call "yellow curry" is something entirely different. I quickly learned from this mistake.

(I was just thinking about this when I took a couple of friends who were visiting from Thailand to a Thai restaurant in Chicago several weeks ago. Unfamiliar with the US Thai restaurant terminology, they, too, were a bit confused.)

If your local Thai restaurant has opted for the designation, "Kaeng Kari," instead of the more common, "yellow curry," you know that both are the same dish (in the American context, that is). And if some restaurants have two dishes on their menu, both of which go by "yellow curry," pay attention to the descriptions.

When you buy the curry paste needed to make this recipe, make sure you don't end up getting the paste for the other kind of yellow curry. The two are neither similar nor interchangeable. And if Kaeng Kari is what you set out to make, using the wrong "yellow curry" paste will result in a sad, sad situation. I'll talk more about this in the actual recipe.

Kaeng Kari, as I much prefer to call this dish, is one of the milder Thai curries. It contains more of the dried spices typical of South Asian or Middle Eastern cuisines (e.g. Massaman curry) than the fresh and/or dried chiles that are typical of more traditional Thai curries (e.g. red curry). Most Thai kids love this curry as it's not hot at all.

To complement this curry, Thai people often serve a simple cucumber relish (ajat) on the side to add a little zing to a curry that, though delicious all on its own, intrinsically lacks the bold, herbal, spicy ingredients found in other curries. Thai restaurants overseas usually skip the relish, so if you're okay with serving this curry with no cucumber salad, that's fine as well. I personally find that the cucumber relish makes this curry exponentially better.

October 2012

This recipe originally appeared as part of Leela Punyaratabandhu's “My Thai” column that explored popular Thai dishes.  

Recipe Details

Kaeng Kari Kai (Thai Chicken Yellow Curry) Recipe

Active 30 mins
Total 30 mins
Serves 4 servings

An easy Thai yellow curry with chicken, potatoes, and a side of quick-pickled cucumbers and shallots.


  • 1/2 English cucumber

  • 2 large shallots or 1/2 medium red onion, peeled and sliced thinly lengthwise

  • 1 green or red jalapeño pepper, sliced thinly crosswise

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar

  • 1/2 cup white distilled vinegar (no substitute)

  • 2 tablespoons water

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 cup kari (karee) curry paste (see note)

  • 1 1/2 cups full-fat coconut milk

  • 1 pound low-starch, waxy potatoes, peeled (optional) and cut into 2-inch cubes

  • 1 pound medium yellow or white onions, peeled and cut lengthwise into 6 wedges

  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce, or to taste

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into 2-inch cubes


  1. Cut the half cucumber in half lengthwise. With the cut side down, cut each half crosswise into thin slices; place in a glass bowl. Add shallot (or red onion) slices and pepper slices to cucumber bowl; set aside.

    A vertical two-image collage. The top image shows a cucumber, split in half lengthwise with both halves placed horizontally, side-by-side, on a plastic cutting board. A hand holding a knife is cutting the cucumber into half-moon slices. The bottom image shows a glass mixing bowl holding the sliced cucumber as well as sliced shallots and sliced jalapeños.

    Serious Eats / Julia Estrada

  2. Combine sugar, vinegar, water, and salt in a small saucepan. Set over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally until sugar has completely dissolved (the mixture doesn't have to be boiled), immediately remove from heat. Allow the sauce to cool down to slightly warmer than room temperature, then pour it over cucumber-shallot-pepper mixture. Stir, cover with a piece of plastic wrap, and keep chilled.

    A four-image collage. The top-left image shows sugar, vinegar, water, and salt combined in a small saucepan over medium heat, with the sugar and salt not yet dissolved. The top-right image shows the saucepan, now removed from the heat, with the sugar and salt completely dissolved into the vinegar and water to form a brine. The bottom-left image shows the cooled brine being poured over the sliced vegetables which are inside of a glass mixing bowl. The bottom-right image shows the vegetables and brine inside of the glass mixing bowl, which is now covered with plastic wrap.

    Serious Eats / Julia Estrada

  3. In a 2-quart saucepan set over medium-high heat, heat about 1/2 cup of coconut cream (the thick part that rises to the top of the can) with curry paste. Once coconut fat splits, add potato, onion, remaining coconut milk, and fish sauce to the saucepan. Add just enough water, if necessary, to keep the ingredients submerged. Bring to a boil; cover, lower the heat so the mixture simmers, and cook, stirring occasionally, until potatoes cubes are softened, about 15 minutes.

    A four-image collage. The top-left image shows a stainless steel saucepan holding coconut fat (from the top of a can of coconut milk) and curry paste. The top-right image shows the coconut fat, now split, with potato, onion, remaining coconut milk, and fish sauce added to saucepan with enough water to keep the ingredients submerged. The bottom-left image shows the mixture coming to a boil inside of the saucepan. The bottom-right image shows the saucepan’s contents at a simmer, with the potatoes having softened.

    Serious Eats / Julia Estrada

  4. Add chicken to the pot. Bring mixture back to a gentle boil, cover and simmer until chicken is cooked through, 5 to 8 minutes. Check for seasoning, adding more fish sauce if necessary.

    A close-up shot of the contents of the saucepan after the chicken has been added. A wooden spoon is lifting a piece of chicken out of the pan to demonstrate its cooked color and texture.

    Serious Eats / Julia Estrada

  5. Serve with steamed jasmine rice and prepared ajat.

    A ceramic bowl holding the chicken curry and rice, with another smaller bowl on the right hand side holding the vegetable salad.

    Serious Eats / Julia Estrada


Be sure to use the correct curry paste for this recipe. Look for the word "karee" or "kari" in addition to "yellow" just to be certain. There's another type of curry that is called "yellow sour curry." You want the former, not the latter. If there's no "karee" or "kari" on the label, hopefully there's a picture of the finished dish on it to help you. If you see chunks of potato in the picture, that's a good sign. The other kind of yellow curry doesn't contain potatoes.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
598 Calories
22g Fat
70g Carbs
34g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 598
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 22g 28%
Saturated Fat 17g 85%
Cholesterol 72mg 24%
Sodium 2033mg 88%
Total Carbohydrate 70g 26%
Dietary Fiber 5g 18%
Total Sugars 34g
Protein 34g
Vitamin C 31mg 155%
Calcium 100mg 8%
Iron 6mg 33%
Potassium 1376mg 29%
*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.)