Kwame Onwuachi's Childhood Favorite: Mom's Chicken Curry

Warm, comforting, and best served with lots of rice.

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What's this?

Kwame Onwuachi is the James Beard Award–winning executive chef at Kith/Kin and author of Notes From a Young Black Chef. His cooking has been influenced by the various places he's lived in around the world, from New York City to Nigeria. (He also has a penchant for Chinese takeout, and we don't blame him.) Today, he's sharing a special recipe with us—and we can't wait to dive in.

Says Onwuachi, "This recipe is near and dear to me because it is one of my earliest food memories. Growing up with Caribbean parents, we always ate curry chicken. My mother used to make curry chicken salad from the leftovers."

Chicken Curry

Active time: 1 hour
Total time: 25 hours, including marination time
Yield: Serves 2 to 3
Special equipment: Blender


1 cup roughly chopped celery (approximately 3 ribs)
1/4 cup roughly chopped ginger
1/4 cup roughly chopped garlic
1/2 cup roughly chopped yellow onion (approximately 1/2 large onion)
1/2 cup roughly chopped scallions
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
2 habanero peppers, chopped
3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
1/3 cup (80ml) canola oil
2 tablespoons curry powder
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more if needed
2 pounds (900g) bone-in, skinless chicken, legs and thighs separated and breasts split into thirds
1 quart (950ml) store-bought low-sodium or homemade chicken stock
Juice of 1 lime
Salt, to taste
Steamed rice, for serving


1. Place celery, ginger, garlic, onion, scallions, cilantro, habaneros, thyme, and canola oil in the jar of a blender and purée until smooth.

2. Transfer the purée to a large mixing bowl. Add curry powder and turmeric, then add chicken and marinate, covered, overnight or up to 24 hours in the refrigerator.

3. To Cook the Chicken: In a medium sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over high heat until oil is just starting to glisten. Working in batches, remove chicken from marinade and add to pan in a single layer. Sear chicken for approximately 3 minutes on each side, or until all sides are lightly browned. Remove chicken from pan and set aside. Repeat with remaining chicken, adding more oil as needed if the pan looks dry at any point, until all pieces have been seared and set aside.

4. Add chicken stock to pan, bring to a simmer, and let the pan deglaze; scrape up any charred bits from the bottom. Return chicken and all marinade back to pan and bring to a simmer for 30 minutes, letting the broth reduce until thickened.

5. Season curry with lime juice and salt to taste. Serve with steamed rice of your choice.

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