Kari Ayam: Indonesian Chicken Curry Recipe

Kari Ayam is the Indonesian version of chicken curry that uses coconut milk with well-balanced spices and herbs. It’s simply delicious with plain white rice.

Indonesian chicken curry - Kari Ayam in a round white bowl with blue tea towel half way around the bowl.

Kari Ayam Is the Indonesian Version of Chicken Curry

Savory chicken in fragrant and spicy coconut milk is what this Kari Ayam is about. Enjoy it with hot, plain white rice, and your dinner is sorted.

Kari Ayam literally means chicken curry in English. It is the Indonesian version of chicken curry. 

Brought by Indian traders and adopted by local Indonesians, this poultry curry dish is a bit different from its ancestors. Because this one uses galangal and lemongrass. The two are very common in South East Asian cooking.

A bowl of Kari Ayam - the Indonesian chicken curry on a wooden table with blue tea towel on the right side.

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And it also uses coconut milk that gives the dish richness in the gravy that tastes absolutely divine to enjoy with plain white rice.

Endless Versions of Recipes

Just like any food recipe, you can get many versions of a particular food. It applies to this Kari Ayam as well.

There are numerous versions of Indonesian chicken curry. Interestingly, every region in the country has its own style with a slight difference from one to the others.

However, they all have similarities in a few ingredients.

Whether you taste the Javanese version of Kare Ayam or try the one from Sumatra island, all chicken curries will use coconut milk, chilies, and lemongrass.

These three always pop up in the required ingredients.

And the Kari Ayam recipe that I’m sharing here is rooted in the Sumatran one where my dad was from. 

The Usual Ingredients For Chicken Curry

You need quite a few ingredients to make this mouthwatering chicken curry. But I believe all the ingredients should be reasonably easy for you to obtain. Because they are readily available in most Asian shops and online shops. 

Apart from the chicken (I use baby chicken cut in small pieces), you will need galangal, lemongrass, cloves, cinnamon quill, coconut milk, onion, garlic, ginger, chilies, ground coriander, ground cumin, turmeric powder, cooking oil, sugar, and salt. 

Needless to say that fresh ingredients are always the best. However, we don’t have the luxury of having them all the time, do we? 

For example, some spices like galangal, chilies, and turmeric may not be available in fresh form. In this case, you can use the dried galangal or galangal paste in a jar. 

As for chilies, you can use fresh red chilies, dried red chilies, or red chili powder. Here, I use Kashmiri red chili powder. Simply because I like the flavor and the vibrant color that it gives to the dish.

Similarly, you can use dry turmeric powder if you cannot get fresh turmeric. They’re all good.

A Little Note On Cinnamon

Now, for cinnamon, I should say you choose wisely. Because there are a few different types of cinnamon sold in the market. 

The one called cinnamon sticks is usually the lower quality one, which is Cassia bark. It is a family of cinnamon and a little bit different from the high-grade type called cinnamon quills in the market.

Cinnamon quills are the ones considered the true cinnamon. It has a reddish-brown color with a smooth surface. Its fragrance has a sweet tone, and it’s rather powerful that you only need to use a small amount in your cooking. Price-wise, it’s slightly more expensive. But it’s worthed. 

How To Make Mouth-Watering Indonesian Chicken Curry

In short, you need to fry the spice paste and herbs until they release a delicious aroma. Then you add in the chicken pieces to fry. Cook until the poultry looks opaque and firm. 

Lastly, pour the coconut milk in, and let everything cook until the chicken is thoroughly cooked and tender.

photo collage of how to make Indonesian chicken curry.

Top Tips For Flavoursome Kari Ayam

  • Prepare your chicken as you normally would. And then, rub some white vinegar, lemon juice, or lime juice all over the poultry pieces. Rinse them with water until they don’t feel slimy to the touch. Lastly, prick them with a fork or a skewer. The idea is to help the flavor from your cooking get into the inside of the chicken. 
  • Make sure you fry the spices until they release their aroma. If you find it a bit dry, you can add another drop of cooking oil. 

Storing Matter

You can cook and prepare this curry over the weekend for you to enjoy during the mid-week. 

When you do so, ensure you cool your Kari Ayam down fully before you transfer it into a tight-lid food container and refrigerate the dish. The curry keeps well in the fridge/ refrigerator for 5 days.

The dish is also suitable for freezing. Ideally, you keep it in the freezer for no more than 2 months. And make sure you thaw and reheat it fully until piping hot before serving. Once you do so, you should finish it as it is not recommended to keep reheating the chicken dish. 

Once you thaw the dish, you must not refreeze it.

More Ideas for Indonesian Chicken Recipes

Thank you for checking out this Kari Ayam recipe. I hope you will try this Indonesian chicken curry and share what you think about it in the comments below. I’ll really appreciate it.

And please follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and/or Pinterest to sneak a peek at what’s cooking in my kitchen. 

Before you go, don’t forget to check out my other Indonesian chicken recipes that you may like.

Thank you, and all the best.

A white bowl of Indonesian chicken curry - Kari Ayam - on wooded table with blue tea towel on the left side.
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5 from 4 votes

Kari Ayam: Indonesian Chicken Curry Recipe

Kari Ayam is the Indonesian version of chicken curry that uses coconut milk with well-balanced spices and herbs. It's simply delicious with plain white rice.
Author: Devy Dar
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time25 minutes
Total Time40 minutes
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Indonesian
Servings: 6 portions


  • Kitchen knife
  • Chopping board
  • Cooking pan with lid
  • Wooden spoon


  • 1 baby chicken approximately 2.2lbs. Cut in small pieces.
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice lemon juice, or white vinegar.
  • 1 brown onion chopped.
  • 4 cloves garlic see the note.
  • ½ inch ginger see the note.
  • 5 candlenuts/ Kemiri see the note.
  • 5 tablespoons cooking oil preferably coconut oil.
  • 0.4 inch galangal see the note.
  • 1 lemongrass cut diagonally about 1-inch lengthwise.
  • 5 cloves.
  • 5 cinnamon quill.
  • 1-2 teaspoons Kashmiri red chili powder see the note.
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric powder.
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder.
  • ½ teaspoon cumin powder.
  • 1 teaspoon sugar.
  • 1 teaspoon salt or according to taste.
  • 14.08 fluid ounces coconut milk.


  • Clean the chicken pieces and rub them with lime juice, lemon juice, or white vinegar. Rinse the poultry pieces thoroughly under running water. Using a fork or a skewer, prick all over the chicken. Drain and set aside.
  • Using a pestle and mortar or a food chopper/ food processor, pound the chopped onions, candlenuts, ginger, and garlic into a paste. 
  • Heat the oil in a wok and put the spice paste, galangal, lemongrass, cloves, cinnamon, Kashmiri chili powder, turmeric powder, coriander powder, and cumin powder. Fry until the spices release a delicious aroma. 
  • Add in the sugar and salt.
  • Stir the chicken pieces into the spices until they are all well coated with spices and look opaque in color.
  • Pour the coconut milk in and give it a good stir. Cook at medium-high heat until it reaches boiling point, then turn the heat down. Put the lid on and simmer until the chicken is fully cooked. 


  • You can use dried galangal or the paste one if the fresh galangal is not available to you. But please don’t use the powder one as it doesn’t give the same aroma and flavor. 
  • If you prefer to use fresh red chilies, you can do it by using about 3-5 chilies and grind into a paste. When it comes to chilies, you’re more than welcome to put them more or less according to your personal taste. The recipe gives a hint of chili heat without necessarily tasting spicy. But of course, your Kari Ayam doesn’t have to be mild.
  • Candlenuts are called Kemiri in Indonesian. They are in the same family as macadamia nuts. Hence, you can substitute candlenuts with macadamia nuts. In the case of unavailability for both types, you can omit the nuts altogether.


Serving: 1g | Calories: 1703kcal | Carbohydrates: 28g | Protein: 53g | Fat: 163g | Saturated Fat: 110g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 43g | Cholesterol: 157mg | Sodium: 609mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 3g


Nutritional info in this recipe is only estimate using online calculator. You should refer to it as a guide only. Please verify with your own data if you seek an accurate info.

Author: Devy Dar

Title: Food Writer, Recipe Developer, and Digital Content Creator.


Devy Dar founded So Yummy Recipes and Drizzling Flavor to share her love of food after exploring various cultures and cuisines for more than two decades. Her mission is to help others easily recreate traditional and non-traditional food with readily available ingredients. Her works have been featured in Reader’s Digest, Al Jazeera, MSN, Yahoo, Bon Appetit, and more. 

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