Sri Lankan Chicken Curry with Onion Sambal

Published on Saturday, August 3, 2019 | Category: Chicken Recipes in Sri Lanka


A festival of tropical textures and flavours, this delicious Sri Lankan chicken curry recipe is sure to become a firm favourite with everyone in the family. Paired up with mouthwatering spicy onion sambal and served with warm roti or fluffy steamed recipe, this recipe stands as a true testament to most Sri Lankan food recipes.

Total cook time: 1-2 hours

Serves: 8


For the onion sambal

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 large red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tbsp ginger, grated
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom seeds, ground
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp tamarind puree
  • 2 tbsp coconut milk
  • 2 tsp lime juice
  • A handful of curry leaves

For the spice mix

  • 3 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 2 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 2 tsp dill seeds
  • 2 tsp turmeric powder

For the curry

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 small green chilli, cut lengthways
  • 1 lemongrass stem, finely sliced
  • 750g skinless chicken thigh fillets, each cut into pieces
  • 1 tbsp tamarind puree
  • 3/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1/3 cup coconut cream
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • A handful of curry leaves


  • To prepare the onion sambal, heat oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat. Once the oil has heated, add in the sliced onions and salt according to taste and cook for about 10-15 minutes until the onions go soft.
  • Next, add the chopped ginger and garlic and cook for another 5 minutes before adding the chili powder, cloves and cardamom. Continue to cook for about 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients for the onion sambal and simmer for about 5-10 minutes until the onions go glossy and translucent.
  • To make the spice mix, lightly dry roast the spices in a dry pan over medium heat until fragrant and then tip the sices into a spice grinder and grind to a fine powder.
  • To prepare the curry, heat oil in another heavy-bottomed saucepan on medium heat. Add in the diced onion and salt and cook until the onions are softened.
  • To this, add the garlic and chilli and cook for another 5 minutes. Add lemongrass and the ground spices and continue to cook for a further 5 minutes.
  • Then, add in the chicken pieces, mixing well to coat the pieces in the spices. Cook for about 2-3 minutes before throwing in the curry leaves, tamarind puree and coconut milk and simmer for about 10 minutes. Finally, pour in the coconut cream and bring to a simmer, being careful not to let the curry mixture boil over.
  • Remove the sauacpean from heat, cover with a lid and let it sit for about 10 minutes.
  • Drizzle in the lime juice to taste and serve with the spicy onion sambal and your choice of warm, steamed rice, roti or bread.