Kari Ayam: Indonesian Chicken Curry Recipe

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

Kari Ayam Is Just An Indonesian Version of Chicken Curry

Kari Ayam is just another chicken curry dish in the Indonesian version. However, unlike the curries from the Indian subcontinent, this curry uses herbs more than spices.

And it also uses coconut milk that gives the dish richness in the gravy that tastes absolutely divine to enjoy it 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 chicken dish as well.

There will be endless versions of Indonesian chicken curry. Interestingly, every region in the country has their own style with a slight difference from the others.

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

However, they all have similarities. Mostly, 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, chillies 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. 

Exotic Ingredients

Yup, you need quite a few exotic ingredients to make this mouthwatering chicken dish. But I believe all the ingredients should be reasonably easy for you to obtain as 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, chillies, 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 we need like galangal, chillies and turmeric. If the fresh ones are not available, you can use the dried galangal or the paste in a jar. For chillies, you can use fresh red chillies, dried red chillies or red chilli powder. Here, I use the Kashmiri red chilli powder. Simply because I like the flavour and the vibrant colour 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 colour 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

photo collage of how to make Indonesian chicken curry.

In short, you need to fry the spices and herbs until they release the intoxicatingly delicious aroma. Then you add in the chicken pieces to fry until they look opaque and firm. 

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

Top Tips For Flavoursome Kari Ayam

  • Prepare your chicken by cleaning it, and then rub some white vinegar, lemon juice or lime juice all over the poultry pieces. Rinse the chicken pieces with water until they don’t feel slimy to touch. Lastly, prick them with a fork or a skewer. The idea is to help the flavour from your cooking get into the inside of the chicken. 
  • Make sure you fry the spices until they smell nice. 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. It keeps well in the fridge/ refrigerator for 5 days.

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

Related 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.

Yield: 6 portions

Kari Ayam: Indonesian Chicken Curry Recipe

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

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.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes


  • 1 baby chicken, approximately 1 kg. Cut in small pieces.
  • 5 tbsp cooking oil (preferably coconut oil).
  • 1 cm galangal (see the note).
  • 1 lemongrass, cut diagonally about 1-inch lengthwise.
  • 5 cloves.
  • 5 cinnamon quill.
  • 1 tsp salt, or according to taste.
  • 1 tsp sugar.
  • 1 can/ 400 ml/ 14.08 fl.oz coconut milk.
  • 1 brown onion, chopped.
  • 4 cloves garlic (see the note).
  • ½ inch ginger (see the note).
  • 1-2 tsp Kashmiri red chilli powder (see the note).
  • 5 candlenuts/ Kemiri (see the note).
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder.
  • 1 tsp ground coriander.
  • ½ tsp ground cumin.


  1. Clean the chicken pieces and rub them with lemon juice or white vinegar. Rinse the poultry pieces with water. Using a fork or a skewer, prick all over the chicken. Drain and set aside.
  2. Using a pestle and mortar, pound the chopped onions, candlenuts, ginger and garlic into a paste. 
  3. Heat the oil in a wok and put the pounded spices, galangal, lemongrass, cloves, cinnamon, Kashmiri chilli powder, turmeric powder, ground coriander and ground cumin. Fry until the spices release a delicious aroma. 
  4. Add in the sugar and salt.
  5. Stir the chicken pieces into the spices until they are all well coated with spices and look opaque in colour.
  6. 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 flavour. 
  • If you prefer to use fresh red chillies, you can do it by using about 3-5 chillies ground into a paste. When it comes to chillies, you’re more than welcome to put them more or less according to your personal taste. The recipe gives a hint of chilli heat without necessarily tasting spicy.
  • Candlenuts are called Kemiri in Indonesian. They are 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.

Nutrition Information



Serving Size


Amount Per Serving Calories 1703Total Fat 163gSaturated Fat 110gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 43gCholesterol 157mgSodium 609mgCarbohydrates 28gFiber 4gSugar 3gProtein 53g

The nutrition calculation you find here is just a guide provided by online nutrition calculator. You should not use to substitute advice from nutritionists or health practitioners.

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