Opor Ayam: Indonesian Chicken Cooked In Spiced Coconut Milk

A bowl of Opor Ayam - the Indonesian chicken cooked in spiced coconut milk.

Opor Ayam

Opor Ayam is an Indonesian chicken dish cooked in coconut milk with spices and herbs. It tastes delicately rich with fragrant herbs. 

Unlike many Indonesian dishes, this dish doesn’t use chillies or any hot spices. Therefore, it is often served with Sambal on the side for those who love chillies and heat. 

Indonesian Opor Ayam in a round white bowl garnished with celery leaves.

Popular Dish For Comfort And Celebration

Originally from the Central Java region, this chicken stewed in spiced coconut milk has become very popular across Indonesia. 

The dish is traditionally served at special occasions or celebratory events such as religious festivities. Eid and Christmas are a few examples. When it makes an appearance in these special celebrations, the dish is usually served with lontong or ketupat, the hard-boiled rice cakes.

But this delicious chicken dish is also a very common daily home food menu to enjoy with plain white rice. 

Numerous Versions 

You might have come across many other recipes of opor ayam. While I can say that all of them offer a good taste, I feel confident that the recipe I’m sharing here is the one you want to try.

Because it doesn’t use many ingredients, this recipe gives you a more delicate taste of each spice and herb in it. It simply offers plain deliciousness.

Plus, I learned this recipe from my mom. So it has been tested, tried and enjoyed for so many decades. And it has never failed to put a smile on anyone’s face who had it. 

And as you might already know, there are two kinds of Opor Ayam, the one without turmeric and the one with turmeric. Hence, the latter is called Opor Kuning, which means yellow opor. 

In this recipe, I use turmeric, so you’ll know how much turmeric you should put in. Feel free to opt in or opt-out. Whichever choice you make, you’ll have a tasty chicken dish for your next meal.  

Easy Recipe With Simple Ingredients

So to cook this Opor Ayam, you will need chicken, salam leaves, lemongrass, coconut milk, water, a little bit of cooking oil and spice paste. 

To make the spice paste, you will need onion, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, ginger, garlic, galangal, turmeric and salt. 

If you’re like me who often uses ground cumin and ground coriander, you can swap the seeds into the ground form. As for galangal, you can use either fresh galangal (that you can get at Asian/ Chinese shops), dried galangal, or galangal paste. However, I’d to shy away from using the galangal powder because the fragrance it offers is totally different and can make your dish smell weird. 

When it comes to turmeric, you don’t have to use it. The only difference is that the turmeric gives a nice golden yellow colour to the dish. You can use fresh turmeric root or dried turmeric powder. 

Another note I must mention is that the original recipe from my mom uses red shallots. Unfortunately, this type of shallots is not really easy for me to get. So I replaced it with brown/ yellow onion. And I can assure you that the end result of this recipe is equally yummy as if you use red shallots. Feel free to use the shallots instead if you prefer. For this recipe, you will only need about 6 shallots. 

Straightforward Method

Yup, I promise it’s so easy to make this Indonesian chicken cooked in spiced coconut milk. 

In essence, you only need to make and cook the spice paste, and then add in the rest of the ingredients to cook until the poultry is fully cooked and tender.

So, you can use a pestle and mortar or a food processor to make the spice paste. Whichever you use, ensure you grind the spices into a very smooth paste. 

Next, you heat a little oil in your cooking pan and fry the paste together with Salam leaves and lemongrass. Cook it until it releases an intoxicatingly delicious aroma. 

Then you add the chicken pieces to the bubbling spice paste and further cook until the poultry becomes firm and looks opaque. Toss around every now and again to ensure every piece of chicken is covered with spices. 

Lastly, pour the water and coconut milk into the chicken. Give it a stir and cook at moderately low heat with the pan lid on until the chicken is fully cooked and tender to your liking. It takes me around 30 minutes. 

Enjoy your opor ayam with hot plain white rice and garnish it with fried shallots. 

Opor Ayam in a round bowl with some parsley around it.

Storage Matter

You can make this chicken dish in bulk and keep it in the refrigerator/ fridge.

Opor Ayam freezes well for about 2 months. Make sure you leave the dish to completely cool down before storing it in a freezer-friendly food container. 

When you need to serve it, take it out of the freezer the night before and leave it in the fridge/ refrigerator overnight to thaw. And reheat the dish on the stove/ cooker until it’s reboiled and piping hot. Never refreeze it once it has thawed. 

Dishes To Enjoy With

Thank you for checking this Opor Ayam recipe. I hope you start thinking of making it. When you do, it will be great if you could share what you think about the recipe in the comments below. 

And if you like it, I suggest you take a look at the following recipes of dishes that go well with Opor Ayam. 

Last but not least, please follow me on Facebook, Instagram and/or Pinterest to sneak a peek at what’s cooking in my kitchen. 

Thank you and all the best.

Yield: 6 portions

Opor Ayam: Indonesian Chicken Cooked In Spiced Coconut Milk

A bowl of Opor Ayam - the Indonesian chicken cooked in spiced coconut milk.

Opor Ayam is an Indonesian chicken dish cooked in coconut milk with spices and herbs. It tastes delicately rich with fragrant herbs. 

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes


  • 1 Baby chicken, approximately 800 grams - 1 kg, cut into small pieces.
  • 2 Salam leaves/ Indonesian Bay leaves (see the note).
  • 1 Lemongrass, cut into one-inch long pieces.
  • 1 Can of coconut milk (400 ml/ 13.53 fl. oz).
  • 2 cups/ 500 ml/ 17.6 fl.oz of water.
  • 2 Tablespoons of cooking oil.
  • Spice paste:
  • 1 ½ Teaspoon of ground Coriander.
  • 1 Teaspoon of ground Cumin.
  • 1 medium-sized Onion, finely chopped.
  • 4 Cloves Garlic, finely chopped.
  • ½ Inch of Ginger.
  • ½ Inch of Galangal.
  • ½ inch fresh turmeric or ½ teaspoon turmeric powder (optional).
  • 1 ½ Teaspoon of salt, or according to taste.


  1. Using a food processor or a pestle and mortar, grind all the spice paste ingredients into a smooth mixture. 
  2. Heat the oil in a cooking pot or a wok and stir-fry the spice paste. 
  3. Add in Salam leaves and lemongrass. Continue cooking the spices until it releases a delicious aroma.
  4. Then put the chicken pieces in. Fry a little until all pieces are coated with spices, and the poultry looks opaque.
  5. Pour the coconut milk and the water into the chicken. Give it a good stir, then put the lid on. Cook it at low heat for about 30 - 45 minutes or until the chicken becomes tender and the oil slightly separates from the liquid.
  6. Serve your opor ayam garnished with fried shallots, and enjoy it with plain white rice or lontong.


  • Salam leaves have a unique fragrance, and they are not the same family as the Indian bay leaves. So don’t try to substitute it with Indian bay leaf only. If Salam is not available to you, I suggest you use a combination of Indian bay leaf and curry leaf. For this recipe, 1 Indian bay leaf with 3 curry leaves is sufficient. 
  • If you prefer, you can use freshly-made coconut milk using freshly grated coconut or frozen grated coconut. 
  • You can use fresh turmeric root or dried turmeric powder. If you use the latter, you will only need about ½ teaspoon. 

Nutrition Information



Serving Size


Amount Per Serving Calories 564Total Fat 41gSaturated Fat 19gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 19gCholesterol 157mgSodium 686mgCarbohydrates 8gFiber 1gSugar 1gProtein 42g

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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