This one-pot coconut Thai chicken curry is incredibly flavorful and easy to prepare thanks to delicious time-saving tip: not browning the chicken. After sautéing an onion and making a simple sauce with spices, curry pastes, tomatoes, and coconut milk, you add the chicken to the pot and transfer it to the oven. In just about an hour, it will be done! The sauce is plentiful, so making rice or some sort of flatbread essential.

one-pot Thai chicken curry with coconut milk and spinach.

Are you still browning chicken?

When I was first learning to cook, browning meat prior to braising it, is what all of my favorite cookbooks taught. It’s also what I learned from the chef, Thien Ngo, I worked for at Fork. Before Thien braised anything — chicken, brisket, short ribs — he always began by browning the meat first.

But browning, as far as I can tell, serves only one good purpose: to remove excess fat, thereby ensuring the sauce, in the end, won’t taste unpleasantly fatty. For a braise, browning is not a step that produces crispy skin. And while it creates an appealing color and, in turn, flavor, these two outcomes can be achieved without actually going through the tedious process of browning.

How? In the oven.

Two years ago I made Diana Henry’s Moroccan Chicken and Rice with Harissa and Dates, a recipe that calls for essentially chucking everything into a pan at once and throwing it in the oven. There’s no preliminary browning, and it works: the end product being crispy skin and fall-off-the-bone meat.

I’ve stopped browning chicken ever since, and I’ve been revisiting my favorite braises in the meantime, giving them the chuck-in-the-oven treatment. This one-pan chicken with sherry vinegar sauce is a favorite, and here’s another one: one-pan Thai chicken curry with  spinach.

It uses all of the same flavorings as Thien’s Thai chicken curry, but the method is different, simpler.

One-Pan Thai Chicken Curry How-To

  1. Sauté an onion.
  2. Add turmeric, curry powder, and Thai red curry paste.
  3. Add tomatoes, coconut milk, brown sugar, fish sauce, and water.
  4. Add chicken, transfer to the oven and cook for 1 hour.
  5. Out of the oven, add a heap of spinach, stir, and serve over rice.

After an hour in the oven, the chicken skins are browned, and the meat has absorbed all the flavors of the sauce. The sauce is plentiful, making rice or some sort of flatbread essential.

A final note regarding not browning:

As noted above, browning meat does remove excess fat. If, prior to cooking, you notice your chicken thighs or drumsticks are particularly fatty, trim the excess fat/overhanging skin. This step usually is enough to ensure the final sauce doesn’t taste too fatty, but if, in the end, you still find the sauce tasting too rich, you can skim excess fat, which will pool to the surface. 

5 Favorite No-Browning Chicken Recipes

  1. One-Pan Chicken and Shallots
  2. One-Pan Chicken with Sherry Vinegar Sauce
  3. Chicken legs with white wine, parmigiano, and olive oil
  4. Moroccan Chicken and Rice
  5. Spatchcocked Chicken with Za’atar and Lemon

PS: Curried Lentils with Kale & Coconut Milk

PPS: Chopped Thai Satay Salad with Peanut-Ginger Dressing

PPS: Easy Thai Chicken Satay with Coconut Rice

Ingredients for one-bowl Thai chicken curry.
Onions sautéing in a large sauté pan.
A board with sautéed onions and spices.
A board with sautéed onions, spices and tomatoes.
Curry sauce simmering in a large sauté pan
A sauté pan with curry sauce and chicken.
One-bowl Thai chicken curry, just out of the oven.
A sauté pan with one-bowl chicken curry and cilantro.
A sauté pan with a heap of spinach.
A bowl of one-pot Thai chicken curry with spinach and rice