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Melissa Clark’s Recipe: Coconut Curry Chicken with Sweet Potatoes 

What’s better than a delicious entree that is an entire meal all by itself? New York Times food writer and cookbook author Melissa Clark writes the popular column “A Good Appetite” and appears in a weekly cooking video series. In her new cookbook Dinner: Changing the Game, each recipe is meant to be dinner—one fantastic dish that is so satisfying and flavor-forward it can stand alone—or be paired with a simple salad or fresh bread on the side.

In this creamy stew, a tender chicken is braised with deeply aromatic Thai red curry, spices, green chiles, and rich coconut milk. Chef Melissa says, “the sweet potatoes add a velvety texture to the sauce along with their wonderful plush sweetness, and a hit of lime juice at the end keeps things from turning cloying. Then, for a little crunch and heat, I garnish the stew with fat coconut chips toasted with piquant mustard seeds. It may seem like one step too many, but it adds a lot in terms of texture and taste.”

Coconut Curry Chicken with Sweet Potatoes

Serves 4


  • 1 whole chicken (3½ lbs), cut into 8 pieces
  • 2½ tsp kosher salt, plus more as needed
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp peanut, safflower, or vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup finely chopped scallions (white and green parts)
  • 1½ tbsp grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, trimmed, outer layers removed, inner core finely chopped (optional)
  • 1 to 2 jalapeño or serrano chiles, to taste, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp Thai red curry paste
  • 1 can (13.5-oz) unsweetened coconut milk
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes
    (1 lb total), peeled and cut into 1½-inch chunks
  • ¾ cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 tbsp black or brown mustard seeds
  • Fresh cilantro leaves and stems
  • Lime wedges, for serving


1. Heat the oven to 325°F.

2. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and season with the 2½ tsp salt and with black pepper to taste.

3. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When it is hot, add the oil; it should thin on contact. Once the oil is hot, brown the chicken pieces, in batches if necessary, until golden all over, 6 to 8 minutes per batch. Transfer the chicken to a plate.

4. Add the scallions, ginger, garlic, lemongrass if using, and chiles to the Dutch oven, and reduce the heat to medium. Cook, stirring, until soft, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the curry paste and cook for 1 minute. Then stir in the coconut milk and sweet potatoes.

5. Arrange the chicken pieces on top of the potatoes, placing the breast meat on top. Pour in enough water for the liquid to reach halfway up the sides of the chicken (about ½ cup). Bring to a boil. Cover the pot and bake until the chicken is cooked through, about 40 minutes.

6. While the chicken cooks, heat a 9- or 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the coconut flakes to the dry skillet and toast until golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the mustard seeds and toast until they begin to pop, 1 minute more. Transfer the mixture to a small bowl and season with a pinch of salt.

7. Transfer the chicken and sweet potatoes to a platter. Return the Dutch oven to the stove and simmer the cooking liquid over medium-high heat until it has thickened to a sauce-like consistency, 5 to 10 minutes. Pour the sauce over the chicken and potatoes, and sprinkle the coconut-mustard seed mixture and the cilantro on top. Serve over barley or rice, with lime wedges alongside.

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