Vietnamese Chicken Curry, or Cà Ri Gà, is the ultimate comfort food! Succulent chicken thighs, hearty potatoes, and sweet carrots are braised in an aromatic and fragrant broth that's deceivingly easy. It's a cozy and warming soup that'll have you slurping the bowl clean!
🍛 What is Ca Ri Ga?
Few things beat a delicious bowl of soup on a cold winter's night. And if you've never tried Vietnamese Chicken Curry before, this is a recipe you have to add to your winter rotation.
Similar to many Vietnamese dishes like Vietnamese Stir Fried Macaroni with Beef (Nui Xao Bo) or Pork Pâté Chaud, Cà Ri Gà ("cà ri" for curry and "gà" means chicken) is a wonderful fusion of Vietnamese flavors with international influence. When you think of curry, your mind probably goes to Indian, Japanese, or Thai curries. But Vietnamese Chicken Curry is a delicious blend of all 3!
The signature ingredients in traditional Vietnamese curries are Madras curry powder (from India), dense vegetables like carrots and potatoes (like Japanese curries), and plenty of aromatics that can also be found in Thai curries. This delectable combination results in a flavorful, bold, and rich stew that still feels light thanks to up-notes like lemongrass and coconut milk.
The Best Vietnamese Chicken Curry
This recipe for Vietnamese curry soup is going to be the only one you need! Marinated bone-in chicken thighs are braised for just 20 minutes but the meat is completely fall-off-the-bone tender and juicy. Ca Ri Ga is soupier and more broth-based rather than gravy-like so make sure to soak up all that goodness with noodles or a crusty loaf of Vietnamese baguette!
And lastly, don't be intimidated by the ingredient list for Vietnamese Chicken Curry! They're all pantry staples, especially if you enjoy cooking Asian dishes, and they can easily be found at your local Asian market. Ca Ri Ga is the perfect dish to make in advance, freeze, and serve on busy weeknights - so it's always a good idea to have these ingredients on hand!
Why You'll Love It
- Easy: Traditional Vietnamese recipes seem intimidating, but they're easier than they look! Luckily, this Ca Ri Ga only requires one pot and about 30 minutes of active cooking time!
- Authentic: This Vietnamese Chicken Curry is one of my family's tried-and-true recipes. I grew up on this dish and combined both my dad's and aunt's recipes for the ultimate Ca Ri Ga!
- Flavorful: There is absolutely no shortage of flavor here. Fish sauce, spicy curry powder, lemongrass, coconut milk, and fresh herbs make this vibrant yellow curry absolutely delicious!
- Chicken: For the best Vietnamese curry, use dark meat with bones and skin. More information provided below.
- Curry powder ("bột cà ri"): Use Madras curry powder, which is a spicier blend from India. The brand I use is Kim Tu Thap (labeled "Ca Ri Ni An Do" for Indian curry powder) but Sing Kung and D&D are also popular. Each curry blend is different though, so start with a small amount and adjust to your preferred spice level. I'd recommend finding these at an Asian grocery store.
- Fish sauce: Used ubiquitously in Vietnamese cooking for salt and umami. My favorite brand is Red Boat because it's more concentrated, so a little goes a long way. You may need to add more if using a different brand.
- Cooking oil: Avocado oil is my favorite oil to cook, fry, and sauté with because of its high smoke point (500°F) and neutral flavor.
- Onion, shallot, and garlic: Three aromatics to add plenty of flavor to the curry.
- Lemongrass: Adds a light citrus and mint-like flavor. You can find fresh bundles of lemongrass in the refrigerated section or pre-chopped bags in the freezer aisle. Have too much leftover? Use it in Thit Nuong (Vietnamese Pork Skewers).
- Bay leaves: Another must have in Vietnamese Chicken Curry. Adds a mild menthol flavor.
- Chicken broth: I cook exclusively with bone broth. It supports digestion, is rich in collagen, and has anti-inflammatory components. You can find it in the frozen section. If using regular chicken broth, I recommend low-sodium.
- Coconut milk: For sweetness and creaminess. I recommend using full-fat coconut milk for more richness and body. Give it a good shake or stir before adding it to the pot.
- Potato and carrots: Any type of potatoes work - I usually use Russet. Some recipes recommend frying the potatoes and carrots beforehand so they hold their structure better. I personally don't find this necessary - just cook them until they're fork-tender but not mushy, and they'll still hold up well in the stew.
- Cilantro and green onion: for garnish
What Chicken Should I Use?
For traditional Ca Ri Ga, my parents usually butcher a whole chicken or leg quarter. The bones provide more flavor and substance to the chicken curry. It can be more affordable but also requires more work.
For convenience and accessibility, I recommend bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs. You could also use drumsticks, wings, or breasts. But I highly recommend bone-in for more flavor and skin-on for fat and richness. I do not recommend boneless chicken breast - it'll be too dry and doesn't lend enough flavor to the soup.
Regardless of what cut you use, make sure to use a sharp cleaver to chop the chicken into smaller 3 inch pieces. This will make it more manageable to eat!
Substitutions & Variations
- You can use any cut of chicken you'd like. Boneless meat will cook faster and can dry out. As always, I highly recommend using a meat thermometer so there's no guesswork! Chicken should cook to an internal temperature of 160-165°F.
- If you can't find Madras curry powder, substitute with any yellow curry powder blend.
- Feel free to fry the potatoes and carrots first. Heat a shallow layer of oil in a pot and fry the vegetables in patches until a crust forms on the outside, about 2-3 minutes each side.
- Any type of potatoes would work. Yukon Gold potatoes are creamier with a buttery flavor. Sweet potatoes or even taro would also work!
- Substitute coconut milk with regular milk (half and half or heavy cream would work too), coconut soda like Coco Rico, or coconut water. Feel free to use any blend of these as well.
- For a milder, less spicy Ca Ri Ga, start with 1 tablespoon curry powder in the marinade and 1 teaspoon in the stew. Taste and adjust to your liking. You can also use half Madras curry powder, half regular curry powder.
- For more savoriness, add ½ teaspoon chicken bouillon powder to the soup.
- Add more vegetables to your Vietnamese Chicken Curry! Bell pepper, green beans, corn, fresh spinach, bean sprouts, or bok choy would all be delicious. You can also add minced jalapeno or Thai chili for more spice.
👩🏻🍳 How To Make Vietnamese Chicken Curry
⬇️ Please scroll down to the recipe card to see full ingredient amounts and instructions.
STEP ONE: First, cut the chicken to 2-3" pieces. Place into a large bowl, along with salt, pepper, curry powder, and fish sauce. Stir until chicken is evenly coated and let marinade for at least 1 hour, up to overnight. If marinading for more than 2 hours, place in the fridge and let come to room temperature before searing.
STEP TWO: Heat oil over high heat in a large heavy-bottomed pot (I recommend an enameled cast iron Dutch oven). Add half the chicken, skin side down, and sear for 2-3 minutes. When the chicken easily releases from the bottom of the pot, flip and sear for an additional 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a plate and repeat with second half. Set aside.
Let the pot cool, then carefully discard excess fat and thoroughly clean pot.
STEP THREE: Heat more oil over medium-high heat. Add onion along with a pinch of salt and sweat for 2-3 minutes or until edges are translucent.
Then add shallot and garlic, stirring for 30 seconds until fragrant. If there are any browned bits (fond) on the bottom, add a splash of broth to deglaze and scrape it up.
STEP FOUR: Add curry powder, fish sauce, lemongrass, bay leaves, chicken broth, coconut milk, potato, and carrots to the pot. Season with salt and pepper, then nestle the chicken in so it's partially in the liquid. Bring to a boil, then turn the temperature down so it's at a rolling simmer. Cook for 10-20 minutes until the internal temperature of the chicken is 160°F and potatoes are fork tender.
STEP FIVE: Discard the bay leaves and lemongrass stalks. Adjust the curry to your seasoning - add more curry powder, fish sauce, chicken broth, etc as preferred. Garnish with fresh cilantro and sliced green onion, then serve immediately.
How To Prep Lemongrass
First, remove any dry outer layers that easily peel away. If you have a longer stalk, fold or cut it into thirds. Then use a mallet, the flat side of your knife, or rolling pin to pound all over to release the oils and add straight into the Vietnamese Chicken Curry. Don't forget to remove the stalks before serving.
Lemongrass also freezes well! If you purchase a large bundle, you can freeze them, chopped or whole, for up to a year.
💭 Top Tips
- Make sure the chicken is at room temperature before you start cooking. If you're marinating for just 1-2 hours, you can keep the chicken out on the counter. If marinating for more than 2 hours, place it in the fridge and then take it out 30 minutes before you start cooking.
- Sear the chicken in batches. If you overcrowd the pot, there won't be enough air circulation for it to brown. Instead, the chicken will steam and you won't achieve crispy skin or as much flavor in the chicken. Searing the marinaded chicken will also bloom the spices in the Madras curry powder, which is the secret to a good Vietnamese curry.
- After searing the chicken, let the pot cool slightly and clean it thoroughly. This allows the color of the curry to be more vibrant. Leaving the fond, or browned bits, will make the curry murky and more brown than yellow.
- Cut the potatoes small so they cook in the same amount of time as the chicken. If the vegetables are taking a little longer to cook than the chicken, feel free to keep simmering without fear. Since we're cooking the chicken in plenty of liquid, it'll be more forgiving and won't dry out as easily.
- Leave the pot uncovered and cook over medium-high heat to keep it at a rolling simmer. This allows some of the liquid to evaporate for a thicker stew.
- The cooking time will depend on the size of your chicken. I always recommend using a meat thermometer for safety. I used bone-in chicken thighs that were cut in half and it would usually take about 15 minutes for the chicken to cook to an internal temperature of 160°F.
What To Serve With Vietnamese Chicken Curry
The best thing about Ca Ri Ga is how versatile it is! You can serve it any way you'd like.
- Noodles: Bún (vermicelli noodles) or pho (rice noodles) are popular options. I'd recommend using 2-3 cups chicken broth and seasoning the soup to taste with fish sauce. Cook the noodles in a separate bowl of salted boiling water and combine together in individual bowls.
- Rice (cơm): Fluffy white or brown rice is delicious way to sop up the curry. It's our go-to!
- Bread: My favorite way to enjoy Vietnamese soups. Vietnamese baguettes (bánh mi) are extra light and fluffy, but French baguettes or even dinner rolls would work.
🥡 Storing & Freezing
Storing: If you have leftover Vietnamese Chicken Curry, let it cool completely to room temperature. Then place into an air-tight container and store in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Freezing: Let cool completely to room temperature. Place into freezer-safe zip-top bags or air-tight containers. I recommend storing them in smaller serving sizes for easier reheating. Write a "Reheat By" date and store in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Reheating: To reheat from refrigerated, microwave in 1 minute intervals, stirring each time. Alternatively, add curry to a small pot and heat over medium with a lid. Add more broth or water if it looks dry.
To reheat from frozen, let Vietnamese Chicken Curry thaw overnight in the fridge for best results. However, you can also reheat straight from frozen in the microwave in 1-2 minutes interval until warmed through, stirring in between each interval. You can also place it in a small pot and heat over medium with a splash of water or broth. Cover and stir frequently, until warmed through.
The spice and flavor in the curry can also become more intense after sitting in the fridge and/or freezer, so dilute with more broth or water if needed.
Make Ahead: Make Vietnamese Chicken Curry up to 2 days in advance.
📖 Recipe FAQs
Each blend is different, but the main ingredients in curry powder are turmeric, cumin, ginger, and black pepper. Variations may include cinnamon, chili powder, fennel seeds, dry mustard, or any other warming spices.
Madras curry powder, in particular, is spicier. It usually contains turmeric, chili, coriander, garlic, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, bay leaves, cloves, and allspice.
First, the texture is very different. Indian curries are thicker and gravy-like. Secondly, Indian curries usually have a more hearty and savory flavor. On the other hand, Vietnamese curries are lighter, brighter, and more aromatic. They look and taste more similar to Thai curries in that sense.
Yes! However, there is more forgiveness when using dark meat (like thighs or drumsticks). To prevent dry or tough chicken, marinade it first and use an internal thermometer to cook meat to 165ºF.
🍽 Looking For More Vietnamese Recipes?
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Vietnamese Chicken Curry (Ca Ri Ga)
- 1.5-2 lbs skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs cut into 2-3" pieces (see notes)
- 2 tbsp + 2 tsp Madras curry powder divided (see notes)
- 3 teaspoon fish sauce divided
- 2 tablespoon cooking oil divided
- ½ onion chopped; about ¾ cup
- ½ shallot diced; about 2 tbsp
- 2-3 cloves garlic sliced
- 1-2 lemongrass dry outer leaves removed, folded into thirds, and smashed
- 2-3 dried bay leaves
- 1½-2 cups chicken broth
- 1 cup full-fat coconut milk
- 1 small potato peeled and cut into ½" cubes
- 2-3 carrots peeled and cut into 1" pieces
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Cilantro for garnish
- Green onion thinly sliced; for garnish
- Pat chicken dry and option to remove excess skin. Place into a large bowl and season all sides with ¾ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Add 2 tablespoon curry powder and 1 teaspoon fish sauce. Stir to combine well. Cover with plastic wrap and let marinade for at least 1 hour, up to overnight.
- To a large pot, heat 1 tablespoon oil over high heat. When hot, add half the chicken skin side down. Sear for 2-3 minutes or until skin is browned and easily lifts off the bottom of the pot. Flip and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside. Repeat with remaining half of the chicken.
- Let the pot cool slightly and then clean thoroughly, removing excess fat and browned bits.
- Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Add onion with a pinch of salt, sweating for 2-3 minutes or until it starts to get translucent at the edges. Add shallot and garlic, cooking for additional minute. Option to deglaze with a splash of the broth if there are any browned bits on the bottom of the pot.
- Add 2 teaspoon curry powder, 2 teaspoon fish sauce, lemongrass, bay leaves, 1½ cups chicken broth, coconut milk, potato, carrots, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Stir to combine, then nestle chicken inside. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to a rolling simmer. Cook for 10-20 minutes or until chicken is cooked through (internal temperature of 165°F) and potatoes are fork-tender, stirring occasionally. Add more chicken broth if using a lot of vegetables and/or chicken, or if you want a soupier curry.
- Remove bay leaves and lemongrass. Season to taste with salt and/or fish sauce. Garnish with cilantro and green onion. Serve with rice, noodles, or toasted bread.
- Chicken: For convenience and accessibility, I recommend bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs. Use any cut you'd like but I highly recommend bone-in for more flavor and skin-on for fat and richness.
- Curry powder: Madras curry powder is a spicier blend from India. The brand I use is Kim Tu Thap (labeled "Ca Ri Ni An Do" for Indian curry powder) but Sing Kung and D&D are also popular.
- Any type of potatoes work - I use Russet potatoes. Sweet potatoes or even taro would work.
- If marinating chicken for more than 2 hours, place it in the fridge. Let sit out at room temperature for 30 minutes before you start cooking.
- The cooking time will depend on the size of your chicken. I always recommend using a meat thermometer for safety. Cook to an internal temperature of 160ºF (residual heat will carry it to 165-170ºF).
- If you can't find Madras curry powder, substitute with any yellow curry powder blend.
- Substitute coconut milk with regular milk, coconut soda like Coco Rico, or coconut water. Feel free to use a blend of these as well.
- For a less spicy Ca Ri Ga, start with half the curry powder. You can also use half Madras curry powder, half regular curry powder. Adjust to your liking.