How to Make Kari Ayam – the Authentic Indonesian Chicken Curry

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Indonesian chicken curry (kari ayam) with its aromatic spices and exotic flavor is very tempting. Tender chicken and full of spices and herbs in the coconut milk is one thing you really have to try in this lifetime.

chicken curry

If you have been to Indonesia and tasted the chicken curry or Kari Ayam, you might want to recreate the same flavor back in your home. Not only is it incredibly delicious, but it’s also one of the renowned dishes from Indonesia.

But how can you cook an authentic Indonesian chicken curry far away from the original place? Are the spices needed available in the grocery store?

Ancestor’s Recipe

Allow me to share the recipe I have been using since I learned how to cook. This recipe has been passed down from my family and I have adjusted the spices and chilies so it won’t be too spicy and still gives out vibrant red orange color to the broth.

Chicken Curry Origin

I will not elaborate much about the origins. It is difficult to trace back where chicken curry originated in the first place. Each ethnic in Indonesia has its own version of Chicken curry.

Curry is believed t be originated from India. Curry in Tamil language means sauce. It then has spread throughout many regions in the world.

The one I cooked here is from Medan, North Sumatra. I’m not originally from Medan, but I find that Medan version is the most delicious one. It is also very famous all over Indonesia.

Authentic Indonesian Chicken Curry Recipe

Ingredients Overview

  • Chicken

You can use organic or free-range chicken. Cut them into 8-16 pcs according to your liking.

  • Fried Tofu

You can use chinese tofu, fry them until the skin is brown.

  • Fried Potato

Potatoes are optional. If you want some fried potatoes in it, cut the potatoes and fry them until brown. If you don’t want to fry the potatoes, boil the potatoes separately to avoid the broth thickening due to the gluten.

  • Boiled Eggs

Boiled eggs are also optional. It just completes the whole dish.

I categorize the spices into 3 parts to make it easier to handle and practical to cook.

Spices A

  • Red shallots 12 pcs
  • Garlic 3 pcs
  • Ginger 3 cm
  • Candlenut 5 pcs
  • Coriander powder  1 tbsp
  • Cumin 1 tsp
  • Shrimp paste 1 tsp

Spices for indonesian chicken curry
Shallots, ginger, garlic, turmeric, and candlenut.

Coriander powder, cumin, and shrimp paste is not difficult to find now. You can just go to Amazon or ebay or chinatown’s grocery store.

Shrimp paste adds flavor to the curry, but some people can’t stand the unique smell of shrimp paste. So if you don’t like it, you can just leave it.

Spices B

  • Red chilli 10-15 pcs
  • Red curly chilli 5-8 pcs
  • Small chilli 4-5 pcs

Red chili, curly chili, small chili

Red chilies at the right are big kind of chilies that is not spicy. It gives the curry bright, red orange color. If you take out the seeds, it becomes even less spicy.

The middle one is the curly chilies. You want to start being careful with these. This is quite spicy. So, you can skip it or just take a few of them, if you can’t stand spicy food.

Even though they are small, they are the most spicy chilies out of these 3 photographed here. Skip this one if you feel safe without it. 🙂

If you can’t find these chilies in your area, you can use Korean chilli powder or gojuchang, instead. Test the spiciness level first before putting it into the soup.

Spices C

  • Bayleaves 5
  • Lemongrass 2 stalks
  • Lime leaves 5-8 pcs

spices for indonesian chicken curry
Lemongrass, lime leaves, bayleaves

These spices will add fragrance to the broth. The bayleaves will also help tenderize the meat. When you put in the lime leaves, try tearing a bit of each leaves. It will be even more fragrant if you tear it.

Coconut Milk

For thick coconut milk, take out 100 ml from 1 can of coconut milk. Do not add water. This will be the first coconut milk you pour into the broth.

Add 1000 ml water to the remaining coconut milk in the can and it becomes thin coconut milk.

If you do not want the broth too thick, you can always add water and adjust the taste later.

Step By Step

  1. Cut the chicken into 8-16 pcs. Wash them cleanly.
  2. Put spices A into a food processor and blend them until smooth. Set aside.

spices blend

  1. Put spices B into a food processor and blend them until smooth. Set aside.


  1. Wash spices C cleanly and prepare in a bowl.
  2. Pour some oil into a pot. I use coconut oil. After it is hot enough, put in Spices A, stir fry until fragrant.

cook the spices

  1. Then put in spices B and stir well.

cook the spices

  1. Put in spices C and let it cook until you can smell the fragrance of the spices.
  1. Put in the chicken parts. Stir well until all is covered with spices.


  1. Pour in thick coconut milk. Stir well.
  2. Pour in thin coconut milk and let it boil.

coconut milk

  1. When it boils, put the stove to low heat. Let it cook completely for around 30 minutes.
  2. Now set aside the chicken parts. This is optional. You may want to sieve the broth to get a smoother texture. I always do this because I like my broth to be clean and smooth.

sieve the broth

  1. Put back the chicken into the broth and let it boil for another 10 minutes. You may put in the tofu, potatoes, and eggs. Cover the lid and put the stove to low heat.

cover the lid

  1. Serve with basil leaves and fried shallots.

indonesian chicken curry

Vegetarian or Vegan

Don’t worry if you are a vegetarian or a vegan. You can also savor this flavorful dish. By substituting the chicken with alternative protein sources like tempeh or tofu. These two can absorb the curry broth, making it very flavorful and giving the meaty texture.

Another thing to add is vegetables. Chayote, carrots, potatoes, green beans and eggplants are perfect for curry dish. Not only do they add nutritional value but also enhance the overall taste and texture of the curry.

Storage and Reheating

What to do with leftover chicken curry? Follow my advice because I have cooked chicken curry so many times and I have stored them in the fridge and reheat them safely for my family.

Keep the leftover chicken curry in an airtight container or a zip loc bag. You can put it in the freezer or in the chiller.

Please keep the curry up to 4 days in the chiller, 3-4 months in the freezer. If it is more than that, it’d be better if you discard it. Coconut milk cannot last that long.

Reheating is simple. Just put the curry in a pan and use medium heat. If it is too thick, add some water and adjust the taste.

Or you can just heat it in the microwave.



Q: Can I use ground spices if I can’t find the fresh ones in my area?

A: Yes, of course! You can use the ground spices if you can’t find the fresh ones in your area. The flavor will be the same.

Storage and Reheating

Q: Can I store Indonesian chicken curry at room temperature?

A: No, it is not recommended to store chicken curry at room temperature due to the risk of bacterial growth. Store it promptly in the refrigerator or freezer to maintain its freshness and safety.

Q: How long can I store Indonesian chicken curry in the refrigerator?

A: You can store Indonesian chicken curry in the refrigerator for up to three to four days. Beyond that, it is best to discard any leftovers to ensure food safety.

Q: Can I freeze Indonesian chicken curry?

A: Yes, you can freeze Indonesian chicken curry. It is recommended to divide the curry into individual portions or serving sizes before freezing for convenient thawing and reheating later.

Q: How long can I freeze Indonesian chicken curry?

A: When properly stored, Indonesian chicken curry can be frozen for up to 2-3 months. After this time, the quality may start to deteriorate.

Q: Can I reheat frozen Indonesian chicken curry directly from the freezer?

A: It is best to thaw the frozen Indonesian chicken curry in the refrigerator overnight before reheating. This gradual thawing helps maintain the flavors and textures.

Q: Can I freeze the leftovers from reheated Indonesian chicken curry?

A: It is not recommended to refreeze previously frozen and reheated curry. It is best to consume reheated leftovers within a few days or discard any excess to ensure food safety.


Q: Can I add extra vegetables or protein to Indonesian chicken curry?

A: Absolutely! Indonesian chicken curry is versatile, and you can customize it to your liking. Feel free to add vegetables, such as chayote, green bean, eggplants or potatoes, or substitute chicken with alternative protein sources like tofu or tempeh.

Q: Can I adjust the spiciness of Indonesian chicken curry?

A: Yes, you can adjust the spiciness of Indonesian chicken curry according to your preference. Use fewer or milder chilies if you prefer a milder heat, or add more if you enjoy a spicier curry. Take out the chilli seeds, it will reduce the spiciness significantly.


Chicken curry is one of the most famous Indonesian dish you can find throughout Indonesia. Trust me, it is easy to cook, even though there are so many ingredients to prepare!

If you like authentic Indonesian food, you may want to try Chicken Rendang, Soto Betawi Beef Soup or Soto Tangkar. Those are authentic recipes passed down from many generations, you will love them!

indonesian chicken curry

Authentic Indonesian Chicken Curry

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes

This is original Indonesian curry recipe that has been used in my family for ages. Using the right amount of spices, you will find this chicken curry amazingly delicious!



  • 1 whole chicken cut into 8-12 pcs
  • Fried tofu
  • Potato
  • Boiled eggs

Spices A

  • Red shallots 12 pcs
  • Garlic 3 pcs
  • Ginger 3 cm
  • Candlenut 5 pcs
  • Coriander powder 1 tbsp
  • Cumin 1 tsp
  • Shrimp paste 1 tsp

Spices B

  • Red chili 10-15 pcs
  • Red curly chili 5-8 pcs
  • Small chili 4-5 pcs

Spices C

  • Bayleaves 5
  • Lemongrass 2 stalks
  • Lime leaves 5-8 pcs


  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Mushroom powder

  • L


  • Thick coconut milk 100 ml
  • Thin coconut milk 1 liter


  1. Prepare one whole chicken cut into 12-16 pcs. Wash them and set aside.
  2. Prepare fried tofu and boild eggs.
  3. If you like potato, you can cut them and fry them. Put them aside.
  4. Put Spices A into a food processor and blend them until smooth.
  5. Blend Spices B separately after Spices A. Make sure it is ground smoothly.
  6. Wash Spices C cleanly. Put them aside.
  7. Pour some oil (I use coconut oil ) into a pot. Wait until it is hot. Saute fry Spices A first until you can smell fragrant coming out the spices.
  8. Pour in Spices B. Stir a while.
  9. Put in Spices C. You can tear the lime leaves as it will make all more fragrant by tearing it apart.
  10. Put in the chicken pieces. Stir them well.
  11. Pour in thick coconut milk, stir them.
  12. Pour in the thin coconut milk and let it boil.
  13. When it boils, turn to low heat. Leave for 30 minutes.
  14. The next step is optional, but I always do this. Take out the chicken parts. Sieve the broth. This will create a very smooth chicken curry. Put back the chicken broth and chicken parts into the pot.
  15. Put in the seasoning. Try it out.
  16. Put in the boiled eggs, fried tofu, and fried potatos, let the curry boil for another 10 minutes.
  17. It is ready to serve with white rice and shrimp cracker.


It is easier to group the spices into 3 groups, especially if you are new to Asian recipes. This way you don't get mixed up.

Red chili gives orange color to the broth.

Red curly chili is a bit spicy.

Small red chili is the spiciest one. Please use this accordingly.

For thick coconut milk, you can use 1 can of coconut milk, take 100 ml. That is your thick coconut milk. For thin coconut milk, add 1000 ml water to the remaining can.

You can serve it with basil leaves and fried shallots.

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