Slightly sweet, slightly smoky with just a bit of heat, this easy Basil Coconut Chicken recipe makes a restaurant-quality meal in 30 minutes! Serve it with a side of veggies for a fabulous meal in a bowl!
I've been working on this 30-Minute Basil Coconut Chicken for several weeks now. We've enjoyed it more times than I can count on one hand, with a little tweak here or there, and neither of us has tired of it. It started out a little more complicated, but it's been simplified to make a wonderful weeknight meal or a dinner for guests that takes minimal effort!
I started out using whole chicken breasts, sauteing them with our Juicy Tender Chicken Breasts (on the stovetop) technique. I thought the golden chicken looked really pretty in the silky coconut sauce but when Scott said, "I kind of like my chicken sliced" (haha, he's quite spoiled... but then again... so am I!), I decided to go a different route.
The next time I made this Basil Coconut Chicken, I used a favorite technique of mine called "velveting". It's an old Chinese trick, frequently used in Asian restaurants to make chicken super tender and moist. It involves thinly slicing raw chicken and combining it with a slurry of egg white, cornstarch, rice vinegar and a dash of oil. The chicken "marinates" in this unusual mixture for just 15 minutes and it's ready to roll.
In this recipe, once the chicken is "velvetized", it's stirred in simmering coconut sauce and covered. The heat is then turned off and the chicken is left for 10 minutes to finish cooking. You'll be amazed at the results; super tender, melt-in-your-mouth chicken... like velvet!
A flavorful sauce
The sauce comes together quickly while the chicken is doing its thing. It starts with a splash of olive oil and a pat of butter in a hot pan. When the butter is melted and sizzling a bit, finely chopped fresh ginger, garlic, smoked paprika and coriander are sautéd briefly to "bloom" all the flavors.
Next comes chicken broth, coconut milk, sweet chili sauce, soy sauce and a scoop of brown sugar. Bring the fragrant sauce to a boil and let it bubble away for 10 minutes to meld all the flavors and thicken the flavorful sauce. Add the velveted chicken and your work is done!
I like to quickly stir fry a few veggies while the chicken cooks in the hot sauce. Snow peas or sugar snap peas take just a few minutes. Slivers of red or white onion add flavor and color. Steamed or roasted broccolini is also delicious with this Basil Coconut Chicken, as is sautéed zucchini. Another fabulous pairing would be these Honey Ginger Charred Carrots.
You could also serve this dish with this pretty cucumber salad on the side.
Really, the sky's the limit! There are so many great healthy veggie options that would be delicious with this Basil Coconut Chicken! A sprinkle of cashews and fresh basil leaves is the crowning glory!
What kind of coconut milk to use?
Coconut milk is a non-dairy, readily available product that is made from, as the name suggests, coconuts. It's basically shredded (or grated) coconut that's pureed with water and strained to produce a thick, creamy silky smooth "milk".
Coconut milk generally comes in two varieties, regular and "light". They both contain the same ingredients however, the light is lower in calories and fat because it contains more water. I have used both regular and light coconut milk for this Basil Coconut Chicken with good success. Regular coconut milk results in a richer, slightly thicker sauce, but it's also a lot higher in calories. So take your choice, if you're not watching your weight, go for the full-fat version, but if you're trying to eat a little leaner, the light option will also yield delicious results.
It's easy to keep all the ingredients for this Basil Coconut Chicken on hand. Coconut milk, soy sauce, smoked paprika, coriander, garlic, cornstarch and rice vinegar are all shelf-stable. Sweet chili sauce keeps well in the refrigerator for 6-9 months and be sure to check out the tip below on how to have fresh ginger always available. Frozen chicken breasts can be quickly thawed in cold water. Stock up on these ingredients next time you're grocery shop and a super delicious meal will be just 30 minutes away!
Cafe Tips for making this 30-Minute Basil Coconut Chicken
- As noted above, you can use either full-fat or light coconut milk for this recipe. I almost always use the light version, as it's significantly lower in calories. That being said, if you want to splurge a little, full-fat coconut milk creates a super creamy, silky sauce. Another option is to use one can of each!
- This recipe calls for sweet chili sauce. Sweet chili sauce is just what it says, a sweet, mildly spicy sauce made from red chili peppers, vinegar, garlic and a sweetening ingredient like fruit, honey or sugar. Don't confuse it with chili garlic sauce which is VERY spicy and concentrated.
- Be sure to slice the chicken nice and thin (about a quarter-inch thick) with a sharp knife and don't try to use more than the recipe calls for as the chicken needs plenty of sauce to cook in.
- Two other spices called for in this Basil Coconut Chicken are ground coriander and smoked paprika. Ground coriander is made from the seeds of the cilantro plant, but no worries if you don't care for cilantro. Ground coriander is a completely different flavor profile, citrusy yet savory at the same time.
- Smoked paprika is a wonderful spice to have in your pantry. It's made from peppers that are smoked over a wood fire which infuses them with a delicious smoky, slightly sweet flavor. It adds fabulous flavor to rubs, sauces, dips, etc. When you purchase smoked paprika, just make sure the label doesn't say "hot" as that variety can be quite spicy. I really like Frontier Smoked Paprika. I use this spice a lot and usually purchase it in bulk.
- Be sure to use low sodium soy sauce for this recipe, otherwise, the coconut sauce could get too salty.
- Although this recipe is called Basil Coconut Chicken, you can also use an equal amount of cilantro or a combination of the two. Sometimes I like to throw in a small amount of finely chopped mint too or just garnish the dish with fresh mint leaves.
- One last little tip. I always keep a tube of Ginger Paste in my freezer. You can find ginger paste in the produce section of many larger grocery stores, including Super Walmart and Target. It's finely chopped ginger in a tube. It will last a long time in the freezer and when I need fresh ginger, I just pull it out, let it thaw for 5 minutes or so then squeeze out whatever amount I need and pop the tube back in the freezer. It saves lots of time and extra trips to the grocery store and tastes fresh and delicious! You could make a homemade version of this by grating a bunch of ginger and freezing it in 1 tablespoon portions on a sheet pan. Once frozen, just pop all the little portions in a zippered bag. (This is not a sponsored post, I just really love this stuff!)
Thought for the day:
The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
Those who know your name trust in you,
for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.
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- 1 large egg white
- 2 teaspoons corn starch
- 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1½ pounds boneless skinless chicken breast
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoons butter
- 4 cloves garlic finely minced
- 2 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 cup low sodium chicken broth
- 2 13.5-ounce cans coconut milk light or regular (I've used both with good results)
- 3 tablespoons Asian sweet chili sauce
- 3 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- ¼ cup finely chopped fresh basil or a combination of both basil and cilantro
- kosher salt as needed
- basil cilantro and/or fresh mint leaves , for garnish
- salted roasted cashews for garnish
Combine egg white, cornstarch, rice vinegar and oil in a medium-size bowl. Whisk well to combine. Set aside.
Cut chicken breasts in half, lengthwise then cut each piece into ¼-inch slices, widthwise. Add the chicken slices to the bowl with the egg white mixture. Use your hands to combine the chicken and make sure each piece is coated with the sauce. Set aside.
In a large skillet, melt the butter with the olive oil over medium heat. When hot and bubbly, add the ginger, garlic, smoked paprika and coriander. Stir to combine and cook for 1 minute to let the flavors bloom.
Add the chicken broth and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring to combine all the ingredients and to add bits that are stuck to the bottom of the pan. Then add the coconut milk, sweet chili sauce, soy sauce and brown sugar. Return to a boil. Cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally and maintaining a boil. If the sauce threatens to boil up too high, reduce the heat a bit. If the sauce seems thin, keep boiling till it gets thick and creamy. This may take different amounts of time depending on how hard your boil is.
With the sauce boiling, add the chicken and stir well to separate the chicken slices. Return the mixture to a boil for 30 seconds, then cover the pan tightly and turn off the heat. Allow the pan to sit covered for 10 minutes.
Remove the cover, stir in the finely chopped basil and take a taste. Season, if needed with kosher salt. Serve and enjoy!
This Basil Coconut Chicken is delicious served with rice, salted cashews, stir-fried veggies, sliced cucumbers or other options mentioned above in the post. Garnish with fresh basil, coriander and/or mint leaves.
See Café Tips above in the post for more detailed instructions and tips to ensure success.
Nutritional information is based on using light coconut milk.