Red Coconut Curry Chicken with Lemongrass and Toasted Sesame Noodles

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Have you ever ever snuggled up on the couch and excitedly popped open a takeout container only to be terrifically disappointed by a bland, lifeless pile of noodles?

If so, this exotic, sweet and spicy homemade Thai red coconut curry has your name all over it.

Overhead closely cropped shot of a light green bowl of red coconut curry with chicken and rice noodles, and a garnish of cilantro and peanuts, with two wooden chopsticks, on an unfinished wood surface with lime wedges, printed with orange and white text.

Picture this:

It’s a Sunday evening, and you’ve got Thai food on the brain.

Instead of dialing the nearest delivery spot, turn the kitchen into your very own Far East cafe. Keep a few simple ingredients on hand, like fresh ginger, curry paste, and coconut milk, and you’ll be amazed at the quick, flavorful creations you can whip up any night of the week, from Pad Thai to curries.

Most grocery stores have bountiful ethnic sections where you can find many of these items in a pinch. But if you happen to have a local Asian market in your town, the amount of authentic ingredients you can find to stock your pantry is astounding.

A pair of wooden chopsticks grasp rice noodles in a red curry broth with chicken and a garnish of cilantro and peanuts, on a multicolored cloth on a wood surface.

For me, this dish is all about the coconut milk. I crave its luxuriously silky texture and tropical aroma almost every day.

You can certainly substitute the lite version to cut calories, but it’s the higher fat content that gives this curry its rich, almost buttery mouthfeel.

The thin rice noodles – already bursting with flavor, thanks to a tangle of scallions and sesame oil – brilliantly soak up every last drop of the aromatic sauce.

Shoot, I’m hungry again!

Wooden chopsticks grab a bite of thin rice noodles in a red coconut curry broth with chicken, with a garnish of peanuts, cilantro, and lime, on an unfinished wood surface with scallions in soft focus in the background.

While there are a few steps to this recipe (like browning the chicken, simmering the sauce, and boiling the noodles), it’s a surprisingly quick meal to throw together. One swirl of the coconut-covered noodles between your chopsticks and you’ll wonder how you got such deep, complex flavors in such a short amount of time.

Let’s get into the secrets to making it.

If you’re unfamiliar with the word “aromatics” (culinarily speaking), here’s your ten-second lesson:

Aromatics are the herbs, spices, and veggies that typically serve as the flavorful base of a dish. They’re often cooked in some sort of fat (butter, oil, and the like) to deepen and caramelize their flavors and enhance their pungency.

In Asian cuisine, lemongrass, ginger, garlic, scallions, and chilies are all wonderful signature aromatics. They create that first tasty sparkle that gives the food its flair, while elements like fresh lime juice, sugar, and briny fish sauce are often added towards the end, for balance and an umami bite. Somewhere along the way, jarred red curry paste brings everything together.

If you can find makrut lime leaves, tear and toss a few into the mix. They add a distinctive, robust punch of citrus that I mimic with lime zest when I don’t have them on hand.

Overhead oblique shot of a green bowl of red coconut curry with chicken, garnished with lime slices, cilantro, and peanuts, with wooden chopsticks.

The technique for this dish is simple, and once you’ve mastered it, you can swap in all kinds of other goodies to customize your curry to your heart’s desire.

You may have stumbled upon similar curry recipes where all of the ingredients are mixed in raw, and at one time. Personally, I strongly believe that layering flavors is what makes the difference in the end. It’s worth the extra time, though we do have time-saving hacks for recipes like this in the slow cooker if you’re really in a hurry.

I suggest doing all of your chopping at the beginning, for three reasons:

  1. Having everything laid out and ready to saute means that once the heat is cranked and the pan is hot, it’s go time.
  2. While you’re slicing and dicing, your noodle water can come to a boil.
  3. The absolute best time to treat yourself to a snack and a glass of wine is while you’re doing your meticulous prep. Go on, have some goat cheese. You deserve it.

Here’s an easy breakdown of the process to make this flawless curry: brown the chicken, take it out, cook the aromatics in the residual fat, add the curry paste, whisk in the coconut milk, and welcome back the chicken.

Drink more wine while the flavors get to know each other for about ten minutes. Meanwhile, your cooked rice noodles are getting a finishing glaze of nutty toasted sesame oil, oniony scallions, and garlic.

Vertical closely cropped oblique shot of a light green bowl of red curry chicken with rice noodles, with chopsticks picking up a bite, garnished with cilantro and lime slices, on a wood surface.

Yum. Can you smell that?

Adjust your sauce’s seasonings via an acidic citrus (lime), salt (fish sauce), and something sweet (brown sugar), give it one last taste, and pat yourself on the back.

For the finishing garnishes, this is another opportunity to go nuts. Literally. I like the texture of toasted, crushed peanuts but almonds or even macadamias would give you a solid crunch. You also can’t go wrong with a combination of sesame seeds and chives.

Overhead shot of a green bowl of red curry chicken with rice noodles and lime slices, with wooden chopstocks to the side, on an unfinished wood surface with scallions and green citrus wedges.

If you end up with additional sauce, use it either as a blanket on a chilly winter night, or throw it over some brown rice and top it with sauteed greens like bok choy for a quick, healthy lunch of unexpectedly delicious leftovers.

Whether you’re spicing things up for a dinner party or keeping this curry all to yourself, one bite of this luscious masterpiece and you’ll rarely reach for a takeout container again.

Shoot, I’m hungry again. Send noods!

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Overhead shot of a green bowl of red curry chicken with rice noodles and lime slices, with wooden chopstocks to the side, on an unfinished wood surface with scallions and green citrus wedges.

Red Coconut Curry Chicken with Sesame Noodles

  • Author: Shanna Mallon
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x


Craving a sweet and spicy Thai bowl you can curl up with at home? Piling this easy, creamy coconut curry over sesame-scented noodles will do the trick.


  • 8 ounces thin rice noodles
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds chicken breast, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt, or to taste
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon minced or grated fresh lemongrass
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh garlic, divided
  • 2 fresh or dried bird’s eye chilies or small jalapenos
  • 1/4 cup Thai red curry paste
  • 2 14-ounce cans unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce, or to taste
  • 3 limes
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup scallions, white and light green parts only, cut into thin slivers
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
  • 4 sprigs fresh cilantro, torn
  • 2 tablespoons crushed roasted peanuts
  • Chili garlic sauce (optional)


  1. Cook the rice noodles according to package directions. Drain in a colander, rinse under cool water, and set aside in a separate bowl. Return the pot to the stove.
  2. In a deep, wide skillet or saucepot, heat the coconut oil over medium-high heat.
  3. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and then sear until golden brown all over, about 2 minutes per side. Remove the chicken pieces with a slotted spoon and set aside on a plate.
  4. Deseed the chilies and cut into slivers. Turn the heat down to medium-low and add the lemongrass, ginger, 1 tablespoon of the garlic, and the chilies. Saute until very fragrant, about 2 minutes, then add the red curry paste and whisk to combine. Cook for about 1 minute, and then vigorously whisk in the coconut milk.
  5. Zest two of the limes and juice them, and cut the third one into wedges. Increase the heat to medium, return the chicken to the pot, stir to combine, and allow the red curry sauce to simmer for 10 minutes. Add the brown sugar, fish sauce, lime zest, and juice. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
  6. In the pot where the noodles were cooked, heat the sesame oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the remaining tablespoon of garlic, scallions, and chili flakes. Saute until the scallions have softened, about 2 minutes, then add the noodles back to the pan.
  7. Toss the noodles with the sesame oil mixture and then divide among four bowls. Top each with even amounts of the red coconut curry chicken and then pour enough sauce into each bowl to cover the noodles. Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves, crushed peanuts, chili garlic sauce, and lime wedges.


Note that nutritional information below includes all of the sauce, which you likely will not use to make 4 servings. Chili garlic sauce is not included in this calculation.

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Category: Chicken
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Thai

Keywords: curry, Thai curry, chicken curry, lemongrass, coconut milk

Cooking By the Numbers…

Step 1 – Chop and Prep Protein and Aromatics

Slice the chicken into chunks, chop the chilies and lemongrass, and mince the ginger and garlic.

A boneless, skinless chicken bread is being sliced o a purple plastic cutting board with a serrated knife with a black handle, on a speckled beige granite countertop.

A ginger grater and garlic press also come in handy for this.

Overhead shot of three scallions, a clove of garlic, half of a lime, a slice of fresh garlic, and a dollop of curry paste in a silver metal measuring spoon, on an unfinished wood surface.

Zest and juice two of the limes.

Closeup of dried red chilies and piles of minced garlic, ginger, and lemongrass with a sliced lime towards the top right of the frame, on an unfinished wood surface.

Boil water for cooking the rice noodles. Season the meat with salt and pepper.

Step 2 – Brown Chicken, Create Curry Base, and Cook Noodles

In a deep, wide skillet or saucepot, brown the chicken in the coconut oil.

Closeup shot of cooked pieces of chicken breast in a large nonstick frying pan.

When it is golden and cooked through, remove the meat with a slotted spoon, and set it aside.

Garlic, ginger, and red chili flakes being sauteed in a nonstick frying pan.

Lower the heat to medium-low, and add the lemongrass, ginger, garlic, and chilies. Sautee until very fragrant, stirring occasionally for about 2 minutes.

A red plastic colander of cooked thin rice noodles, beside a beige granite countertop, with a black background.

Cook the thin rice noodles according to the package instructions, and then drain in a colander. Set aside, and reserve the pot for later use.

Step 3 – Whisk in Curry Paste and Coconut Milk

Whisk in the red curry paste.

Closeup shot of a wire whisk stirring a red pepper and garlic mixture in a nonstick frying pan.

Add the coconut milk, and stir it in.

Overhead closely cropped vertical shot of a nonstick saucepan with an orange handle, filled with a mixture of curry and coconut milk, being stirred with a wire whisk, on a granite countertop.

Return the chicken to the pot.

Overhead shot of pieces of cooked chicken breast in a red coconut curry sauce in a large nonstick frying pan.

Increase the heat, and simmer for ten minutes.

Step 4 – Prep Garnish and Noodles

While the sauce is simmering, prep your garnish. Remove the stems from the cilantro, and tear the leaves a bit. Chop or crush your peanuts, and cut the remaining lime into wedges.

Overhead shot of chili pepper, scallions, lemongrass, ginger, and garlic sauteeing in a nonstick frying pan, on a wood surface.

Heat the sesame oil in the same pot that you cooked the noodles in, and saute the garlic, scallions, and chili flakes.

Closely cropped overhead closeup of cooked thin rice noodles with aromatics in a nonstick frying pan.

Add the noodles, and toss to coat.

Step 5 – Adjust Seasoning and Serve

Cooked seasoned rice noodles in a yellow-green patterned glass bowl, on a brown surface.

Add the brown sugar, fish sauce, and zest and juice of the two limes.

Rice noodles with cooked chicken in a green bowl, on a wood countertop.

Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

Huy Fong Chili Garlic Sauce, 8 oz., available on Amazon

Divide the noodles among four bowls, and then top with chicken and curry sauce.

A red curry sauce is being poured into a green bowl of rice noodles and cooked chicken, on a wood surface.

Garnish with cilantro, peanuts, chili garlic sauce (I adore this one), and lime wedges.

Does It Get Any Better Than Rich, Creamy Noodles?

Remember that taking things into your own pans means you can customize whatever soothes your soul and satisfies your stomach.

Going light on the carbs? Saute your favorite greens – kale, bok choy, or even chard – in place of the rice noodles. They’ll soak in the sesame notes like you won’t believe.

Closely cropped overhead shot of a bowl of red Thai chicken curry with a garnish of cilantro leaves and crushed peanuts, with green scallion tops to the left, on an unfinished wood surface.

Want more aromatic Asian creations? With these slurpy noodle recipes, you’ll never pay a delivery fee again:

When it comes to decorating finished Thai dishes, how do you top yours? Chili oil, scallions, cilantro, oh my! Share your favorite garnishes in the comments below! And don’t forget to give this recipe a five-star rating if you loved it.

Photos by Meghan Yager, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Shanna Mallon on September 17, 2010. Last updated: June 15, 2022 at 12:57 pm.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

About Fanny Slater

Fanny Slater is a home-taught food enthusiast based in Wilmington, North Carolina who won the “Rachael Ray Show” Great American Cookbook Competition in 2014, and published her cookbook “Orange, Lavender & Figs” in 2016. Fanny is a food and beverage writer, recipe developer, and social media influencer. She was a co-host on the Food Network series “Kitchen Sink,” was featured on Cooking Channel’s longtime popular series “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” and continues to appear regularly on the “Rachael Ray Show.”

27 thoughts on “Red Coconut Curry Chicken with Lemongrass and Toasted Sesame Noodles”

  1. this reminds me, i really want you to try filipino food. let’s set up a cooking date sometime, and i’ll show you how to make pancit and adobo! sometime after next weekend, though… 🙂

  2. I’m smitten with all Asian foods–Thai, Chinese, Indian, and anything in the middle or around the outsides! We tend to cook a lot of stir fry and curries at our house because my family loves spicy, and luckily in Cincinnati we have a giant world food store called Jungle Jim’s where you can get all kinds of crazy ingredients from all around the world. Like you, we try to do it from scratch and with natural ingredients.

  3. have you tried vietnamese food? i wish i were closer or you were and we could play in the kitchen, because seriously, everytime you write about your cooking adventures with others, i am green with envy!

    so very glad you enjoyed your thai experience.

  4. Oh, definitely do pancit with Jacqui. You will love it! Just wish I could figure out a way to do it you first! 🙂 I have a (long story) recipe passed on from a grandma from the Philippines who visited her daughter in Georgia and crossed paths with my mom.

    And as for Thai … oh, I’m drooling and heading for my cooking notebook to see what I need for Thai beef salad, which I haven’t made in far too long.

    Three cheers for new cuisine adventures!

  5. So nice to see a fresh usage for PB!

    I’m planning to make homemade sriracha-esque hot sauce this weekend, in an attempt to use up the 23,935 hot peppers I got in my CSA bag. Do you think a bit of that would give a nice kick to these noodles?

  6. Curried coconut chicken sounds amazing! I have thai red curry on my to make list this week – all the ingredients are just there and waiting for me to season my new wok. Thai food is growing to be something I love cooking.

    Peanut butter noodles could not sound more enticing if they tried!

  7. I love Thai food with a passion, especially any and all noodle dishes. The fire doesn’t bother me at all. This dish looks perfect for warming the belly on a cool Fall night. We’ve had lots of those lately.

  8. isn’t it fun being adventurous with food? even if it makes us sweat! in fact, i think that’s even better — take us out of our comfort zones. anyway, both dishes look wonderful. we make a similar peanut noodle here and believe that every last morsel is slurped up and wiped clean! oh, and i believe we climbed that same Maine mountain three months ago!



  9. You have NO idea how excited I am that you posted a peanut sauce recipe!!! I had Thai food a few months ago and fell in LOVE with the peanut sauce on the food. Then I bought some, but it was nothing like what I had. This recipe sounds perfect. Thank you thank you thank you!

  10. Jen, I’ve totally heard of Jungle Jim’s. I want to go!

    Lan, I wish we could cook together, too!

    Kim, It’s just what I usually use instead of sugar. You can read more about it here:!

    Kelley, Oh man, I wish we could have a cooking adventure together. Jude too, if he’s interested. : )

    Maddie, I think I would love to know what that would be like, and I love that you’re thinking of cool new ways to use all your abundant peppers. : ) Let me know if you try it!

    Angharad, Good for you and your adventurous spirit!

    Rachel, I know you do!

    Kate, We have, that’s true. Hot food like this chicken is great for fall!

    Heather, A fellow mountaineer! I love it!

    Alicia, : ) Peanut sauce makes everything better.

  11. I love thai food and peanut noodles are soooo great! My favorite dish ever has got to be paad thai and I’ve managed to make that at home. Next stop: peanut noodles! Thanks for sharing the recipe! =)

  12. So, would the proper substitution be brown sugar? I’ve never seen or heard of sucanat; do you get it at a health food store? Sounds like something worth seeking for; my hubbie likes brown sugar on his cereal and oatmeal–sucanat would be healthier!

  13. I just recently tried Udon noodles…but I’m not sure I bought the right kind!! They were super salty, especially when I tried to add my sesame/soy sauce concoction to them. Where do you do most of your shopping? Just curious! I’ve tried Trader Joe’s and Fresh Market but haven’t beeen to Whole Foods yet…

  14. I’m right there with you – anytime I see anythign with peanut sauce I get all kinds of excited. i made a pork burger with peanut sauce the other night – yum! this combo looks great though, and hopefully it reinforces you to cook other cuisines!

  15. Delicious!!! I have always wanted to try to make Thai food, but have never ventured out into actually doing it. I know what you mean about sticking to your usual culinary realm, especially when a new recipe will require a new set of ingredients and spices – just an excuse to go food shopping though!

  16. Lauren, I know! Pad Thai was an instant hit with me, as most things with peanut sauce are. : )

    Kim, Well, personally, I use Sucanat as a sub for brown sugar and white sugar all the time, even though it is more like brown sugar and does have a distinct flavor. I buy it at Whole Foods, which is the only place I’ve seen it. However, in this recipe, you could use whatever you like for the sweetener: white sugar or raw sugar (turbinado) or brown sugar!

    Jen, Hmm that’s interesting. I bought mine at Whole Foods (which is where I do most of my shopping, along with Trader Joe’s) and I chose them because the ingredients list was literally like organic unbleached wheat flour, water and one other thing. I don’t think it was salt.. and these def weren’t salty. Maybe take a look at the ingredients lists on whichever ones you try next? Hope that helps!

    Heather, I hope so, too!

    Stacey, Ha! The next day’s natural light was much better. : )

    Beba, Good question – I’d say probably four to six, depending on how big the servings are.

    Kim, True, true. And then a way to force yourself to really learn how to use those ingredients you’ve bought!

  17. You might have just inspired me to do more Indian cooking at home. It’s my favorite restaurant food, but all the spices? They scare me!

  18. Recently, my husband told some friends (while I was standing there) that he was bored with my cooking. I wasn’t angry or hurt. His words really got me thinking and I felt like I was put to a test … a test to find and cook amazing meals. I happened upon your website while searching for a recipe with chicken. Your Curried Coconut Chicken & Peanut Butter Noodles caught my eye. The best part was I had every ingredient in my cupboard! (That never happens). I took it as a “sign”. I substituted Soba noodles for the Udon and made it tonight. Husband and I are still talking about how delicious it was! Thank you for opening my eyes (and my heart) to your endlessly wonderful blog!

    I need some recipe ideas for a brunch this Saturday morning. I want to make something unique (and delicious, of course). Any suggestions would be most helpful. Thank you.

    • Aw, Patricia, what a sweet and humble spirit you have! I can tell you are a treasure in a way that goes beyond food. I am so happy you enjoyed these noodles as much as I did! I think I need to make them again… maybe with zucchini noodles next time! Truthfully I can always use a good push to think outside the box afresh, so thank you!


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