The rich sauce for this creamy coconut chicken recipe is to die for. My eldest son, Enzo, insists on making sure he gets every last drop of the tasty coconut milk sauce on his plate. The cast-iron skillet-seared boneless skinless chicken thighs come out golden on the outside and juicy on the inside. To layer on more flavor, pair it with the simply divine coconut milk pan sauce and there is no better combination.
The chicken has lovely aromatics plus saltiness, and spice thanks to a seasoning blend. Simmer them in sweet coconut milk with umami soy sauce and bright lime juice for all the senses to be enticed. Then take it a notch more with a bit of Thai chili garlic sauce which adds a pop of flavor without too much heat. So adults and kids will fall in love with this simple yet heavenly chicken thigh recipe.
So Many Reasons to Love This Recipe
This easy recipe with amazing Asian flavors is ready in just 30-minutes. The coconut milk sauce is so flavorful thanks to a sweet, sour, and salty combination that only gets better with time. This quick meal is great for any dinner whether it is a busy weeknight, special occasion, or part of your make-ahead cooking for the week. I cannot think of a better recipe for meal planning than this hearty chicken dinner.
This recipe is also low-carb with only 10 net carbs per serving. It can easily be made keto-friendly, gluten-free, or grain-free with a few substitutions shared below. It will bring each serving of creamy chicken coconut down to about 5net carbs each with the update listed. The recipe is already high in fat and is protein-packed for those looking for a quick ketogenic chicken recipe.
The recipe starts off with boneless skinless chicken thighs. I like to use thighs in recipes like this as they cook up quickly and stay juicy, compared to using breasts. The thighs will be dredged in a seasoned flour blend that uses a few spices that add a ton of flavor so the chick is far from boring.
The base of the cream sauce is canned coconut milk. To add depth of flavor to the sweet milk, there are salty, sour, and spicy additions made. All together combined, the final result is magical.
- Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs
- Seasoned Salt
- Black Pepper
- Olive Oil
- Shiitake Mushrooms
- Bok Choy
- Green Onions
- Coconut Milk
- Lime Juice
- Soy Sauce
- Thai Garlic Chili Sauce
See the recipe card for quantities.
Like most cast iron skillet chicken recipes, it is best to prepare ingredients ahead of time. Since cooking in cast iron can go fast, be sure you are ready to add all the ingredients and have them prepped. Begin by gathering all the ingredients and chopping the boy choy, shiitakes, and green onions. Also, wash the cilantro and juice the lime.
Prepare the Chicken & Sauce Ingredients
Now to prep the boneless skinless chicken thighs. To a shallow pan add the flour and spices. Whisk together to combine. Set aside.
The flour coating on the chicken pieces helps to create a beautiful golden-brown crust that adds texture. It also helps to thicken the sauce later - see hint below if you are making this gluten-free and leaving out this step. It will change what you add to the sauce ingredients in the next step.
It is also a good time to prep some of the sauce ingredients. To the can of milk, shake it up, open it, and set it aside. In a small bowl add the lime juice, soy sauce, and cornstarch - whisk to combine. Set aside for later.
Hint: The flour coating on the chicken thighs will also help the sauce thicken. If you leave out the flour (gluten-free substitutions) add an extra ½ teaspoon of cornstarch to the sauce. It will then be 1.5 teaspoons total.
Brown the Chicken in a Cast Iron Skillet
Add the olive oil to a cast-iron skillet (or large saute pan) and turn the heat to medium-high heat. Let the oil heat up for 2 minutes, and prepare chicken thighs while it is heating.
Dredge each chicken thigh in the flour mixture. Once the oil is hot, add each chicken piece carefully to the pan one at a time. Leave space between each piece and do not overcrowd the pan.
Let the chicken cook, flipping it halfway through. If the chicken is sticking it is not ready to flip, around the 3-minute mark is when it is ready to turn over. The chicken will take about 5-7 minutes to cook through and turn golden brown. It needs to cook all the way through to 165° per the USDA. Once it is 165° as the internal temperature it is ready to remove from the pan. Place the chicken on a plate and set it aside.
Saute the Vegetables
Turn the heat down on the pan to medium. Add the butter to the pan and using a wooden spoon scrape up all the bits. Add the mushrooms, bok choy, and the white parts of the green onions. Stir and cook for 1 minute.
Make the Asian- Inspired Coconut Milk Sauce
Pour in the coconut milk and stir to combine. Add the lime juice mixture and stir. Next, add the garlic chili sauce and combine. Continue to scrape up the bottom bits and let the sauce thicken and come to a simmer.
Once simmering, add the chicken thighs back to the pan. Spoon sauce over the chicken pieces. Flip the chicken over to coat both sides with the sauce. Add the green onions and stir to combine. Remove from the heat. Top with fresh cilantro.
What to Serve with Creamy Coconut Chicken
This recipe for chicken has a rich and creamy coconut milk sauce. It also includes Asian-inspired ingredients such as soy sauce, bok choy, shiitake, and more. Therefore, it is a great main dish to serve with steamed rice, cooked rice noodles, zucchini noodles, cauliflower rice, or enjoy as is!
Here are some recipes from the blog that also go well with the sweet, salty, and spicy flavors of this chicken recipe. For an amazing dessert try Tanghulu, sweet street food that is crunchy, juicy, & so fun to eat!
This recipe can easily be made to fit just about any diet. Whether you want it gluten-free, keto, or even vegan, a small substitution can be made.
- Chicken Thighs - instead of boneless skinless thighs, you can use thinly sliced chicken breasts or even salmon or shrimp.
- Gluten-Free - use gluten-free flour or none if you want a grain-free, keto, or lower-carb option.
- Vegetarian/Vegan - instead of chicken, use firm tofu or a combination of garbanzo beans & triple the vegetable amounts. Omit the butter and use all olive oil too for a vegan or dairy-free chicken recipe.
This recipe can hold up even with a few variations to help make it uniquely yours. The base of this recipe with chicken thighs, vegetables, and a mild coconut milk sauce is so flavorful on its own. But if you wish to kick it up a notch, try one of these easy variations.
- Spicy - double or even triple the amount of Thai chili garlic sauce. The amount adds flavor and is not really heat as written so keep that in mind.
- Veggie Deluxe- add additional vegetables for a complete meal in one pan.
- Kid-friendly - change up the vegetables to their favorites instead, such as broccoli, green beans, or carrots.
Though a cast iron pan is not mandatory to make this recipe, I do highly recommend one. Whenever I am searing chicken, steaks, or fish, I find that you just cannot beat a cast iron pan for the high evenly distributed heat it gives. It helps sear the outside of the protein and lock in those juices.
I love mine and have had it for over a decade. I cannot recommend LODGE brand cast iron enough. I am using the 12" Lodge Cast Iron pan for this recipe. They are sturdy, wipe clean easily, and super budget-friendly! I own several Lodge products including this cast iron pan and a dutch oven.
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This recipe stores really well. Honestly, the leftovers are even more fabulous the next day. As the chicken sits in that luscious sauce, it really works that flavor into the meat. Place any leftovers in an air-tight container. It will store in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.
Since the creamy sauce is made without dairy, it not only stores well in the refrigerator but also freezes well. Store any leftovers in an air-tight container or Ziploc bag. Seal or close tightly and freeze for up to 30 days. To defrost, place it in the refrigerator for 2 days.
Top Tip - Great Make-Ahead Meal
This recipe for skillet-cooked chicken thighs in a sauce is one of the best dinners for those that love to meal plan. The ingredients really hold up well to storing and reheating.
This remains delicious thanks to the chicken thighs that do not dry out when reheated. Plus the coconut milk keeps the sauce creamy compared to how milk-based sauces that can curdle or separate. So go for it, make double to enjoy lunches and dinner during your busy week.
Creamy Coconut Chicken
- cast iron skillet
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon seasoned salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon salted butter
- ½ cup shiitake mushrooms sliced thinly
- ⅓ cup bok choy, white parts sliced thinly
- 2 green onions (white & green parts separated) sliced
- 1 - 13.5 ounce can coconut milk
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce (or tamari for gluten-free)
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon Thai chili garlic sauce
- cilantro chopped
- To a shallow pan add the flour and spices. Whisk together to combine. Set aside.
- In a small bowl add the lime juice, soy sauce, and cornstarch - whisk to combine. Set aside for later.
- Add the olive oil to a large cast-iron skillet (or saute pan) and turn the heat to medium-high heat. Let the oil heat up for 2 minutes, and prepare chicken thighs while it is heating.
- Dredge each chicken thigh in the flour mixture. Once the oil is hot, add each chicken piece carefully to the pan one at a time. Leave space between each piece and do not overcrowd the pan.
- Let the chicken cook, flipping it halfway through. If the chicken is sticking it is not ready to flip, around the 3-minute mark is when it is ready to turn over. The chicken will take about 5-7 minutes to cook through and turn golden brown. Once it is 165° as the internal temperature it is ready to remove from the pan. Place the chicken on a plate and set it aside.
- Turn the heat down on the pan to medium. Add the butter to the pan and using a wooden spoon scrape up all the bits. Add the mushrooms, bok choy, and the white parts of the green onions. Stir and cook for 1 minute.
- Pour in the coconut milk and stir to combine. Add the lime juice mixture and stir. Next, add the garlic chili sauce and combine. Continue to scrape up the bottom bits and let them thicken and come to a simmer.
- Once simmering, add the chicken thighs back to the sauce. Spoon sauce over the chicken pieces. Flip the chicken over to coat both sides with the sauce. Add the green onions and stir to combine.
- Remove from the heat. Top with fresh cilantro. ENJOY immediately!
- Serve with steamed rice, cooked rice noodles, zucchini noodles, cauliflower rice, or enjoy as is!
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 35.8g||46%|
|Saturated Fat 20.7g||104%|
|Total Carbohydrate 12.8g||5%|
|Dietary Fiber 2.5g||9%|
|Total Sugars 3.4g|
|Vitamin D 2mcg||8%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calorie a day is used for general nutrition advice.|