This delicately spiced South African Cape Malay Chicken Curry will simply warm your soul. It's easy, fast-cooking, and seriously crave-worthy. This rendition adapted from Tusker House Restaurant at Disney's Animal Kingdom will quickly win over any curry-lover's heart.
(This recipe was originally published in January 2017, but was updated with new photos and content in 2022).
One of my favorite dishes from the buffet at Disney's Tusker House Restaurant is the Cape Malay chicken curry. It's a South African dish of stewed chicken with spices and tomatoes.
It's traditionally made with bone-in chicken pieces, but this version adapted from Tusker House uses boneless chicken cut into bite-size pieces. It cooks faster and is easier to eat.
In my research I found other variations for Cape Malay curry recipes. Some include dried apricots and apricot jam, or even mango chutney. Yet others include cubed potatoes.
Since this recipe is meant to be traditional but based on my memories from Tusker House, I have adapted the Disney recipe to be more in line with other classic recipes, minus the bone-in chicken.
This dish brings back a wonderful food memory from a magical trip. Even if you've never eaten at Tusker House, or never even been to Disney (or South Africa for that matter), rest assured that this Cape Malay curry is comfort in a bowl.
- Chicken: Although this South African curry typically uses bone-in chicken pieces, this rendition replaces those with boneless skinless chicken cut into bite-size pieces. You may use chicken thighs, breasts, or tenders for this recipe.
- Canned Tomatoes: The original recipe from Disney uses chopped fresh tomatoes, but I find they make this curry too watery (Disney even included flour in their original recipe to help thicken). Instead, I have adjusted the recipe to use canned crushed or ground peeled tomatoes. They provide intense tomato flavor and color and are already a good thickness for the sauce. I also add some tomato paste to further enhance the tomato flavor.
- Spices: Disney's recipe called for Madras curry powder, which is a spice mix that can vary substantially from brand to brand. Authentic Cape Malay chicken curry, however, uses various spices rather than pre-made curry powder. Rather than calling for curry powder, I have included a unique mixture of spices (coriander, cumin, turmeric, cardamom, cinnamon, and black pepper) to allow for consistency for anyone making this dish. You could replace the list of spices with 2 tablespoons of curry powder, if needed.
How to make it
Don't blink. You might miss it. This recipe is a breeze to make! Cube up some skinless boneless chicken. The original recipe calls for thighs, but I prefer white meat. Breasts and tenders are both fine.
Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Heat up some vegetable oil in a large pan. Sear the chicken in batches (PHOTOS 1-2).
Set the partially cooked chicken aside, and in the same pan add a couple diced onions. Cook until they soften and start to brown (PHOTO 3), and then add minced garlic, fresh ginger, and green chiles (PHOTO 4).
Follow that up with a combination of fragrant spices (PHOTO 5). Next, add in some chicken broth, canned crushed tomatoes, and tomato paste (PHOTO 6).
Stir in the seared chicken pieces (PHOTO 7-8).
Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes give or take. The length it takes your chicken to cook and absorb the flavors will depend on the size of the pieces, and whether you are using white or dark meat.
When it's finished, garnish the Cape Malay chicken curry with fresh cilantro and serve.
To allow the flavors will develop even more, make this a day in advance and reheat to serve. I prefer reheating it over medium-low heat on the stovetop, stirring regularly. If the sauce is too thick when reheating, you may add a little water or chicken broth to get it to your preferred consistency.
Cape Malay chicken curry is great served with South African yellow rice (as it is in these photos). You could also serve it with plain basmati rice, or with jeera rice, an Indian cumin-scented basmati rice, which is simple to make. Just toast some cumin seeds in oil or ghee prior to adding your dry basmati rice and boiling water or broth. It adds a bit of fragrance and flavor and elevates the rice to something worthy of pairing with this curry.
This curry is relatively mild. I use 1 seeded jalapeño although you could use more. You can also add crushed chili flakes or chile powder such as cayenne pepper powder if you'd like to make it spicier.
Other recipes you may like
- Homemade Naan with Sanaa Dipping Sauces (another Disney recipe!)
- Chicken Saag (Spinach Curry with Chicken)
- Murgh Masala (Chicken Masala)
- Murghi aur Masoor Dal (Bombay-style Chicken with Red Split Lentils)
- Burmese Beef Curry with Potatoes (from Burma Superstar in San Francisco)
- Japanese Curry Chicken Dumplings
- Curried Tomato Salad
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Cape Malay Chicken Curry
- 2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs, breasts, or tenders cut into 1 to 2-inch pieces
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2 large onions, diced
- 1 to 2 green chilies (such as jalapeños), seeded and finely sliced
- 1 tablespoon crushed or finely minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon crushed or finely minced fresh ginger
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground coriander
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 ¾ cups (425 grams) canned crushed or ground peeled tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon canned tomato paste
- 1 cup chicken broth or stock
- Fresh cilantro leaves for garnish
- Season chicken with salt and pepper.
- Heat oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add chicken (in batches if necessary) and sear until lightly browned all over. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- Reduce the heat to medium and add onions, cooking until lightly brown and tender, about 5 to 7 minutes.
- Add chilies, garlic, and ginger and cook 1 to 2 minutes until fragrant. Then add spices, tossing to coat, and cook for another 30 seconds.
- Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, chicken stock, and season with salt. Return chicken to the pan, stirring to coat.
- Cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through (white meat will take less time than dark meat). Stir occasionally to avoid burning.
- Taste and adjust seasonings. To serve, garnish with cilantro and serve with basmati rice or couscous.
- To allow the flavors will develop even more, make this a day in advance and reheat to serve. I prefer reheating it over medium-low heat on the stovetop, stirring regularly. If the sauce is too thick when reheating, you may add a little water or chicken broth to get it to your preferred consistency.
- This curry is relatively mild. I use 1 seeded jalapeño although you could use more. You can also add crushed chili flakes or chile powder such as cayenne pepper powder if you'd like to make it spicier.
- Adapted from A Cooking Safari with Mickey
*All nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered estimates. Actual nutritional content will vary with brands used, measuring methods, portion sizes and more.*