Braised Chicken in Coconut Milk

Whether you’re looking for a simple weeknight dinner or a crowd pleasing dinner party favorite, this Braised Chicken with Coconut Milk recipe delivers. Serve this tender, lemony chicken over creamy mashed potatoes or homemade egg noodles for a super satisfying meal.

Chicken and Coconut Milk: It’s a Thing and It’s Fabulous

Chicken and Mashed Potatoes on a plate

I first learned about chicken in milk from Jamie Oliver, and I was skeptical to say the least. There was mention of “curds,” which is a really unfortunate word for a phenomenon that can be quite delicious. After all, cottage cheese has curds, and it makes the very best Stuffed Shells and Lasagna.

It was the unique blend of seasonings that pushed me beyond the point of intrigued skepticism to “Alright, alright, I’ll try it.” Oliver uses sage, garlic, lemon, and cinnamon to add depth to his creamy sauce.

Sage is a chronically underused herb in my kitchen, so I knew I was going to have to give it a go for myself. And, surprisingly (or perhaps not?), Oliver was really on to something with this chicken and milk recipe.

The lactic acid in the milk makes the chicken fantastically tender, and the sauce it’s swimming in is rich and creamy without feeling heavy.

Over the years, I’ve made the recipe many times, tweaking it until we got to this Braised Chicken with Coconut Milk. It delivers all the same nuanced flavors as the original, but without the dairy and with quick cooking thighs and drumsticks.

If you can lower that suspicious eyebrow for a sec and consider giving it a try, we think you’ll love it as much as we do!

Why We Love Braised Coconut Milk Chicken

  • Simple and Easy. You can get this recipe in the oven in less than 15 minutes, and you’ll love how short the ingredient list is!
  • It’s adaptable. While I prefer to make this recipe in a Dutch oven, you can use a slow cooker instead. You can also experiment with different herbs and citrus (more on that later!)
  • It’s tender and rich. The addition of milk (coconut or otherwise) makes this chicken SO TENDER. Trust me on this one. And the lemony sauce is rich, subtle, and dotted with caramelized garlic cloves. CARAMELIZED GARLIC, you guys. It is so good!
chicken baked in coconut milk with mashed potatoes

Key Ingredients

  • Butter or oil- For browning the chicken, I like to use butter, but if you want to keep the recipe dairy free, substitute olive oil.
  • Chicken thighs and/or drumsticks- Oliver’s version of this recipe uses a whole chicken, but I find it much easier and faster to use bone-in chicken thighs or drumsticks. You can use a mix of both or just one or the other.
  • Lemon – You’ll just need one lemon for its peel and juice.
  • Full fat coconut milk– Look for canned coconut milk that explicitly states that it’s full fat. It’s important to use full fat milk to get the right consistency for the sauce.
  • Garlic- We’ll use a full head (YES, a full head!), and it will be delicious.
  • Sage- This herb adds the loveliest subtle earthy flavor to the sauce.

How to Make Chicken with Coconut Milk

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Brown the chicken. In a large Dutch oven, heat the butter or oil over medium heat. Salt and pepper the chicken on all sides then add it to the pan in a single layer. You might need to do this in two batches. Leave the chicken undisturbed until well browned on the bottom, about 3-4 minutes. Flip, and brown the other side
  3. Add seasonings and milk. Using a vegetable peeler, slice long strips of lemon peel on top of the chicken, being careful not to get any of the white pith. Pour the coconut milk in then stir in the sage and garlic cloves.
  4. Bake. Cover the pot and bake in the oven for 45-55 minutes, or until chicken is fall-apart tender. Remove from the oven and let it stand for a few minutes. Serve over mashed potatoes or rice. If desired, squeeze a little extra lemon juice over the chicken when serving

How to Make Coconut Milk Chicken in the Slow Cooker

After seasoning and browning the chicken, transfer it to the slow cooker.

Add the remaining ingredients, then cover and cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours.

chicken thigh and drumstick with mashed potatoes

FAQs

What is braising?

Braising is simply a term for a cooking technique that involves searing meat or fish over high heat, then adding a liquid and cooking it slowly until it’s done.

Browning meat builds flavor and crisps up the skin, while cooking in liquid allows the meat to get fall off the bone tender. Braising is really the best of both worlds!

What does coconut milk do to meat?

The fat and lactic acid in coconut milk helps tenderize meat, and also adds a light but creamy flavor.

Can I use any kind of milk for a Chicken in Milk recipe?

We recommend using either cow’s milk or full fat coconut milk for this recipe. Other kinds of plant based milk don’t have enough fat and/or the flavors are too overpowering.

Can I make chicken with coconut milk in the slow cooker?

Absolutely! After browning the chicken, transfer it to the slow cooker. Add the remaining ingredients, then cover and cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours. 

Is chicken in coconut milk dairy free?

Yes, as long as you use oil instead of butter to brown the chicken.

Flavor Variations

Feel free to experiment with the herbs in this dish! Fresh basil is a lovely substitute for sage.

If you wanted to give this a Thai flair, try substituting lime for lemon, and adding cilantro and/or lemongrass and peanuts. It’s also great with fresh ginger!

Chicken and mashed potatoes on a plate

What to Serve with Chicken in Coconut Milk

We like to serve this with That Good Salad, Creamy Mashed Potatoes, and the sauce from the pan. It’s also great with Air Fryer Potatoes, Honey Carrot Saute, and Skillet Green Beans.

 I try not to hoard all the tender, caramelized garlic cloves for myself, but I tell you I would have no shame about picking them right off the bottom of the pan and popping them in my mouth. The flavor is heaven.

More Chicken Dinner Recipes

I have a ton of chicken recipes for you! Here are some of my favorites:

Chicken thigh and drumstick braised in coconut milk with lemon and garlic, plated over mashed potatoes.

Braised Chicken with Coconut Milk

Yield: 5
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes

Chicken thighs and drumsticks become unbelievably tender after braising in a flavorful coconut milk, lemon, sage, and garlic broth.

Ingredients

  • 1 Tablespoon butter (or olive oil for dairy free option)
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 3 lbs. bone in chicken thighs and/or drumsticks
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 (13.5 oz) can full fat, unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced sage leaves

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a large Dutch oven, heat the butter or oil over medium high heat. Salt and pepper the chicken on all sides then add it to the pan in a single layer. You might need to do this in two batches. Leave the chicken undisturbed until well browned on the bottom, about 3-4 minutes. Flip, and brown the other side. Repeat with remaining chicken.
  3. Turn the heat off and return all the chicken to the skillet. Using a vegetable peeler, slice long strips of lemon peel on top of the chicken, being careful not to get any of the white pith. Pour the coconut milk in then stir in the sage and garlic cloves.
  4. Cover the pot and bake in the oven for 45-55 minutes, or until chicken is fall apart tender. Remove from oven and let stand for a few minutes. Serve over mashed potatoes or rice. If desired, squeeze a little extra lemon juice over the chicken when serving.

Notes

For slow cooker chicken with coconut milk: After browning the chicken, transfer it to the slow cooker. Add the remaining ingredients then cover and cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours.

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6 Comments

  1. I was just googeling the weird combination of stuff I have left in my kitchen and your article saved my day. Yes, I will cook the chicken tomorrow but your story about just having fun without giving in to old patzerns of anxiety is really what I needed this week. I will read the rest of your blog now. Thank you very much!

  2. I’m confused. Your recipe says to brown the chicken in a Dutch oven, then transfer chicken to the Dutch oven. Isn’t the chicken already in the Dutch oven? What am I transferring, unless you’re talking about transferring to a crockpot?

    1. I’m sorry about the confusion. You don’t need to transfer the chicken at all if you’re using a dutch oven, but if you’d prefer to cook it in the crock pot you’d want to transfer it after browning. I’ve corrected the recipe to make it clearer!

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