Massaman curry is a type of curry of Thai origin. This dish is highly influenced by Persian, Indian and Malay cuisines.

Massaman Curry

What is Massaman Curry?

Massaman curry is a type of curry of Thai origin. This dish is highly influenced by Persian, Indian and Malay cuisines. It is made with a meat base, usually chicken, though other meats are also common. A blend of spices, a variety of herbs, potatoes, and shrimp paste are also used. The sauce comes from coconut milk.

  • It has a mild flavor in comparison with other Thai dishes, with a mild sweetness and tanginess.
  • This dish has a yellowish-orange color that comes from the curry alongside spices like coriander, cumin, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

The most popular Thai curries include:

  • Green Curry
  • Red Curry
  • Yellow Curry
  • Massaman Curry
  • Penang Curry

Origin of massaman curry

This curry is believed to have originated in the 17th century, with Thai and Malay influences. Originally, it was a dish that followed the Islamic diet, and did not include pork. Over time, Thai ingredients such as shrimp paste and lemongrass were added to it. Another theory attributes it to Persian influence during the Ayutthaya period. 


Nutritional profile for massaman curry (1 serving):

Chicken, the main meat used in this dish, is associated with lower risk of obesity, cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. It is considered a healthful food to eat during pregnancy, breastfeeding, and old age. Chicken byproducts such as liver, gizzard, heart, lung, crop, small intestines, cecum, and duodenum  are also a rich source of different micronutrients. The FAO (Food and Agricultural Organisation) of the United Nations recommends chicken as a nutrient-dense food in developing countries facing food shortages. 

Coconut milk is rich in phenolic compounds that provide protection against oxidative stress. Regular consumption of this drink can help in decreasing LDL and increasing good cholesterol. The lauric acid in the milk promotes brain development, boosts the immune system, and maintains the blood vessels. Also, it aids in preventing aging, cooling, digestion, and providing nourishment to the skin.

Spices, in general, are rich in antioxidants and can help protect the body against a wide range of ailments. 

Commercial production

To prepare massaman curry, the ingredients required are chicken, coconut milk, massaman curry paste, palm sugar, fish sauce, tamarind, potatoes, onions, and peanuts. The chicken may be substituted by other meats. Other spices and herbs may be added according to taste. The curry paste contains all the spices required but one can also make their own paste.

First, the coconut milk is heated and after the curry paste is added to it. Then, the chicken is added once the paste is cooked through and then water is poured in to cover the pieces. Next, the remaining ingredients are added and the mixture is allowed to simmer. After that, the vegetables are added and allowed to cook together. Finally, roasted peanuts are added for texture.

This dish is often served with rice.

Massaman curry recipes

This is a classic Thai dish. It is usually served hot with long grain rice. Here are some recipes:

FDA regulations

The USDA regulates all meat products, including chicken, which fall under the general classification of poultry. Chickens are classified into Rock Cornish game hen, Rock Cornish fryer or roaster or hen, Broiler or fryer, Roaster or roasting chicken, Capon, Hen or fowl or baking or stewing chicken, and Cock or rooster. 

Ingredients such as cinnamon, clove, cardamom, cumin, pepper, coriander seed, etc. fall under the spices, seasonings, and colorings category of the Code of Federal Regulations. These, as well as shallots and garlic are classified as spices, a term which are defined as any aromatic vegetable substance in whole, broken, or ground form, whose function in food is seasoning rather than nutritional. 

The FDA considers coconut a fruit, and any liquid derived from it as a juice. Hence, coconut milk is classified as a fruit juice in the US.


Fabian Jackson, A History of Flavours: Thai Massaman Curry, Planted Magazine, 

Marangoni, Franca et al. “Role of poultry meat in a balanced diet aimed at maintaining health and wellbeing: an Italian consensus document.” Food & nutrition research vol. 59 27606. 9 Jun. 2015, doi:10.3402/fnr.v59.27606, 

Karunasiri, Asiri N et al. “Antioxidant and Nutritional Properties of Domestic and Commercial Coconut Milk Preparations.” International journal of food science vol. 2020 3489605. 1 Aug. 2020, doi:10.1155/2020/3489605,