Cape Malay Chicken Curry

I’ve always wanted to make Cape Malay chicken curry, especially after making bobotie, another classic South African dish. Both dishes are yellow from the use of turmeric, and both are served with yellow rice. Below, bobotie on the left, Cape Malay curry on the right. Both are fabulous, although my preference is probably bobotie; it’s more unique.

The recipe I used is from BBC Good Food, which I found online, because I forgot I owned a South African cookbook. Enter eye rolls. But what I found online were all similar, and very much like an Indian curry.

Cape Malay cuisine is, as its name implies, a fusion of a traditional South African ingredients (specifically from the Cape on the West Coast, now known as Cape Town) and Malaysian influences. Its flavors are well known to locals, and remain a major part of South African culture. Due to its unique quality, especially the spices, Cape Malay cooking has become an important part of South African identity.

I discovered this information about Cape Malay from this website about Cape Town tourism: “From tragic beginnings, Cape Malay has emerged as a strong culture of its own distinct from the Asian, African, and Dutch cultures that have influenced it. The community has a tumultuous history ranging many years, from fighting slavery to resisting their classification under the apartheid government, and playing important roles in the struggle against the unjust former regime”

Cape Malay Chicken Curry
Printable recipe below

2 tbsp sunflower or rapeseed oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 large garlic cloves, finely grated
2 tbsp finely grated ginger
5 cloves
2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground white pepper
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp cumin
seeds from 8 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
1 cinnamon stick , snapped in half
1 large red chilli, halved, deseeded and sliced
400g (14 ounces) can chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp mango chutney
1 chicken stock cube, crumbled
12 bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed (I used boneless and skinless chicken breasts)
500g (17 ounces) potato, cut into chunks
Small pack coriander, chopped

For the yellow rice
50g (2 ounces) butter
350g (12 ounces) basmati rice (I used short-grained brown)
50g (2 ounces) raisins
1 tsp golden caster sugar
1 tsp ground turmeric
¼ tsp ground white pepper
1 cinnamon stick, snapped in half
8 cardamom pods, lightly crushed

Heat the oil in a large, wide pan. Add the onion and fry for 5 mins until softened, stirring every now and then. Stir in the garlic, ginger and cloves, and cook for 5 mins more, stirring frequently to stop it sticking.

Add all the remaining spices and the fresh chilli, stir briefly, then tip in the tomatoes with 2 cans of water, plus the chutney and crumbled stock cube. Add the chicken thighs, pushing them under the liquid, then cover the pan and leave to cook for 35 mins. Stir well, add the potatoes and cook uncovered for 15-20 mins more until they are tender. Stir in the coriander.

About 10 mins before you want to serve, make the rice. Put the butter, rice, raisins, sugar and spices in a large pan with 550ml (18 ounces) water and 1/2 tsp salt. Bring to the boil and, when the butter has melted, stir, cover and cook for 10 mins. Turn off the heat and leave undisturbed for 5 mins. Fluff up and serve with the curry.

I placed the rice on plates, made shallow wells, then placed the curry in the wells.

The flavors are really wonderful. My only complaint is that too much water is in the recipe.

I used a slotted spoon to remove the curry from its broth. I reduced the broth after removing the chicken and potatoes.

The curry flavor is wonderful!


By Published On: April 13th, 202337 Comments on Cape Malay Chicken Curry

About the Author: Chef Mimi

As a self-taught home cook, with many years in the culinary profession, I am passionate about all things food-related. Especially eating!


  1. Angie@Angie's Recipes April 13, 2023 at 6:12 AM - Reply

    Looks wholesome! I adore all sorts of curries from different cultures…is this a dry curry?

    • Chef Mimi April 13, 2023 at 6:21 AM - Reply

      No, it isn’t. Great flavors, and so easy, just like all curries I’ve made!

  2. Dorothy's New Vintage Kitchen April 13, 2023 at 6:16 AM - Reply

    This is one of those glorious recipes where the instant the onions start to sizzle, your house is filled to the brim with intoxicating scents.
    Beautiful all around. Thanks for sharing this Mimi, I am definitely going to give this one a try.

    • Chef Mimi April 13, 2023 at 6:22 AM - Reply

      You are so right! I’ve always said that Indian cooking provides the best potpourri!

      • Dorothy's New Vintage Kitchen April 13, 2023 at 7:05 AM

        I love it when I walk outside while something like this is simmering, maybe putter in the garden, and when i come back in the house, it is like walking through a wave of exotic flavor!

      • Chef Mimi April 13, 2023 at 4:42 PM

        Yes! And it gets better when you walk up the stairs!

  3. Pauline McNee April 13, 2023 at 6:38 AM - Reply

    Mimi I can tell from the ingredients that the immense curry flavours will be superb. I love a very tasty curry with an interesting backstory.

    • Chef Mimi April 13, 2023 at 4:43 PM - Reply

      I probably don’t make curries often enough – Indian cuisine is really our favorite!

  4. David Scott Allen April 13, 2023 at 9:01 AM - Reply

    It looks great — wonderful flavors and, a you say, like many Indian curries. I know a lot of Indians were brought to Africa to build the railroads — I believe as slaves. So perhaps that explains the spices in this curry. I’m adding this to my curry folder and this post is also a great reminder to make the bobotie you published.

    • Chef Mimi April 13, 2023 at 4:42 PM - Reply

      The bobotie was so good! This curry is also good but less unique in my book! Hope you get to these recipes!

  5. Travel Gourmet April 13, 2023 at 10:50 AM - Reply

    Sounds delicious, Mimi, and great to learn about its origins.

    • Chef Mimi April 13, 2023 at 4:41 PM - Reply

      Thank you Kay!

  6. Charlie DeSando April 13, 2023 at 4:21 PM - Reply

    I like that yellow rice with the turmeric. The entire dish looks great

  7. Tandy | Lavender and Lime April 13, 2023 at 10:50 PM - Reply

    I love Cape Malay food and have a recipe that was given to me by a local Muslim friend when we first moved here. I make it often in winter as it’s warm and comforting.

    • Chef Mimi April 14, 2023 at 9:39 AM - Reply

      Have you posted it? I’d love to know how it differs from the one I used.

  8. 2pots2cook April 14, 2023 at 5:50 AM - Reply

    We both love curry but prefer bobotie too!

    • Chef Mimi April 14, 2023 at 9:39 AM - Reply

      It’s just so unique!

  9. Debra April 14, 2023 at 9:40 PM - Reply

    You’ve done it again, Mimi! A taste bonanza! I can hardly wait to make this beautiful dish. I won’t be able to wait very long, that’s certain! 😉

    • Chef Mimi April 15, 2023 at 8:08 AM - Reply

      Thanks, Debra! We love curries at this house!

  10. Healthy World Cuisine April 15, 2023 at 9:59 AM - Reply

    Now this is the kind of recipe we can really dig into. Love all those warming spices and chutney. Each bite is going to be an explosion of flavor.

    • Chef Mimi April 15, 2023 at 1:41 PM - Reply

      Curries are the best. Period!

  11. Sherry Mackay April 15, 2023 at 8:29 PM - Reply

    Love bobotie – used to make it years ago. The curry sounds absolutely delicious Mimi – so many great flavours. I love to use my homemade mango chutney. Our friends said they ran out of mine so had to buy a jar and were sadly disappointed :) Half a litre of water does sound like a lot.

    • Chef Mimi April 16, 2023 at 10:26 AM - Reply

      Ohhh I bet! Anything home-made is always better, in my opinion! Yes, it turned out to be a slightly weird recipe.

  12. Jeff the Chef April 16, 2023 at 11:05 AM - Reply

    What a cool coincidence. I wanted to make a yellow curry this weekend, but I couldn’t find my yellow curry powder. Where it could’ve gotten to, I have no idea. But now I can turn my attention to this beautifuyl dish instead!

    • Chef Mimi April 16, 2023 at 12:04 PM - Reply

      Oh, good! You’ll love it.

  13. Jean | April 16, 2023 at 1:10 PM - Reply

    Mimi, this sounds like something I need to make very soon! I’ll use boneless skinless chicken thighs and, as you discussed, cut back on the water. Do you think using just one can of water would work, or even less?

    • Chef Mimi April 16, 2023 at 5:09 PM - Reply

      1 can full of water should do it. I really should have jotted down the amount. My mistake. But you’ll enjoy the flavors!

  14. Thao @ In Good Flavor April 16, 2023 at 4:48 PM - Reply

    Just by looking at the ingredients list, I know this dish has great flavor and aroma!

    • Chef Mimi April 16, 2023 at 5:10 PM - Reply


  15. Velva April 16, 2023 at 6:09 PM - Reply

    This curry dish looks fantastic. I am a huge fan of curry dishes. Love this recipe.

    • Chef Mimi April 17, 2023 at 7:41 AM - Reply

      I am too. I think Indian cuisine is our favorite. Although, this is South African… but curries are the best.

  16. David @ Spiced April 17, 2023 at 6:32 AM - Reply

    I must admit that I don’t know that much about South African cuisine. It appears to have a strong Indian influence. I do love curry, though, and the flavors in this recipe sound spot on. I’ll have to give it a try!

    • Chef Mimi April 17, 2023 at 7:39 AM - Reply

      I didn’t either, which is why I had to make this and bobotie. I think the curry goes back to the spice trail way back when. So many different influences there.

  17. Elena Bourke April 17, 2023 at 12:33 PM - Reply

    I would love to wow my South African friends with this dish! What a wonderful list of ingredients. I can just imagine how they meld to create a complex flavor profile. Thanks for always introducing us to new things.

    • Chef Mimi April 18, 2023 at 3:03 PM - Reply

      Thanks, Elena. That’s very sweet of you to say. Bobotie is also incredible. Sun great food in SA!

  18. Raymund April 27, 2023 at 6:59 PM - Reply

    The chicken looks so tender and the sauce sounds flavorful. Yum

    • Chef Mimi April 29, 2023 at 9:48 AM - Reply

      Thanks, Raymund!

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