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Creamy Coconut Lime Chicken (Dairy Free)

Creamy coconut lime chicken is a Thai inspired dish that comes together in less than 30 minutes and is a one-pan meal the whole family will love. This recipe is dairy-free, gluten-free, and very customizable!

This easy coconut lime chicken recipe is the kind of meal I crave when I want something homemade but don’t really feel like cooking. It’s flavorful, quick, and requires minimal cleanup.

Poaching the chicken in a tangy coconut lime sauce results in tender pieces of chicken infused with the most delicious coconut lime flavor. Serve with white rice, coconut lime rice or cauliflower rice. Or really anything to sop up the extremely flavorful coconut sauce, which you’ll want to drink by the cup.

Ingredients

Shallot, fresh ginger, limes, coconut milk, broth, cilantro, garlic, and chicken breasts.
  • Chicken breasts – the poaching cooking method prevents them from drying out, but you can always use boneless chicken thighs if you prefer.
  • Salt & pepper – season the chicken on both sides so that flavor infuses into the dish early on.
  • Aromatics – a combination of shallot, garlic, and ginger help build the flavor and are an integral reason the sauce has so much flavor.
  • Lime zest and fresh lime juice – the juice adds brightness and cuts through the richness of the coconut milk while the zest brings forward that true lime flavor.
  • Chicken stock – for added flavor and cooking liquid.
  • Full-fat coconut milk – provides a rich and creamy sauce. For best results, I only recommend using coconut milk from a can that has both the coconut cream and water, not from a carton (which is mostly water).
  • Granulated sugar – a small amount of coconut sugar or brown sugar helps to bring forward all the flavors.
  • Cilantro – or another fresh herb of your choosing.

How to Make Coconut Lime Chicken

Step 1. Cut each chicken breast in half lengthwise or pound it thin between two pieces of parchment paper or plastic wrap. Season each side with salt and pepper.

Step 2. Add a tablespoon of olive oil, avocado oil, or coconut oil to a large skillet over medium heat and sear the seasoned chicken breasts for 2-3 minutes on each side until golden brown. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Searing seasoned chicken breasts in an oiled skillet.

Step 3. Reduce the heat to medium and add the diced shallot. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Cooking shallots, ginger, and garlic in a skillet.

Step 4. Add the lime zest, lime juice, and chicken broth. Scrape up any of the brown bits on the bottom of the pan before pouring in the coconut milk and sugar.

Step 5. Transfer the chicken back into the pan, cover, and reduce to medium-low heat. Cook for another couple of minutes or until the internal temperature on a meat thermometer reads 165ºF/74ºC.

Cooking chicken in a Thai coconut lime broth sauce.

Step 6. Remove from the heat and sprinkle chopped fresh cilantro over the top. Serve alongside coconut lime rice, white rice, or cauliflower rice, and optional fresh lime wedges.

Substitutions & Variations

Please remember that recipes are just a starting point.

How can you make this coconut lime chicken using what you already have? Here are some ideas

  • No chicken breasts? – use boneless skinless chicken thighs instead, but you’ll have to increase the cooking time.
  • No shallot? – use about 1/4 cup of diced red or yellow onion instead.
  • No fresh garlic? – use 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder.
  • No fresh ginger? – use 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger.
  • No cilantro? – use another fresh herb such as basil, parsley, Thai basil, or top with green onions.
  • Make it spicy – add red pepper flakes or chili peppers at the time you add in the aromatics.
  • Add vegetables – after you sear the chicken and remove it from the pan, you can lightly cook some additional vegetables such as carrots, snap peas, bell peppers, green beans, or mushrooms in the skillet, set them aside covered, and add them in at the time you serve the meal.
  • Add-ins  fish sauce for an extra funky flavor and more depth or soy sauce/tamari.
A large skillet with Thai coconut lime chicken with fresh cilantro and lime slices.

Equipment

For this recipe, you just need one large skillet and a lid. I used a 10-inch cast-iron skillet, and a lid from another pot, and seared the chicken in two batches. Depending on the size of your tenderized chicken breasts, it may be possible to sear the chicken in one batch using a 12-inch skillet.

Storage

Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Top tip

Don’t forget to season both sides of your chicken. Diamond Crystal kosher salt is my go-to for salt for cooking along with freshly cracked black pepper (not the preground kind). You can always add more to taste at the end, but this helps build the flavor early on.

More Easy Dinner Recipes

Creamy Coconut Lime Chicken (Dairy Free)

5 from 5 votes
A large skillet with Thai coconut lime chicken served next to a bowl of fresh cilantro.
Creamy coconut lime chicken is a Thai inspired dish that comes together in less than 30 minutes and is a one-pan meal the whole family will love. This recipe is dairy-free, gluten-free, and very customizable!
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Serving Size 4

Ingredients
 

  • 2 large chicken breasts about 1 ½ pounds total
  • kosher salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon oil such as avocado oil, coconut oil, or olive oil
  • 1 small shallot, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger
  • zest of 1 lime
  • ¼ cup lime juice
  • ¼ cup chicken broth
  • 15 ounce can full-fat coconut milk about 1 ½ cups
  • 1 teaspoon coconut sugar or brown sugar
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped optional

Instructions

  • Cut each chicken breast in half lengthwise or pound it thin between two pieces of parchment paper or plastic wrap. Season each side with salt and pepper.
  • Add a tablespoon of olive oil, avocado oil, or coconut oil to a large skillet over medium heat and sear the seasoned chicken breasts for 2-3 minutes on each side until golden brown. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  • Reduce the heat to medium and add the diced shallot. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  • Add the lime zest, lime juice, and chicken broth. Scrape up any of the brown bits on the bottom of the pan before pouring in the coconut milk and sugar.
  • Transfer the chicken back into the pan, cover, reduce to medium-low heat. Cook for another couple of minutes or until the internal temperature on a meat thermometer reads 165ºF/74ºC.
  • Remove from the heat and sprinkle chopped fresh cilantro over the top. Serve alongside coconut lime rice, white rice, or cauliflower rice, and optional fresh lime wedges.

Notes

How to store: Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Make It Your Way: Substitutions & Variations

No chicken breasts? – use boneless skinless chicken thighs instead, but you’ll have to increase the cooking time.
No shallot? – use about 1/4 cup of diced red or yellow onion instead.
No fresh garlic? – use 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder.
No fresh ginger? – use 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger.
No cilantro? – use another fresh herb such as basil, parsley, thai basil, or top with green onions.
Make it spicy – add red pepper flakes or chili peppers at the time you add in the aromatics.
Add vegetables – after you sear the chicken and remove it from the pan, you can lightly cook some additional vegetables such as carrots, snap peas, bell peppers, green beans or mushrooms in the skillet, set them aside covered, and add them in at the time you serve the meal.
Add-ins  fish sauce for an extra funky flavor and more depth or soy sauce/tamari.

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