Meet your new favorite easy weeknight dinner that’s even better than takeout! This Thai-Inspired Coconut Lime Chicken is packed with flavor and an oh-so-creamy sauce. It’s simple to make as well, with a few ingredients, and minimal prep, and it’s a dinner the whole family will love. This dish is naturally gluten-free and dairy free too. Try it paired with freshly steamed white rice, (or brown rice) and a side of vegetables like my Best Roasted Broccoli for your new family favorite dinner.
It’s no secret we’re absolutely crazy about the coconut lime flavor combo around here and Thai food as well! The obsession started with this Coconut Lime Ice Cream, and I’ve been creating different recipes around those flavors ever since.
You’re going to love this one because the flavors are similar to a Tom Gai Soup. But it’s more subtle because there’s no curry paste involved, and that makes it something the entire family can enjoy.
There are also no tricky ingredients to track down either, just easy-to-find ingredients at your local grocery store. I wanted to keep this one an extra simple recipe that has so much yummy flavor, you’re going to want to put it on your menu weekly!
This recipe is on the saucy side, so it’s extra good with freshly steamed rice. But if you prefer a thicker sauce, you can either thicken it with a starch of your choice or remove the chicken and reduce it down.
We love all the sauce which is the consistency of a thin curry piled over the above-mentioned rice, with loads of roasted or steamed veggies. This way you have that wonderful coconut-lime flavor infusing your whole plate!
Watch How to Make this Coconut Lime Chicken
Ingredients & Substitutions
- Chicken – I used boneless skinless chicken breasts here, but chicken thighs would work well too. The chicken breasts simmer in the sauce for about 20 minutes, so you can use bone-in chicken thighs which will be a similar time. Or if you’re using boneless chicken thighs and reduce the cooking time to around 10-15 minutes. Simmer the sauce for 15 minutes or so then add the chicken thighs.
- Avocado oil – is perfect for sautéing the chicken, but you can also use coconut oil, olive oil, or any other cooking oil you like to use.
- Onion, Garlic, & Ginger – These 3 make up quite a bit of the savory backdrop of flavor in this sauce. And the ginger is especially important as it pairs so well with the coconut and lime.
- Chili – This one is optional, but we like to add a sliced red chili for just a touch of heat. But feel free to leave it out, or add more depending on your preference. If you don’t have or can’t find fresh red chilis, you can also use red pepper flakes to taste.
- Fish Sauce – this adds a lot of depth to this sauce and gives this dish its characteristic ‘Thai’ flavor. But if you really can’t use it at all for some reason, you can sub in coconut aminos or soy sauce for a different but good flavor.
- Lime – I use both the zest in the sauce and some freshly squeezed lime juice added at the end for perfect lime flavor. I always recommend using a microplane grater because you end up with super fine zest that fairly melts into the sauce.
- Coconut Milk – You want to go with full-fat coconut milk here for the fullest flavor. And if you want to go all out, try coconut cream!
- Cilantro / Thai Basil – fresh herbs are super tasty here, and these 2 in combination are seriously good. But to keep things simple you can leave them both out, or go with the easily available cilantro. Thinly sliced green onions will also work if you don’t like cilantro.
Make this recipe step by step
Step 2: When everything is prepped, heat a large skillet (10-12″) over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot but not smoking, add 1/2 of the oil and sear the chicken breasts until well browned on each side.
Important Note: this recipe serve 6 but there are 3 large 8-ounce chicken breasts. You can cut them in half lengthwise so they are half as thick, but it can be hard to fit all 6 in your average skillet. Instead, I keep them whole and cut them in half wide-wise when it comes time to serve.
Step 3: When the chicken breasts are golden brown on both sides, remove them from the pan and set them aside. Add the remaining oil to the pan along with the onion, garlic, and ginger. Sauté over medium heat until golden brown and softened.
Step 5: Bring the coconut sauce to a simmer and and cook the chicken for 8-10 minutes before turning the chicken and cooking another 6-10 minutes or until the chicken is just done in the center.
Tip: An instant-read thermometer will read 165ºF internal temperature when your chicken is done. A thermometer is the best way to tell if your chicken is truly done without running the risk of overcooking it and having dry chicken breasts. Juicy chicken is always the goal, and a thermometer makes that easy.
Step 6: When the chicken is done cooking, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the fish sauce and fresh lime juice, and season to taste with sea salt. Garnish with either cilantro or Thai basil, or both if you have them, and serve with lime wedges.
Ways to serve this
- Freshly steamed rice (or cauliflower rice) is both great with this dish. But I also really love this with roasted sweet potato in place of rice.
- For a fresh veggie, try my Asian Cucumber Salad. Or try my Roasted Broccoli, Roasted Carrots, or Perfect Roasted Asparagus. For a stove-top veggie option, try my Sautéed Green Beans.
- For the easiest way to add a veggie, try adding chopped-up spinach to the sauce right at the end.
- Also, the fresh herbs are so good with this! You don’t need both cilantro and Thai basil by any means. But if you have both herbs, they’re phenomenal with this.
Yes, you just need to adjust the cooking time accordingly. Brown the chicken thighs as directed, then reduce the sauce by about half before adding the chicken thighs in to cook just until done in the center.
Yes, you can use coconut cream in this recipe. But if your sauce loses too much moisture the fat will separate from the sauce. You may need to add a touch of chicken broth to the skillet if you use coconut cream to make sure this doesn’t happen.
This happens when a sauce has been reduced too far. When there isn’t enough moisture left to keep a sauce emulsified, the fat will separate from the sauce. To fix a broken sauce, try removing the chicken breasts and whisking in a bit of chicken broth until the sauce comes back together. If you’re still struggling with it after adding chicken broth, add a little cornstarch mixed with water until it comes together. In this case, you may need to add even more chicken stock to keep it from being too thick.
- To store – place any leftovers into an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 4 days.
- Make ahead – this dish can be made ahead and reheated, but be careful not to overcook the chicken because it will be dry. Refer to the reheating tips next.
- Reheating – to reheat the leftovers I like to cut the chicken breasts into 1/2 slices and reheat them in a covered skillet with some sauce until just heated through. If you try to reheat the chicken breast whole it does tend to get overcooked.
- To freeze – this dish can be frozen in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge before reheating as directed above. Also, I recommend slicing the chicken before freezing or before reheating it so it doesn’t get overcooked.
Tips & Tricks
- The fresh herbs add a lot of flavor to this dish. However, you don’t need both cilantro and Thai basil by any means. But if you have both herbs, they’re phenomenal with this.
- Don’t skip the lime wedges for serving, a little fresh lime juice squeezed over the top is so tasty.
- Another serving tip is to take the finished chicken out of the sauce and slice it into 1/2″ slices before laying in the sauce to serve. As I mentioned above, my main reason for sautéing 3 chicken breasts is so they fit in the pan. The other option is to cut them into 6 thinner chicken breasts and use a giant skillet. Also, the thin chicken breasts will cook twice as fast. Overall I think it’s best to slice right before serving.
I really hope you enjoy this Coconut Lime Chicken! If you do get a chance to make this recipe, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
Coconut Lime Chicken
- 2 tbsp avocado oil - or cooking oil of choice
- 1.5 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts - 3
- 1/2 cup minced onion - yellow or white
- 2 cloves garlic - minced
- 1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
- 1 red chili - thinly sliced, optional
- 2 tsp lime zest - grated with a microplane
- 1 can full fat coconut milk - 13.66 oz
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro and/or Thai basil - optional
- Additional lime wedges for serving - and sliced chili for garnish if desired
- Preheat a large skillet, (10-12") over medium high heat. When the pan is hot but not smoking, add 1 tablespoon of the oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan.
- Add the chicken breasts to the pan and cook until browned on both sides, 2-3 minutes per side. Then remove the chicken from the pan and set it aside.
- Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan along with the onion, garlic, and ginger. Lower the heat to medium and cook stirring often until the onion softens and is lightly browned, 4-5 minutes.
- Next add the optional chili, lime zest, coconut milk. Bring the sauce to a boil, and using a wooden spoon, scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
- Lower the heat to maintain a simmer, and add the chicken breasts back to the pan. Cook for about 8-10 minutes, then turn the chicken breasts over and cook an additional 6-10 minutes. Or until an instant read thermometer registers 165ºF.
- When the chicken is done, stir in the fish sauce & lime juice to the sauce, and season to taste with salt. Sprinkle the chopped fresh herbs over the top if using, and serve!