Cheap and Easy Chicken Curry

A 45 degree view of a plate of chicken curry with rice.

This chicken curry is seriously one of the best recipes for a weeknight dinner. It is a simplified version of a typical Southeast Asian curry, and is really cheap and easy. It requires hardly any time to prep and most of the cooking is done passively so you can do other things while you wait. The total price for this dish is $9.90 (AUD) which is just under our $10 budget and should easily feed a family of 4.

Today’s chicken curry recipe is based off my mum’s Vietnamese version that she has been making since I was kid. Mum’s curry always had sweet potato, white potato and carrots as the vegetables and a paste made from scratch. I never knew how expensive it was to make her curry until the other day. There are few pricey ingredients that go into making the paste such as lemongrass which are selling for $3 a stalk!

A close up view of a plate of chicken curry with rice

So, for the past week I have been trying to sub in cheaper ingredients to replicate the taste but to no avail. I have made so many curries that I am literally curried out! I have come to the conclusion that nothing beats the flavour and price tag of store bought curry paste. I hate to admit it but I don’t see how it can be done from scratch for under $10. So this curry recipe is a little bit of a cheat but it tastes good and most importantly it’s within our budget!

My Tips for Success

  1. It is very important to have the pot on low heat when frying the curry paste. This is because it will explode if the temperature is too hot.
  2. Shallow frying the potato beforehand will help it stay together and keep its shape once added to the curry.
  3. Chicken drumsticks can be substituted for breast, thighs or any other meaty cut, but we have used drumsticks because they are the cheapest cut in our supermarket.
  4. This chicken curry pairs well with white jasmine rice or toasted bread.
  5. I use coconut cream because it gives a much more creamier taste. If you prefer your curry to be less rich, use coconut milk instead.

A top down view of a plate of chicken curry with white jasmine rice.

Recipe Costings

This table shows how much this recipe will cost if you had to go out and buy everything on the ingredients list (“Shop Price”), as well as the value of ingredients actually used in the recipe (“Recipe Cost”).

With the “Shop Price”, we’re assuming you’re buying the smallest possible quantity to make this recipe. Obviously if you’re buying things in larger quantities the price will be higher, but you’re also more likely to be paying less per unit. We haven’t bothered with things like salt and pepper as the cost would be negligible.

All prices are in Australian dollars and are based off what was published on Coles Online or Woolworths Online as at time of writing.

Ingredient Quantity Bought Shop Price Recipe Needs Recipe Cost
Chicken drumsticks 2 kg at $3.75/kg $7.50 1.2 kg $4.50
White potato 2 kg at $2.75/kg $5.50 3 (600 gm) $1.65
Carrots 1 kg packet $1.50 3 (400 gm) $0.60
Thai yellow curry paste 1 bottle (200 gm) $3.30 100 gm $1.65
Coconut cream 1 can (400 ml) $1.00 400 ml $1.00
Fish sauce 1 bottle (300 ml) $2.00 30 ml $0.20
Coriander 1 sleeve $3.00 3 stalks $0.30
Total $23.80 $9.90

A top down view of a pot chicken curry.

Optional Extras

If you have the budget and don’t mind adding a few more ingredients to elevate the recipe, then I suggest the following additions:

  1. 500 gm sweet potato cut into chunks.
  2. 1/2 a cup of frozen peas.
  3. Ground chilli or cayenne pepper for added spice.
  4. Shredded kaffir lime leaves to garnish.
  5. Lime segments to serve.

A close up landscape view of a plate of chicken curry with white jasmine rice.

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–  Scruff

Cheap and Easy Chicken Curry

Cheap Chicken Curry

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 4
Author Scruff


  • 100 gm yellow or red Thai curry paste
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1.2 kg chicken drumsticks, cleaned and not frozen
  • 3 cups boiling water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 3 white potatoes (600 gm), peeled and cubed
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 400 ml coconut cream


  • 3 stalks coriander, finely chopped


  1. Prepare all your ingredients. 

  2. In a medium sized pot on low heat, add 2 tbsp of oil and fry the curry paste for roughly a minute. Then add the chicken drumsticks and cover them in the curry paste.

  3. Add the salt, sugar and 3 cups of boiling water. Turn the heat up to medium and the once the pot is boiling, cook for 15 minutes.

  4. Optional step. In a pan, shallow fry the potatoes in oil for 10 - 15 minutes on medium high. Allow the potato to form a skin to prevent them breaking up in the curry. 

  5. After 15 minutes add the potatoes and carrots to the curry and cook for another 20 minutes. 

  6. After 20 minutes, check if the drumsticks and potatoes are done. Skim as much fat off the surface as you want and then add the coconut cream and the fish sauce. Combine well.  

  7. Check the seasoning and sweetness of your curry. Add more fish sauce to improve flavour and salt content or boiling water to dilute.  

  8. Serve with white jasmine rice or crusty bread.

6 thoughts on “Cheap and Easy Chicken Curry

    1. Hi Caro! I live in Australia and I usually use the Ayam or Mae Ploy brand if I am at a mainstream grocery store. Other than that I do like Maesri brand as well. Thanks for dropping by Caro!!!

  1. I live in WA which provides perfect conditions to grow Lemon Grass, Coriander, Thai Basil and a Kaffir Lime tree in a pot. This saves $$ but also provides really fresh ingredients. I’ve made Kylie Kwong’s Cambodian Fish Curry many times. Using some of our own ingredients the price seems reasonable and it’s very tasty. I must admit when curry paste came on special recently I did buy three jars, it’s so convenient. Thanks very much for sharing your recipes, they’re good inspiration and help me to focus on keeping our food costs reasonable.

    1. You’re very lucky to be able to grow your own produce! We have a balcony garden that isn’t doing so well, I love the idea of just being able to wander into my backyard and pick out my ingredients. I’m sure you would save a lot of money that way. All the best with your cooking and thank you for dropping by! Steph

    2. Hi Astrid! We live in Canberra and well… anything that grows here has to be pretty resilient to the cold weather! I would normally try to make things from scratch but it can be very pricey and time consuming. I am slowly being converted to buying pre-made products that will save a lot of time and are not too unhealthy. It is just making more sense to me now since having a child! And thank you Astrid for your kind words. It really makes a difference to Steph and I!

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