COCONUT CHICKEN with East African Flavors

The cuisine of Tanzania and a map of Africa

Tender chicken thighs in a coconut curry sauceI am very excited to share this delicious recipe with you, but even more excited to share the heartwarming story behind it.  It starts with my friend and neighbor Laura, who loaned me her African cookbooks.  Laura lived in Tanzania for a year after grad school where, in addition to her great collection of cookbooks, Laura acquired an intense devotion and care for the local people and their plight.  Four years ago, Laura joined a fledging organization called “Nurturing Minds” that raises money to build and support the Sega Girls School in Tanzania.  Much of my neighborhood has learned about this wonderful school and we now share Laura’s care and concern and have embraced this cause.  So here’s a peek at the beautiful school and a little bit about why it’s so special.

Sega girls school in TanzaniaStudent at Sega School for Girls in Moroboro TanzaniaCurrently at the Sega Girls School in Morogoro, Tanzania there are 150 bright, highly motivated young girls who are on a path to success they could not have dreamed of a few years ago. They are from the poorest of families in one of the World’s poorest countries. Many are orphans.  All of them were school dropouts, forced to give up on their educational pursuits due to extreme poverty and hardship.  Then one day, news came to their village of an opportunity to apply for admission to a special boarding school.  The girls who attend the Sega School don’t pay tuition. They are admitted based on a series of tests and interviews that confirm high intelligence, strong motivation to receive an education and a desperate level of financial need.

Girls studying at Sega Girls School in TanzaniaThe Sega education goes beyond the classroom.  They grow half of all the food they eat on campus and their school chores include tending the vegetable garden, caring for the chickens, and assisting the chef.   By the way, the chicken farming is something new and interesting – part of an initiative to start small businesses on the property that will both serve to support the school financially and also teach the girls business skills.

Students at Sega School for Girls in Tanzania cook and gardenI hope you enjoy this delicious coconut chicken with East African flavors, and if you want to know more about Sega School for Girls, visit the Nurturing Minds website:

Girls dancing outside Sega School for Girls in Tanzania

COCONUT CHICKEN with East African Flavors
Cuisine: Tanzanian
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 5-6
Tender chicken thighs in a spicy coconut curry sauce
  • ¼ cup oil (sunflower, olive or canola)
  • 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • 4 large garlic cloves, pressed
  • 3 tablespoons very finely chopped or grated fresh ginger (2 inch piece)
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes (from a can)
  • 4 pounds bone-in chicken thighs (about 12 thighs), skin removed & trimmed of fat
  • 2 jalapeno peppers (seeds and membranes discarded), finely chopped
  • 1 can unsweetened coconut milk (shake well before opening)
  • Lemon wedges (to serve on the side)
  • Toppings (choose your favorites)
  • ½ cup chopped peanuts
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro
  • ½ cup raisins
  • Sliced bananas browned in a little butter
  1. Heat oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add onions and cook 5-7 minutes until softened and starting to brown. Add garlic and ginger and stir for 20 seconds. Add dry spices and stir for 20 seconds. Add chopped tomatoes and chicken thighs. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes to cook spices and flavor the chicken. Add coconut milk and chopped jalapeños. Stir to mix. Bring to a boil, then lower heat, cover, and simmer 30-35 minutes, until chicken is cooked through. Let chicken sit for a few minutes. Excess fat will rise to the surface and you can skim some of it off with a spoon.
  2. Serve in deep bowls with basmati rice, lemon wedges and an assortment of toppings. Enjoy!



  1. Rick says

    Great recipe! Made a wonderful dinner for us tonight. I look forward to trying others on this site.
    Inspirational story about your school to. This is how we improve.

  2. Wendy Yellen says

    Lisa, I LOVE your recipes and site – thank you so much for your site. Many of your recipes are now my go-to favorites!

    Question on this recipe. By mistake I made it with a whole can of tomatoes. It made it pretty soupy, and it was delicious, but… I am thinking that without the whole can, there wouldn’t have been enough liquid to simmer for that long.

    Any thoughts on this? Your photo looks fairly liquid-y, which is similar to mine. I used less chicken, too.


    • says

      Hi Wendy – Thanks so much for your kind words about Panning The Globe. As for the Coconut Chicken recipe, I know what you’re saying about wanting enough liquid – I love to serve it with rice let the sauce flavor the rice. I think maybe it was a happy accident that you used extra tomatoes. I don’t think you can go wrong adding a little more broth or tomatoes if you like it soupier – maybe up the spices by a pinch too. Or you could even double everything in the recipe except the chicken. Then you’d have a very saucy dish!

  3. says

    Thanks so much for this incredibly easy recipe. Of course, as with all recipes, I had to mess with it a bit and added carrots and chickpeas, but the flavor was amazing. And the back story about the Sega Girls School makes it just that much more special.

    Also, I’ve added a backlink to this article on my own blog in a post about Tanzania –

    Thanks again and I look forward to following Panning the Globe for more great posts,


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