Coconut Chicken with Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce ~ this 30-minute family meal is guaranteed to be a huge success. Serve it as an appetizer, too!
Ever since my Almond Joy Bars I’ve had coconut on the brain. At this point I think I’ve got it in all forms— both sweetened and unsweetened coconut meat, coconut milk, oil and flour, and I’m planning to use all of it. My favorite is the flour, the smell is intoxicating. If you still think coconut oil is bad for you, you’re behind the times. Like so many other foods that were once blacklisted as unhealthy, the unique fat found in unprocessed coconut oil has been found to be unbelievably healthy. It’s up there with olive oil.
This Coconut Chicken is a variation of the more common Thai coconut shrimp. I say it all the time but I love cooking with chicken tenders and chicken cutlets as opposed to using the whole breast. When you cook them right they’re almost as delicate as fish, and their mild flavor can take on so many personalities, from a rich Marsala to this crunchy dish. When I buy chicken, though, I ‘m always extra careful to buy humanely raised meat. I’d much rather pay a little more and eat a little less.
Dippable food is fun food, and I love dipping sauces and salsas of all kinds. It just makes a meal more festive. This sweet chili sauce is a classic and is so easy to make. It’s basically a spicy sweet and sour sauce. I used the fish sauce and chili paste that I had leftover from making my Thai Coconut Soup, you can find them in your regular store.
The coconut flour adds a beautiful layer of flavor to the chicken, but you don’t have to use it. The Japanese Panko crumbs, on the other hand, are pretty necessary to the texture of this chicken, they add a crispness to the coating.
This is going on my recipe hall of fame, whenever I get around to creating one. It’s great.
- 1 lb chicken tenders
- 1/2 cup coconut flour (you can use regular)
- 2 eggs, well beaten
- 1 cup Panko bread crumbs
- 1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
- oil for frying (I use peanut)
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
- juice of 1/2 lime
- 3 dried red chili peppers (or you can use fresh ones)
- 1/2 red bell pepper, cut in chunks
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 Tbsp Thai red chili paste
- 1 Tbsp honey
- a dash Thai fish sauce
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 Tbsp cornstarch
- 2 Tbsp water
- For the chicken: In a series of 3 plates or wide shallow bowls, set out the flour in one, the beaten eggs in another, and the bread crumbs mixed with the shredded coconut in the third.
- Coat all the tenders in the flour and set aside on a plate while you begin heating the oil in a wide bottomed frying pan. You should have about 1/8 inch of oil and it should be nice and hot before you begin cooking.
- When the oil is hot, dip the tenders in the egg, coating them completely, and then into the crumb/coconut mixture. Make sure you get them completely coated with the coconut crumbs. Shake off the excess.
- Saute the chicken until golden on both sides, which will take about 4 minutes total, depending on the thickness of your tenders and the temperature of your oil. Do this in batches so the tenders have space between them and the oil stays hot. Replenish with more oil if you need to between batches, but let it come up to temperature before adding more chicken.
- Serve with a squeeze of lime and the Chili Sauce.
- To make the sauce:
- Mix the cornstarch and the 2 Tbsp water in a small bowl and set aside.
- Put all the rest of the ingredients in a small food processor or blender and blend until pureed.
- Transfer to a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Let simmer for 4 minutes.
- Add the cornstarch paste, stir and let simmer for another minute. The sauce will thicken and turn glossy.
- Let cool completely before storing in the refrigerator.
- If you are making this for kids you can leave out the hot peppers and just use the bell pepper in the sauce.
I saw many recipes online that called for the sweetened coconut that you find in the baking aisle. I tried it both ways and the unsweetened is definitely best. It has a natural sweetness to it and a smaller shred which makes a better crust. The sweetened is too sweet and has a tendency to burn.
- If you want to use chicken breasts instead of tenders, you can brown them in the pan first and then transfer to the oven to finish the cooking.