Spicy Coconut Chicken with Mango Basil Salsa

Until four years ago, my taste buds had never traveled through Asia.  How could I have considered myself an adventurous eater when I had never sampled sushi, touched tamarind, got along with ginger? Pad See WHO?

You see, my childhood kitchen was classically American. A Norman Rockwell of the dining table crowded with the perfect carved Sunday roast beef, a white porcelain bowl mounded with mashed potatoes, a ladle in the gravy, and corn, possibly creamed. No simmering curries, no exotic spices peeking out of the spice cabinet. China was a local area code and a white paper box scrawled with red symbols. Those damn bent wire handles that would never quite fold over the top in the way I’d hoped.

And it was not disinterest or distaste that kept me patriotic. I just never knew. No one told me that coconut existed outside of Almond Joy and custard pie. That peanut butter cheated on jelly for soy sauce. That ginger, lemongrass, and tamari were friends.

Not until I moved into my own apartment did I realize that I could love foreign fare. I browsed books on Thai, Korean, and Japanese cooking. Spent a cool million at the Asian market, loading my shoebox of a pantry with fish sauce, oyster sauce, and toasted sesame oil. Don’t be fooled, it wasn’t immediate immersion. I didn’t fall head over heels for every wok-seared dish. But after years of experimentation, of learning a new culinary language, I can finally call myself adventurous and mean it.

This dish, Spicy Coconut Chicken with Spicy Mango Basil Salsa, is delicious. My dear friend, Emily, prepared this for me a few weeks ago. I asked her for the recipe before the fork had completely left my mouth. I then entered a food coma.

The chicken is unbearably succulent- bursting with juicy flavors of lime, rich coconut milk, sweet brown sugar, and basil.  It’s then topped with fresh mango salsa that has been marinated with basil and jalapeno. All at once sweet, savory, and spicy. The taste trifecta.

Spicy Coconut Chicken or Shrimp with Spicy Mango Basil Salsa – Recipe courtesy Dave Lieberman, Food Network

(serves 4)


  • 1 mango, peeled and finely diced
  • 3 scallions, sliced
  • 5 basil leaves, julienned
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Shrimp or Chicken:

  • 2 fresh jalapenos, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/2–inch piece ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 lime, zested
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • Small handful basil leaves, torn
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 15 grinds pepper
  • 1 pound peeled, deveined shrimp — I used chicken*

For the salsa: Combine all ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Make up to a day in advance. Keep covered in the refrigerator.

For the shrimp or chicken:

In a mixing bowl, combine jalapenos, garlic, ginger, brown sugar, soy sauce, lime zest, coconut milk, basil, vegetable oil, salt and pepper.

Place the shrimp or chicken in a large shallow bowl, pour three quarters of the marinade on top.  Toss to coat.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and marinate for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours, refrigerated. Refrigerate the remaining 1/4 of the marinade separately. The recipe calls for you to marinate the shrimp or chicken in all of the sauce and then boil it down when you’re ready to cook the meal, to kill any potential bacteria. I don’t believe in doing this because of the fear of contamination. I’d recommend that you never re-use your marinades. Just simply save some of the sauce in a separate dish.

Heat a nonstick skillet over high heat. Use tongs or a fork to remove the shrimp from the marinade and place in an even layer in the pan.

Flip the chicken or shrimp after about 3-4 minutes. At this point, oI chose to add peppers and onions to the skillet as well because I can’t fathom a meal without vegetables. Not only for the nutrients, but for the beautiful color as well.

Let the mixture cook for another 7 or so minutes, until cooked through. Note: Shrimp cook very quickly and are done the minute they turn an opaque light pink (after about 4 minutes in the pan).

In a separate saucepan, add the reserved marinade, bring to a boil and cook until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. You could also just wait until the chicken/shrimp are cooked through, remove them from the pan, and then add the sauce directly to that empty skillet. I like for everything to be done at the same time so I use two pans.

Pour over the cooked chicken or shrimp and serve with rice cooked in half coconut milk/half water with zested lime. Top the plate with the basil-mango salsa you’d made earlier.



22 thoughts on “Spicy Coconut Chicken with Mango Basil Salsa

  1. Sophie @ yumventures

    I’m glad you have the same adoration for Asian cooking as I do! I love all of it: Indian, Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Singaporean. I’m just waiting for the day that I can travel to the Far East and eat my way from country to country. This looks so delicious and fresh – the perfect way to use fresh basil from this summer’s overgrowing population!

  2. Erica

    This chicken sound really interesting. Josh loves coconut, I think I need to make the chicken alone for him! And I love fruity salsa. They are special/different :) Happy Wednesday

  3. Sarah (Running to Slow Things Down)

    I have quite a bit of experimentation to do in my kitchen as well. It’s so easy to stick to what we’re comfortable with, but there are so many ingredients out there, just begging to be mixed and mingled into a whole new style of cooking.

    I can’t wait to try this recipe. It sounds wonderful! :D

  4. DiningAndDishing

    coconut milk is my absolute favorite addition to any asian dish. red curry wins me over esp…i can never sit down to eat it without clearing my plate! loving the look of your recipe as ive never tried a coconut milk dish at home…

    – Beth @ http://www.DiningAndDishing.com

  5. Christine @ Grub, Sweat and Cheers

    I LOVE Thai food – so fresh and flavourful. Just adore it. I make a similar salsa with mango, avocado, cilantro, red onion and chili – I use it in a variety of fajitas/tacos. So good tossed through salad with seared tuna too.

    I will definitely be making that sauce for the chicken. Thank-you!

  6. Cindy

    That does it!

    Now I have to go buy a bigger notebook to hold all my recipe “print-outs”

    Darn you and your amazing food!

    Darn Darn Darn. (jk)


  7. M.J. Jacobsen

    All my favorites! (with the shrimp) Can’t wait to try it this weekend, we are suppose to have SUN here in WA state! This recipe will make me feel like summer is (almost!) here!

  8. katecooks

    i made something so similar to this last night, except with mango chicken sausage from TJ, and cilantro instead of basil. on top of rice. except it was missing the sauce-y part i see in this dish…definitely making a similar marinade for next time, thanks for sharing!!!

  9. Pingback: Dishing in the New Year « Can You Stay for Dinner?

  10. shred hd muscles

    Good day I am so glad I found your blog page, I really found you by error, while I was
    searching on Google for something else, Regardless I am here now
    and would just like to say many thanks for a incredible post and a all round
    exciting blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to go through it all at the moment
    but I have bookmarked it and also included your
    RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read a great deal more, Please do
    keep up the superb jo.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.