Chicken Ceylon Recipe | BIR Style | Hot, Acidic and Sweet

Once you have mastered the BIR cooking technique, making curry becomes easy. You can even try your hand at some seriously exotic dishes that you won’t find on the takeaway menu. Such as? Well, a nice chicken Ceylon is a great place to start. This curry is one of the tastiest around, and with my BIR recipe below, you’ll be able to whip it up in about 15 minutes. Here’s everything you need to know.

What is Ceylon Curry?

Chicken Ceylon, or Cylon, if you prefer, has its roots firmly in Sri Lanka. In fact, that is exactly where it gets its name from, as Sri Lanka’s former name was Ceylon. The characterizing features of Ceylon dishes include hot spices, creamy coconut and an acidic element such as tamarind or lime juice.

The version you will make today is cooked in a BIR style, but it contains many elements that are a nod to the original.

Sri Lanka is an island off the South East coast of India. It is famed for producing huge amounts of fragrant spices, such as cinnamon, turmeric and methi, all of which you will find in this tasty dish!

Is Chicken Ceylon Hot? How Spicy is Ceylon

Now this one does come with a bit of a warning. Like most Sri Lankan food, Ceylon curry is a little on the fiery side. While it doesn’t contain fresh chilli, it has a substantial amount of hot chilli powder. As a result, it is pretty spicy.

If you aren’t a fan of blisteringly hot curries, don’t worry, you can reduce or remove the chilli powder to your taste and still get a very similar flavour profile.

What Should Chicken Ceylon Curry Look Like?

Chicken Ceylon should be a dark yellow to pale orange colour. Cylon curry has a diluted tomato base, giving it a slight red tinge. This, combined with the red chilli powder and orange colour of the BIR base gravy, gives it an orange hue.

We also add coconut flour and coconut cream. This makes the dish slightly paler.

Ceylon curry is a relatively saucy dish, perfect for pairing with nice soft naan bread.

What Does Ceylon Curry Taste Like?

Chicken Ceylon is packed with the perfect blend of heat and flavour. Here’s a good description of its flavour profile: -

  • Hot – The dominant spice in chicken Ceylon is chilli powder. This gives the curry a very hot taste. It is certainly as hot as a Madras.
  • Slightly Sweet – The chicken Ceylon recipe also contains coconut flour and coconut cream. This adds a subtle sweetness.
  • A Little Tangy and Acidic – Chicken Ceylon contains tomato puree, which offers a slight tang and acidity. The dish is finished with a squeeze of lime juice and, as a result, has a mild and pleasing ‘tanginess’.
  • Slightly Creamy – The inclusion of coconut cream (and a finishing touch of butter) gives chicken Ceylon a slightly creamy consistency. It isn’t as rich as butter chicken or korma but is creamier than curries like a Dopiaza.
  • Fragrant – As you’d expect from a Sri Lankan curry, Ceylon is packed with aromatic herbs and spices. You have garlic and ginger, the savoury onion taste from the base gravy, and the addition of a cinnamon stick early in the cooking process means that it is really fragrant.

Chicken Ceylon Recipe | How to Make Chicken Ceylon

Ok, let’s get down to it. Chicken Ceylon in 6 easy steps.

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cooking time: 5 minutes
  • Servings: 2
  • Calories: 630 per portion

Chicken Ceylon Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 thumb-sized stick of cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon garlic and ginger paste
  • 1 teaspoon dried fenugreek (methi) leaves
  • 1 tablespoon mixed powder
  • 2 teaspoons hot chilli powder
  • ½ cup diluted tomato puree
  • 2 tablespoons coconut flour
  • 3 tablespoons coconut cream
  • 2 cups diluted base gravy (heated)
  • One cup Precooked Chicken
  • 1 tablespoon of butter (or ghee)
  • Half a lime


Heat a frying pan over high heat and add the oil. Once the oil is hot and shimmering, add your cinnamon stick and allow it to fry for 30 seconds. Then, add your garlic and ginger paste and fry for a further 30 seconds.

Once the garlic paste turns a pale yellow colour, add your methi, mix powder and chilli, stir into the oil to form a loose and fragrant paste. Once the mixture begins to darken, stir in your tomato puree.

Once the tomato puree thickens, add your coconut flour, coconut cream and a splash of base gravy. Stir until you have a slightly thick curry sauce that is orange in colour.

Add your pre-cooked chicken and a cup of base gravy, stir and coat the chicken in the tasty sauce.

Add a splash more base gravy, along with a squeeze of lime. Cook down to the desired consistency, then serve and enjoy!

Cooking Chicken Ceylon | Tips and Tricks

  • If you don’t have cinnamon sticks, you can use a teaspoon of powdered cinnamon. Simply add this while you add the rest of the dry spices.
  • If you can’t find coconut cream, then a can of coconut milk will work in a pinch. The dish may be lighter in colour and may take slightly longer to cook. Around half a can will work well.
  • To avoid burning your spices when you are frying them, you may need to add a splash of water, around 5 tablespoons will be plenty to stop them from turning too dark!
  • While we use precooked chicken in our Ceylon recipe, you can also use raw chicken. To do this, start the recipe by browning the chicken at the beginning of the cooking process, then proceed according to the above steps.
  • The butter at the end is optional. If you are trying to keep your curry a little more healthy, you can skip this.
  • If you haven’t got limes, then a squeeze of lemon juice will do the trick just as well. No lemon? No problem, substitute this for a teaspoon of white wine vinegar.
  • If you aren’t a fan of hot curry but still want to try this dish, you can reduce the amount of chilli powder or even remove it completely. The curry will be slightly paler in colour if you opt to leave it out.

Chicken Ceylon | Final Thoughts

Creamy and sweet coconut, the acidic taste of lime and tomato, all undercut with fiery heat and juicy chunks of chicken? That sounds pretty much perfect! Chicken Ceylon is one of the tastiest curries you can try, so give it a go! If you are new to BIR cooking, be sure to check out my complete guide to getting started. You can also get kitted out for curry right here.

Enjoy Making Curry Yourself?

Hey folks, thanks for reading this article. I hope you found it useful, and that you learned something new allowing you to make your curry extra special. Here are a few things that can really elevate your curry game to the next level. 

These are affiliate links, so if you use them I receive a small commission, but this won't cost you any extra. In all honesty, I use very similar items myself, and wouldn't hesitate to recommend them to my friends.

A Complete Curry Kit: - Literally, everything you'll need to make curry all in one place. Cookware, storage, utensils, even the spices! This is my dedicated guide to getting you up and running all for the price of few takeaways.

Curry pans: - You need one, and one only. A frying pan exactly like this is really easy to use, and is exactly the type that authentic Indian chefs use to make the type of curry that you'll have in your local takeaway. You can see my full reviews of several pans right here...

Spice Storage: - Being organised is half the battle in making great curry. Spices can be notoriously hard to keep tidy. That's why I tend to use a spice rack like this. You can arrange your spices by size, heat, or any way you choose. I've got a detailed review of several Indian spice racks in this guide.

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