Vietnamese Coconut Caramel Chicken

Vietnamese Coconut Caramel Chicken is a simple Asian-inspired one-pan chicken dinner combining garlic, ginger, fish sauce, coconut sugar  and coconut cream into a sweet sticky glaze that coats the tender chicken chunks! Refined sugar-free & dairy-free.

two servings of coconut caramel chicken served with rice and cucumber salad

Caramel and chicken – sounds like two things you should not put together in one sentence and even less so on a plate. But let me tell you, the smile on your face upon trying this for the first time will tell a different story.

If you’ve tried Chinese orange chicken or sticky lemon chicken and enjoyed it, then I’m pretty sure this Vietnamese Caramel Chicken will be right down your alley!

a serving of coconut caramel chicken with rice and cucumber salad with chopsticks on the side

Juicy tender chicken in a sweet, savory and mildly spicy caramel sauce that you will want to put on EVERYTHING. The sauce is made using a base of coconut cream, thickened and reduced with coconut sugar until sticky and shiny!

Apart from ginger, garlic and chili, another secret ingredient that really adds the Asian/ Vietnamese twist here is the fish sauce! It is made from anchovies and salt and a natural umami bomb that makes everything so much better, including this sticky caramel sauce.

This Vietnamese coconut caramel chicken is so good with steamed rice but cauliflower rice would also be an amazing low-cal alternative. Now that I think about it, this would probably be a great filling for chicken lettuce wraps!

How to make Coconut Caramel Chicken:

Prep:  Generously season chicken with salt.

picture collage demonstrating how to fry chicken for making caramel chicken

Step 1 – Heat oil in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet. Once it begins to shimmer, add chicken and brown on all sides. We’re not looking to cook the chicken completely through in this step – more like 75%. Remove chicken from the skillet and set aside.

Step 2 – Using the same skillet, cook the garlic, ginger and red chilies for 30 seconds or so. Be gentle here, we don’t want to burn the garlic.

picture collage demonstrating how to make coconut caramel chicken in one pan

Step 3 – Pour in the coconut cream and sugar. Bring to a low boil. Dissolve the cornstarch in the coconut aminos. Add the coconut aminos + cornstarch, fish sauce and rice vinegar to the skillet.

Step 4 – Add the chicken back in. Continue to cook the chicken the rest of the way through – the timing will depend on the size of your cubes. The sauce will continue to thicken nicely.  If you’re worried about over-cooking the chicken at this point, just drop your heat even lower. Reduce heat to medium and cook the sauce for a few minutes to reduce and thicken, stirring often to avoid it boiling over. Stir in lime juice.

plate with rice and Vietnamese coconut caramel chicken

Serve over a bed of rice (or cauliflower rice), garnish with cilantro, sliced scallions, a few fresh red chili slices. You can also add some fresh wedges as it compliments the coconut caramel wonderfully by cutting and balancing the sweetness.

A note on the coconut cream

Instead of going straight for the more expensive cans of pure coconut cream, cans of coconut milk almost always include a fair amount of coconut cream already. When buying coconut milk, shake the cans by your ear. You want the ones where you hear and feel the *least* movement. That means that the cream ratio in that particular can is high. At home, place the cans you want to use the next day in the fridge overnight, this will also help the cream form.

Tips:

  • Food-safe chicken is not simply a function of getting it to hit a certain temperature, but also how long it is held at temperature. So chicken that is held at a lower temperature for longer is just as safe as chicken that’s been blasted on high heat.
  • Fish sauce is a staple ingredient in Vietnamese cooking. If you are skeptical about it because of its pungent smell, Just spend the extra buck and get a good one! A good fish sauce doesn’t smell that funky. And I promise once it’s in your food, it won’t stink and just adds a lot of flavor without being noticed.
  • The lime juice here should be fresh and don’t skimp on it either. Especially if you are worried about the sauce being too sweet. You can even add some zest.

Vietnamese Coconut Caramel Chicken

Course Main Course
Cuisine Asian, Vietnamese
Keyword coconut caramel chicken, Vietnamese chicken skillet, vietnamese chicken stir fry
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 3
Calories 772 kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs, cubed 500 g
  • 1 tsp salt

Sauce

  • 2 tbsp avocado oil or olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 inch piece ginger grated
  • 1-2 tsp red chillies finely sliced
  • 1 can coconut cream 13.5 oz/400ml - see notes
  • cup coconut sugar
  • cup coconut aminos or soy sauce/tamari
  • 2 tsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp cornstarch - or arrowroot or tapioca starch
  • 1 tbsp lime juice

Garnish

  • fresh cilantro
  • scallions finely sliced
  • red chilies finely sliced (optional)
  • fresh lime wedges optional

Instructions

  1. Generously season chicken with salt.
  2. Heat oil in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet. Once it begins to shimmer, add chicken and brown on all sides. We’re not looking to cook the chicken completely through in this step - more like 75%. Remove chicken from the skillet and set aside.
  3. Using the same skillet, cook the garlic, ginger and red chilies for 30 seconds or so. Be gentle here, we don’t want to burn the garlic.
  4. Pour in the coconut cream and sugar. Bring to a low boil. Dissolve the cornstarch in the coconut aminos. Add the coconut aminos + cornstarch, fish sauce, and rice vinegar to the skillet.
  5. Reduce your heat to medium and cook the coconut caramel sauce for a few extra minutes to reduce and thicken, stirring often to avoid burning and boiling over.
  6. Add the pre-cooked chicken back in. Continue to cook the chicken the rest of the way through - the timing will depend on the size of your cubes. The sauce will continue to thicken nicely.  If you’re worried about over-cooking the chicken at this point, just drop your heat even lower.
  7. Food-safe chicken is not simply a function of getting it to hit a certain temperature, but also how long it is held at temperature. So chicken that is held at a lower temperature for longer is just as safe as chicken that’s been blasted on high heat.
  8. Stir in lime juice. Serve over a bed of rice (or cauliflower rice), garnish with cilantro, sliced scallions, a few fresh red chili slices. You can also add some fresh wedges as it compliments the coconut caramel wonderfully by cutting and balancing the sweetness.

Recipe Notes

  • Food-safe chicken is not simply a function of getting it to hit a certain temperature, but also how long it is held at temperature. So chicken that is held at a lower temperature for longer is just as safe as chicken that’s been blasted on high heat.
  • Fish sauce is a staple ingredient in Vietnamese cooking. If you are skeptical about it because of its pungent smell, Just spend the extra buck and get a good one! A good fish sauce doesn’t smell that funky. And I promise once it's in your food, it won't stink and just adds a lot of flavor without being noticed.
  • The lime juice here should be fresh and don't skimp on it either - especially if you are worried about the sauce being too sweet. You can even add some zest. 
Nutrition Facts
Vietnamese Coconut Caramel Chicken
Amount Per Serving (1 /3)
Calories 772 Calories from Fat 531
% Daily Value*
Fat 59g91%
Saturated Fat 41g256%
Cholesterol 144mg48%
Sodium 1867mg81%
Potassium 788mg23%
Carbohydrates 32g11%
Fiber 3g13%
Sugar 12g13%
Protein 34g68%
Vitamin A 36IU1%
Vitamin C 8mg10%
Calcium 33mg3%
Iron 4mg22%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

If you tried this Coconut Caramel Chicken Recipe, don’t forget to rate the recipe below and let me know how it went in the comments – I love hearing from you! You can also follow me on InstagramPinterest and Facebook for more deliciousness and behind-the-scenes!

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