Ayam Kalio: Chicken in Spiced Coconut Gravy

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Nunuk Sri Rahayu
Nunuk Sri Rahayu
Nunuk hails from Solo, the historic royal capital and cultural centre of Java, Indonesia. She has been cooking since the age of 12, and also performs and teaches traditional Javanese dance. Her dream is to eventually write her own Indonesian cookbook.

As mentioned in our rendang recipe, three dishes can be produced during the process of cooking rendang, namely: gulai, kalio, and rendang. Each dish is characterised by the amount of liquid or gravy it contains. Gulai is the most soupy, and rendang being the driest. Kalio lies in the middle, in between gulai and rendang. When making kalio, the cooking process ends when the coconut-based gravy has partly evaporated, and the spices and the oil start to separate, making the gravy thicker. Some people refer to it as wet rendang as it’s just a wetter version of rendang.

Kalio can be made from beef, buffalo, duck, chicken, seafood or egg. Kalio ayam (ayam means ‘chicken’ in Indonesian) is the most common and pretty much available in every Padang restaurant. The dish is quite rich from the thick coconut milk and not very spicy. To spice it up, eat it with steamed rice and sambal ijo, which complements it very well.


Cooking kalio ayam takes less time than cooking rendang. This is because we don’t need to reduce the gravy until it is completely dry. Be careful though, the coconut milk will separate if it’s not stirred constantly, and it can ruin the dish. When done, the dish can be kept for several days in the refrigerator. 

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Ayam Kalio: Chicken in Spiced Coconut Gravy

Ayam Kalio: Chicken in Spiced Coconut Gravy

  • Author: Nunuk Sri Rahayu
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Yield: 5 1x
  • Category: Poultry
  • Method: Boiling
  • Cuisine: Indonesian
  • Diet: Halal


Ayam kalio is a delicious dish of chicken in thick, spiced coconut gravy. It’s very similar to rendang, except that it has more gravy and takes less time to cook. 


  • 1 chicken, cut in pieces, washed thoroughly
  • 4 big red chillies, chopped
  • 5 bird’s eye chillies (optional)
  • 8 shallots, peeled, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled, chopped
  • 3 cm ginger, peeled, chopped
  • 3 cm turmeric, peeled, chopped
  • 2 cm galangal, chopped
  • 1 tsp whole coriander
  • 1 lemongrass, bruised, knotted
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 turmeric leaf (optional)
  • 1 tsp tamarind extract
  • Salt to taste
  • 750 ml coconut milk


  1. Blend into a fine paste: big red chillies, bird’s eye chillies, shallots, garlic, ginger, turmeric, galangal and coriander.
  2. Put the spice paste in a big wok.
  3. Add the coconut milk, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, turmeric leaf, salt and tamarind juice.

    Add the coconut milk and herbs

  4. Cook the mixture over medium heat. Gently stir the mixture constantly to avoid the coconut milk breaking up.
  5. When the mixture boils, add the chicken pieces.

    Add the chicken pieces

  6. Continue cooking and stirring, reduce the heat to medium low.
  7. Cook until the chicken is done and the sauce thickens, around 45 minutes.
  8. Transfer the dish into a serving plate.


  • If kampong chicken (free range chicken) is available, it will make for a better option.

Keywords: Spicy, tamarind, turmeric, galangal

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