Thai Green Curry

vegetarian Thai green curry recipe

I’ve been thinking about the concept of time lately. I suspect that it falls outside of my comprehension, like the infinite nature of the universe, and how the dishes manage to pile up in my sink when I’m not looking. Time comes and it goes, sure, but it never seems to run at a constant rate.

I seem to live in denial that everything takes time. Obviously work takes up a good chunk of time, though the hours devoted to work don’t seem to correlate very well with the amount of work done. Mundane but necessary routines like emptying the dishwasher take up many more minutes than I give them credit. Everything that I hold essential to being—like stretching and walking and reading—takes time as well. Not to mention the fun stuff for which I make time, like laughing with friends. Those are the best times. If I could just accept that everything takes time and plan accordingly, maybe I wouldn’t feel like I’m losing in a never-ending wrestling match with Father Time. I don’t like losing.

thai green curry ingredients

I’m in the midst of designing the largest publication I’ve ever produced and I wish I could devote more time to writing about this green curry dish (on second thought, I think I’ll just live in denial a bit longer so I can tell you about it). This is another recipe from the Asian seafood cooking class I attended with my friend Mark a couple of months ago, which also inspired this watercress and forbidden rice salad. If I had gone to a Thai restaurant and received something this delicious from behind the kitchen door, I’d probably assume that it required exotic ingredients or cooking skills picked up in the Far East. However, after watching a large white guy who cooks at a German restaurant make this and replicating it at home, I can say that fortunately, this dish does not require any of those things. All you need are some ingredients that are generally easy to find in the Asian cooking section, like green curry paste, coconut milk and soy sauce.

We were a couple of glasses of wine into the class by the time Chef Forster made this curry, so my recipe is based off of my scribbled notes on the chef’s vague, four-sentence recipe print-out. Regardless, the results were fantastic and I think you should make it. I’ve elaborated on the steps and details in the recipe below so you shouldn’t have any trouble. This time, I chose to add tofu, but you could skip the tofu and serve it with grilled fish, or go without it altogether.

brown basmati rice and green curry with tofu

Before we get to the recipe, I feel like I should take a minute to discuss tofu. I gave up meat almost entirely over two years ago, but I’ve never felt a need to replace meat with tofu or meat substitutes. I despise the notion that every meal has to have “a protein,” since protein is present in so many other foods, like vegetables, whole grains, eggs and dairy products. Plus, if a dish doesn’t easily lend itself to becoming vegetarian, I’m not going to fight it!

Furthermore, soy’s effects on our health are controversial. However, I don’t get too caught up in such debates because I don’t believe that consuming tofu on occasion will cause me any harm. I like tofu alright, but it’s kind of a pain to work with and I’d rather cook up an organic egg if I feel like I need more substance. I might actually prefer this recipe without tofu after all since it soaked up quite a bit of the liquid curry goodness. All that said, tofu is a natural fit in Asian dishes like this one. Whether or not you add it is entirely up to you.

Thai green curry with tofu

Vegetarian Thai Green Curry
4.5 from 2 reviews
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Thai
Simple and flavorful Thai green curry recipe served with steamed, seasonal vegetables. Served with or without tofu, it's a filling vegetarian dish!
  • 1¼ cup brown basmati rice
  • 2½ cups water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil or quality vegetable oil
  • 1 small white onion, diced
  • 1 inch nub of ginger, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons Thai green curry paste*
  • 3 Thai chiles, chopped (entirely optional)
  • 1 can (14 ounces) light coconut milk
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons turbinado (raw) sugar or brown sugar
  • 1 package of extra-firm tofu (optional)
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons brown rice wine vinegar
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons soy sauce (I used reduced-sodium tamari)
  • handful of cilantro, chopped
  • 2 cups seasonal vegetables, chopped (like broccoli, asparagus, carrots or bell peppers)
  1. Cook the rice. Rinse the rice in a mesh colander and then cook it in a rice cooker with 2½ cups water, according to your manufacturer’s instructions and the volumes given above. Alternatively, you can cook it on the stove. Bring 2½ cups of water to a boil over high heat. Rinse the rice, then add it to the pan. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and let it cook until all water is absorbed (35-40 minutes). If it gets too dry, add a splash or more of water as necessary. Fluff with a fork and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
  2. Give the rice some time to cook as you prepare all the vegetables. Drain the tofu and squeeze it gently to release some of the water. Slice it in half, into two square slabs, and slice it into bite-sized strips.
  3. Heat a 10-inch skillet with deep sides over medium-low heat. Once it’s hot, add a drizzle of oil. Sweat the onion, ginger and garlic with a sprinkle of salt for about 7 minutes (the heat should not be high enough to darken the color of the onion). Raise the heat to medium and add the curry paste and chilies (optional), stirring often for a couple of minutes.
  4. Shake or stir the coconut milk and then pour it into the pan. Add the water, sugar and chopped tofu and cook until the tofu is warmed through and the liquid has reduced to your desired consistency. Remove from heat and season with rice wine vinegar and soy sauce, to taste.
  5. Steam the vegetables until tender, using your preferred method. Stir cilantro into the curry. Serve rice, curry and vegetables onto each plate and garnish with extra cilantro, if desired.
  • Adapted from Chef Bill Forster’s cooking class.
  • Serves 4.
  • I've made coconut curries that tasted flat, but the soy sauce, sugar and rice vinegar add welcome complexity to this dish. Don't skip them, and please adjust the amounts to suit your tastes.
  • If you want to go to the trouble of making your own green curry paste, here's a recipe.
  • Thai green curry is traditionally seasoned with fish sauce, but since this recipe is vegetarian, it calls for soy sauce instead. (Aside: is anyone else grossed out by the concept of fish sauce?)
  • This dish is gluten free as long as you use a gluten-free soy sauce, like tamari.
  • Another aside: did you know that some people are genetically predisposed to think that cilantro tastes like soap?
  • *Look for it in the Asian section of the grocery store. I like Thai Kitchen brand.


  1. says

    Hahaha–I think we have the same rice cooker. One mode: rice. Two options: Cook, or Warm. A far cry from the fancy-pants digital models of today! But it’s like 12 years old and isn’t showing any sign of slowing down. Love it.

    Side note: I feel SO SAD for people who think cilantro tastes like soap.

    • says

      I’ve thought the same thing about those people! Cilantro is such an awesome taste, if it doesn’t taste like soap that is ;)

    • says

      Haha, I love that we both have the same old rice cooker. I inherited that one from my ex’s mother. She’s half Japanese and swears that that little Hitachi rice maker is the best! I suppose I could skip a step in this recipe if I had one of those newfangled rice cooker/steamer combos. Oh well. I, too, feel so sad for people who think cilantro tastes like soap. How unfortunate! I love the stuff.

  2. becky says

    Agreed on your tofu stance. I’m an omnivore, but I never feel like there has to be a meat or meat substitute in my meal. Sometimes, it feels so forced!

  3. says

    This looks great and I love that the ingredients are relatively accessible. It’s nice not to have to spend time running around to various grocery stores, since so much of it is already spent washing those pesky dishes (which I agree, tend to sneak up out of nowhere)! Can’t wait to try this :)

  4. says

    I love all the ingredients in this dish, especially since everything in it does not require any special trips to an Asian store! :) Time is a precious thing, it passes you by before you know it. When I’m baking or cooking, I try to beat my timer by doing as many dishes as I can, then it makes me feel like I didn’t really take that much time doing dishes. ;)

    • says

      That is a great tip to keep the dishes in check, Margarita! I usually have to remind myself to focus on cleaning up rather than snacking so I don’t ruin my appetite before my meal is ready!

  5. says

    Yum – I love these flavors and tofu is perfect in curries! The way I look at time has dramatically changed since I had my son. I am so much more efficient than I ever thought I was. Insane!

    • says

      It’s true, the less time you have, the more efficient you get! It’s amazing how much I can get done when I’m under intense pressure and develop laser focus. Now then, I just need to figure out how to get into that mode on a daily basis without going crazy in the process!

  6. says

    I totally agree with you about protein. The average north american diet has several hundred percent OVER the recommended daily intake of protein, and unlike fat and carbohydrates, protein isn’t stored as energy. The body takes what it needs and excretes the rest. I’ve been lacto-ovo veg for nearly 20 years now and have recently dramatically reduced my intake of tofu and have totally cut fake meat products out of my diet (they’re unbelievably processed). I’d rather get my protein from eggs, dairy, whole soy products like edamame or tempeh, or from combined proteins from grains and legumes (which don’t have to be consumed at the same meal even!). I do, on occasion, still eat some tofu, but I look at it more like a treat food than a staple now.

    • says

      I agree with you 100%, Katie! It’s unfortunate that Americans are so focused on “getting enough protein” when, as a whole, we’re getting way too much. More than anything, I think the average American is deficient in all the micronutrients found in produce. This recipe is only one of two that calls for tofu on my blog, which is totally representative of how often I eat tofu at home… as in, almost never.

  7. says

    Time really is such a funny thing. I’m always intrigued by how two people can perceive time so totally differently even though it’s really all the same amount, quantitatively!

    Thai curries are some of my favorite things in the world to eat but I rarely make them at home since I always think they’re so complicated. Thanks for clearing that up for me. :P THis looks excellent!

  8. says

    I am totally with you on despising the concept that “every meal has to have a protein”! Little bits of protein are in all sorts of foods and you do not need to be gobbling chicken breasts and egg whites to “get enough protein”!!! Glad we agree ;)

  9. Matt says

    Be weary of tofu lacking the USDA Organic badge, as nearly 100% of non-organic soy crops are GMO. It’s worth shelling out a few extra bucks to avoid feeding the Monsanto Corporation and dwindling our food options. Food for thought.

  10. Karen says

    I’ve been a vegetarian my entire life and am raising my family that way too (hubby converted). I think it’s so weird when people have NO idea what to cook for us. I just had a baby and people from church said that everyone was freaking out about what to bring for meals. Just leave the meat out! Add more veggies, beans, or mushrooms for depth and texture. Sheesh. It’s not that big of a deal. My mom hardly ever used meat substitutes, didn’t believe it should be a part of our daily diet.
    But really, I love tofu and seitan. :) It also helps to convert a husband!
    I admit that I love curry and have green curry paste I got, but I haven’t used it yet! I ran out of my bulk supply of coconut milk.

  11. says

    Funny, I just picked up a jar of green curry paste without a recipe in mind – now I do. Like you I’m more likely to add an organic egg or a handful of nuts instead of tofu and I think of it more in terms of substance than protein. Thanks for the recipe.

  12. says

    Ohh, I love green curry! Actually have an enormous obsession with it! And btw, I have a ton of dishes piled up in my sink right now, AND the dishwasher needs to be emptied… I so don’t want to waste the time doing it all :)

  13. says

    Kathryn, there is something so comforting about Thai Green Curry. Just a few veg and rice topped with the deliciousness works for me.
    Good luck with your project – what’s the publication?

  14. Stromer says

    Love your recipes overall. I do have a couple of things to say about the Thai green curry: the photograph shows a pair of chopsticks next to the dish, which is something you’re not likely to see in Thailand, not even in Chinese restaurants. Thais eat their curries with a fork and a large spoon. Also, they use jasmine, not basmati rice.

    • says

      Hey Stromer, thank you for your comment. I am surprised to hear that Thais eat with a fork and spoon since I’ve been given chopsticks at the Thai restaurants around here! Maybe they keep them on hand for people who expect chopsticks with Asian food. I’ve been on a basmati rice kick lately and used it because I love it. Authenticity is never my primary goal, I just like tasty things! Thanks again for setting me straight.

  15. Anirudh says

    I think 1 cup brown basmati needs 2.5 cups water, but I use a pressure cooker (Yay! We are Indian!). I use fresh lemon instead of kaffir lime and red onion instead of white onion. For vegetables, I use cabbage, green beans, carrot and green bell peppers.

    I made the green curry paste myself, and it came out pretty good even though I didn’t try to match the proportions exactly. However, given my educational background, I should probably be checking out “Cooking for Geeks”…

  16. says

    The addition of the sugar, soy sauce, and rice vinegar has definitely caught my attention! Thanks for the recipe- just as an aside for your readers, when buying green curry paste, make sure to check it is vegetarian, as several brands include shrimp paste in the ingredients.

    • says

      Great point, Dina, I was unaware of that issue with the curry paste. Hope you get a chance to try this recipe soon. It’s one of my favorites!

  17. Sarah says

    Currently working as a volunteer in rural Africa and I’ve been missing thai food SO much! I splurged on buying a small jar of green curry paste and used it just today to make this dish! SO very tasty…I can’t get any brown rice vinegar here, but it was still very delicious. Thanks for sharing this recipe!

  18. Karen says

    I have both gluten AND soy allergies. I highly recommend coconut Amino’s as a substitute for soy sauce and tamari. I really missed Asian cuisine, but now I can enjoy it at home! Have you ever tried them?

  19. says

    We chopped the entire onion and the sauce came out very onion-y. Can you recommend how much onion qty in weight you think is best for this? We wanted a super creamy curry and it came out more like an onion soup. Perhaps my dicing wasn’t small enough. Would love your thoughts. Thanks so much.

    Regardless of the onion debacle though— it came out delicious.

    • says

      Hi Tawny, sounds like you used a big onion. I’m sorry, I’ll change the recipe to specify a small onion based on your feedback. I’m not sure the weight of the onion I used, but based on your preferences, I would scale back next time. If you want a super creamy curry, I think you’ll have to purée it in a blender before you add the main vegetables.

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