Have you had panang curry yet? Panang curry is rich and creamy, spicy yet balanced, with underlying notes of peanut and coconut.
I make my panang curry with lots of bell peppers and carrots, and optional tofu for extra protein. It’s a perfectly satisfying weeknight meal for cold days.
Panang Curry Paste Notes
When it comes to Thai curries, the curry paste represents a big portion of the final flavor. You’ll need panang curry paste to make panang curry!
What’s in panang curry paste?
Panang curry pastes vary somewhat from brand to brand, but they typically include dried chili peppers, galangal, ginger, lemongrass, kaffir lime zest, kaffir lime leaves, coriander root, coriander seeds, and cumin seeds. You could make your own curry paste if you have those ingredients at home, but I’m betting that you don’t.
Special diet considerations
If you are vegetarian (holler), vegan or have shellfish allergies, you’ll want to find a panang curry paste that doesn’t contain shrimp or fish sauce. I’ve found a couple of great vegan options on Amazon, made by A Taste of Thai and Maesri (those are affiliate links). If I had to pick a favorite, it would be A Taste of Thai.
Where to buy it
Panang curry paste is a little more difficult to find than standard red or green Thai curries. You might get lucky and find it in the international section of your grocery store, somewhere near the soy sauce. You would definitely find it at an Asian grocery store. You can also buy it online, like I did.
Panang Curry Notes
I’ll be the first to point out that this recipe isn’t quite traditional. I made some changes to suit my vegetarian diet, and tried to use ingredients that are easy to find in the States. Here’s how my recipe differs from authentic curries:
- I used vegan curry paste (many contain shrimp).
- I didn’t add kaffir lime leaves, which are typically simmered in the coconut milk for extra flavor. I couldn’t find them. Fortunately, the curry pastes I’ve recommended actually contain this ingredient.
- I used tofu instead of other proteins (often shrimp or chicken).
- I used soy sauce instead of fish sauce. Actually, I used tamari, which is a Japanese soy sauce that is typically gluten free (most soy sauces are not). I simply prefer the flavor of tamari over soy sauce.
- I garnished the dish with regular basil because I couldn’t find Thai basil. I thought it was great that way, but if you can find Thai basil, you might like that even more.
Before You Get Started
If you want to serve tofu with your curry, I’d recommend making that first. You can start on the curry once the tofu is in the oven. Here’s the recipe.
If you want to serve rice with your curry, I typed up suggested quantities and how to cook it within the recipe below. (I always cook with brown rice, but you could use another rice if you cook it according to the package’s directions.) You might also enjoy the curry with cooked noodles or on its own.
How to Make Panang Curry
This curry recipe comes together quickly once you’ve chopped your veggies.
- First, you’ll first sauté the onions, peppers and carrots, then add the garlic and curry paste and cook those briefly to enhance their flavors.
- Then add regular coconut milk (from a can) and some water (so it’s not overwhelmingly rich).
- At the end of cooking, you’ll stir in some final seasonings: peanut butter (typically found in panang curries), tamari or soy sauce, and a little sugar and lime juice. The interplay of these ingredients create balance and make your final curry taste super delicious.
- I generally add a little pinch of salt at the end to bring out the curry’s best. That’s it! Garnish with basil (Thai basil if you can find it), and serve it over rice or noodles, if desired.
Please let me know how your curry turns out in the comments! I love hearing from you.
Craving more fresh Thai recipes? Here are a few favorites:
- Thai Red Curry with Vegetables
- Thai Green Curry with Spring Vegetables
- Thai Pineapple Fried Rice
- Thai Mango Salad with Peanut Dressing
Thai Panang Curry with Vegetables
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 30 minutes
- Total Time: 45 minutes
- Yield: 4 servings 1x
- Category: Main dish
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Thai
This Thai panang curry recipe is so easy to make at home and tastes better than take-out! This recipe is full of veggies and fresh flavor, and the tofu is optional. Recipe yields 4 servings.
- Optional: 1 batch crispy baked tofu
- Optional: 1 ¼ cups brown jasmine rice or long-grain brown rice, rinsed
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil or olive oil
- 1 small white or yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
- Pinch of salt, more to taste
- 1 red bell pepper, sliced into thin (¼” wide) strips
- 1 yellow, orange or green bell pepper, sliced into thin (¼” wide) strips
- 3 carrots, peeled and sliced on the diagonal into ¼” thick rounds (about 1 cup)
- 2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
- 1 to 2 tablespoons panang curry paste* (use 1 for mild or 2 for spicy)
- 1 can (14 ounces) regular coconut milk
- ½ cup water
- 2 tablespoons peanut butter
- 1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce**
- 1 ½ teaspoons coconut sugar or brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice, to taste
- Optional garnishes: fresh Thai basil or regular basil, sriracha or chili garlic sauce for extra spice
- If you’d like to serve rice with your curry (optional): Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the rinsed rice and continue boiling for 30 minutes, reducing heat as necessary to prevent overflow. Remove from heat, drain the rice and return the rice to pot. Cover and let the rice rest for 10 minutes or longer, until you’re ready to serve. Just before serving, season the rice to taste with salt and fluff it with a fork.
- To make the curry, warm a large skillet with deep sides over medium heat. Once it’s hot, add the oil. Add the onion and a sprinkle of salt and cook, stirring often, until the onion has softened and is turning translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Add the bell peppers and carrots. Cook until the bell peppers are easily pierced through by a fork, 3 to 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and curry paste and cook, while stirring, for 1 minute.
- Add the coconut milk and water, and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer and cook until the peppers and carrots have softened to your liking, about 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. If you’re adding crispy tofu, stir it in now.
- Remove the pot from the heat. Stir in the peanut butter, tamari, sugar and lime juice. Add salt, to taste (I usually add a pinch or two). If the curry needs a little more punch, add ½ teaspoon more tamari, or for more acidity, add ½ teaspoon more lime juice.
- Divide rice and curry into bowls and garnish with fresh basil, if using. If you love spicy curries, serve with sriracha or chili garlic sauce on the side.
*Panang curry paste: You might find it in the Asian section of the grocery store. You will definitely find it at Asian grocery stores or you can buy it online like I did. Two brands I like are A Taste of Thai and Maesri, which are both vegan/vegetarian. Not all brands are (they can contain fish sauce and/or shrimp paste).
**Make it gluten free: Be sure to use gluten-free tamari instead of regular soy sauce. Double-check your curry paste to make sure it’s gluten free, too.
Make it vegan: Make sure your curry paste is free of shellfish and fish sauce. See recommendations provided above.
Make it nut free: Omit the peanut butter, and verify that your curry paste is nut free.