Coconut Curry

When we visited Thailand, one of my major trip goals was determine, once and for all, which of the three major varieties of coconut curry was my favorite: red, green, or yellow. Each is made from the paste of a different chili, giving the coconut curry its signature color and unique flavor. After extensive sampling (all in the name of research, of course), I determined that it is the red coconut curry that rules my heart.

This easy vegan Chickpea Coconut Curry is the BEST Thai curry I've ever had! Easy, healthy, and FULL of flavor. Ready in less than 30 minutes! Recipe at wellplated.com | @wellplated

Happily for coconut curry lovers on this side of the Pacific, red coconut curry is also the easiest of the three to make at home, because its most important ingredient, Thai red chili paste, is widely available at most grocery stores, and even Target.

Coconut curry is also fast. Start to finish, you can have this Chickpea Coconut Curry on your table 30 minutes from now, even less if you are super speedy, and if you discount the rice, it’s also a one-pot meal.

Translation: Fewer dishes. Less time. More coconut curry eating!

Easy vegan Chickpea Coconut Curry. Ready in 25 minutes! The Thai curry sauce is FULL of flavor and you can use any of your favorite vegetables. {clean eating, gluten free} Recipe at wellplated.com | @wellplated

If you aren’t familiar with Thai coconut curry, I can best describe it as a big, warm bowl of creamy, but clean-feeling, comfort. It’s richly spiced in an exotic, fragrant way, but it’s not forcibly spicy in a light-your-mouth-on-fire, pass-me-a-firehose way, unless of course you’d like it to be. (Fire lovers: I’ve included a recipe option to crank up the heat for you too.)

In Thailand, most of the coconut curries we tried were made with chicken, but to keep this recipe extra super duper speedy, I turned it into a Thai vegetable curry by using chickpeas instead. The chickpeas’ mild flavor meshes well with the bolder spices in the easy curry sauce, and their pleasantly chewy texture is a nice contrast to the sauce’s creaminess.

Easy vegan Chickpea Coconut Curry. Healthy, filling, and FULL of flavor! Our whole family loves this vegetable Thai curry. {gluten free} Recipe at wellplated.com | @wellplated

For those with dietary restrictions, this a vegan curry recipe, and whether you decide to add meat or stick with the chickpeas, this coconut curry is also gluten free.

Vegetable-wise, I used bell peppers, onions, carrots, and peas, all of which I found in my coconut curry bowls in Thailand at one point or another. Eggplant was also a common addition, and I imagine this Thai coconut curry recipe would be equally delicious with any other vegetables you happen to love or have lurking in your crisper drawer right now.

Easy 30 minute vegan Chickpea Coconut Curry. The BEST Thai curry I have ever had! Full of flavor with lots of vegetables, and the curry sauce tastes amazing. Recipe at wellplated.com | @wellplated

I’ve been missing Thailand more often lately, which I’m guessing is a product of both the return of winter temps over the weekend and the fact that, the more distance I have from my time there, the more and more I realize just how special it truly was. It’s comforting to know that while I might not be able to sneak back to Chiang Mai to bathe an elephant anytime soon, I can relive our adventures via this easy but impactful Thai coconut curry.

Tools I used to make this recipe:

  • Dutch oven (This one is outstanding. This is another excellent, more economical option.)
  • OK, I don’t have a rice cooker, but I’ve been very tempted lately. I have also heard raving reviews about an instant pot, which can be used to cook rice, among other things, but I haven’t taken the plunge. Any fans of either appliance care to weigh in? (You can, of course, cook rice in a regular saucepan too!)
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Coconut Curry with Chickpeas

This easy vegan Chickpea Coconut Curry is healthy and FULL of flavor. Ready in less than 30 minutes, not too spicy, and perfect for fast weeknight dinners.

Yield: 4 servings

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil (or substitute extra-virgin olive oil or grapeseed oil)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger (or in a pinch, 2–3 teaspoons ground ginger)
  • 3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons Thai red curry paste
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 6 small/medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds (about 2 cups)
  • 2 large red bell peppers, cored and sliced
  • 2 (14-ounce) cans light coconut milk
  • 2–4 teaspoons coconut sugar, brown sugar, or turbinado sugar
  • 1 (15-ounce) can reduced-sodium chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons soy sauce (or tamari to make the recipe gluten free)
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • Chopped fresh cilantro, for serving
  • Prepared brown rice or quinoa, for serving

Directions:

  1. Heat a large pot such as a Dutch oven over medium. Once hot, add the coconut oil and onion. Sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, until slightly softened. Add the garlic and ginger and let cook 30 seconds, then add the red curry paste and red pepper flakes. Stir to combine and let cook 1 additional minute. Add the carrots and bell pepper and stir to coat with the spices and curry. Add the coconut milk, 2 teaspoons sugar, and chickpeas. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Then reduce the heat to low and continue cooking (uncovered) for 10 to 15 minutes, until slightly thickened and the vegetables are crisp-tender.
  2. Stir in the soy sauce and rice vinegar. Taste and add additional soy sauce (for more saltiness), sugar (for more sweetness), or red pepper flakes (for more heat) as desired. Stir in the peas and let cook 3 additional minutes. Serve warm over rice, garnished with fresh cilantro.
  • Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days. I do not recommend freezing, as I have not had the best luck freezing coconut milk–based sauce.
All images and text ©/Well Plated.

Nutrition Information

Serving Size: 1 (of 4), with 1/2 cup sauce and 1/2 cup prepared brown rice

  • Amount Per Serving:
  • Calories: 383 Calories
  • Total Fat: 13g
  • Saturated Fat: 8g
  • Sodium: 1149mg
  • Carbohydrates: 71g
  • Fiber: 13g
  • Sugar: 17g
  • Protein: 13g

About Erin Clarke

I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food taste incredible. Wearer of plaid, lover of bourbon, and firmly convinced that sweets and veggies both deserve a place at the table. MORE ABOUT ERIN...

23 comments

  1. This looks so delicious and I want to make it — but I’ve resisted buying the red curry paste. >1g sodium per serving of the final dish? I’m presuming most of that comes from the paste (vs soy or the canned chick peas). I can’t justify that in our diet. Have you heard of or have you seen any lower-sodium options that you could recommend?

    • Hi Nancy, unfortunately I’m not aware of any low-sodium curry pastes. There *are* lots of homemade curry paste recipes out there—I don’t have a recipe or any experience making my own, but I think it’d be a fun project! Plus, you’d be able to control the sodium level as much as you’d like. I hope that helps!

    • Hey Nancy!
      A chickpea coconut curry is the dish I would eat if I knew the world was going to end in the next hour or so. Anytime I use canned vegetables (even those marked low-sodium), I put them in a sieve/colander and rinse the heck out of them. The flavor is incredibly cleaner and the sodium goes down the drain. The World Foods brand of red curry paste has at least 1/2 the sodium of Thai Kitchen’s, but you may have to get it on Amazon. I like Erin’s idea about making your own curry paste, too. Regarding the soy sauce, I was wondering what would happen if you omitted the soy sauce all together in the recipe, then just used a low sodium version as the condiment it is, sprinkling it on top after you’ve served the curry. -Nikkie

  2. Yum, I love a good curry! And I absolutely recommend a rice cooker, it just making cooking rice so so easy, and I also use it for other any other grains I’m making – quinoa, trader joe’s grain blends, anything!

  3. I never used to like curries, but they keep growing on me as I make them!! I don’t really have a preference on Thai curry vs. Indian, but I DO like them spicy… I would make this and then shower it in red pepper flakes lol!! :D

  4. Gorgeous! Coconut curries are one of my favorite things to throw together for dinner. I have never tried making a curry with chickpeas though.

  5. Erin, I am really looking forward to trying this when we get home from our upcoming travels, and it will be perfect for when my sister and her vegetarian husband visit.  If I recall correctly, the different colors of the Thai curry pastes indicate the heat level, green being hottest, red being the most mild.  I think. Green is definitely the hottest.

    As far as getting a rice cooker or instant pot, I can’t see any reason to get either of them.  The rice cooker is of very limited use, and the instant pot duplicates functions you already have in other appliances (except the pressure cooking part).  Personally, I find it perfectly easy to cook rice in a sauce pan, which is also useful for other things.

  6. Anything with curry is a winner in my book! I’m definitely a red curry-lover too. There’s something about the subtle heat of the paste that makes my soul so happy. I’m a fire-lover so I’ll definitely be adding more red pepper flakes ;)

  7. Red curry is fantastic! Especially with the coconut flavor (:

  8. Would you consider posting a recipe for Thai Green Chicken Curry? I just love that curry over rice at the Thai restaurant.

  9. I agree with you that red is best! 

  10. I like the idea of adding eggplant. At what point should I add it in?

    • Hi Julie, I would probably cube the eggplant and start by sautéing it for 3 to 5 minutes, then add the onions and proceed with the recipe from there. If you give it a try, I’d love to know how it turns out!

  11. Hi Erin, I made this tonight for dinner. Followed your recipe exactly and added potatoes and a zucchini .  Husband went wild, best ever curry.  We lived in Asia for 15 years, so we know a true curry and this is it.  Can’t wait for leftovers tomorrow.  Thanks.

    Rating: 5
    • I’m SO happy you and your husband enjoyed the curry, Coleen! Thank you so much for taking the time to leave this wonderful feedback!

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