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.
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!
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.
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.
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!)
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
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
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