This healthy, easy vegan Coconut Curry recipe is packed with flavor, texture, and fresh ingredients. Added bonus? It can be on your table in under 30 minutes.
When we visited Thailand, one of my major trip goals (aside from eating as much Vegetarian Pad Thai as possible) was to determine, once and for all, which of the three major varieties of coconut curry was my favorite: red, green, or yellow.
After extensive sampling (all in the name of research, of course), I determined that it is the red coconut curry that rules my heart (closely followed by this Potato Curry).
The good news for me (and my fellow red coconut curry lovers on this side of the Pacific), is that red coconut curry is also the easiest of the three to make at home since its most important ingredient, Thai red curry paste, is widely available at most grocery stores.
5 Star Review
“I’ve made this a bunch of times and it’s now in my regular rotation. Really easy, delicious, healthy, and quick.”— Jen —
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 (ditto for this Pumpkin Curry Soup).
Another benefit of this flavorful, healthy Thai recipe is that it is also fast.
From start to finish, you can have this curry on your table in 30 minutes, and if you discount the rice, it’s also a one-pot meal.
Translation: Fewer dishes. Less time. More coconut curry eating!
How to Make Coconut Curry
Just like my Curry Lentil Soup, this easy red coconut curry recipe is 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.
In Thailand, most of the coconut curries we tried were made with chicken (like this Thai Chicken Curry), but to keep this recipe extra super-duper speedy, I turned it into a Thai vegetable curry by using chickpeas instead.
- Chickpeas. 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. (They also star in this Chickpea Curry recipe.)
- Red Curry Paste. The star of the show that packs so much punch into every bite of this healthy vegetarian curry with chickpeas. Note that every curry paste is a little different in terms of flavor and heat (some are SPICY!) so take some time to explore to find your favorite red curry paste.
- Coconut Milk and Coconut Sugar. Infuse this dish with coconut goodness and make it rich, creamy, and slightly sweet (like this Massaman Curry).
- Soy Sauce. For some good old-fashioned umami flavor.
- Rice Vinegar. Balances the dish and lends it some vital acidity.
- Vegetables. 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. Feel free to adjust to suit your tastes though. (This Slow Cooker Red Lentil Cauliflower Curry is another vegetable-packed curry recipe to try.)
- Ginger + Garlic. An essential duo of dynamic spices that give this recipe some extra zip.
- Rice or Quinoa. For serving. Brown rice or cooked quinoa are my favorites to add some bulk and additional plant-based protein to this recipe to make it more filling.
Recommended Tools to Make Coconut Curry
- Dutch Oven. (This one is outstanding. This is another excellent, more economical option.)
- Instant Pot. I cook brown rice in my instant pot, and it’s perfect every time. (You can, of course, cook rice in a regular saucepan too!)
It’s comforting to know that while I might not be able to sneak back to Chiang Mai to bathe an elephant anytime soon, at least I can relive the experience via this easy vegan coconut curry recipe.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! For those with dietary restrictions, this vegan curry recipe can easily be made gluten free. You will need to swap the soy sauce for gluten free tamari and also should check the labels of all other ingredients to ensure you select those that are gluten free and manufactured in a gluten free certified facility.
While the onions, bell peppers, chilis, carrots, and peas I put in this coconut curry dish are traditional options, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, baby corn, sweet potatoes, and eggplant are other tasty options you could add to this Thai coconut curry recipe. Don’t be afraid to toss in any other vegetables you happen to love or have lurking in your produce drawer right now.
While I don’t calculate the exact sodium content for my recipes for many reasons, generally curry recipes are not the best for those trying to watch their sodium. Both soy sauce and red curry paste tend to contain a lot of sodium. However, there *are* lots of homemade curry paste recipes out there that would help you control the sodium level as much as you’d like. Some brands offer lower-sodium varieties of these ingredients too.
- 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 Thai red curry paste plus 2 teaspoons
- 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 cans light coconut milk (14-ounce cans)
- 2-4 teaspoons coconut sugar brown sugar, or turbinado sugar
- 1 can reduced-sodium chickpeas (15 ounces), rinsed and drained
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce plus 2 teaspoons, 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.
- Stir in the coconut milk, 2 teaspoons sugar, and chickpeas, then 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 for 3 additional minutes. Serve warm over rice or quinoa, garnished with fresh cilantro.
- TO STORE: Keep leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.
- TO REHEAT: Warm in a skillet over medium heat until steaming. YOu can also microwave in a covered microwave-safe container until heated through.
- TO FREEZE: I do not recommend freezing, as I have not had the best luck freezing sauces that have a coconut milk base.
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