Curry is a whole delicious world, and one of its friendliest members is Panang Curry. Rich and slightly sweet, it’s peanuty, not-too-spicy, and excellent, whether you are looking for a starter curry or one to make an old favorite.
“Curry” is a catch-all name for a genre of Thai dishes comprised of vegetables, protein, and herbs simmered in a complex sauce made from coconut milk and curry paste.
Curry pastes differ in color, flavor, and intensity of spice.
- Green curry, like this Chickpea Curry is distinctly herbaceous and citrusy.
- Red curry dishes like Thai Curry Chicken are usually spicier. The taste of the chilis and spices (like galangal, a close relative of ginger and turmeric) stand out, versus the strong herbs in green curry. Red curry is the most versatile.
- Panang curry is very similar to red curry, but it is less spicy and has the addition of ground peanuts. Panang curry sauce is also usually thicker and sweeter than red curry.
The lower spice profile and infusion of peanuts make panang curry sauce one of the most accessible and enjoyable curries, especially if you are new to Thai food.
- While the exact ingredients and ratios will vary by brand, panang curry paste is made of dried chili peppers, lemongrass, kaffir lime, coriander, cumin, and galangal, among other ingredients.
Panang curry paste is what you’ll see in authentic panang curry recipes, but it is somewhat difficult to find in the U.S.
- A great substitute for panang curry is red curry, because the two taste quite similar.
Thus, I opted to make this panang curry with an easy-to-find red curry paste that I doctored with peanut butter, Worcestershire, and a pinch of sugar to mimic the distinct elements that make panang curry special.
Curry is also an important part of Indian cooking. Indian curries have a different flavor profile, as they use a mix of spices (cumin, garam masala, etc.), versus the aromatics more common in Thai cooking. See Paneer Tikka Masala, Instant Pot Butter Chicken, Potato Curry, and Tofu Curry for a few examples.
How to Make Panang Curry
Thanks to the availability of red curry paste and coconut milk, making panang curry at home is easier than you think!
This panang curry is filled with vibrant vegetables, and you can bulk it up with any protein you enjoy.
- I opted for a panang curry chicken, but feel free to swap it for beef.
- Or for a vegetarian panang curry recipe, add Crispy Tofu, Air Fryer Tofu, or a can of chickpeas like in this Coconut Curry.
Serve panang curry with brown rice or cauliflower rice, and you have a complete, all-in-one meal.
Panang curry isn’t particularly spicy, so if you prefer yours hotter, I suggest adding red pepper flakes or more red curry paste.
- Chicken. Tender chunks of chicken breast or thighs stay moist and flavorful in the curry. The chicken packs this dish full of protein, helping make it more satisfying.
- Thai Red Curry Paste. Red curry paste is responsible for much of this curry’s deep flavor. There is no substitute. Fortunately it is very easy to find and most major grocery stores.
- Vegetables. Carrots and red bell peppers add beautiful color, texture, and nutrition. Carrots and red bell peppers are rich in vitamins.
- Light Coconut Milk. Helps make the curry creamy and flavorful. I used light coconut milk as a healthy swap.
- Basil. If you can find Thai basil, I recommend using it for this recipe. However, regular basil will work too.
- Bamboo Shoots. Delightfully crunchy with a slightly sweet and earthy flavor. You’ll find them canned in the Asian or international food aisle.
- Peanut Butter. For a touch of peanut butter flavor that also helps thicken the curry.
- Soy Sauce + Fish Sauce. These staples of Asian cooking are bursting with umami goodness.
- Worcestershire. Another addition to the umami crew.
- Coconut Sugar. Adds a touch of sweetness to balance the spice. If you don’t have coconut sugar on hand, brown sugar will work too.
- Lime. Instead of kaffir lime leaves, which are in authentic recipes but harder to find, I used regular lime zest and juice
- Sauté the onion.
- Stir in the curry paste.
- Add the coconut milk and basil, then bring the mixture to a boil.
- Stir in the carrots and bell peppers.
- Add the chicken, bamboo shoots, peanut butter, fish sauce, Worcestershire, and sugar. Let simmer.
- Remove the curry from the heat, stirring in the lime zest and juice. Serve as desired and ENJOY!
- To Store. Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight storage container for up to 4 days.
- To Reheat. Rewarm curry in a Dutch oven on the stovetop over medium-low heat or in the microwave.
- To Freeze. Freeze leftovers in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
Meal Prep Tip
Up to 1 day in advance, chop the vegetables and chicken. Refrigerate each ingredient in a separate airtight storage container until you’re ready to finish the recipe.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Extra Large Cutting Board. When you’re chopping lots of ingredients, this cutting board is essential.
- Dutch Oven. Perfect for making this panang curry.
- Citrus Juicer. With this tool and a zester, adding lemons and limes to recipes is easy.
Thai recipes like panang curry inspire me in the kitchen.
I hope this recipe brings a taste of freshness and joy to your table too.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, you can easily adapt this recipe to be vegetarian. Omit the Worcestershire and swap the chicken for a 15-ounce can of chickpeas or your meatless protein of choice.
If you need to make this recipe soy free, you can swap the soy sauce for coconut aminos or tamari.
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil or canola oil
- 1 yellow onion thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
- 3 medium carrots peeled and cut into ¼-inch coins
- 2 red bell peppers sliced into thin strips
- 2 (14-ounce) cans light coconut milk for a more decadent curry, use one can regular and one can light
- 2 large leafy sprigs Thai basil or regular basil plus additional leaves for serving
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs cut into bite-sized pieces or swap 1 (15-ounce) can rinsed and drained chickpeas
- 1 (8-ounce) can bamboo shoots drained
- 3 tablespoons peanut butter
- 1 1/2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce or additional low sodium soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce omit to make vegetarian
- 1 tablespoon coconut sugar or brown sugar
- 2 medium limes zest and juice, divided (about 1 ½ teaspoons zest and ¼ cup juice)
- Cooked brown rice or cauliflower rice or quinoa for serving
- Chopped unsalted roasted peanuts for serving
- In a Dutch oven or similar large, deep, sturdy pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until it is softened and turning translucent, about 5 minutes
- Add the red curry paste and stir very quickly to coat the onion.
- Add the coconut milk and basil and bring to a boil. Continue to boil, stirring periodically, until somewhat thickened, about 8 minutes.
- Add the carrot and bell peppers. Boil and stir for 5 minutes more.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the chicken, bamboo shoots, peanut butter, fish sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and coconut sugar. Simmer, stirring often, until chicken is cooked through, about 4 to 6 minutes.
- Remove from the heat. Stir in the lime zest and juice. Serve hot with rice and a sprinkle of chopped peanuts and basil.
- TO STORE: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight storage container for up to 4 days.
- TO REHEAT: Rewarm curry in a Dutch oven on the stovetop over medium-low heat or in the microwave.
- TO FREEZE: Freeze leftovers in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
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