This Thai Panang curry is flavorful and rich with notes of coconut and peanut and sweet curry sauce. Plus, it's vegan too. My version of this vegetarian and gluten-free meal uses tofu and is packed with colorful vegetables. We love it with steamed Jasmine Rice but it's also a fantastic low-carb recipe if you serve it with cauliflower rice.
Panang curry originally came from Malaysia and Thailand. In fact, it was named after the city of Penang, which is off Malaysia's west coast.
This is a very old recipe, and the earliest records of it date back to 1890 when it was called Phanaeng. Today, you will find it all over Thailand in street market stalls and served with a bowl of sticky rice.
What is Panang curry? Panang curry is a rich and creamy curry sauce that has a bit of spice to it that is balanced out with notes of peanuts and coconut. It combines both spicy and sour flavors into one irresistible dish.
It has such a powerful flavor that people eat this dish very slowly, relishing each bite and allowing their taste buds to recover between spoonfuls. If you want yours to be milder, just use less curry paste in your recipe and if you like chicken check out my recipe for Panang Curry with Chicken.
How is Panang curry different than red curry? Panang curry contains ground peanuts - neither red curry nor green curry has that. It also has a sweet flavor than red curry and isn't nearly as spicy.
Vegan Thai Curry Paste
I love the Maseri brand curry paste since it does not have any fish ingredients in it and it is packed with authentic flavors. If you eat a plant-based diet, use this curry paste. Plus, it makes this recipe super easy and authentic-tasting without having to locate hard-to-find ingredients like kaffir lime or galangal.
This is what I used to make my vegan and gluten-free Panang curry. All of the exact ingredient amounts are in the printable recipe card at the bottom of this post.
- Garlic - freshly chopped garlic adds flavor and aroma to the curry
- Yellow onion - adds sweetness and crunch to the curry
- Peppers - I prefer red and orange bell pepper but you can use any color peppers
- Panang Curry Paste - love Maesri brand. Add more or less to taste
- Coconut Milk - unsweetened coconut milk. You can use full fat for a creamy curry or reduced fat for a lighter option
- Extra Firm Tofu - baked or air fried adds satisfying texture and proteins
- Peanut Butter - adds nutty flavors and makes the curry creamy
- Soy Sauce - Use Tamari for a gluten-free option
- Thai Basil (or basil or cilantro) - Thai basil adds an authentic taste and is available in Asian grocery stores. You can also use regular basil or cilantro instead for garnish.
How to Make Thai Panang Curry
- Sauté the garlic in oil in a large wok or skillet until it is fragrant, which is about 30 seconds (photo 1).
- Add onions and peppers and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until they are slightly tender (photo 2).
- Push all the veggies to the side and add the Panang curry paste to the middle of the wok (photos 3 and 4).
- Fry the curry paste for a few seconds with some of the existing oil in the pan, then mix the curry paste with the vegetables (photo 5).
- Stir in the coconut milk and mix it until the sauce looks creamy and well-blended (photos 6 and 7).
- Add half of the basil leaves, tofu, and salt. Mix this together well (photo 8).
- Cover and cook on medium heat for 5 minutes, or until the curry comes to a gentle boil (photo 9).
- Add peanut butter and soy sauce. Mix this together well (photos 10 and 11).
- Garnish with basil leaves and enjoy (photo 11).
This recipe calls for some ingredients that you will only find in Asian grocery stores. For example, you will need Thai basil, which is easily found there. Trust me, Thai basil has a different flavor than Western basil that grows here, so I suggest using it.
However, if you can't find Thai basil, garnish with cilantro or regular basil. Both will work in a pinch.
Authentic Panang curry is made with some type of meat - often either beef or chicken - that is simmered in coconut milk, palm sugar, fish sauce, and kaffir lime leaves.
The result is a curry that lights up your taste buds.
I changed it a bit and made it vegan. Instead of meat, I added extra firm tofu that I either bake or stir-fry. I also use vegan curry paste (it doesn't have fish sauce or shrimp in it). To keep it gluten-free, instead of soy sauce, use tamari.
You can look at your local Asian market, or search your local grocery store in the international foods section. The easiest place to buy it is online.
This has the best flavor when you serve it fresh and hot right off the stove. Store leftovers in the refrigerator in an airtight container. It will stay fresh for up to 5 days.
Yes, this is a gluten-free dish. If you are really sensitive to gluten, use tamari instead of soy sauce.
Yes, this recipe is keto. You can cut back on even more carbs if you serve it over cauliflower rice instead of white or brown rice.
More Thai Recipes You'll Love
- Thai Red Curry Chicken
- Vegetable Thai Green Curry Recipe
- Thai Massaman Curry Recipe
- Green Curry with Vegetables
- Pad Thai
Thai Panang Curry Recipe
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1 medium yellow onion sliced
- 1 medium red pepper cut into 2-inch slices
- 1 medium orange pepper cut into 2-inch slices
- 4 oz panang curry paste **
- 1 can coconut milk full fat
- 14 oz extra firm tofu cubed and baked or stir fried
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon peanut butter
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
- 1 lime
- 1 cup Thai basil Italian basil or cilantro
- Heat oil in a large skillet or wok over medium heat. Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add onion, peppers and cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until the veggies are slightly tender. Push all the veggies to the sides of the wok and add Panang curry paste in the middle of the wok.
- Fry the curry paste for a few seconds with some of the existing oil in the pan. Then mix the curry paste in the veggies. Stir in coconut milk and mix until the sauce looks creamy and well blended. Add half of the basil leaves, tofu, and salt. Mix well.
- Cover and cook on medium heat for 5 minutes or until the curry comes to a gentle boil. Add peanut butter, soy sauce and mix well. Garnish with remaining basil leaves, add lime juice and enjoy hot with steamed Jasmine rice.
- Add only 2 tablespoons of curry paste for a less spicy curry
- Add ½ to 1 cup of water for more soupy curry