This vegan panang curry is so satisfying and cozy that tastes even better the next day! It’s made from a homemade curry paste that is spicy and delicious with a touch of sweetness from peanuts.
I love spicy food so when there is curry, my tummy will be happy. Thai curry dishes are delicious, from red to green, panang, and many more. Panang curry is one of my most ordered curries from a Thai restaurant!
Panang curry is flavorful and has a sweet touch from the peanuts. It’s thicker than red or green curry due to the coconut cream. While there are a lot of amazing store-bought pastes, a homemade version is where you can customize it to your own likings. You can choose the spicy level and add your favorite vegetables. This paste recipe is inspired by Marion’s Kitchen, Hot Thai Kitchen, and Mark Wein’s YouTube videos.
Before you start, please read
- This Panang curry is spicy because I used dried Thai chiles. Please adjust the spicy level accordingly using different types of chiles or reduce the amount needed. If you use less chile, the color will be less vibrant. You can use tomato paste for a more reddish look and to tame down the spicy level. While this might not be the authentic way of making this Thai curry, it’s how my mom likes to do for her sambal.
- 2 main spices needed: cumin and coriander seeds, toasted for best flavor. Alternatively, use cumin (1 tablespoon) and coriander (2 tablespoons) powder to save time.
- Coconut milk – please use coconut milk that comes in a can or paper package that has coconut extract of more than 60%, not those for a beverage. If you have access to freshly squeeze coconut milk, that tastes even better.
- Kelp – I used this to replace the traditional shrimp paste and to give this curry a more robust flavor.
How to make vegan Panang curry
Part 1: Prepare the vegetables and tofu
For the vegetables, I’m using baby corn, peppers, and bamboo shoots. I like to soak or boil the bamboo shoot in hot water to remove the smell. Then, I cut the firm tofu into cubes, sometimes in different shapes depending on my mood. Pan-fry them until golden brown on all sides and season with a dash of salt.
Part 2: Make the curry paste
The best way to make the curry paste is using a mortar and pestle, no doubt. I chose a high-speed blender to save time which also helps keep my kelp in smaller pieces. You can definitely use a food processor to make the paste for a more rustic look.
To make the curry paste, first, boil the dried chiles (seeds removed) until soft. Drain out the water. Meanwhile, soak a small piece of kelp in water until soft. Prepare the lime leaves by removing the tough stems. Now, place all the curry paste ingredients in a blender and process them into a fine paste.
Part 3: How to put together
Next, pour part of the coconut milk in a large wok or skillet that has a tall sides. This is to avoid the splashes while cooking the curry. Heat the coconut milk while stirring occasionally until aromatic or when large bubbles appears.
Then, add in the blended paste. Continue to cook and stir the paste until fragrant. If it appears to be dry, you can now add some water or more coconut milk to thin it down. Similar to making sambal, the chile paste is cooked through when the oil starts to separate.
Now, add the sugar and stir until it has dissolved. In goes the tofu, bamboo shoots, and corn. Toss everything until well combined. Season with mushrooms seasoning, vegan fish sauce, and add in the rest of the coconut milk.
Bring it to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer while you taste test. I added the bell pepper here and cook it quickly to retain the crunch. To serve, don’t forget to add a drizzle of coconut milk on top and garnish with thinly sliced lime leaves if needed. I served mine with a bowl of Jasmine rice.
Other Thai dishes to try
This vegan Panang Curry is
- Delicious and Cozy
- Simple to make
- Easily customizable with your favorite vegetables
- Spicy and sweet
- Gluten-free and Dairy-free
- Tastes even better the next day!
If you try this recipe, I would love to hear your feedback and see your beautiful re-creation. Leave me a comment, rate it, and tag @woon.heng and #woonheng to your photos on Instagram or Facebook. Happy cooking, friends!
Delicious vegan Panang Curry
- 16 oz [397g] firm tofu drained
- ¼ cup [~40g] red bell pepper sticks
- ¼ cup [~40g] green bell pepper sticks
- ¼ cup [~30g] bamboo shoots strips
- ½ cup [~60g] baby corn
- 1 ½ cups [~300ml] coconut milk separated
- 1 [15g] palm sugar round about 1 tablespoon, roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoon vegan fish sauce plus more to taste
- ¼ teaspoon mushrooms seasoning
- salt to taste
- ½ tablespoon cumin seed
- ½ tablespoon coriander seed
- 10-15 dried chile used Thai chile, seeds removed & softened in hot water
- 1 [70g] medium-sized shallot
- 3 garlic clove
- 1 lemongrass stalk white part only, roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon cilantro root
- 2 tablespoons toasted peanuts
- 5 slices galangal
- 5 lime leaves stems removed, roughly chopped
- 1 2-inx3-in kelp square soak in 3 tablespoons water to soften
- Prepare the tofu by cutting it into rectangles or cubes about 1.5cm thick. The larger the cube, the longer it takes to absorb the curry. Pan-fry in a heated 10" skillet with 2 teaspoons of oil until golden brown on all sides, then set aside.
- Soak or boil bamboo shoot strips in hot water to remove the smell if needed. Drain out the water and set it aside.
- To make the Panang curry paste, toast cumin and coriander seeds in a heated pan over medium-low heat for about 30-45 seconds. Watch the heat so the spices don't burn.
- Then, combine shallot, garlic, lemongrass, cilantro roots, galangal, lime leaves, peanuts, and kelp with the water in a high-speed blender. Top it with softened dried chiles, toasted spices, and blend into a fine paste. Add 2-3 tablespoons of water to get the blender running, if needed. Alternatively, use a mortar and pestle to pound the paste for a more rustic look. In that case, please cut the kelp into tiny pieces so they blend in better.
- Now, add about ¾ cup of coconut milk to a tall skillet or wok. Turn on the heat and cook, stirring occasionally until bubbly and starts to thicken.
- Add the paste and stir-fry until fragrant. The paste color will start to turn darker and oil will start to separate from the chile, about 8-10 minutes.
- Then, add the palm sugar and stir to dissolve. Add some water (~1/3 cup) or coconut milk if it appears to be too dry.
- Add the tofu, bamboo shoots, and baby corn, then toss to coat. Season with salt, vegan fish sauce*, mushrooms seasoning, and pour in the remaining coconut milk.
- Bring it to a simmer and fold in the peppers. Cook until they are as crisp as you like. Turn off the heat.
- Drizzle some coconut milk right before serving and garnish with thinly sliced lime leaves if you like. Serve warm with rice.
- *If using store-bought vegan fish sauce, please adjust the salt level accordingly. For a homemade version, check out this recipe.
- Substitute palm sugar with coconut sugar, about 1 tablespoon
- If you are using cumin (1 tablespoon) and coriander powder (2 tablespoons), add these in along with the palm sugar instead of blending them.
I am so excited to try this recipe, but I am not sure what a kelp sheet is. Can you clarify? And where can I find this ingredient? Thank you!
Hi Angela, kelp is dried kombu that you can find at many local Asian grocery stores or WholeFoods. Please let me know if you need anything else.
Fantastic recipe! The “fish” sauce was such a great addition. I made this dish with a mix of stirfried vegetables that included baby asparagus, carrots, red peppers, and broccoli. The result was colorful and delicious. I look forward to trying more of your recipes!
Yay, thanks so much, Donna. So glad you loved the vegan fish sauce too. I love all your vegetables addition as well. 🙂
Panang curry is my favorite Thai dish! Can’t wait to try this!
Many thanks, Lindsey. 🙂