Easy Vegetable Panang Curry (Tofu or Chicken)

Close up shot of vegetable panang curry with tofu served over rice

Curry that’s faster to make than it is to get it delivered? We’re in. We’ve done green, red, yellow, and Massaman curries, but we were missing another Thai classic: panang curry! Never had it? It’s like red curry’s richer, milder, peanutty cousin, and it’s SO good!

This is our inspired, veggie-packed version made with easier-to-find ingredients and your choice of chicken or tofu for protein. It’s SO rich and comforting, you won’t believe it only takes 30 minutes. Let us show you how it’s done!

Coconut milk, red bell pepper, curry paste, ginger, oil, cauliflower, onion, and salt

What is Panang Curry?

Panang curry (also spelled phanaeng or phanang) is a Thai curry similar to red curry, but it’s thicker, richer, and made with peanuts. It’s salty-sweet and the cumin and coriander seeds are more prominent in flavor.

The first written mention of the dish is believed to be in an 1890 cookbook. Traditionally, it’s made with pork or other meats and doesn’t contain vegetables. Learn more about panang curry and find a more traditional recipe from Hot Thai Kitchen.

Our inspired version is not traditional — instead, it’s veggie-forward with options to add either tofu or chicken for protein, similar to what we’ve tried at Thai restaurants in the US. It also features ingredients that are easier to find in our region.

How to Make Vegetable Panang Curry

We begin with a flavorful base of sautéed onion, garlic, ginger, and homemade panang curry paste. Our homemade version is fresh and spicy, but you can use store-bought curry paste with just a few adjustments (think adding more ginger, omitting the salt, and adding peanut butter and maple syrup).

Sautéing onion, garlic, ginger, and curry paste in a rimmed skillet

Next, we add canned light coconut milk to give this curry the classic richness of panang curry without making it too heavy.

Cauliflower and bell pepper floating at the top of a pan of panang curry

Then it’s time to bring in the veggies (and chicken, if including) and simmer them in the curry until tender and cooked through. We like red bell pepper, cauliflower, and spinach for a contrast of textures, nutrients, and colors, but feel free to experiment with other veggies!

If using tofu, it’s best to cook it separately until browned on all sides, which ensures the best flavor and texture.

Pan of tofu vegetable panang curry sprinkled with peanuts

We hope you LOVE this panang curry! It’s:

Quick & easy
& SO comforting!

It’s a versatile recipe perfect for using up whatever veggies + protein you have around or making ahead to enjoy throughout the week. Pair with your favorite grain (we like rice or quinoa) for a satisfying meal!

Collard Green Spring Rolls or Vibrant Mango Salad with Peanut Dressing would be delicious appetizers if you’re feeling inspired to make more.

More Thai-Inspired Curry Recipes

If you try this recipe, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it, and don’t forget to tag a photo @minimalistbaker on Instagram. Cheers, friends!

Serving bowls of vegetable panang curry with white rice

Prep Time 5 minutes

Cook Time 25 minutes

Total Time 30 minutes

Servings 4 (Servings)

Course Entree

Cuisine Gluten-Free, Thai-Inspired, Vegan (optional)

Freezer Friendly 1 month

Does it keep? 4-5 Days

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  • 1 (14 oz) package extra-firm tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes (vegan option)
  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, sliced (meat option — pasture-raised, local, organic when possible)


  • 2-3 Tbsp avocado or coconut oil
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, minced
  • 4 large cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
  • 1 Tbsp ginger, grated or finely minced (~1 inch piece // grated for a stronger ginger flavor)
  • 1/2 cup panang curry paste (if using store-bought, start with 2-3 Tbsp and see notes*)
  • 2 (14 oz.) cans light coconut milk
  • 1/2-3/4 tsp sea salt (reduce/omit if using store-bought curry paste)
  • 1-2 Tbsp peanut butter (optional)
  • 1-2 Tbsp maple syrup (optional)
  • 1 small red bell pepper, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 2 cups cauliflower florets
  • 2-3 cups baby spinach (optional)

FOR SERVING optional

  • Rice or Quinoa
  • Lime wedges
  • Fresh cilantro
  • Roasted salted peanuts, chopped
  • GRAINS: If you are serving your curry with rice or quinoa, start it at this time.
  • CURRY: Heat a large rimmed skillet or pot over medium heat. Once hot, add oil and onion and sauté for 3 minutes, stirring frequently, until softened. Add the garlic and ginger and sauté for 1 minute more.

  • Add curry paste (store-bought curry paste is more concentrated, so be sure to start with less!) and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and slightly bubbly. Add the coconut milk and sea salt (omit/reduce if using store-bought curry paste) and whisk to combine. Taste and adjust at this time, adding peanut butter for richness, maple syrup for sweetness, or more salt for balance.

  • After adjusting for flavor balance, add the bell pepper, cauliflower, and chicken (if using) and bring to a light simmer. Cover and cook for 10-15 minutes or until the cauliflower is tender.

  • TOFU: While the curry simmers, heat a medium-sized nonstick or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add ~1 ½ Tbsp avocado oil (enough to fully cover the bottom of the skillet) and then add the cubed tofu. Fry until crispy and golden brown on all sides, ~2 minutes per side. Optionally, transfer to a paper towel-lined plate after frying to absorb excess oil. Once the veggies are tender, add the fried tofu to the curry.
  • When the vegetables are tender and the (optional) protein is incorporated, add the baby spinach (optional) and stir. Once the spinach is wilted, the curry is ready to serve with your choice of grains.

  • This curry is delicious with a squeeze of lime juice and garnished with cilantro and chopped peanuts.

  • Leftovers keep for 4-5 days in the refrigerator or in the freezer for up to 1 month.

*We prefer this recipe with our homemade Panang Curry Paste for best flavor, but it does work with store-bought with a few adjustments. Store-bought curry paste is much saltier and tastes less fresh. To compensate, we recommend doubling the ginger, omitting the salt, and adding peanut butter and maple syrup to taste.
*Prep/cook time does not include cooking optional proteins.
*Nutrition information is a rough estimate calculated with homemade panang curry paste, the lesser amounts of avocado oil and salt, and without optional ingredients such as grains, tofu, and chicken.

Serving: 1 serving (without added protein or grains) Calories: 297 Carbohydrates: 18.7 g Protein: 3.6 g Fat: 24 g Saturated Fat: 12.2 g Polyunsaturated Fat: 1.9 g Monounsaturated Fat: 7.6 g Trans Fat: 0 g Cholesterol: 0 mg Sodium: 732 mg Potassium: 321 mg Fiber: 2.7 g Sugar: 10.7 g Vitamin A: 814 IU Vitamin C: 57 mg Calcium: 41 mg Iron: 0.8 mg

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