Thai Panang Curry with Tofu is one of our favourite Thai dishes. Rich, creamy, spicy, nutty and absolutely delicious. Panang curry has everything you will find in a red curry plus a few extra ingredients: roasted peanuts, cilantro and cumin seeds. As it contains roasted peanuts, the texture is quite similar to a North-Indian curry, but with the basic Thai ingredients such as shallots, ginger or galangal, lemongrass or coriander root or stems.
Our Thai Panang Curry with Tofu is made from scratch. When we prepare Thai curries at home, we always make our own paste. Once you have the right ingredients, the paste is really simple to make and it makes a huge difference to the taste of your curries. Being vegetarian, we want to make sure that no fish sauce or shrimp paste goes into our curries. Also, the amount of sugar and salt that is used in the recipe. The perfect solution, make it ourselves!
If you cannot find the right ingredients or want to skip the first step of the recipe by buying store-bought paste, we can recommend getting this one. It’s vegetarian and it is the one that we have been using before we started making our own pastes.
How to make Panang Curry Paste
All you need are the right ingredients, a good blender and 20 minutes of your time. Once the paste is made it can be kept in the fridge for a week, in the freezer for months or used straight away for making a delicious curry.
Ingredients for the Curry Paste
Dried bird-eye chillies. You can use larger chillies as well. This is the main ingredient to give the curry paste a red colour. In order to be able to use more chillies without the paste being too spicy, the chillies need to be deseeded. Using gloves, cut the chillies down the side with scissors, remove the seeds and leave them soaking in water for around 10 minutes. We normally add around 10-15 bird-eyes chillies. The curry comes out spicy but not super spicy. If you prefer mild curries, get larger chillies, as they will be less spicy.
Roasted Peanuts. One of the basic ingredients of the panang curry paste is the peanuts. They add the thickness and nutty flavour into the paste.
Coriander Stems. Originally, panang curry paste is made with coriander roots, but as we cannot find coriander roots, we use coriander stems. Prepare the coriander steams chopping them into small pieces.
Lemongrass Stalks. One of the most popular ingredients in Thai food. Lemongrass will give your curry proper Thai fragrance and flavour. The part of the lemongrass stalks you need is the bottom part. When you slice it, it has a purple colour inside. Save the green top part for other Thai dishes such as Coconut Curry Soups.
Shallots. We use finely chopped shallots for our curry paste but white or red onion can be used as well.
Ginger or galangal. Ginger is the one we use to make the curry paste, it’s easier to find and we normally have it at home already. Originally, the curry paste is made with galangal so if you have easy access to it, go for it!
Kaffir lime leaves or kaffir lime zest. Again, we use lime leaves as they are easier to find. We leave the dried lime leaves out of the paste and save them for when we are making the curry. They can be blended as well, but we prefer them whole inside the curry. If you have kaffir lime, use the zest which is the outer part of the lime and blend it with the rest of the ingredients of the curry paste.
Lime Juice. Needed to add the tangy bit into your paste.
Garlic. Finely chopped or crushed raw garlic.
Spices. Our spice blend for the red curry paste contains white and black peppercorns, cumin powder, coriander powder and cumin and coriander seeds, that will distinct your panang curry from a Red curry. We toast briefly the cumin and coriander seeds before adding them into the paste.
Sea salt. If you want to keep your paste a few days or a week in the fridge, it will stay good for longer if you add salt or sea salt.
How to prepare our Panang Curry with Tofu once the curry paste is made
If you already have the curry paste prepared or you have some store-bought one, the most challenging part is done. All you need to do now is to heat some coconut oil in a pan and add the curry paste. Leave it cooking for a couple of minutes and then add coconut milk, water, soy sauce, brown sugar, fresh vegetables of your choice and the tofu.
Traditionally, the Panang Curry is made with meat and the only vegetables included in the curry are red peppers and the kaffir lime leaves. For our vegetarian version of this Thai curry, we add red peppers, carrots, bamboo shoots, kaffir lime leaves and tofu for the protein.
It’s normally served with jasmine rice but it can be served on it’s own or with rice noodles. If you add more coconut milk, water or broth into the curry, it can be served as a soup as well.
Thai Panang Curry Paste
Panang Curry Paste
- 10-15 bird’s eye dried chillies
- 1/3 cup roasted peanuts
- 2 tablespoon coriander stems
- 2 lemongrass stalks
- 3 garlic cloves finely chopped or crushed
- 2 shallots finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
- 1 lime juiced
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon white peppercorn
- 1 teaspoon cumin powder
- 1 teaspoon coriander powder
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoon coconut oil
- 2 tablespoon panang curry paste
- 400 ml coconut milk
- 150 ml water
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- 5-6 kaffir limes leaves
- Fresh chopped vegetables of your choice.
- 250 g firm tofu
Panang Curry Paste, skip if using store-bought one
- Using gloves, cut the chillies down the side with scissors, remove the seeds, finely slice them and leave them soaking while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
- Briefly toaste the cumin and coriander seeds in a pan.
- Cut the bottom half of the lemongrass stalks and finely slice it, you will see it has a purple colour inside, this is the part you need for the curry paste and add them to the blender. Add the roasted peanuts, chopped coriander stems, garlic, shallots, ginger, lime juice, spices, toasted seeds and salt.
- Add the hydrated red chillies to the blender and blend all the ingredients for 30-40 seconds. Keep blending until you have the desired consistency.
- The paste will be ready to use or to keep in the fridge for later use. You can as well freeze it at this point.
Preparation for the Panang Curry
- Heat the coconut oil in a pan into medium heat. Add the curry paste, stir and leave it cooking for a couple of minutes while you keep stirring.
- Add the coconut milk, water, soy sauce, brown sugar, kaffir limes and the fresh vegetables of your choice. For this recipe, we use carrot, red bell pepper and bamboo shoots.
- Cut the tofu into cubes and add them into the curry. Leave simmering for around 20 minutes before serving. If the curry gets too thick, you can add more water or coconut milk.
- Add crushed peanuts on the top before serving. Serve with rice or noodles if preferred.