Thai Panang curry boasts zesty, rich, and creamy flavors all at once. It’s very aromatic and easily my go-to curry of choice whenever ordering any Thai take-out. Luckily, I found that it’s actually pretty easy to whip up at home too!
Two Critical Ingredients for the Best Thai Panang Curry
Panang curry is such a rich and well-spiced dish that’s simply intoxicating. It's seasoned by two key components that create the dish’s distinct flavor: kaffir leaves and Panang curry paste.
1. Kaffir Leaves
Kaffir lime leaves have a strong zesty and lime aroma that brings the Panang curry to life! Store-bought Panang curry paste typically has kaffir leaves mixed into it, however, it’s not nearly enough.
When recipe testing, my Asian market ran out of kaffir leaves and I tried substituting them with lime zest. Although I used the zest of two whole limes, it wasn’t nearly enough to replicate the same burst of flavor as kaffir leaves. The curry tasted incomplete and obviously missing something.
If you can’t find fresh kaffir leaves at the store, I HIGHLY recommend ordering dried kaffir leaves online as an alternative. Save yourself the disappointment of trying to make the dish without it. Panang curry NEEDS kaffir leaves in the recipe and there’s no substitute quite like it!
2. Panang Curry Paste
Panang curry has grown in popularity, so finding Panang curry paste is now pretty easy in any Asian market. The paste varies from brand to brand but is usually composed of coriander seeds, coriander root, cumin seeds, lemongrass, kaffir leaves, chilies, galangal, and ginger.
If you can’t find Panang curry paste or like the challenge of making it semi-homemade, I’ve created a super easy-to-follow recipe using red curry paste as the base! Red curry paste is much more accessible, I even see it at Walmart!
Difference Between Red Curry & Panang Curry
Both curries are red in color and SO delicious but have subtle differences. Red curry is typically heavily spiced with chilies. Panang curry, on the other hand, is creamier because coconut milk and ground peanuts are used to create a thicker sauce.
Thai Panang curry is a rich and creamy dish that’s just as good fresh or reheated from frozen! This curry holds up for 5 - 7 days in the refrigerator or 2 - 3 months in the freezer. Either way, by the end of your meal, you’ll find at least one person at the dinner table licking their plate clean!
Try this recipe out and let me know how it goes in the comments below!
Let's Get Cooking!
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Thai Panang Curry
Chicken & Marinade:
- 1 pound skinless boneless chicken thigh thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon fish sauce*
Panang Curry Paste:
- ¼ teaspoon coriander seeds
- ⅛ teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 tablespoon unsalted peanuts*
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 ¼ tablespoons red curry paste
- ½ teaspoon shrimp paste* omit if already in red curry paste
For the Curry:
- 1 cup coconut milk divided in half
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- 5 dried kaffir leaves*
- ¼ onion sliced
- ¼ yellow bell pepper sliced
- ¼ red bell pepper sliced
- salt to taste
- In a medium bowl, combine chicken and fish sauce to marinate. Set aside.
Prepare Panang Curry Paste
- Heat a small pan on medium heat, then dry toast coriander and cumin seeds for about a minute or until fragrant.
- In a mortar and pestle, grind toasted coriander seeds and cumin seeds to a fine powder. Add peanuts and grind until a fine powder. Add in garlic cloves and crush until you almost have a paste. Add in red curry paste. Check the ingredients list on the red curry paste to see if it includes shrimp paste. If it doesn’t, mix in shrimp paste as well and set aside.
- In a large wok or pan on medium high heat, add ½ cup of coconut milk. Reduce until it’s a very thick cream, about 3 - 4 minutes. Mix in Panang paste and cook until the oil starts to release from the mixture. Add in sugar and kaffir leaves. Cook for a few seconds, then add in onions to cook until they start to soften.
- Add in chicken and saute until it’s 90% cooked. Pour in the rest of the coconut milk and cook for another 2 - 3 minutes, until the chicken is fully cooked. Stir in bell peppers and cook for another 30 seconds to 1 minute until soft. Turn off heat, taste, and add salt if needed. Serve over fresh hot rice.
- Fish Sauce: Fish sauce may smell pungent to first-time users, but don't worry! Once it's cooked, it blends beautifully with the rest of the ingredients and adds a depth of flavor along with its saltiness.
- Unsalted Peanuts: There's already plenty of salt from the shrimp paste, fish sauce, and curry paste, so we don't want to make the curry too salty with the peanuts. Remember, we can always add more salt, but you can't take it back once it's added!
- Dried Kaffir Leaves: This one ingredient gives the dish its signature flavor, so I don't recommend skipping it! You may be able to find it at local Asian markets or on Amazon.
- Curry Paste: Depending on the brand, some red curry pastes already include shrimp paste as an ingredient. If that's the case, you can omit the shrimp paste from the Panang curry paste.
Exact calculations may vary. For the most accurate nutritional information, use your preferred nutrition calculator, actual ingredients, and quantities used for the recipe. Please consult with your physician or registered dietitian if more precise nutrition calculations are needed for health reasons.