Panang Curry (With Sweet Potatoes)

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This simple Panang Curry combines aromatic veggies with fragrant Panang curry paste and a combination of sweet and golden potatoes, all combined in a rich and creamy coconut base. Garnish with basil, crushed peanuts, and plenty of fresh lime juice! 

This curry is naturally vegetarian, but still has protein thanks to the peanuts and sweet peas. That said, it’s easy to add in additional protein — throw in a can of drained and rinsed chickpeas, prepare some tofu, or add in some chicken.

Overhead image of Panang Curry in a bowl

Panang Curry

Years ago while traveling, my husband and I had some Panang Curry in a tiny hole-in-the-wall restaurant (aren’t those always the best ones?!) and I have worked for years to re-create it. It was very rich with a slightly sweet and nutty sauce, loaded with veggies, and packed with both sweet and gold potatoes. 

finally feel like this recipe replicates the one we enjoyed so many years ago. It’s such a satisfying and hearty meal that even my kids love — that’s right, it’s not too spicy! There’s a touch of heat, but overall it’s balanced with a sweetness from the coconut milk. There are underlying notes of peanut and a complementary freshness from the citrus.

Process shots-- images of the oil, vegetables, and curry paste being added to a pot

Let’s Chat Panang Curry Paste

The curry paste in this recipe is the main flavor of this dish. While Panang curry paste can be a bit more tricky to find than other curry pastes, it’s essential for this recipe. 

  • Where to find it: You may find it in the international section of your grocery store, but I haven’t had much luck there. I typically buy it online or from an Asian grocery store.
  • What it tastes like: Panang curry paste will differ a bit from brand to brand but typically you’ll find the following ingredients in the paste: dried red chiles, garlic, shallot, lemongrass, sugar, salt, kaffir lime, galangal, spices (coriander seeds, cumin, cardamom, bay leaves). Panang curry paste is typically sweeter with an earthier flavor.
  • What brand to use: If you have special dietary restrictions you’ll want to check the ingredients of the curry paste — a lot contain fish sauce or shrimp. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, you’ll want to make sure the brand you use is vegetarian/vegan. If you’re gluten-intolerant, check for that too — a lot of curry pastes are made without gluten. My favorite brand to use is Maesri.
  • What Panang Curry is similar to: It has a deep red color and similar ingredients to a traditional red curry, but less spicy and much sweeter than red curry. 
  • How much curry paste to use: Again, the intensity of the curry paste will vary from brand to brand. We found 2 tablespoons of Maesri curry paste (offset by the sweet coconut milk) to be perfect for kids, but my husband and I prefer 3 tablespoons for a little more heat. 

Process shots-- images of the sweet potatoes, potatoes, and coconut milk being added and simmered for this Panang Curry

Panang Curry Ingredients

There are a few ingredients worth mentioning and offering suggestions or substitutes for:

  1. Kaffir lime leaves are found in a lot of Panang curries. They add a vibrant, citrus flavor, but can be tricky to find. If you have access to some, crumple a few up and throw them in when you add in the coconut milk and remove them before serving. To get a citrusy flavor without the leaves, zest and juice a lime and mix through right before serving.
  2. Fish sauce is a common finishing ingredient in Thai curries — it adds that final seasoning and umami flavor. If you aren’t vegetarian, feel free to add some in, but since I wanted this to be a vegetarian recipe, the recipe calls for soy sauce instead. Use regular (not lite) soy sauce.
  3. Thai basil is the preferred topping for Panang Curry, but I can’t get my hands on it where I live. If you can, great — use that! If not, we enjoy regular basil on this curry.
  4. Peanut butter is another common ingredient in curry, but we prefer crushed peanuts as a topping instead. If you don’t have peanuts, mix about a tablespoon of creamy peanut butter into the curry sauce instead.
  5. Coconut milk. More on this ingredient below

Coconut Milk

Coconut milk is an integral part of this recipe. It’s sweet and nicely balances the spice from the curry paste. It’s also thick and creamy which makes this curry very rich and indulgent tasting.

To mimic the thickness, sweetness, and richness of Panang Curry we enjoyed so many years ago, I created this recipe with 2 cans of coconut milk. If 2 cans are too much for you, use 1 can of coconut milk and replace the other can with 1 cup of vegetable (or chicken if you aren’t vegetarian) stock.

It can be overwhelming to navigate coconut milk in the grocery store. Look for shelf-stable, not refrigerated, cans of coconut milk. You’ll find canned coconut milk on the international aisle, with Latin or Asian products. Here’s an article outlining the best brands to use. I personally use Imperial Kitchen® since I can find it at my local grocery store and enjoy the richness of this brand. Use full-fat coconut milk for the best flavor and thickness. Lite coconut milk won’t thicken and give you the rich, full flavor that regular coconut milk will. Cream of coconut is far too sweet and coconut cream tends to be too thick (and overpoweringly coconut flavored) for this curry.

Process shots-- images of the frozen peas being added along with all the finishing flavors

Panang Curry Tips

  • Take time to sauté the curry paste. Instead of immediately dumping everything else into the pot, we want to take time to sauté the curry paste. This creates a more heightened flavor dimension.
  • In order for everything to cook in time and ensure the veggies are tender, it’s important to cut both types of potatoes very small (1/2-inch pieces). We recommend peeling the sweet potatoes, but it’s fine to leave the peels on the golden potatoes. (The peels are so delicate you won’t notice them.)
  • Salt is hugely important in helping to bring out and enhance existing flavors. Seasoning throughout the cooking process is going to bring out the most robust flavors!
  • Finishing the curry. After the curry has thickened and potatoes are tender, it’s time to really bring the flavors alive. This is where some taste testing and experimentation come on your part. Add fresh lime juice and zest, sugar, soy sauce, salt, etc. all to personal preference. The amounts of these ingredients will vary based on the curry paste and coconut milk you used and your personal taste preferences. 

Overhead image of Panang Curry in the pot

STORAGE

Panang Curry Storage

One of my favorite things about curry recipes is how well they store! Leftovers only get more and more flavorful as they sit. Store any leftover curry in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-5 days. Reheat over low heat, adding a splash of vegetable broth/stock (chicken stock if you aren’t vegetarian) as needed to thin the sauce.

Freeze leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Defrost fully in the fridge before reheating on the stovetop.

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Panang Curry

5 from 1 vote
This simple Panang Curry combines aromatic veggies with fragrant Panang curry paste and a combination of sweet and golden potatoes, all in a rich and creamy coconut base. Garnish with basil, crushed peanuts, and plenty of fresh lime juice! 
Print Recipe

Panang Curry

5 from 1 vote
This simple Panang Curry combines aromatic veggies with fragrant Panang curry paste and a combination of sweet and golden potatoes, all in a rich and creamy coconut base. Garnish with basil, crushed peanuts, and plenty of fresh lime juice! 
Course Dinner, Vegetarian
Cuisine Healthy, Thai, Vegan, Vegetarian
Keyword panang curry
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 4 -6 servings
Calories 742kcal
Author Chelsea Lords
Cost $8.95

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil (or olive oil works)
  • 1 cup each: finely diced red onion, red pepper, and carrot Note 1
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (~4 cloves)
  • 2 teaspoons minced ginger
  • Fine sea salt
  • 3 cups peeled and diced sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup diced gold potatoes (or more sweet potatoes)
  • 2 tablespoons panang curry paste Note 2
  • 2 cans (13.5 oz. 400ml each) coconut milk regular (full-fat) Note 3
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 tablespoon regular soy sauce Note 4
  • 1-3 tablespoons light brown sugar (add to taste) Note 5
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice Note 6
  • Optional toppings: roasted peanuts and fresh basil Note 7
  • Serve over: cooked rice with warmed roti bread, if desired

Instructions

  • PREP: Start by prepping ingredients: dice the red onion, carrot, and bell pepper (by hand or quickly in the food processor). Mince the garlic and ginger. (I peel the ginger with a spoon or vegetable peeler first.) Peel and then chop the sweet potatoes into small bite-sized pieces (1/2-inch in size). No need to peel gold potatoes, but chop them into small pieces (1/2-inch in size). Keep the potato pieces fairly small so they’ll cook at the right time.
  • COOK: Heat 2 tablespoons coconut oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot, and red pepper and sauté for 7-10 minutes, until onions begin to turn golden. Add the garlic and ginger. Stir to coat everything with the oil. Season to taste with salt. (I add 1 teaspoon fine sea salt.) Lower the heat to medium and add in curry paste. Stir often for 2-3 minutes or until very fragrant. Add in the sweet and gold potatoes and stir to coat for 1 minute.
  • COOK CONT: Pour in the 2 cans of coconut milk. Stir. Scrape the bottom of the pot periodically and press all potatoes below the liquid. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to rapidly simmer (it should be bubbling at the edges but not boiling) for 18-25 minutes, stirring occasionally. The potatoes should be fork tender and curry sauce reduced; this happens at around 20-22 minutes for me. Add a splash of vegetable stock/broth or water if the sauce is reducing too quickly and potatoes aren't getting tender. (This also means you may need to lower your heat a little. Alternatively, increase the heat slightly if potatoes aren't getting tender and the sauce isn't reducing.)
  • FINISHING: Turn off the heat and stir in the peas. Add sugar (start with less-- you can always add more), soy sauce, and lime juice to the curry (feel free to adjust these three ingredients to personal preference -- adding more soy sauce for seasoning/umami flavor, more lime for a fresh flavor, and more sugar if it's too spicy). Taste and add more salt if needed-- (I'll typically add another 1/4 up to 1/2 teaspoon) flavors should be vibrant and curries typically need a lot of salt!
  • ENJOY: Remove curry from heat. If desired, serve curry over cooked rice. Garnish individual bowls with basil and coarsely chopped peanuts. I also like to serve lime wedges on the side. Serve over cooked rice with warmed roti bread. Enjoy!

Video

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Veggies: This is about 1 large red onion, 3-4 large carrots, and 1 bell pepper. Dice finely -- we want fairly small pieces.
Note 2: Curry paste: The curry paste in this recipe is the main flavor of this dish. While Panang Curry paste can be a bit trickier to find than other curry pastes, it's essential for this recipe. You may find it in the international section of your grocery store, but more likely to find it in an Asian grocery store. My favorite brand to use is Maesri. The intensity of the curry paste will vary from brand to brand. We found 2 tablespoons of Maesri curry paste (offset by the sweet coconut milk) to be perfect for kids, but my husband and I prefer 3 tablespoons for a little more heat.
Note 3: Coconut milk: To mimic the thickness, sweetness, and richness of a Panang Curry I had while traveling, I created this recipe with 2 cans of coconut milk. If 2 cans are too much for you, use 1 can coconut milk and replace the other can with 1 cup of vegetable (or chicken if you aren't vegetarian) stock. I personally use Imperial Kitchen® since I can find it often at my local grocery store and enjoy the richness of this brand. Use full-fat coconut milk for the best flavor and thickness. Lite coconut milk won’t thicken and give you the rich, full flavor that regular coconut milk will. 
Note 4: Soy sauce: Fish sauce is a common finishing ingredient in Thai curries -- it adds that final seasoning and umami flavor. If you aren't vegetarian, feel free to add some instead of the soy sauce, but since I wanted this to be a vegetarian recipe, the recipe calls for soy sauce instead. Use regular (not lite) soy sauce.
Note 5: Sugar: Add sugar to personal preference and to offset potential spiciness-- you may not even want any! Add slowly and to taste preference.
Note 6: Lime: We love lots of lime in this curry -- it adds a nice freshness. You may want more -- we often serve additional lime wedges on the side. For more citrusy flavor, you can add in lime zest too. If you happen to have Kaffir lime leaves, throw a few in (crumple them up) when you add in the coconut milk.
Note 7: Peanuts and basil: We prefer the peanuts as a topping, but if you don't have peanuts and still would like more of a peanut flavor, mix through 1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter. If you have access to fresh Thai basil use that, but if not regular basil is still great!

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 742kcal | Carbohydrates: 74g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 49g | Saturated Fat: 43g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Sodium: 452mg | Potassium: 1680mg | Fiber: 12g | Sugar: 17g | Vitamin A: 38472IU | Vitamin C: 81mg | Calcium: 156mg | Iron: 9mg

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.

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2 Comments

  1. Will be making this soon can i use more soy sauce as am a vegan i never had panang curry with sweet potatoes before perfect for my after office meals will dm you if i make this and let you know how it goes Thanks Ramya

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