This authentic Vegan Panang Curry with Tofu and Vegetables is rich and creamy with a balance of sweet and spicy flavors, and so easy to make in under 30 minutes. This vegetarian and gluten-free Thai curry served with jasmine rice is a hit with the whole family.
I had never eaten Thai food growing up in India. But when I came to the US, the closest food that I could find to the Indian food taste was Thai food. Thai curries became my favorite instantly – panang curry, red curry, or green curry with perfect jasmine rice.
After some years of eating Thai food only in restaurants, I discovered how quick and easy they were to make at home. It is basically a quick one-pot meal.
My version of Thai Panang Curry is vegetarian. It is healthy, as it is loaded with veggies & tofu.
You guys…this is a satisfying, easy weeknight meal. And the best part it takes less than 30 minutes to make this curry and have an exotic meal at home.
Table of Contents
What is Panang Curry?
Panang Curry (also spelled Phanaeng) is a rich, creamy curry that has both sweet and spicy flavors, with the addition of peanuts and coconut milk. This curry has wonderful, bold flavors that tickle your taste buds.
Panang curry comes from Thailand, from the island of Penang. This is one of the popular curries similar to red curry.
Typically Panang curry is made with meat – pork, beef, or chicken – cooked with the Panang paste, coconut milk, fish sauce, kaffir lime leaves, and basil leaves.
However, here I am sharing a vegan version made with firm tofu and lots of colorful vegetables. Use a vegan curry paste, along with soy sauce (Tamari for gluten-free).
Panang Curry Paste
I used the below Maesri paste from the Asian market. You can also order it on Amazon. I find this one to have the wonderful authentic flavors you get at Thai restaurants.
This paste is vegan and gluten-free. Most of the other Thai curry pastes contain shrimp. So if you are a vegetarian, I suggest to always check the ingredients. Another vegetarian option is Aroy-D brand curry paste.
To amp up the flavor even more when using store-bought curry paste, you can sauté some ginger and garlic in oil along with the paste.
Of course, if you like, you can make curry paste at home too. It has lots of wonderful ingredients such as red chili peppers, galangal, lemongrass, Kaffir Lime, shallots, coriander, garlic, peanuts, and more.
This recipe has basic ingredients that you will need for most Thai curries. I would suggest making a trip to the Asian grocery store in your area to them.
Panang Curry Paste
Coconut Milk: Use a brand with thick coconut milk, such as Chakoh.
Peanut Butter: Use smooth peanut butter in this recipe. It gives the perfect peanut taste to the curry. I added 1 tablespoon, but peanut lovers, feel free to increase it to 2 tablespoons.
Brown Sugar: This helps to balance the flavors of this spicy curry.
Soy Sauce or Tamari: This replaces the fish sauce the authentic recipe calls for. Use Tamari to keep the recipe gluten-free.
Kaffir Lime Leaves: These can be hard to find sometimes. I could not find them at the Asian store too, so I ordered dried lime leaves from Amazon. If you ever find fresh leaves, get them and freeze them (they retain the flavor even if they turn darker in color).
Crush the leaves a little to release their juices. These leaves have a hard membrane, so you can remove them after cooking or eating around them.
If you can’t find kaffir lime leaves, use extra lime zest and juice.
Thai Basil Leaves: I love to garnish the curry with lots of Thai Basil Leaves. If you don’t have them, use regular basil leaves or cilantro.
Tofu: Use extra firm tofu in this curry. Press the tofu to remove any extra water, then dab with a paper towel and cut into pieces. You can use the tofu as is or lightly saute, bake, or air fry it.
Bell Pepper: I love to add colorful bell peppers to this curry. They make it look so pretty.
Broccoli, Zucchini, or other quick-cooking veggies: You can add any quick-cooking veggies of choice to this curry. I added broccoli and zucchini. Some other options are – mushrooms, green beans, baby corn, and snap peas. If you add carrots, cook them a little before adding other veggies.
Lime: A little lime juice at the end really does wonders for the complex flavors in this curry.
How to Make?
- Press the tofu to remove excess water. Cut it into pieces and keep it aside. If you prefer, you can bake or air fryer it.
- Heat a large pot in sauté mode. Add oil, and then add the panang curry paste. Mix well.
- Add ½ a can of coconut milk. Stir well so the paste is completely mixed with the coconut milk. Then add the remaining coconut milk, peanut butter, brown sugar, and soy sauce and stir well.
- Add the red bell pepper, green bell pepper, broccoli, zucchini, and Thai lime leaves. Bring to a complete boil and cook for 2-3 minutes until the vegetables are slightly tender.
- Add the tofu pieces and half of the Thai Basil leaves and cook for another 3-4 minutes.
- Add lime juice. Taste and add salt if needed. Garnish with the remaining basil leaves and crushed peanuts. Panang Curry is ready to be enjoyed over jasmine rice.
Serve this delicious panang curry with jasmine rice. I like to make jasmine rice in an instant pot.
Can I make Panang Curry in the Instant Pot?
You can make this Panang Curry in the instant pot too. I recommend only using the sauté setting in the instant pot and not pressure cooking this curry.
Spicy? Start with lesser panang curry paste, 2-3 tablespoons, and add more based on your spice preference.
Rice: While you are cooking the curry, don’t forget to first also put the jasmine rice to cook. You can also serve Thai tofu curry with quinoa or brown rice.
Basil: Garnish with lots of Thai Basil Leaves.
Consistency: This curry gets thicker as it cools. Add 1/2 to 1 cup water or broth to get a thinner consistency.
Panang Curry is a type of Thai red curry. Panang curry contains ground peanuts which the typical red curry does not have. It is also a bit sweeter and milder compared to other Thai curries.
You can store this curry in the refrigerator for up to 3 days in an airtight container. The curry thickens as it cools. Add a little water, and reheat in the microwave.
Check out other Thai recipes you will love:
- Vegan Thai Green Curry
- Panang Curry with Chicken
- Thai Pumpkin Red Curry
- Garlic Noodles
- Coconut Rice
- Easy Vegan Sushi for Beginners
- Tofu Broccoli Stir Fry
Vegan Panang Curry with Tofu & Vegetables
- 14 ounces Tofu Extra Firm
- 1 tablespoon Oil
- 3-4 tablespoon Panang Curry Paste, adjust amount based on spice preference
- 1 can Coconut Milk, 14oz
- 1 tablespoon Peanut Butter
- 1 tablespoon Brown Sugar
- 2 tablespoon Soy Sauce , or Tamari for gluten-free
- 8-10 Kaffir Lime leaves, crush to release oil
- 1 cup Green Bell Pepper, seeds removed and cut into 1 inch squares
- 1 cup Red Bell Pepper , seeds removed and cut into 1 inch squares
- 1 cup Broccoli , cut into florets
- 1 cup Zucchini, slit in half and sliced, optional
- 12-15 Thai Basil Leaves
- 1 tablespoon Lime juice
- Peanuts , crushed, to garnish
- Press the tofu to remove excess water. Cut it into pieces and keep aside. If you prefer, you can sauté, bake or air fryer it.
- Heat a medium pot on medium-high heat. Add oil and then add the panang curry paste. Stir it.
- Add 1/2 can of coconut milk. Stir well, so that the paste is completely mixed with the coconut milk. Then add the remaining coconut milk, peanut butter, brown sugar, soy sauce and stir well.
- Add the red bell pepper, green bell pepper, broccoli, zucchini and kaffir lime leaves. Bring to a complete boil and cook for 2-3 minutes until the vegetables are slightly tender.
- Add the tofu pieces, and half of the Thai Basil leaves and cook for another 3-4 minutes.
- Add lime juice. Taste and add salt if needed. Garnish with the remaining basil leaves, and crushed peanuts. Panang Curry is ready to be enjoyed over jasmine rice.