Creamy, flavor-packed, and filled to the brim with vegetables, this Thai red curry is a weeknight dinner favorite.
It takes 30 minutes to prepare and will make your kitchen smell incredible with the fragrant spices of sunny Thailand.
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Thai food is some of our favorite food in the world, and our trip to Thailand in 2018 during the Songkran celebrations, had such an impact on us that shortly after, we quit our job and started this food blog (no kidding).
Our Thai red curry tries to recreate those fresh, spicy, fragrant, and bold flavors we tasted and fell in love with in Thailand in our western kitchen with ingredients you can find at your local grocery store.
Granted, this is not the authentic Thai red curry recipe we learned at Chef LeeZ cooking school in Bangkok, but it's nevertheless a delicious Thai-tasting recipe you and your family will love.
We use a store-bought Thai red curry paste; we recommend Maesri, Mae Ploy, or Cock Brand.
Read the ingredients list; they should contain red chili, lemongrass, garlic, shallot, salt, kaffir lime's skin or leaves, galangal, coriander seeds, and cumin powder.
Remember that Thai red curry paste is SPICY (it's made with 30% or more crushed chilies).
So add 2 tablespoons for a little spicy, 3 to 4 tablespoons for medium spicy, and 5 to 6 tablespoons for very spicy.
We soften the bold curry paste flavor with creamy coconut milk and add tofu, eggplant, peas, and bell pepper for a colorful, tasty, and veggie-packed meal.
We hope you love this recipe as much as we do; let us know what you think in the comments below.
Fun fact: the first sentence we learned to say in Thailand was "mai pet" which means "not so spicy", and it's a lifesaver when you buy Thai street food.
Thai red curry paste
You can use store-bought curry paste or homemade curry paste. To make weeknight Thai red curry, we recommend storebought.
There are several excellent brands of Thai curry these days, all imported from Thailand.
We recommend Cock Brand, Maesri, and Mae Ploi because they all include the must-have Thai ingredients for red curry (red chili, lemongrass, garlic, shallot, salt, kaffir lime leaves or skin, galangal, coriander seeds, and cumin powder).
Thai Kitchen brand is also ok, although they add soybean oil to the paste, which is strange.
Most of these are vegan; however, if you want to be 100% sure, read the label, as they might use shrimp paste in the mix.
Onion, garlic, ginger
Since we are using storebought red curry paste, we will make a quick flavor base with onion, garlic, and fresh ginger to lift the flavor of the curry paste and make it taste fresh, fragrant, and homemade.
Substitute shallot for onion, garlic paste for garlic, and ginger paste or grated galangal (aromatic ginger) for ginger.
You can fry onion, garlic, and ginger in vegetable oil, olive oil, or coconut oil.
Coconut milk has two purposes; it makes the curry creamy, and it softens the spiciness in the curry.
We recommend full-fat coconut milk, but you are free to choose a low-fat alternative.
For an even richer curry, substitute coconut cream for coconut milk.
Tofu is widely popular in Thailand, and literally all restaurants we have visited served us red curry with a choice of meat or tofu.
Being a predominantly Buddhist country with many vegetarians, tofu is often used as a plant-based protein replacement for meat.
Having said that, this recipe works well with chicken too. Use boneless chicken thighs or chicken breast cut into bite-size pieces, as we use tofu here.
Fun fact: in Thailand, there's no knife at the table! The food is already cut into small bite-size pieces, so you can eat it with a spoon.
Soy sauce + Brown sugar
Soy sauce adds umami and a bolder flavor. You can substitute tamari sauce, coconut aminos, fish sauce, or shrimp paste (more traditional) for soy sauce.
Brown sugar adds a little sweetness. You can substitute coconut sugar or palm sugar for brown sugar.
Here's where the fun begins. You can use virtually any vegetable in your Thai red curry.
Here we use eggplant, bell pepper, and frozen peas.
Other veggies we can recommend are kabocha squash, pumpkin, or butternut squash, snap peas, carrots, Thai eggplant, Japanese eggplant, sweet potato, kale, green beans, mushrooms, zucchini, broccoli, bamboo shoots, and more.
Thai basil would be most authentic; however, due to its short shelf life, it's hard to find in western grocery stores with limited demand. So instead, you might find it in your local Asian market.
You can substitute regular basil for Thai basil.
Thai red curry is a spicy and bold dish, and it's traditionally served on Jasmine rice, an aromatic rice variety grown in South East Asia.
You can substitute basmati rice or long-grain brown rice for jasmine, although that's less traditional.
Fresh red chilis are optional, and most people won't need to add any more chilis to the already spicy red curry paste.
Kaffir lime leaves are optional. They add a wonderful and fragrant Thai aroma to the curry. Unfortunately, they are hard to find, so you can omit them if you don't have them.
Lime juice to squeeze on top of the curry.
Cut the tofu (or your protein of choice) and the vegetables into smallish bite-size pieces. Next, finely chop the onion and grate the ginger and garlic.
To a large skillet, warm up the oil, then add finely chopped onion and fry for 3 minutes. Next, add grated garlic and ginger and fry for one more minute.
Add half the coconut milk and the curry paste, stir continuously, and simmer on medium-high heat until the curry paste is completely melted in the coconut milk. The red oil from the curry paste should come to the surface.
Tip: Thai red curry paste is spicy, so add 2 tablespoons for a little spicy, 3 to 4 tablespoons for medium spicy, and 5 to 6 tablespoons for very spicy.
Add the sugar, soy sauce, and tofu (or your protein of choice) and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Tip: if you add chicken, make sure to cook it through at this stage.
Add the remaining coconut milk and the vegetables, stir, and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes, until the vegetables are tender-crisp.
Tip: at this stage, you can add 3 or 4 kaffir lime leaves cut in half if you have them.
Taste and adjust for sugar and salt, then stir in basil leaves.
If you want more heat, add some finely sliced fresh red chilies.
Serve on a plate with boiled jasmine rice and, optionally, a squeeze of fresh lime juice.
Thai red curry is served as a main dish with a side of jasmine rice to soften its bold flavor and soak up the red curry sauce. You can garnish with basil leaves or cilantro.
If you don't have jasmine rice, swap it with basmati or long-grain brown rice.
You can also serve your curry with veggies, fresh salads, and other grain-based sides:
- Naan bread (flour, sugar, instant dry yeast, parsley, garlic, olive oil, etc.)
- Cauliflower rice (cauliflower, lemon, fresh parsley, etc.)
- Piadina or chapati bread (flour, water, olive oil, etc.)
- Thai salad
- Rice noodles
- Asian cucumber salad or Thai papaya salad
Make Ahead & Storage
Make Ahead: Thai red curry is a good recipe to make ahead as you can keep in the fridge for several days and reheat it in the microwave. Also, the flavor melds as they sit together in the refrigerator, but the veggies will get a little softer and lose their crunch.
Refrigerator: store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Freezer: let the curry cool down completely, then transfer it to a freezer-friendly container and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the microwave or the refrigerator over several hours.
Reheat: reheat your Thai curry in a pan on the stovetop or in a bowl in the microwave. The coconut milk will thicken as the curry sits in the fridge; you might need to add a couple of tablespoons of water to reach your desired consistency.
More Curry Recipes
If you love easy curry recipes, get more inspiration from these curry recipe ideas:
- Tofu curry (tofu cubes, ginger, garlic, onion, cauliflower, coconut milk, curry, etc.)
- Chana Masala (chickpeas, turmeric, cumin, coriander, diced tomatoes, garam masala, etc.)
- Cauliflower curry (cauliflower, chickpeas, coconut milk, crushed tomatoes, etc.)
- Lentil curry (lentils, coconut milk, garam masala, coriander, curry, etc.)
- Chickpea curry (chickpeas, garlic, onion, ginger, ground cumin, turmeric, curry, etc.)
More Asian One-pot Dinners
Get more vegetable-packed and easy dinner inspiration with these one-pot meals:
- Tofu stir fry (broccoli, mushrooms, bell pepper, tofu, sesame oil, scallions, etc.)
- Braised tofu (bell pepper, tofu, scallions, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, sugar, etc.)
- Orange tofu (tofu cubes, ginger, garlic, sugar, cornstarch, orange, rice vinegar, etc.)
- Kung pao tofu (sesame oil, peanuts, tofu, bell pepper, cornstarch, soy sauce, etc.)
- Tofu soup (zucchini, soy sauce, vegetable broth, tofu, mushrooms, sesame seeds, etc.)
For many more 30-minute meal ideas, check out our 30-minute meal category page.
Thai Red Curry
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 small onion
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 inch ginger
- 1 can (15-oz) coconut milk full-fat
- 2 to 6 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 9 ounces firm tofu
- 1 teaspoon salt or 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 1 medium red bell pepper (6 ounces or 170 grams)
- 1 medium eggplant (10 ounces or 280 grams)
- 15 leaves Thai basil or regular basil
Garnish and Serving (Optional)
- Jasmine rice boiled or steamed
- Thai Basil leaves or fresh coriander
- Lime wedges
- Cut 9 ounces firm tofu 1 medium red bell pepper, and 1 medium eggplant into smallish bite-size pieces. Finely chop 1 small onion, grate 3 cloves garlic and 1 inch ginger.
- To a large pan, warm up 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, then add the chopped onion and fry for 3 minutes. Next, add grated garlic and ginger and fry for one more minute.
- Add half of the 1 can (15-oz) coconut milk and the 2 to 6 tablespoons Thai red curry paste, stir continuously, and simmer on medium-high heat until the curry paste is completely melted in the coconut milk. The red oil from the curry paste should come to the surface.Tip: Thai red curry paste is spicy, so add 2 tablespoons for a little spicy, 3 to 4 tablespoons for medium spicy, and 5 to 6 tablespoons for very spicy.
- Add 1 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon sugar, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, and the diced tofu and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.Tip: if you add chicken, make sure to cook it through at this stage.
- Add the remaining coconut milk, 1 cup vegetable broth, 1 cup frozen peas, eggplant and bell pepper you prepped before, stir, and simmer for 5 minutes, until the vegetables are tender-crisp and you reach your desired consistency.
- Taste and adjust for salt, then stir in 15 leaves Thai basil.
- Serve on a plate with Jasmine rice, Thai Basil leaves, and Lime wedges.
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Fast and delicious
Fantastic, I'm super happy you like the curry!