Crave-worthy, fragrant, and full of aromatics, Panang Chicken Curry is a mild Thai curry with a luxurious creamy sauce. Explore classic Thai ingredients and learn how to make Panang curry paste in this easy-to-follow Thai curry recipe.
The bold flavours of Thai cuisine are always popular at our house. We love ordering takeout from our favourite Thai restaurant but also make our favourite dishes like Massaman Beef Curry and Chicken Satay. at home. Thai Red Curry Chicken Soup in the Instant Pot is a quick solution that satisfies all our takeout cravings.
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Panang Chicken Curry
Are you ready to spice up your life with one of the most glorious Thai curries? Chicken Panang Curry is a mild spiced curry with a lower spice level than Thai red or Thai green curry. That doesn’t mean it is short on flavour!
This recipe is simpler when you use store bought red curry paste. However, I find curry made with homemade Panang curry paste so much more flavourful and authentic. Plus, when you make it yourself, you can avoid the additives and preservatives often found in store-bought pastes.
Lively aromatics like garlic, galangal (or ginger), limes, and lemongrass are so bright and bold in this homemade Panang paste. Then, there’s the nutty richness the roasted peanuts bring to the dish. It’s worth the extra effort!
If you buy regular red curry paste you can easily add the ingredients (coriander, cumin, peanuts) to make it Panang style. Note that store-bought red curry paste may be spicier than Panang paste. Additionally, it’s easy to freshen the flavour of any store-bought curry paste (yellow, red, or green curry paste) by adding more aromatics.
What is Panang Curry?
Panang (also spelled Penang or Phanaeng) curry is a mild Thai curry with a creamy, slightly sweet thick coconut sauce. The curry sauce begins with an aromatic curry paste featuring lemongrass, galangal, onions or shallots, garlic, cilantro, and makrut limes. Other spices include cumin seeds, coriander root and seeds and sometimes cardamom and mace.
A delicious Panang curry contains many layers of flavour and the curry paste only adds one of those layers. Other layers, like the creamy coconut milk gravy with crushed roasted peanuts and palm sugar (or brown sugar) add a sweet nuttiness.
Note that an underlying funky umami is also an important component of this curry. The paste contains fermented shrimp paste, while fish sauce is added during the final stage of cooking to balance umami and add salt. Other ingredients like lime juice and basil leaves balance out the final flavours.
While most Panang Curry recipes contain only meat (chicken, beef, shrimp, and pork), sometimes I like to add red or yellow bell peppers.
Ingredients in Panang Curry
The long list of curry paste ingredients can be intimidating. However, making Panang curry paste from scratch is worth it. The final dish comes alive with so much flavour and texture.
- Dried Red Thai Chilies
- Coriander Seeds
- Cumin Seeds
- Black Peppercorns
- Cardamom Pods
- Makrut Lime Leaves
- Fresh Cilantro
- Shrimp Paste
- Vegetable Oil
- Red and Yellow Bell Peppers
- Coconut Milk
- Fish Sauce
- Thai Basil Leaves
This Panang Curry Chicken recipe calls for eight dried red chilies. Feel free to decrease the number of chilies in the paste. This is not meant to be a face melting curry but rather a pleasant mild sweet heat.
Originally, Panang curry recipes used almonds instead of peanuts. Buy either raw almonds or peanuts and roast them in a frying pan for the freshest nuttiest flavour profile. In a pinch, stir in a tablespoon or two of natural peanut butter.
Fresh spices result in the most flavourful dishes and whole spices keep their flavour for longer. This is why using whole spices in a spice paste is important. If you cannot find mace, add a pinch of cloves or allspice to the spice paste instead.
Galangal and lemongrass are two classic Thai ingredients. Galangal root is related to ginger and has a similar flavour. Lemongrass has a unique citrus flavour and aroma. While the galangal is easily replaced by ginger, the lemongrass has no equivalent replacement.
Fish paste and fish sauce are two other classic ingredients in Cambodian, Lao, Mon, Thai, Filipino, and Vietnamese cuisines. Both are fermented with salt (and rice bran or rice flour in the shrimp paste) for a long period of time (at least six months and two years respectively). Depending on how salty these ingredients are, you may or may not need to season with additional salt.
A Word About Makrut Limes
Makrut lime leaves are often referred to as kaffir lime leaves. However, this term is outdated and derogatory as it is akin to using the word ‘savages’ while referring to a group of people. Makrut lime leaves have an intense aroma and are used to make the curry paste and to flavour the final dish.
How to Make Panang Curry Paste
The most authentic way to make Panang Curry Paste is to use a large mortar and pestle. Traditionally, the paste ingredients would be added to the mortar bowl, then pounded to a paste with a pestle.
These days, it is easier to use a food process. To make the Panang paste, add the paste ingredients to the bowl of a food processor and process them together until they reach a paste-like consistency.
Pro tip: Immediately remove from the food processor and set aside. Immediately wash the food processor out to keep it from absorbing all those bold flavours.
How to Make Panang Curry
To begin, heat the vegetable oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and sauté for a few minutes before adding the garlic. Continue cooking for one minute until both are fragrant, then add the 2 tablespoons prepared Panang curry paste.
Sauté the curry paste for 3-4 minutes, or until the oil begins to separate and the paste becomes fragrant. Add the chopped boneless skinless chicken thighs and cook until the meat changes from pink to white. Then, add the thick part or cream that forms at the top of the can of coconut milk and cook for a few minutes.
Next, add the red and yellow bell peppers, along with remaining coconut milk. Bring to a boil, then add the chopped makrut lime leaves. Cover and allow to simmer and cook for 7 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.
Adjust the balance of flavours using salt, sugar, 1-2 tablespoons fish sauce, and Thai basil leaves. Taste the curry and adjust the seasoning according to your preference.
Remove from heat and serve with steamed white Jasmine rice.
What to Do with Leftover Curry
Leftover curry is the best kind of curry because it always tastes better the day after you make it. The flavours have more time to settle together and dinner that is already made always tastes better.
This Thai Panang curry will keep in the fridge for 4-5 days and freezes well for up to a month. As with all curries, store it in a glass fridge container or one you don’t mind getting stained or absorbing aromas.
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PANANG CURRY PASTE*
- 8 red Thai chilies soaked in water
- 2 Tablespoons roasted peanuts
- 1 Tablespoon coriander seeds
- 1/2 Tablespoon cumin seeds
- 1 Tablespoon black peppercorns
- 2 green cardamom pods
- 2 pieces of mace
- 3 makrut lime leaves; chopped
- 2 Tablespoons fresh cilantro; chopped
- 1 teaspoon shrimp paste
- 1 inch piece galangal; minced
- 5 cloves garlic; minced
- 1 medium onion; chopped
- 2-3 stalks lemongrass (white parts only)
FOR THE CURRY
- 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 small onion; chopped
- 2 cloves garlic; minced
- 2 Tablespoons prepared Panang Curry Paste
- 4 boneless skinless chicken thighs cut into pieces
- 1 red bell pepper; chopped
- 1 yellow bell pepper; chopped
- 1 (14 oz) can coconut milk
- 4 makrut lime leaves; chopped
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon palm, brown, or turbinado sugar
- 2 Tablespoons fish sauce (to taste)
- 1/4 cup Thai basil leaves
- Add all of the curry paste ingredient to the bowl of a food processor and process them together until they reach a paste-like consistency. Set aside.
- Heat vegetable oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and sauté for a few minutes before adding the garlic. Continue cooking for one minute until both are fragrant, then add the 2 tablespoons prepared Panang curry paste.
- Sauté the curry paste for 3-4 minutes, or until the oil begins to separate and the paste becomes fragrant.
- Add the chopped chicken thighs and cook until the meat changes from pink to white. Then, add the thick part or cream that forms at the top of the can of coconut milk and cook for a few minutes.
- Next, add the red and yellow bell peppers, along with the coconut milk. Bring to a boil, then add the chopped makrut lime leaves. Cover and allow to simmer and cook for 7 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.
- Add the salt, sugar, fish sauce, and Thai basil leaves. Taste the curry and adjust the seasoning according to your preference.
- Remove from heat and serve with steamed white Jasmine rice.
*If you do end up using a store bought Panang paste, add extra ginger, garlic, and lemongrass to improve the flavour.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 527Total Fat: 32gSaturated Fat: 15gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 15gCholesterol: 142mgSodium: 1636mgCarbohydrates: 33gFiber: 3gSugar: 5gProtein: 34g
Nutritional calculation was provided by Nutritionix and is an estimation only. For special diets or medical issues please use your preferred calculator.