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Easy Thai Peanut Curry

February 27, 2014

Easy Thai Peanut CurryPin it!

Paula keeps suggesting that I post a recipe for Thai coconut milk curry… she doesn’t care what kind—yellow, red, green, panaeng, whatever. But I’ve rejected this idea every time, with the (lame perfectionist food blogger) excuse that I’d want to make my own curry paste first.

You know, so I could seem extra impressive with my authentic made-from-scratch curry paste, never revealing that I usually just use the Mae Ploy brand (which is delicious by the way).

Maybe someday I will post a recipe or two for homemade curry paste (after all, I used to make some about once a year and then freeze it for future use!).

Easy Thai Peanut CurryPin it!

But besides my laziness, there’s another problem with that kind of blog post. I start imagining the response: “That’s nice that (she’s a graduate student so) she has time to make her own curry paste, but who else has time for that?! I’m going to stick to my storebought brand!” Or worse yet, “That looks like way too much work and way too many ingredients; I’m going to stick to never making Thai curry!”

Lucky for all of you hypothetical pessimists, I came up with a way to make a quick, easy, peanutty version of a yellow Thai curry without needing any curry paste at all.

Ingredients for Easy Thai Peanut Curry

Oddly enough I had my moment of epiphany when flipping through an Indian cookbook that suggested blending together fresh ginger and garlic into a paste—as many Indian curries begin—but with a little of the coconut milk that would later go into the curry, to make for easier blending.

Easy Thai Peanut CurryPin it!

I hate trying to force my blender to work away at dry, tough ingredients without enough liquids—like, say, when making curry paste… But I’d also rather not add water if it’s going to water down the flavors. Blending up the aromatics with coconut milk seemed like the perfect solution, especially once it occurred to me to toss in some onion, too. Not only does this save me from chopping the ginger, garlic, and onion, it purees the onion smooth so no onion-texture-haters (like Paula) could take issue with the final curry sauce.

Blending the aromatics with coconut milk for Easy Thai Peanut Curry

(And as a healthy bonus: you can then skip the oil and fry the ginger, garlic, and onion in the coconut milk they were blended in.)

Stirring spices into the aromatics blended with coconut milk

I added only a few ground spices (cumin, coriander, and turmeric) to the simmering aromatics in the pan, and ended up with a nice, instant Thai yellow curry base, just from a few basic ingredients.

Easy Thai Yellow Curry with Peanut Butter

To build up the flavor a little, I blended a few spoonfuls of peanut butter into the rest of the can of coconut milk and then added that mixture to the pot along with some vegetable broth.

Easy Thai Peanut Curry after adding PB blended into coconut milk, and vegetable broth

The coconut milk and the peanut butter together make the curry rich and creamy. Paula asked me at least three times if it was really vegan. (It is! And no curry paste means no way for shrimp paste or fish sauce to sneak in…)

Easy Thai Yellow Curry with Peanut ButterPin it!

Despite its rich flavor and texture, this curry is still incredibly mild—perfect for spicy food skeptics—but of course you can spice things up by adding more chili peppers than I did, or by including the seeds.

Ingredients for Easy Thai Peanut Curry

I wanted to keep this recipe as easy and approachable as possible, without the incredibly long ingredient list you might typically see for Thai curries, but on my second time making this, I also tossed in some lime zest—as a kind of lemongrass substitute—and I think it took the curry sauce to a delicious new level, with just a hint of sour lime to balance out the peanut butter.

Vegetables to add to Easy Thai Peanut Curry

You can add any vegetables you like (or tofu, or chicken, or shrimp…). This time I used potatoes, bell pepper, bamboo shoot, green beans, and zucchini.

Easy Thai Peanut Curry

I love using the kind of takenoko (bamboo shoots) that are often available in Japanese markets. While you could also buy the sliced rectangular bamboo shoots in a can, I prefer the fresh (well, pre-cooked and shrink-wrapped) Japanese takenoko version, since they taste fresher to me, and they’re not that much more expensive.

How to slice takenoko bamboo shoots (for Easy Thai Peanut Curry)

That type of bamboo shoot reminds me fondly of all the countless Thai curries I enjoyed at (two particular) restaurants in Japan. It also reminds me of the Thai curries I used to make for myself when I lived there, with the most expensive cans of coconut milk from the international food store, and the most expensive containers of Mae Ploy curry paste ever. If only I’d come up with this recipe back then—I could have done without the curry paste!

Easy Thai Yellow Curry with Peanut ButterPin it.

Print this recipe. (PDF)


Easy Thai Peanut Curry

(Serves 4-6)

Active and Total time: 35 minutes.

~ 1 clove garlic, peeled
~ 1 inch fresh ginger, peeled
~ ½ onion, very roughly chopped
~ 1 can coconut milk (1⅔ cup), divided
~ 1 tsp. ground cumin
~ 1 tsp. ground coriander
~ ½ tsp. ground turmeric
~ 3 Tbsp. peanut butter
~ 3 cups vegetable broth
~ any protein or vegetables you want to add to your curry (added here: 2 small yukon gold potatoes, ½ red bell pepper, 1 takenoko bamboo shoot*, 1 zucchini, 1 handful of green beans)
~ salt, to taste

~ 1 (or more!) red bird’s eye chili peppers, seeds removed, or ground chili powder, to taste
~ 2 strips lime zest
~ 2 pieces dried galangal
~ ½ tsp. brown sugar
~ juice of ½ lime
~ fresh cilantro, to garnish
~ cooked jasmine rice, to serve

Special equipment needed:
~ blender

How to make it:

1. Combine the garlic, ginger, onion, chili peppers and lime zest (if using), and ⅓-½ cup of the coconut milk in the blender and puree until smooth, adding another spoonful or two of coconut milk if needed for easier blending.

2. Pour the mixture into a large saucepan or stockpot and stir in the cumin, coriander, and turmeric. Place over medium heat, while stirring, for 5 minutes, then let it continue to simmer—and dry out to become a little more paste-like—for an additional 5 minutes (lower the heat if necessary to prevent it from burning).

3. Meanwhile, pour the rest of the can of coconut milk into the blender, add the peanut butter, and blend until well-combined and frothy. Once the mixture from step #2 has been cooking for 10 minutes, add the peanut butter/coconut milk mixture and the vegetable broth to the pot. Toss in the pieces of dried galangal (if using). Bring to a strong simmer.

Adding the blended peanut butter and coconut milk to the simmered aromaticsSimmering Easy Thai Peanut Curry, almost done cooking

4. Since the vegetables each have different cooking times, you can prepare them while the curry is simmering, if not in advance. Add the potato first: if peeled and diced in very small cubes it should take only 18-20 minutes. Then add everything else based on when the potato will be done: add thinly sliced bell pepper with about 15 minutes left of cooking; add bamboo shoot slices with 10-12 minutes left; add zucchini slices with 6-7 minutes left; add green beans with 4-5 minutes left.

* To prepare pre-cooked, shrink-wrapped takenoko (bamboo shoot), use a vegetable peeler to remove any bad spots, then slice into rounds, and cut the rounds into half-moons or strips. If you notice some white, gritty rice residue inside the bamboo shoot, just rinse it off with water.

5. Check the ingredients for doneness. Remove and discard the dried galangal slices (which will likely be floating). Season with salt (and optionally brown sugar and fresh lime juice). Garnish with cilantro and serve warm, with jasmine rice.

Print this recipe! (PDF)

Easy Thai Yellow Curry with Peanut ButterPin it!

Related recipe posts:

Tom Kha Gai Soup and Ginger Coconut Rice Sambal Goreng Telur (Indonesian Egg Curry) Lemongrass Laksa with Shrimp Thai Iced Tea Popsicles
Tom Kha Gai Soup and Ginger Coconut Rice Sambal Goreng Telur (Indonesian Egg Curry) Lemongrass Laksa
with Shrimp
Thai Iced Tea Popsicles
53 Comments leave one →
  1. February 27, 2014 9:10 am

    That looks fabulous! I’ve bookmarked it for when my veggie friends come to visit but it looks so good I may have to test-drive it first …

    • February 27, 2014 9:19 am

      Thanks, Linda! Yes, I will definitely be choosing this recipe the next time I have vegan friends over for dinner… and a few times before that, too. :)

  2. Jessica permalink
    February 27, 2014 9:17 am

    Looks good! You should have tried out your immersion blender for this recipe!

    • February 27, 2014 9:24 am

      Haha, I know! I thought of that! It might have come in handy with the peanut butter part, but it wouldn’t have worked before that because I would have needed to add too much coconut milk (or some kind of liquid) right off the bat (whereas I wanted to be able to fry the minced ginger/garlic/onions in only a very small amount of liquid). I know I could have chopped everything more roughly and fried it all in oil, then used the immersion blender later after adding coconut milk, but I would have had to cook everything much lower & slower to get the bigger pieces of onion fully cooked that way… and I was trying to make this the speediest version possible.

      But you’d be proud of me, because I used the immersion blender for a spicy tomato soup the other day, and Paula said it was better than Campbell’s! (Something I never thought I’d hear her say…)

      • Jessica permalink
        February 27, 2014 2:14 pm

        Tomato soup (and all soup) is really the best use of an immersion blender. Good work. Will you post your spicy tomato soup recipe sometime?

      • March 1, 2014 8:47 pm

        Working on it! :)

  3. February 27, 2014 9:28 am

    Seems delicious, I’ll try it tomorrow

  4. February 27, 2014 9:30 am

    This looks absolutely delicious!

  5. February 27, 2014 10:15 am

    Oh you know me so well! I love this Thai recipe. Ever since I traveled to Thailand this is one of my favorite recipes (in any of it’s form)!

  6. February 27, 2014 10:19 am

    looks so delicious!! :)

  7. Jay Bee permalink
    February 27, 2014 10:41 am

    Oh, Allison, this is genius! I’ve actually made peace with not making my own curry paste for the reason of not being able to get 100% ingredients over here, but this sounds so doable and delicious to boot! Also, I’ve realised recently that lemongrass just doesn’t do it for me – I now use limes in just about everything instead. But then again, that may just be my preference. Thanks for this recipe! Now, what to do with my jars of red and green curry paste, since I don’t need them anymore… :)

    • February 28, 2014 10:48 am

      Thanks for your comment! It’s definitely both doable and delicious. :) And this might even totally replace yellow curry paste for me if I didn’t already have some in the back of my fridge… I’m not sure if you can quite get rid of your red and green pastes though, since I haven’t come up with similar hacks for those… yet!

      That’s interesting that you’ve been using limes instead of lemongrass. I love lemongrass, and I have some (whole and minced) in my freezer right now, so I could have used those, but I didn’t want to overwhelm people with a list of hard-to-find ingredients on what would otherwise be a really simple recipe… so I blended up lime zest instead and WOW — it * really * makes a difference in the flavor, for so much less work. But I can still see using lemongrass instead for certain recipes, especially steeping it in soups/broths, since I really love that flavor too.

  8. February 27, 2014 11:07 am

    What an awesome fusion curry Allison!
    In lot of southern Indian curries, a paste is made out if peanuts, sesame seeds, freshly grated coconut and whole spices.

    • February 28, 2014 10:51 am

      Thanks! Yes, someone else commented on my blog’s Facebook page that she often makes something very similar, but considers it to be an Indian curry! Once I started with blending fresh ginger and garlic into some coconut milk — and then added peanut butter on top of that — it definitely resembled an Indian curry… it was just missing the freshly grated coconut! :)

      I don’t think I’ve ever tried using sesame seeds (or tahini) in a curry paste, for any kind of curry, but that sounds delicious, and I’d love to try it.

  9. February 27, 2014 12:18 pm

    This looks delicious, and not too complicated for us curry-making beginners :)

  10. February 27, 2014 12:23 pm

    This looks so good, I love curry and you make it seem so easy to make in your post. I believe this is something I could make. Thanks!

  11. February 27, 2014 1:00 pm

    These pictures are so great, I can almost smell the curry from all the way over here. Yum!

  12. February 27, 2014 2:46 pm


  13. February 27, 2014 2:48 pm

    Tomorrow is going to be the first ever #FoodBlogFriday on Twitter! Don’t forget to share this post on Twitter using the hashtag “FoodBlogFriday” to help drive up your traffic!

    Also, Thai curry is a personal favorite and this looks fantastic!

    • March 1, 2014 7:19 pm

      Thank you! I’m sorry I missed it—I teach on Fridays and often have way too much other stuff going on then as well… I’ll try to remember to join in next week if I get a chance! :)

  14. February 27, 2014 6:30 pm

    Wow! This looks so good! I love the addition of peanut butter in any sauce… It gives a rich flavour and creamy texture!

  15. February 27, 2014 7:25 pm

    Love this!! I don’t think I could manage making my own curry paste, but this looks like something I could handle!

  16. February 27, 2014 10:35 pm

    The pics are making me drool! Cannot wait to try this. :-)

  17. February 27, 2014 10:35 pm

    This curry looks quite delicious my friend, peanut butter flavour is so intense :D

    Choc Chip Uru

    • March 1, 2014 7:33 pm

      Thanks, Uru! Peanut butter is intense! The first time I made this, I used 4 Tbsp. peanut butter (instead of 3), and only 2 cups vegetable broth (instead of 3), and the peanut butter flavor was WAY too strong. But in this final version, I think it’s perfect!

  18. February 28, 2014 12:19 am

    Have to say I’m a fab of nutty curries, they lift the other spices so well. They also add creaminess without the cream don’t they? Lovely recipe x

  19. February 28, 2014 11:17 am

    Love bamboo shoot. Love curry flavour. Love Thai foods!

  20. February 28, 2014 1:04 pm

    This looks freakin fabulous. Jeez. I want to reach in and grab it. What great ingredients. I’ve struggled with a similar issue regarding curry paste from scratch. I truly love your Eastern inspired dishes. You are an amazingly talented cook.

  21. March 1, 2014 3:55 pm

    Yum!! I am crazy for Thai food, and this looks so delicious. I’ve never been able to create my own that’s as good as my favorite Thai restaurant – I’ll have to try your version! :)

    • March 1, 2014 8:27 pm

      Thanks! I know, I’ve definitely made Thai curries that weren’t as good as restaurant ones before, but then I’ve also made ones that are just as good! (And because I know I *can* make those, I always feel kind of guilty even ordering curries at Thai restaurants… haha, but it’s always a nice treat when I do it anyways.)

  22. afracooking permalink
    March 2, 2014 4:37 am

    Wow – what vibrant colours! I can just smell those amazing spices.

  23. March 2, 2014 8:43 am

    This look so good. Love your pictures too!

  24. March 3, 2014 7:16 am

    Love this – and will definitely give it a go. Your photographs are fantastic.

  25. March 3, 2014 1:00 pm

    love this, Allison! and it really is super easy and approachable, which is great. I’m always fearful of the same thing when developing recipes: generally i get the “oh it’s nice that (because she’s a writer/sahm) she has all the time to do things like this or “omg wayyyyy too involved, thanks, no thanks,” so i completely get it. I love thai curry so much, and i’m definitely trying this!

    • March 4, 2014 3:28 pm

      Thank you, Shannon! I’m so glad to hear you plan on trying this—let me know what you think! And yep, I’m often torn between the two extremes of recipes that are soooo easy and do-able (because they might include some pre-made ingredients/short-cuts), or recipes that likely seem to be soooo much work or involve way too many ingredients, so that they can be more authentic/more made-from-scratch. I think I usually err on the latter side, but I’m sure I’ve done it both ways.

      (I know I should probably stop worrying so much about my target audience/what other people have in their kitchens, and just cook the way I like to, but I can’t help but think about how I want to make this as useful as possible to others, as long as I’m sharing it publicly!)


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