What Does Panang Curry Taste Like?

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Time to switch up your favorite Thai curry order? In this article, we're discussing panang curry—what it tastes like, how it's different from other Thai curries and how to make the most amazing vegan panang curry of all time.

panang curry spice on a table

Let's get into it...

What Does Panang Curry Taste Like? 

As you explore the different curry options on the Thai menu, your eyes may settle on the panang curry (or "penang curry" as it's also spelled). If you order it, you'll see that it looks like red curry, but it doesn't taste exactly the same.

Panang curry is sweeter and has the addition of peanuts or even a scoop of peanut butter in it. It may be a small change, but it makes a big difference in flavor bringing in the essence of peanut flavor and additional earthiness.

Panang Curry Texture 

There's only a slight textural difference between panang curry and other Thai curries. It's still creamy from the coconut milk, but it's thicker and less soupy.

There may be crunchy peanuts alongside similar sorts of vegetables that are in red curry, like onions, bell peppers, basil and bamboo shoots. Depending on the veggies, you'll get soft and crisp textures.

Just as a heads up, Thai curries are generally prepared with fish sauce, so if you're not eating at a vegan restaurant, request to have the fish sauce (and any other non-vegan items) left out.

What Is the Difference Between Panang and Green Curry? 

Panang curry and green curry are two totally different animals. Green curry is sweeter than red curry, but it's still not as sweet as panang curry.

Another big difference is that green curry presents bright, green flavors like lemongrass and lime more strongly—and spice. Panang is usually among the mildest Thai curries.

Panang Curry Vs. Massaman 

Massaman curry does look a lot like panang curry and even has peanuts or peanut butter in it. It also uses a similar, but not equivalent curry paste.

If you look up a recipe for panang curry, you'll often see it call for red curry paste, which has red chili peppers, coriander, garlic, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and shallots.

Massaman curry paste more or less takes this base and adds sweeter spices like cinnamon, cardamom and cloves. Ingredients may vary, but these warming spices are key.

Panang Curry Vs. Yellow Curry 

Yellow curry is a little easier to distinguish from panang curry. It's golden yellow rather than red to orange, and its curry paste includes turmeric and curry powder.

Sometimes potatoes are used in panang curry, but they're more likely to be used in yellow curry. This type is more like what Americans would view as a stew, full of starchy vegetables.

Panang Curry Recipe Tips 

Vegan panang curry is among the most satisfying meals on a chilly night. If you have the curry paste, you'll be eating dinner in no time flat.

Here's a quick, easy panang curry recipe that uses cashews instead of peanuts.

Grab these ingredients at the store:

  • Cooking oil
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Any vegan panang curry paste
  • Coconut milk
  • Palm or brown sugar
  • Soy sauce or tamari
  • Lime juice
  • Cashews
  • Mushrooms
  • White or yellow onion
  • Basil leaves
  • Extra firm tofu
  • Broccoli
  • Red bell peppers
  • Snap peas

Here's a slightly different take on this dish. If there are no crushed peanuts in your curry paste, plan on adding a handful or a dollop of peanut butter to make it more traditional.

Here are all the ingredients:

  • Coconut oil
  • Garlic
  • ​Vegan panang curry paste
  • Coconut milk
  • ​Cauliflower
  • Firm tofu
  • ​Bell peppers
  • Baby bella mushrooms
  • Snow peas
  • ​Cooked rice
  • Thai basil
  • Green onions
  • Tomato
  • Lime
  • Cilantro

Wrap Up

All Thai curries are alike in some ways but different in others. Panang curry is like a sweeter style of red curry with added peanuts, and it's often milder. If you go out to a restaurant that doesn't cater to vegans, ask to have fish sauce and any other animal products omitted from your curry. Better yet, make your own and invite some friends over for a vegan feast.

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