Panang Curry

published Feb 12, 2022
Panang Curry Recipe

Extra coconut cream gives this recipe its rich and sweet flavor.


Prep15 minutes

Cook12 minutes

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Panang curry (Panang curry (a type of red Thai curry that is thick, salty and sweet) in a bowl with a side of white rice and a fork and spoon resting on a blue napkin on the side.
Credit: Perry Santanachote

Panang curry is a thick and creamy curry that has more luxuriously rich coconut cream than other curries. The name actually comes from an ancient Khmer word for “cross” — as in, to sit cross-legged. In the old days, chickens were grilled by crossing the legs and sitting them upright on the grate. The sitting chickens would be basted with a red curry paste that contained ground roasted peanuts and coconut cream. Over time, panang chicken became a simplified one-pot dish cooked on the stove instead of the grill.

While optional, makrut lime leaves give the curry a bright aroma and earthy-citrus flavor. They may be difficult to find in Western grocery stores, but generally available in Asian grocery stores (either in the produce section or frozen).

What Is Panang Curry Made Of?

The main ingredients that make panang curry are as follows:

  • Panang curry paste, which is a variation of red curry paste with the addition of roasted peanuts and nutmeg.
  • Coconut cream
  • Thai basil
  • Peanuts

Is Panang Curry Sweet?

Panang curry is richer and sweeter than other Thai curries, mainly because of its high coconut cream content. It’s also less spicy, which might make the curry seem even sweeter than others.

Credit: Perry Santanachote

What is the Difference Between Panang and Red Curry Paste?

Both curry pastes contain dried chiles, lemongrass, galangal, shallot, garlic, cilantro, makrut lime zest, and shrimp paste. Panang also has peanuts and nutmeg in it. If all you’ve got is store-bought red curry paste, you can easily hack a quick panang paste by pounding 2 tablespoons of roasted unsalted peanuts and half a nutmeg with a mortar and pestle until a paste forms, then mix it into 4 ounces of red curry paste.

Panang Curry Recipe

Extra coconut cream gives this recipe its rich and sweet flavor.

Prep time 15 minutes

Cook time 12 minutes

Serves 4

Nutritional Info


  • 1 1/2 pounds

    boneless, skinless chicken thighs

  • 1 tablespoon

    coconut or neutral oil

  • 2 tablespoons

    panang curry paste, such as Mae Ploy or Maesri

  • 1 (about 13.5-ounce) can

    coconut cream

  • 2 tablespoons

    packed light brown sugar

  • 2 tablespoons

    fish sauce

  • 1

    red or green Fresno chile

  • 2

    fresh makrut lime leaves (optional)

  • 2 tablespoons

    roasted peanuts

  • 1/2 cup

    fresh Thai basil or sweet basil leaves

  • Steamed jasmine rice, for serving (optional)


  1. Cut 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs into 1-inch pieces.

  2. Heat 1 tablespoon coconut or neutral oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add 2 tablespoons penang curry paste and cook, stirring continuously, until fragrant, about 1 minute. It might spit a bit, so have a lid or splatter guard handy. Add the chicken, 1 (13.5-ounce) can coconut cream (reserve 1 tablespoon to drizzle on top for presentation if you want), 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar, and 2 tablespoons fish sauce. Stir to combine and bring to a boil.

  3. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, trim the stem and seeds from 1 Fresno chile, then cut lengthwise into thin strips. Devein and thinly slice 2 fresh makrut lime leaves lengthwise into a fine shreds, if using. Crush or coarsely chop 2 tablespoons roasted peanuts.

  4. When the curry is ready, turn off the heat; add 1/2 cup fresh Thai or sweet basil leaves and stir until wilted. Transfer the curry to a serving dish and top with the chile, lime leaves, peanuts, and a drizzle of coconut cream if desired. Serve with steamed jasmine rice if desired.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The curry can be made up to 1 day ahead without the basil, cooled, and refrigerated in an airtight container. Reheat over medium heat and stir in the basil before serving.

Vegetarian: To make vegetarian panang, substitute firm tofu for the chicken and use soy sauce or salt to taste instead of the fish sauce. Use a curry paste without shrimp paste, such as Maesri.

Fresno chile substitute: A serrano or jalapeño pepper can be used in place of the Fresno chile.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Reheat gently on the stove. Coconut milk curries should not be frozen, as the texture will be affected.