That Spicy Chick

Thai Panang Chicken Curry

This Thai Panang Chicken Curry is full of rich, creamy, spicy and sweet nutty flavors! It’s quick and easy to make in just 40 minutes, customizable with your favorite veggies and protein, and irresistibly delicious with steamed rice!

Close-up of bowl with panang chicken curry garnished with coconut cream, chilies, and kaffir lime leave strips.

Panang Chicken Curry. 💛 ❤️

A classic Thai curry that’s creamy, nutty, slightly spicy, a bit sweet, and so incredibly flavorful!

Confession. I only recently started enjoying Thai Panang curry. In the past, I’d find that restaurants would make this curry too mild and sweet for my liking. Hence, I’d always opt for Thai green chicken curry or a red curry with pork instead.

But I recently tried the Thai Panang chicken curry from my go-to Thai restaurant here called Golden Thai, and since they know me so well, they spiced it up to my heat level preference (which is apparently hotter than “Thai spicy” 😂 ). It was absolute perfection, and it’s been a favorite curry of mine ever since!

My version was inspired by theirs, and it boasts the BEST creamy, nutty, and zesty makrut lime flavors! ❤️ While it’s also spiced up with plenty of fresh chilies, you can use less or leave them out to make a milder curry if you prefer. But once you try this Panang curry, you’ll want to make it over and over again because it’s intoxicatingly fragrant and SO DELICIOUS!!

Bonus? This beauty is cooked in just ONE pot (or wok), simple and straightforward to make, and ready to go in just 40 minutes (inclusive of prep time)!

Close-up front view of chicken curry.

Why This Recipe Works

  • It’s quick and easy to make, and perfect for busy weeknights.
  • It tastes just like a restaurant-style Thai Panang curry, but it’s spiced up since Panang curry is relatively mild.
  • Using coconut milk and coconut cream gives the curry a perfect, rich and creamy consistency that is still thin enough to be wonderfully soaked up by some steamed rice.
  • You can customize it with your choice of veggies and protein.
  • The spice elements are adjustable, and my tips will enable you to yield a curry that’s perfect for YOUR spice level!

Ingredients

Labeled ingredients for Thai Panang Chicken Curry on wooden board.
  • Chicken Thighs: I used boneless and skinless chicken thighs since they’re more juicy and flavorful than chicken breasts and don’t dry out easily. But you’re welcome to use breasts if you prefer to make this lighter.
  • Coconut Milk: I recommend using full-fat for best texture. Light coconut milk just doesn’t give you the same rich and nutty flavors.
  • Coconut Cream: To give the curry a magnificently rich and creamy consistency. Be sure to reserve some for garnish.
  • Peanut Butter: Smashed roasted peanuts are a signature ingredient in an authentic Thai Panang curry. However, most store-bought curry pastes don’t include them due to allergy reasons. It is up to restaurants and consumers to decide if they’d like to add it. I prefer to use peanut butter because it’s more convenient than smashing peanuts. Plus, evidence has shown that peanut butter does MAGIC for Thai and Thai-inspired curries. (Check out my popular Peanut Butter Chicken Curry recipe if you haven’t already! It is sublime.) I recommend using a commercial smooth peanut butter like Skippy or Jif for a lovely cohesive texture. Leave it out if you have a nut allergy, or use a peanut-free peanut butter such as WowButter.
  • Chili Oil (optional): Since I find Panang curry to be very mild and sweet for my heat level preference, I like to cook the curry in some chili oil in addition to cooking oil. You can omit it if you prefer a milder curry.
  • Panang Curry Paste: I use Nittaya brand, but Mae Ploy and Maesri are excellent options too. Different brands will have varying heat levels, so I suggest starting with two tablespoons first, then tasting the curry and adding more in later if needed.
  • Asian Red Shallots: Or you can use regular shallots, or about 2/3 of a medium red onion.
  • Veggies: I kept it simple and used just red bell pepper (not pictured) and baby corn. But you’re welcome to use any other curry friendly veggies that you have in your crisper drawer. (See ‘Variations’ section below for more ideas.)
  • Chilies: I use plenty of red and green Bird’s Eye chilies and FIERY HOT Thai Prik Kee Nu green chilies to spice up this rather mild (for me) Panang curry! But feel free to use as many or as few chilies as you like to suit your heat level preference. I also use mild large red chilies, which taste similar to red bell peppers, for color. But you can omit them if you prefer, or just use more red bell pepper.
  • Makrut Lime Leaves: These fragrant and sweet-smelling leaves add a citrusy note and tremendous depth of flavor to the curry. You can find them at an Asian supermarket or Thai grocery store. While many people prefer to simply bruise the leaves to add flavor to the curry but don’t eat them, I prefer to mince them into a fine powder so that they can easily be eaten. For garnishing, I like to very thinly slice them so that they can still be eaten without getting stuck in your teeth!
  • Thai Sweet Basil Leaves: These fragrant basil leaves can be found in Thai grocery stores and some Asian supermarkets.
  • Thai Chili Powder (optional): This is made of chili flakes, powder, and seeds, and it can be found in Thai grocery stores and Asian supermarkets. Feel free to leave it out if you prefer to make this curry mild. Substitute with crushed red pepper chili flakes if unavailable.
  • Coconut Sugar: This is known as ‘kelapa mas’ and is from Indonesia. It comes in packages of small 50 gram discs as shown in my Thai Green Chicken Curry post. You’ll need to finely shave it with a knife before adding it to the curry so that it dissolves easily. Palm sugar (which is more commonly used in Thai curries) can be used instead. Or substitute with granulated coconut or light brown sugar if unavailable.

Full ingredient list and amounts are in the recipe card below.

Top view of plate with bowl of panang chicken curry, utensils, and steamed rice.

How to Make Thai Panang Chicken Curry

  1. Sauté aromatics. Heat the oils in a large wok or deep skillet over medium heat. Add and sauté the shallots and garlic until fragrant. Then add and sauté the Bird’s Eye and Prik Kee Nu green chilies for a few seconds to combine.
  2. Add the curry paste, chicken, and bell pepper. Sauté for a few minute minutes to break the paste down and combine it with everything else. Next, add the chicken and red bell pepper and stir-fry for a few minutes. The chicken should no longer be pink and everything should be fully coated in the curry paste.
  3. Build the curry. Pour in half of the coconut milk and add the finely minced makrut lime leaves. Stir until evenly combined.
  4. Add everything else. Then pour in the rest of the coconut milk, the water, and most of the coconut cream (reserve some for garnish). Add the baby corn and sliced large red chilies, and stir in the peanut butter, coconut sugar, fish sauce, and Thai chili powder. Simmer uncovered for a few minutes, until the chicken is tender and has cooked through.
Process steps to make Thai Panang Chicken Curry.

5. Stir through basil. Switch off the heat and stir through the Thai sweet basil leaves.

Added Thai sweet basil leaves to curry in wok.

6. Serve! Transfer the curry to a serving bowl/dish. Drizzle the reserved coconut cream on top, and garnish with finely sliced red chili and makrut lime leaves. Serve with some warm steamed rice and enjoy!

Bowl with panang chicken curry garnished with coconut cream, chilies, and kaffir lime leave strips.

Full detailed instructions are in the recipe card below.

Cook’s Tips

  • Use full-fat coconut milk. Light coconut milk just won’t give you the same creamy texture and rich flavor.
  • Make it as spicy or mild as you like. Adjust the amount (or omit completely) of fresh Bird’s Eye red and green chilies, Prik Kee Nu green chilies, Thai chili powder, and chili oil to suit your heat level preference.
  • Don’t simmer the curry for too long. The longer you simmer, the thicker the curry will become. Simmer for ten minutes at the most to yield a delicious and creamy, but not too thick curry.
  • Use fresh kaffir lime leaves. While you may need to visit a Thai grocery store or Asian supermarket to get them, you can stock up and freeze them for a really long time. Dried ones will work, but I recommend using fresh for best flavor.
Front view of blue serving bowl with panang chicken curry.

FAQs

What is Panang curry made of?

Typically, an authentic Thai store-bought Panang curry paste is made of dried red chilies, garlic, lemongrass, shallots, salt, galangal, makrut lime peel, shrimp paste, coriander seeds, dried cumin, and dried cardamom. Some Panang curry pastes may also have fish sauce.

Is Panang chicken curry hot?

Generally speaking, Thai Panang chicken curry is only slightly spicy. Thai red and green curry are spicier than Panang curry. The spice level of the curry will depend on the brand of the curry paste, and the amount of curry paste, coconut milk, and coconut cream that you are using. Mae Ploy and Nittaya brand curry pastes are spicier than others (and authentic tasting), but Maesri brand Panang curry paste is milder yet still has the same authentic flavors. I typically use four tablespoons of Panang curry paste to get the right level of heat and flavor for me. You may find that two tablespoons might be ample for you.

What meat is best with Panang curry?

Chicken, pork, and shrimp/prawns taste fantastic in Panang curry. But you could also use sliced beef or lamb, or any other seafood and shellfish that you like.

Where to buy Panang curry paste?

You can buy Panang curry paste at an Asian supermarket, Thai groceries store, or online.

Is Panang curry gluten-free?

Generally speaking, Panang curry is gluten-free. However, it’s best to double check the ingredients for the Panang curry paste and fish sauce you’re using to verify that they are gluten-free.

How long will it keep?

It’ll keep for 5-7 days in a sealed airtight container in the refrigerator, which makes it perfect for meal prep! However, for best flavor and freshness, I recommend consuming it within five days tops.

Close-up top view of panang chicken curry in small blue dish.

Variations

  • Make it vegetarian/vegan. Use crispy pan-fried tofu instead of chicken, a vegetarian Panang curry paste (make sure fish sauce and shrimp paste are not included in the ingredients list), and soy sauce (preferable a Thai light soy sauce) instead of fish sauce to season the curry. Feel free to add any other curry friendly veggies like carrots, zucchini, snap peas, snow peas, broccoli, other colored bell peppers, etc. that you like.
  • Make it gluten-free. Make sure you’re using a gluten-free Panang curry paste and that the fish sauce you’re using is GF certified.
  • Use another protein. Thinly sliced pork tenderloin or beef flank steak can be substituted for the chicken. If using shrimp or prawns, add them in during the last 3-5 minutes of simmering the curry in step 3.
  • Omit the veggies. If you like, you can omit the red bell pepper and baby corn and use more chicken. I recommend using 2 pounds (907 grams) of boneless and skinless chicken thighs if nixing the veggies.
Top view of curry in bowl, and in small dish on plate with rice. Text overlay "Thai Panang Chicken Curry", "Restaurant Style", and "thatspicychick.com".

More Thai Curries & Soups


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Bowl with panang chicken curry garnished with coconut cream, chilies, and kaffir lime leave strips.

Thai Panang Chicken Curry

A classic Thai Panang Chicken Curry that’s full of creamy, spicy and nutty flavors! It’s easy to make in one wok, ready in just 40 minutes, and irresistibly delicious with steamed rice! 

  • Author: Lavina
  • Prep Time: 20
  • Cook Time: 15
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: 6 1x
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Simmer
  • Cuisine: Thai
Scale

Ingredients

  • 500 grams / 1.1 pounds Chicken Thighs, boneless, skinless – cleaned and pat-dried, excess fat trimmed, and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 6 Asian Red Shallots – peeled and halved, thinly sliced
  • 6 Garlic cloves – finely minced
  • 220 Red Chilies (Bird’s Eye preferred, but any small hot red chilies will work), to taste – finely chopped
  • 615 Green Chilies (Bird’s Eye preferred, but any small hot green chilies will work) to taste – finely chopped
  • 215 Prik Kee Nu Green Chilies (optional), to taste – finely chopped
  • 2 Large Red Chilies – thinly sliced at an angle
  • 1 small Red Bell Pepper – thinly sliced
  • 6 pieces Baby Corn – sliced in half lengthwise
  • ½ disc (25 grams) Coconut Sugar, to taste – shaved with a knife (substitute with palm sugar, or 1 tablespoon granulated coconut or light brown sugar if unavailable)
  • 810 Makrut Lime Leaves – destemmed and very finely minced
  • ½ cup Thai Sweet Basil Leaves
  • 2 TBLS Canola Oil (or any neutral flavored cooking oil)
  • 1 TBLS Chili Oil (optional – omit if less heat is desired)
  • 24 TBLS Thai Panang Curry Paste (I use Nittaya brand, but Mae Ploy or Maesri are excellent too)
  • 500ml / 17 ounces Coconut Milk
  • ½ cup water
  • 130ml (about ½ cup) Coconut Cream (reserve 20ml for garnish)
  • 2 TBLS smooth (Creamy) Peanut Butter (I use Skippy’s)
  • 4 TBLS Fish Sauce
  • 12 TSP Thai Chili Powder (optional), to taste
  • To Serve: Reserved coconut cream, finely sliced mild large red chili, finely sliced makrut lime leaves, steamed rice

Instructions

Prep:

  1. Prepare the ingredients: Clean and trim off the excess fat from the chicken thighs, then cut into bite-sized pieces. Chop/slice the shallots, garlic, red and green Bird’s Eye chilies, Prik Kee Nu green chilies, large red chilies, red bell pepper, and baby corn as indicated in the ‘Ingredients’ section. Finely shave the coconut sugar with a knife, destem and mince the makrut lime leaves into a powder, and wash and pat-dry the Thai Sweet Basil Leaves.

For the Thai Panang Chicken Curry:

  1. Sauté aromatics: Heat the canola oil and chili oil in a large wok or deep skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the shallots and garlic and sauté for 1 minute until fragrant. Add the red and green Bird’s Eye chilies and Prik Kee Nu green chilies. Sauté for 30 seconds to combine.
  2. Add the curry paste & chicken: Add the Panang curry paste and sauté for 1-2 minutes to break it down and combine with everything else. Then add the chicken and red bell pepper. Stir-fry for 2 minutes, until the chicken is no longer pink and everything is evenly coated in the curry paste.
  3. Build the curry: Pour in half of the coconut milk (250ml) and add the finely minced makrut lime leaves. Stir continuously until evenly combined, then simmer for a 30 seconds. Pour in the rest of the coconut milk, the water, and 110ml of the coconut cream. Stir to combine. Add the baby corn and sliced large red chilies, and stir in the peanut butter, coconut sugar, fish sauce, and Thai chili powder until combined well. Simmer uncovered for 5-8 minutes, until the chicken is tender and has cooked through.
  4. Taste and adjust seasonings: Give the curry a stir, then taste and adjust seasonings by stirring in more Panang curry paste, fish sauce, coconut sugar, or Thai chili powder if needed.
  5. Stir through basil: Switch off the heat and stir through the Thai sweet basil leaves.
  6. To Serve: Transfer to a serving dish/bowl. Drizzle the remainder 20ml of coconut cream on top, and garnish with finely sliced red chili and makrut lime leaves if desired. Serve immediately with warm steamed rice.

Notes

  1. Thai ingredients. Makrut lime leaves, Thai sweet basil, Bird’s Eye and Thai Prik Kee Nu green chilies can be found at Thai grocery stores. You can sometimes find them in Asian supermarkets too.
  2. Chilies. Feel free to adjust the amount of Bird’s Eye and Prik Kee Nu chilies to suit your heat level preference. The Thai Prik Kee Nu green chilies are listed as optional because they are fiery hot, and also because they aren’t always easily available in most places outside of Asia. Feel free to omit them if you can’t find them or prefer to make a milder curry. The large red chili is mild, and similar in flavor to red bell pepper. You can omit it if you prefer, or use more red bell pepper.
  3. Panang curry paste: Panang curry paste is available at Asian supermarkets, Thai grocery stores, and online. Different brands will have varying heat levels. I recommend using 2 tablespoons first, then tasting and stirring in more after simmering in step 3 if needed. Note that some brands add shrimp paste and fish sauce to their curry paste. Double check the ingredients to ensure that the brand you are using is free of these ingredients if you are allergic to seafood/shellfish. Vegetarian Panang curry pastes are available too, and I recommend Maesri brand Panang curry paste for a vegetarian option.  
  4. To make this gluten-free: Use a gluten-free Panang curry paste and make sure that the fish sauce you’re using is GF certified.
  5. Storing. Store leftovers in a sealed airtight container for 5-7 days in the refrigerator. Reheat for 2-3 minutes on high in the microwave, stirring once in between, or in a wok or pot over medium heat on the stovetop until hot throughout. I recommend consuming within 5 days for best flavor and texture.
  6. See ‘Variations’ section in post above for more tips and ideas for customizing this Panang curry.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 serving
  • Calories: 520
  • Sugar: 17.8g
  • Sodium: 1143.9mg
  • Fat: 30.9g
  • Saturated Fat: 17.3g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 11.6g
  • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Carbohydrates: 27.7g
  • Fiber: 4.8g
  • Protein: 25g
  • Cholesterol: 78.5mg

The nutritional information provided is approximate and can vary based on several factors. It should only be used as a general guideline. For more information, please see our Disclosure.

This post may contain affiliate links. We are a part of the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you) by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. The nutritional information provided is approximate and can vary based on several factors. It should only be used as a general guideline. For more information, please see our Disclosure.

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