Creamy and Spicy Thai Peanut Curry

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Thai peanut curry was one of my favourite go-tos in university: cheap, delicious, filling, and giving me an excuse to test my spice limits. I thought the combination of savory sauce with sweet vegetables, hot peppers, and peanuts was super novel.

The funny part here is that I hated peanut butter for most of my life. My family immigrated from Poland to Canada, and they never bought it or had much use for it. It took a lot of food exploration to loop back around and find a way to incorporate it into my diet. A fresh, savory and spicy curry dish is what did the trick, and now I’m not looking back.

If you love curry and spicy food as much as I do, you’ll also love this Indian chickpea tofu tomato curry. I loosely followed several chana masala recipes, so it’s drier as there is no coconut milk.

The foundation for frying our food. A press for ginger and garlic can be a huge lifesaver!

What exactly is Thai Peanut Curry?

Thai Peanut Curry is more of a catch-all than a specific dish. I only recently learned that peanut sauce as I know it was actually added in America to many stores and Thai restaurants. A lot of Thai dishes incorporate ground peanuts in some way as a marinate or garnish. However, few actually make a sauce where peanuts are the primary ingredient.

Even this curry, though it is rich with nutty goodness, is rife with many other flavours that add depth and character to the dish. So, we shan’t think of the peanuts as the main ingredient. Instead, we should look at them as the supporting thread weaving through all the other flavours that this dish offers.

This dish uses a red curry base. In addition to the chili powder that’s already in the red curry paste, we’re adding some fresh red chilis for a bit of extra flare. A generous portion of coconut milk will help to counteract any fires in your mouth.

As far as peanuts go, we’re adding both peanut butter and chopped peanuts to the sauce. This will help add a rich flavour and texture to the dish, which is otherwise just veggies, meat, liquid, and rice.

Getting Work Done in the Kitchen

The first time I made this curry it felt like more of a challenge than it really is. To be honest, the hardest part was getting my head around the amount of ingredients in all different proportions.

I also made sure to neatly organize my workspace and document every step. This took a LOT of time away from cooking, and I got easily distracted by my phone. At the time I was just starting up my food blog on Instagram, and didn’t even know if anyone would care. Now that I’m expanding this little enterprise of mine, I’m glad I put in the effort.

I find it very helpful to sort every ingredient out by what part of the process it’s in. This goes not just for this recipe but for cooking and even baking in general. Keep raw vegetables, meats/proteins, and ingredients for sauces separate. Sort them on your table by the order they go into the meal.

All the ingredients for the Thai curry sauce, which you can read in a list below as well! Can you tell this was one of the first cooking pictures I’ve taken?

A Creamy Curry Sauce

As you can see by scrolling through this page, the curry sauce is the bulk of the weight here. All these ingredients go straight into one big pan, so we can leave them in their measuring cups until they are ready.

After sautéeing the chicken pieces over garlic, ginger and sesame oil, put in the chopped veggies that you see above. Together, these two take most of the cooking time. However, now we need a bit of elbow grease to turn the peanut butter into a creamy sauce. Water, coconut milk, and soy sauce will all help to further liquify it. At the end of the day though, it needs a good, strong stir for a few moments.

The finished product, in all its creamy glory, sitting in the pan.

The result is a beautiful mess. The vegetables and meat turn soft as they infuse with flavours from the peanuts and coconut oil. Soy sauce helps keep things savory and salty, while brown sugar adds a small hint of caramel to the creamy curry. The lime and cilantro help tremendously with aromatics, and give it a zesty garden freshness right before the spice hits your palate.

I was very surprised with how much sauce I ended up with. The curry ended up rising to nearly the top of the largest pan in my house without even adding any rice. If you find the consistency a little too thin, you can easily add less water and/or more peanut butter. There is already a large amount of coconut milk, so the sauce will stay creamy either way. Bear that in mind, and feel free to experiment a little as you try the recipe.

Bon appétit!

Creamy Thai Peanut Curry

A fresh, savory, and spicy Thai red curry with chicken, creamy coconut, a tantalizing aroma from lime and cilantro, and rich peanut goodness.
Total Time 45 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Thai
Servings 8 servings

Equipment

  • Cutting board and knives
  • Several measuring cups, going up to 2 cups in volume
  • Can opener for coconut milk
  • Large pot or frying pan and spoon or spatula to mix
  • Ginger/garlic presser (optional but very useful if you have it!)

Ingredients
  

Initial Sautée

  • 2-3 lbs (1 – 1⅓ kg) chicken breast or switch to tofu for a vegetarian dish
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 4 slices ginger about ½ inch thick
  • 4 tbsp (60 ml) sesame oil

Curry Sauce

  • 1 can (~400 ml) coconut milk
  • 1 cup (225 g) peanut butter
  • 4 tbsp (60 ml) red curry paste
  • 2 tbsp (30 g) brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp (30 ml) soy sauce
  • 2 cups (~450 ml) water more or less based on desired consistency

Vegetables & Additions

  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 1/2 cup (~100 g) chopped peanuts
  • 3-4 stalks green onion
  • 3-5 Thai red chili peppers more or less depending on heat preference
  • 1 oz (30 ml) lime juice you can always just eyeball it or squeeze a lime directly over the sauce
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves optional but recommended
  • salt and pepper to taste

Rice

  • Serve with jasmine rice

Instructions
 

Preparation

  • Wash vegetables and allow them to dry. Chop veggies and peanuts. Make sure to chop the chili peppers extra fine to be able to spread around the spice evenly across the dish. Set aside for when the curry is ready.
  • Measure out all the curry sauce ingredients and get them ready.
  • Dice garlic and prepare sesame oil for frying.
  • Prepare meat (or tofu) by rinsing, drying, and seasoning as preferred. Chop into small cubes and get ready to fry it.

Mixing Order

  • Put sesame oil on your frying pan. Cook garlic and ginger for 2 minutes on medium heat, stirring often.
  • Fry your protein until ready. Make sure to mix it around a lot so it absorbs the ginger, garlic, and sesame flavours. If you are using chicken, you may want to cut one piece open to make sure it is not still red on the inside. Add vegetables
  • Add vegetables and curry paste. Spread them out evenly.
  • Add peanuts, peanut butter, and water. Mix these thoroughly until the peanut butter has a more liquid consistency.
  • Dump coconut milk, soy sauce, and brown sugar into the pan. Mix until the whole pan has a creamy sauce that is evenly spread out.
  • As you finish, add lime, salt and pepper to taste.
  • Top with fresh cilantro right before serving.

Notes

 
This deliciously creamy curry can vary a lot based on how much water and how many chili peppers you add. There is plenty of room to play around. Serve with jasmine white rice (basmati works too if you can’t do that).
 
What’s your favourite Thai curry dish? Let me know with a comment below, and tag me on Instagram @the.phil.osopher with your curry photos! I’d also love to hear thoughts on what other cake recipes you’d like to see.
Keyword American, brown, chicken, chili, cilantro, coconut, creamy, curry, garlic, ginger, lime, peanut, pepper, red, sesame, spicy, sugar, Thai, tofu

Thanks for stopping by! If you like this kind of article, why not check out some of my other food recipes as well?

Enjoying Thai peanut curry with Basmati rice and a glass of red wine!
Enjoying Thai peanut curry with Jasmine rice and a glass of red wine!

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