A rich curry paste with an endless depth of flavor can easily be created right in your own kitchen. This luxurious Thai panang curry paste recipe comes together fairly quickly in a few simple steps. Its incredible aromas will warm you up as you cook, and it’s an impressively versatile ingredient to have on hand!
I’ve always preferred self-prepared foods over store-bought because I like knowing exactly what ingredients are in the stuff I’m eating. It’s surprising that so many people think something like curry paste is too complex an ingredient to create themselves. Its flavors are complex, sure, but making homemade curry paste is simple as can be!
Like Thai red curry paste, panang curry paste can be found jarred in stores, but these packaged varieties will never taste quite as robust as a freshly-made curry. This recipe includes plenty of fresh herbs and spices that create a distinct Thai curry flavor, and it can be adjusted to suit your preferred spice level.
Curry paste takes a few more steps to make than a curry powder, but pastes typically pack more bold flavor from fresh ingredients. Use it for an easy, savory chicken curry dinner, in spicy soups, on salad, and more.
INGREDIENT NOTES AND SUBSTITUTIONS
- Cardamom - Use green cardamom pods for the most concentrated warm, citrusy flavor.
- Star Anise - These little stars add a licorice-like sweetness to the dish.
- Cinnamon - I use a whole stick for more robust flavor.
- Coriander Seeds - Adds floral, citrusy notes. Cumin is a common substitute, but it’s already used in this recipe. Use powdered coriander or caraway seeds instead.
- Dried Chiles - Use chiles de arbol and guajillo chiles for intense spice and flavor. Don’t use these dried chiles if you’re using fresh red Thai chiles for this recipe.
- Red Thai Chiles - Fresh red Thai chiles are bold and add vibrant color to the paste. Omit these if using dried chiles. There are various Thai chiles with different levels of spice, including Birds Eye, prik jinda, prik yak, prik chee fah, and more.
- Kaffir Lime Leaves - Commonly known as makrut or Thai lime leaves. If you can’t find them, substitute with fresh lime zest.
- Lemongrass - Adds citrusy, earthy flavor. Substitute with lemon zest for a slightly different result.
- Serrano Chiles - Lots of spice. Use fresh chiles and chop them up.
- Galangal - This is a very hard root, so you’ll need a good knife to quarter it. Substitute with ginger.
- Fish Sauce - Gives the whole dish a hint of umami flavor.
- Roasted Peanuts - The signature ingredient for this recipe, peanuts add a notably nutty flavor and give the paste a rich, thick texture.
HOW TO MAKE PANANG CURRY PASTE
- Soak Chiles. Remove stems and discard seeds of dried chiles. Soak in hot water for about 10 minutes.
- Toast Aromatics. Heat your cardamom, star anise, cinnamon, coriander, peppercorns, and cumin in a dry skillet over medium heat for a few minutes. Let cool and grind into a powder.
- Process Ingredients. Drain your soaked chiles and add to a food processor with lime leaves, garlic, lemongrass, Thai and serrano chiles, shallot, and galangal — no mortar and pestle necessary! Process ingredients until they form a thick paste.
- Add To Paste. Scrape the sides of the food processor and add fish sauce, water, peanuts, and your toasted spice powder. Process until paste is smooth.
- Store Or Serve! Use immediately or freeze in ice cube tray molds.
What’s the Difference Between Red Curry Paste and Panang Curry Paste?
Though both are similar, panang curry paste is usually a little less spicy, a bit sweeter, and slightly more aromatic than red curry paste. The color is slightly more brown-ish as opposed to a vibrant red, and the peanuts in panang paste also make it much thicker and richer in flavor than red curry paste.
Is Panang Curry Spicy?
Generally, panang curry paste makes the overall dish distinctly spicy, though it may be less spicy than red curries. You can certainly adjust the ingredients in the paste to suit your preferred spice level.
What Can I Make With Panang Curry Paste?
Since it packs in tons of flavor, this paste can be used for a variety of dishes — try it in soups and stews, on noodles, as a rub or marinade for proteins like chicken and seafood, or even in salad dressing.
Next recipe post will share how to use this in my Panang Curry (Chicken Panang)!
Panang Curry Paste
- 10 green cardamom pods
- 3 star anise
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 tablespoon coriander seeds
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 10 dried chiles de árbol (See Note 1)
- 2 dried guajillo chiles (See Note 1)
- 8 fresh kaffir lime leaves (See Note 2)
- 4 garlic cloves
- 3 fresh lemongrass stalks (See Note 3)
- 3 fresh red Thai chiles (See Note 4)
- 2 fresh serrano chiles chopped
- 2 large shallot quartered
- 1 fresh 2-inch piece galangal peeled and quartered
- 2 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon water or more if needed
- ⅓ cup roasted peanuts
- Dry saute the cardamom, star anise, cinnamon, coriander, peppercorns and cumin in a skillet over medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Set aside to cool. Transfer to a spice grinder with salt and grind to a powder.
- Drain soaked chiles and transfer to food processor along with lime leaves, garlic, lemongrass, Thai and serrano chiles, shallot and galangal. Process until a thick paste forms. Scrape down the sides and add the fish sauce, water, peanuts and toasted spice powder. Process until a smooth paste forms.
- This makes about 2 cups total. I use 3-4 tablespoons per recipe (soup or curry). You can freeze remaining for later use in ice cube trays and keep in freezer ziploc bags.
- If using dried chiles only the 3 Red Thai chiles can be OMITTED. If using fresh Thai red chiles only, DO NOT USE dried arbol and guajillo chiles. For dried chiles, remove stems, discard seeds and soak for 10 minutes in hot water.
- Kaffir lime also is marketed as makrut in Asian markets. A substitute could be three 2-inch strips of lime zest (use a vegetable peeler).
- Cut bottom 4" only, discard tough outer layers.
- If using dried chiles the 3 Red Thai chiles can be OMITTED. If using fresh Thai red chiles, DO NOT USE the dried arbol and guajillo chiles.There are over 79 varieties of "Thai Peppers", with Birds Eye probable being the best known and hottest. You could also use Prik jinda (very hot), prik yuak (mild, sweet), prik chee fah (milder) and prik leuang (mild), are best known in Asian markets. Choose each to define heat level you're comfortable with. The dried Kashmir peppers found in Indian markets can be substituted for and soaked along with the guajillo if you can't find any fresh. Thai peppers typically range from 50,000 to 100,000 Scoville Heat Units compared to a jalapeno, which typically ranges from 2,500 to 8,000 Scoville Heat Units.
- This makes 2 cups total. I use 4 tablespoons per recipe. Servings are 8 (32 tablespoons total)
*The information shown below is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist's advice.