Shrimp panang curry is complex and flavorful- it’s tangy, creamy, and packs a nice, subtle heat.
Listen, I love eating out, especially Thai food, but there is something about making Thai curry at home. Our recipe for easy panang curry is a perfect meal for busy weeknights since you can count on it to be ready and on your table in 30 minutes! We pair ours with steaming hot jasmine rice and top it with fresh Thai basil.
WHAT IS PANANG CURRY?
Panang curry also spelled “phanaeng,” is a Thai-style curry that originates from the island of Penang. The dish gets its name from a Khymer word meaning cross, which refers to how they crossed chickens’ legs before cooking them on the grill to prepare authentic recipes for Thai panang curry. Today, it’s one of the most well-known Thai meals throughout the world- known for its nutty, sweet, and aromatic flavor profile.
WHAT IS PANANG CURRY PASTE?
The intense flavor and rich aromatics that make up a great-tasting Thai curry are attributed to curry paste. The ingredients for Panang curry paste vary from region to region and home to home. You can combine ingredients like Thai red chilies, peanuts, galangal, cilantro, garlic, shallots, kaffir lime leaves, shrimp paste, and lemongrass to make homemade curry paste. But since many of these ingredients aren’t readily available in the United States and other regions, I recommend buying a store-bought paste to make it easy on yourself.
WHAT YOU NEED TO MAKE THIS RECIPE
- Shrimp: I use jumbo shrimp in this recipe because that’s what was on sale the week I planned to make it. You can also try extra-large or colossal shrimp if you prefer something a bit more filling.
- Panang Curry Paste: When it comes to Thai curry paste, we have tried them all; Maesri Panang curry paste is the best by far! It’s also one of the few curry pastes that are vegetarian and vegan-friendly. Mae Ploy is a pretty tasty alternative.
- Coconut Oil: Coconut oil cooks down the curry paste and flavors the dish.
- Vegetables: I use yellow onion, red bell pepper, and shiitake mushrooms.
- Kaffir Lime Leaves: These leaves add a unique flavor to the curry; before using them, scrunch the leaves in your palm to release more of the leaf’s natural oils. And don’t worry about waste, kaffir lime leaves can be frozen after use. They change in color after freezing but retain all their flavor.
- Garlic: I suggest using three cloves, but don’t let my recipe tell you how much garlic to use – go for it.
- Coconut Milk: Coconut milk is a staple in Thai cooking; be sure to use full-fat coconut milk for the perfect consistency.
- Fish Sauce: This tasty fermented sauce provides an added boost to curries.
- Basil: Bites of curry with Thai basil are the best ones in my opinion!
SUBSTITUTIONS AND VARIATIONS
I love how flexible curries can be, especially when it comes to the ingredients. It may deviate from truly authentic panang curry, but what home cook doesn’t improvise a little? Here are some suggestions for possible substitutions and variations that will take it to the next level for you and your taste buds.
- Replace the vegetables or add more. I like to include zucchini, snap peas, squash, bamboo shoots, potatoes, and bean sprouts on occasion.
- Top the curry with toasted cashews or peanuts.
- Stir a tablespoon of peanut butter into the curry for a boost of flavor.
- Use chicken, beef, fish, or tofu instead of shrimp.
HOW TO MAKE SHRIMP PANANG CURRY
PREPARE THE SHRIMP- Defrost the shrimp in a mixing bowl. De-vein and remove the tails. Set aside.
WARM- In a wok, warm the Panang curry paste and coconut oil until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
SAUTE- Add the onions, peppers, and garlic. Cook over medium heat until they become translucent and soften.
BOIL- Pour one can of coconut oil into the pan. Increase the heat and bring the mixture to a boil.
SIMMER- Reduce the heat to a light simmer and add mushrooms, keffir lime leaves, and the remaining coconut milk. The curry should thicken after 5 minutes. If the curry doesn’t thicken, add two tablespoons of cold water and stir to combine.
ADD SHRIMP- Stir in the reserved shrimp, and simmer for 5 minutes until fully cooked.
SERVE- Off heat, stir in the fish sauce, and garnish with Thai basil leaves. Serve with jasmine rice, and enjoy!
Below are a few cooking tips for boiling or simmering raw shrimp. First of all, cook what’s most comfortable for you. I use raw shrimp in this recipe simply because it was on sale the week I planned to make it.
- Defrost the shrimp, then peel and devein.
- Add the shrimp to already heated water, sauce, mixture, or in the case of this recipe, a curry.
- Simmer the shrimp for 5-8 minutes. You’ll know the shrimp is fully cooked when it turns from grey to bright pink.
SEARCHING FOR MORE LIKE THIS?
If you love this recipe, we hope you will try one of these dinner favorites!
- Jasmine Rice
- Coconut Cauliflower Rice
- Steamed Vegetables
- Coconut-Lime Rice
WHAT TO DO WITH LEFTOVERS
- FRIDGE – Store the leftovers in an air-tight container; it will keep for 2-3 days.
- FREEZE – Allow the dish to cool completely, then add the curry to a freezer-safe container or bag. It will freeze for up to 3 months. When you’re ready to eat, defrost it in the fridge overnight.
- REHEAT – To serve, warm it on the stovetop so you don’t overcook the shrimp, and enjoy!
- REPURPOSE – Build a rice bowl or use the leftovers to make a tasty lettuce wrap.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
The difference comes down to the paste! Panang curry paste includes tangier ingredients and most often includes red chilies, peanuts, cilantro, garlic, shallots, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, and shrimp paste. The primary ingredient they share is red chilis, which red Thai curry paste incorporates more of, making it spicier than panang.
You sure can! Tofu, seitan, and more vegetables are always a great option with Thai curry. The brand of Thai curry paste I use is one of the few out there that markets as vegan; it also happens to be the tastiest! Finally, use vegan fish sauce flavored with seaweed or marmite to provide umami for the dish.
Some major grocery stores carry panang curry paste, but I am not a huge fan of the brands they carry. Your best bet is taking a trip to your local Asian market. I am loyal to Maesri curry paste, but Mae Ploy is a nice alternative. If you can’t find paste for panang curry, buy red curry paste and use a mortar and pestle or food processor to add lemongrass and peanuts; this will get your pretty close to the authentic flavor.
YOU SHOULD ALSO TRY:
Shrimp Panang Curry
- 2 pounds jumbo shrimp, raw
- 1 -4 ounce Panang Thai Curry Paste, whole can for spicy, 1/2 can for mild
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, roughly chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 ½ can coconut milk, full-fat, plus more if you prefer less spicy
- 1 package shiitake mushrooms
- 3-4 kaffir lime leaves
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- Thai basil, to garnish
- 1 lime, zested, slices to garnish
- Defrost the shrimp in a mixing bowl. Devein and remove the tails. Set aside.
- In a wok, warm the Panang curry paste and coconut oil until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
- Add the onions, peppers, and garlic. Cook over medium heat until the onions become translucent and soften.
- Pour one can of coconut oil into the pan. Increase the heat and bring the mixture to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to a light simmer and add mushrooms, kaffir lime leaves, and the remaining coconut milk. The curry should thicken after 5 minutes. If the curry doesn't thicken, add two tablespoons of cold water and stir to combine.
- Stir in the reserved shrimp, and simmer for 5 minutes until fully cooked.
- Off heat, stir in the fish sauce, and garnish with Thai basil leaves. Serve with jasmine rice, and enjoy!
- Shrimp: I use raw shrimp in this recipe; if you decide to use defrosted, pre-cooked shrimp, decrease the cooking time to 2-3 minutes. I don’t want you to end up with overcooked shrimp.
- Kaffir Lime: Before using them, scrunch the leaves in your palm to release more of the leaf’s natural oils.
- Web Story: Check out our web story for shrimp panang curry!