What’s better than Thai curry? Thai curry made with accessible ingredients in under 20 minutes. Sauteed over high heat, the vegetables emerge outrageously fresh.
How can a one pan curry have all the merits of Thai cuisine with none of the traditional ingredients? It’s a little trick I like to call the flavor approach to ethnic food, as opposed to the ingredient approach.
Obviously there are benefits to using authentic Thai ingredients like galangal, kaffir, and fish sauce as in these Thai Lettuce Wraps. But I live in the Arizona desert where tropical treasures are difficult to come by. So when I crave sweet, spicy, salty, savory, sour, and pungeant flavors that are so uniquely Thai, I get creative.
In order to achieve a Thai-like curry sauce, I’ve got aspects of every flavor element:
- sambal olek chili paste (spicy) – thai bird chili
- lime juice (sour) – tamarind or kaffir lime leaf
- maple syrup (sweet) – palm sugar cream
- onion, ginger, garlic (pungeant) – shallot, garlic, lemon grass, galangal
- tamari and sun butter (savory and salty) – fish sauce/light soy sauce/oyster sauce and peanuts
After sampling curries from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, I can tell you that this curry sauce is every bit as delicious as some of the best massaman curries I tasted in Thailand. That’s because it captures the spirit of Thai cuisine: fresh vegetables and balanced, bold flavors.
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How to Make an Easy Thai Curry
Make a creamy curry sauce in a high speed blender (or use an immersion blender). 2 minutes
Chop a variety of fresh vegetables, roughly the same size for even cooking. Thai cooking is all about using a wide variety of fresh vegetables. Try a combination of any of the following: mushrooms, carrots, onions, eggplant, basil, bok choy, green beans, zucchini, and celery. 5 minutes
A hand-held julienne peeler is life changing if you regularly make stir-fry dishes. I was first introduced to this tool in a kitchen in Thailand where they used it for everything from curry to green papaya salad.
Get your pan nice and hot. Heat a wok or skillet.
Add a neutral oil to the pan and when it shimmers, add a couple vegetable groups at a time, starting with the ones that take longest to cook. I usually start with onion and mushrooms, then add the white portion of bok choy, and finish with carrot and the green portion of bok choy. Toss the vegetables frequently to distribute the heat evenly. 5 minutes
As soon as the vegetables are tender (not mushy) and crunchy, add a ladle of curry sauce give everything a good tossing. The second the sauce is warm, turn off the heat and taste. You can add more curry if you like, but this is a very concentrated curry sauce so a little goes a looooong way. 1 minute
Serve the curry vegetables with aromatics like chopped cilantro or fresh lime.
How Can I Add Protein?
If you want to add chicken or shrimp to this curry, you can still cook everything in the same pan. Starting with step 2, cut the protein into bite-sized pieces. Then proceed with step 3 – add the meat to the hot pan first.
Sautee for a couple minutes, then begin to add the vegetables in groups. Cook the meat all the way through before adding the sauce.
How Do I Add Noodles to the Curry?
You can soak vermicelli noodles for 10 minutes in water, then add them during step 3 with the vegetables. The steam from the vegetables will cook them in a few minutes.
To use a more substantial noodle, like a wide rice noodle as in Pad Thai, boil the noodle separately, then add to the cooked vegetables. Give those noodles some love with a nice coating of rich curry sauce.
Don’t have noodles? No problemo. This curry is delicious as-is or served over Thai steamed rice.
Thai Vegetable Curry
Curry Sauce Ingredients
- 9 tbsp sunflower butter, or peanut butter
- 1/4 cup tamari, for allergies, look for gluten free
- 1/3 cup fresh lime juice, from 2-3 limes
- 3 tbsp fresh peeled ginger, 4″ piece, sliced thinly
- 8 cloves garlic, chopped
- 3/4 cup coconut milk, from can
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- 1/4 cup white miso
- 1 tbsp Sambal chili paste
- 2 tsp Kosher salt
Stir Fry Ingredients
- 1-2 tbsp canola oil or coconut oil
- 2 pounds chicken, shrimp, firm tofu, optional
- 2 pounds vegetables, carrot, onion, zucchini, celery, snap peas, mushrooms
- 1 oz cilantro, chopped
Easy Thai Curry Sauce
- Combine the Thai curry ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth and creamy.
Cook the Curry
- Heat a wok or skillet over medium heat. Add the oil and warm until it begins to shimmer. If at any point, the oil smokes, lower the heat.
- If using protein, add the protein to the oil first and cook for a few minutes. Add the vegetables in groups, starting with the ones that cook fastest. I like to start with sliced onion, followed by mushrooms, bok choy (white part first), snap peas, celery, and ending with zucchini, carrot, or the greens of the bok choy.
- Cook the vegetables just until slightly tender, then ladle in a small amount of sauce. Start with about 1/4 cup, then add more if needed. This is a concentrated sauce, so a little goes far. Garnish with fresh cilantro and serve.
- snap peas
- mushrooms (oyster, shiitake)
- leeks, onion
- bok choy