This vegan Thai curry is just like the yellow curry at restaurants and it makes a great weeknight meal! It’s bursting with flavor from the garlic, ginger, and yellow curry paste.
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I loooove Thai yellow curry. It’s flavorful, but mild, and the veggies are so tender and creamy after simmering in the coconut milk base. I used to order it at restaurants all the time, but started switching up my order when I realized how deceptively easy it is to make at home. The curry paste does most of the work for you in terms of flavor, so it’s no more difficult to make than soup.
What is Thai curry?
Thai curry is a type of soup made with a protein, veggies, and curry paste in a rich coconut milk base. It’s usually served with rice.
There are many different types of curry (yellow, green, red, etc) that you can make depending on the type of curry paste you use. Some are mild, like yellow curry, while others are spicy, like green.
Ingredients for vegan Thai curry
Speaking of soup, preparing a curry is just like making a vegetable soup. You prepare the protein, sauté your veggies, add the liquid and seasonings, and let it simmer.
This recipe calls for tofu, but you can add any kind of vegan protein like such as seitan or commercially-available “chicken” strips. You’ll marinate and pan fry the tofu prior to adding it to the curry so that it has a crispy, chewy edge.
If you need some tips on tofu prep, and getting that perfect crispy texture, check out the instructions in my Kung Pao Tofu recipe.
This curry has onions, potatoes, and carrots. You can swap these out for different veggies, or add more veggies, but I like to keep it simple.
Coconut milk gives the curry its creamy consistency and base coconut flavor. I’d recommend using full-fat coconut milk for the recipe so you’re not diluting the curry.
Sidenote: “lite” coconut milk is just watered down coconut milk. Save your money—you can just buy a can of regular kind and dilute it with water.
Thai curry paste
The curry paste is the bread and butter of Thai curry. The curry paste is a super concentrated mix of chilis, herbs, and Thai spices. Unless you live in Asia or near an Asian market with a good selection of Thai ingredients, it can be difficult to find all of the individual ingredients in curry paste. For that reason (and because making the curry paste would add several more steps), I’d recommend using prepared curry paste.
I usually use yellow curry paste for this recipe, but there are several different types you could use.
Types of curry paste
Most curry pastes contain the same basic ingredients: chilis, lemongrass, galangal (Thai ginger root), Kaffir lime, and spices. The color and spice level will vary based on the amount of each ingredient, and the type of chilis and spices.
Always make sure to read the ingredients because it’s common for curry paste to contain fish or shrimp. I listed the spice level of each type of curry paste, but please note that this may vary between brands and restaurants.
Yellow curry paste (mild)
As I mentioned, yellow curry paste is my go to. It gets its vibrant golden hue from turmeric and its flavor blend includes lemongrass, galangal, Kaffir lime, and some chilis and other spices. It makes a sweet, rich curry when mixed with coconut milk, and is not very spicy at all.
It’s a great curry paste to start out with if you’re new to Thai cooking or not into spicy food. You can also use it as a tofu or seitan marinade.
It’s usually pretty easy to find vegan yellow curry paste. The brand I use is Maesri, which I buy from a local Asian market for about $1 per can.
Red curry paste (medium to spicy)
Red curry paste is made mostly with red chilis, making it spicier than yellow curry. Red curry is typically prepared with a thinner base, so it’s less rich than a yellow curry.
I’ve purchased the Thai Kitchen red curry paste, which is readily available at most supermarkets.
Green curry paste (spicy)
Green curry paste gets its color from young green chilis, which gives it a ton of heat. It’s usually regarded as the most popular curry paste, and also the spiciest!
Massaman curry paste (mild)
Massaman curry is influenced by Indian cuisine, and the flavor comes from an Indian-style spice blend with cumin, cardamom, clove, and cinnamon. It’s pretty mild, and is sweeter than the other curries.
It’s not as easy to find vegan massaman curry paste, so I don’t have a product to recommend at this time. Just make sure to read the labels and check for fish or shrimp paste.
Panang curry paste (spicy)
Panang curry paste is basically red curry paste with the addition of ground peanuts, so it’s also spicy. It’s not as common as red curry, but try it if you get the chance!
Like massaman curry paste, panang curry paste isn’t as common, so make sure you read the ingredient list before purchasing.
Making a complete meal
You’ll want to serve your vegan Thai curry with rice. Any rice will do, but I’d recommend jasmine rice if you have it! Jasmine rice is common in Thai cuisine, and it has a lovely floral fragrance reminiscent of jasmine flowers or jasmine white tea.
While curry is pretty filling on its own, Thai cuisine has a ton of great appetizers (I love me some satay, spring rolls, and dumplings from Urban Vegan). You could use the rest of your curry paste to make Seitan Satay! It also includes recipes for Thai peanut sauce and cucumber salad.
Vegan Thai Curry
- 1/2 pound firm tofu (1/2 package)
- 1 cup vegetable broth or vegan chickenless broth
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon fresh ginger grated
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 small onion chopped
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 3 tablespoons yellow curry paste
- 1 15- ounce can coconut milk
- 1 cup vegetable stock
- 1 large carrot peeled and chopped in 1-inch pieces
- 2 small potatoes peeled and chopped in 1-inch pieces
- 1 teaspoon fresh ginger grated
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin powder
- 1/4 teaspoon coriander powder
- 1/4 teaspoon cardamom powder
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 cups cooked rice see note
For the tofu:
- Press the tofu using a tofu press or by wrapping the block in paper towels, placing it between two dinner plates, and placing a heavy book or cans of food on top.
- Mix the vegetable broth, soy sauce, garlic, and ginger in shallow dish.
- Slice the tofu into cubes, then place in the marinade.
- Let the tofu marinate for at least 30 minutes, spooning some of the marinade over the cubes occasionally.
- Heat the vegetable oil over medium heat in a large skillet or the soup pot you'll be using for the curry.
- Drain the tofu, then add the tofu to the skillet or pot.
- Pan fry for 4-5 minutes on each side, until golden and crispy.
- Once cooked, transfer to a plate or container and set aside.
For the curry:
- Heat the vegetable oil in a large soup pot over medium heat.
- Add the onion and sauté for 4-5 minutes, until lightly golden.
- Add the garlic and sauté for an additional 30 seconds.
- Add the curry paste and stir to coat the onions and garlic.
- Pour in the coconut milk and vegetable broth, and then bring to a boil.
- Once the curry starts to boil, turn down to a simmer.
- Add the carrots, potatoes, ginger, cumin, coriander, and cardamom to the pot and cook for 15 minutes.
- Add the cooked tofu and let simmer for for 10 more minutes, or until the vegetables and potatoes are tender.
- Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary.
- Serve over rice.
- This recipe doubles well!
- Although the recipe only calls for 1/2 block tofu, you could marinate and cook the whole package and save the remaining tofu cubes for stir fries or salads.
- You can use any type of rice you have, but I recommend jasmine rice, which has a lovely aroma that pairs well with the bold flavors of the curry.
- Want to round out your meal with an appetizer? Try my Seitan Satay with Thai Peanut Sauce and Cucumber Salad.
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