This Chicken Panang Curry tastes better than your favorite restaurant at a fraction of the price but is incredibly easy to make in 30 minutes all in one pot! It’s lusciously coconut creamy thanks to my secret ingredient, tangy, savory, sweet and salty perfection and will have you joining readers in “wanting to chug the sauce so you can make it at a moment’s notice 👏.


Chicken Panang Curry being served with rice


You will love this Panang Curry Recipe

  • Made with easy to find ingredients.  Once you purchase the panang curry paste, you’re ready to go thanks to pantry friendly substitutions! When I was perfecting this recipe, I noticed my local stores did not carry authentic recipe ingredients of palm sugar, Kaffir lime leaves and Thai basil leaves. So, after research and experimenting, I came up with my own “pantry friendly” version using easy substitutes that have readers calling this recipe “better than my local Thai restaurant.”
  • Multi-dimensional flavor. The paste is combined with splashes of lime juice, fish sauce, ginger and garlic for effortless complexity.
  • No bland chicken! The chicken is sautéed with the curry paste, soaking up the fragrant spices as it cooks, then simmers in the curry coconut bath, creating superbly flavorful, juicy, chicken.
  • Delightfully creamy.  Most panang curry recipes are sad and runny OR filled with calories from coconut cream. This recipe, however, is thickened with a bit of cornstarch so it’s irresistibly velvety.
  • Quick and easy. Minimal prep, then everything cooks in one pan in in less than 15 minutes!
  • Make it your own!  Use chicken breasts or thighs, swap in your favorite veggies like snap peas, bamboo shoots, carrots, etc., crank up or tone down the heat, make it more or less tangy, garlicky, gingery, creamy, salty, etc.

a serving spoon of panang curry chicken showing how creamy it is
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The ingredients for this panang curry recipe might look a little lengthy, but most of the ingredients are just whisked together.  In addition to the curry paste, you will need (measurements in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post):

  • Chicken: You can use chicken breasts or chicken thighs for this recipe, but thighs tend to be more forgiving. Breasts will still emerge wonderfully juicy in the coconut bath.
  • Vegetables: Pick your favs! I love at least one red bell pepper for its sweet crunch. Use all bell peppers or mix and match your favorite vegetables. See variation section for ideas.
  • Coconut milk: Use unsweetened coconut milk. The coconut cream will likely have separated, so whisk it back together before adding to the pan.
  • Cornstarch: This is used instead of coconut cream to thicken the curry.
  • Fish sauce: I promise fish sauce will not be detectable or make your chicken panang curry taste fishy!  Fish sauce is a primary ingredient in Southeast Asian cooking and adds a fabulous umami flavor. Reputable brands include Red Boat, Three Crabs, and Squid Brand.
  • Lime juice: This adds tart freshness and awakens the rest of the flavors. You may use fresh or bottled lime juice. I will freeze lime juice in cubes so I always have some on hand.
  • Brown sugar:  This adds a hint of sweetness to balance the fish sauce. 
  • Aromatics: Ginger adds a warm, spicy, sharp peppery taste and garlic adds a pungent, herby, warm aromatic flair. Add more or less to taste.
  • Basil: This adds a layer of savory, peppery and slightly minty flavor. Use Thai basil if accessible, otherwise traditional basil is fine.
  • Bay Leaf + Thyme: This is an easy substitute for kaffir lime leaves along with the lime juice. If you have kaffir lime leaves, add about 6 to simmer, then remove before serving.
  • Asian chili sauce:  This adds a little heat and rounds out the flavors.  I use sambal oelek but you can use your favorite.  You can customize the spice level by adding additional chili sauce to taste. If you aren’t sure how much to add, you can start with less then stir in more at the end if needed or add it to your individual servings.  If you think your panang is missing something – it is probably a kick of chili sauce.
top view of panang curry ingredients: panang curry paste, chicken, basil, fish sauce, lime juice, coconut milk, brown sugar, bell peppers, galric, ginger

Panang Curry Recipe Variations

Customize this chicken panang curry with any veggies, protein, heat, etc. Here are a few ideas:

  • Shrimp Panang Curry:  Instead of adding the shrimp with the curry paste, cook it separately with some oil just until opaque and cooked through.  Remove the shrimp to a plate and add to the sauce at the end of cooking.  Sauté the panang curry paste without the shrimp in some oil to bloom the spices then proceed with the recipe.
  • Other proteins:  The chicken can also be swapped for cubed pork tenderloin, fish or tofu.
  • Alternate veggies: Customize this chicken Panang curry with whatever veggies suit your mood or use this panang to clean out your veggie drawer!   I suggest one red bell pepper for its sweet crunch, but you can also add snap peas, bamboo shoots, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, bok choy, etc.
  • Add nuts:  Crushed peanuts or cashews add a deeply satisfying, nutty crunch. To elevate your panang, dry roast them in a skillet until toasted- YUM!
  • Add coconut: Garnish with toasted sweetened coconut for extra coco-nutty yum.
  • Add water chestnuts:  Also add a tantalizing crunch.  Water chestnuts are easy to find in a can so you can keep them stocked and ready to go.
  • Add fruit: Mangos or pineapple are fabulous!
  • Use Birdseye chilies: Substitute the Asian chili paste for minced Birdseye chilies.  You will want to remove the seeds and finely chop.
  • Use coconut cream: Add coconut cream instead of cornstarch for extra decadence.
  • Use kaffir lime leaves: Swap the lime juice, bay leaf and thyme for 6-10 kaffir lime leaves (depending on size.
panang curry recipe in a  bowl garnished with cilantro and lime juice

How to make Panang Curry

You will be shocked at just how quick and easy this panang curry recipe comes together once you have your  paste.  Let’s take a closer look with step-by-step photos (full recipe in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post):

  • Step 1: Bloom Panang Curry Paste. Blooming curry paste in hot oil enhances its flavors by releasing the aromatic compounds of the spices and ingredients, resulting in a richer and more complex taste profile in your dish. This step also helps to meld the flavors together and develop a deeper, more robust curry sauce.
showing how to make panang curry by blooming the panang curry paste in oil
  • Step 2: Sauté Chicken. Next, stir fry the chicken directly in the simmering paste so it soaks up all the dynamic flavors.  Add ginger and garlic and sauté 30 seconds.
showing how to make panang curry by stir frying chicken in the panang curry paste
  • Step 3: Add Sauce Ingredients. Add coconut milk sugar, fish sauce, lime juice, a bay leaf and dried thyme.
showing how to make panang curry by adding coconut milk, lime juice, bay leaf and thyme.
  • Step 4: Simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes to thicken and concentrate the flavors.
showing how to make panang curry by simmering for 5 minutes
  • Step 5: Add Vegetables and Basil. Add bell peppers and basil and simmer 2-3 minutes or until peppers are crisp tender. Discard bay leaf.
showing how to make panang curry recipe by adding vegetables and basil

Panang tips and tricks

  • Adjust the curry paste amount as needed.  If you are using a milder brand or panang curry paste, like Thai Kitchen, I would start with 3-4 tablespoons.  If you are using a spicier brand, like Mae Ploy, I would start with 2 tablespoons. 
  • Prep sauce and veggies before you start cooking. This chicken panang curry comes together in MINUTES once you start cooking, so make sure your bell peppers and aromatics are chopped before oil ever touches your pan.  
  • Don’t overcook chicken.  For the juiciest chicken, don’t overcook!  Cook just until opaque in the skillet but let it finish cooking in the sauce.
  • Don’t overcook veggies.  Keep in mind different cooking times when adding other vegetables. Vegetables like broccoli will take longer while vegetable like snow peas, peas and spinach will take the least amount of time.
  • Ginger pro tip:  I like to freeze ginger so it’s always at my fingertips.  To freeze ginger, grate it, spread it by the teaspoon or tablespoon on parchment paper and flash freeze until solid, about 1 hour.  Transfer to an airtight container or plastic bag for up to 6 months.  
  • You can add more curry paste. If after simmering and you think the panang tastes to mild in both flavor and heat, then add additional paste. If it just needs heat, ad chili paste.
  • Adjust to taste. Tasting the final Panang curry and adjusting to taste is crucial because all palates are different.  Sweeten it up with additional brown sugar, add tang with additional lime  juice, spice it up with additional Asian chili paste, add salt/more umami with additional fish sauce or salt.
top view of a bowl of panang chicken

How to serve Panang Chicken

Panang curry should be served with a side of rice to absorb the rich, robust sauce. We particular like it with:

  • Rice: I prefer jasmine rice but any rice will work. Make sure to thoroughly rinse your white rice until the water runs clear to achieve the fluffiest rice. Just pop the rice in your rice cooker for a hands’ off, easy side. You can also use microwave rice pouches if you’re making a serving for one or meal prep.  
  • Low-carb options: Cauliflower rice, quinoa, broccoli rice or a blend of brown rice and any of the aforementioned options make for great low-carb alternatives.  You can even serve the panang over spaghetti squash.
  • Appetizers: Turn this chicken panang curry into a feast with Thai chicken satay or chicken pineapple sataychicken lettuce wraps, or spring rolls. 
  • Salad:  A simple green salad, Asian salad, or Asian pineapple salad.

Panang Chicken FAQs

Is Panang Curry Spicy?

Panang curry isn’t an overly spicy dish, in fact, it’s typically less spicy and sweeter than red curry. However, the level of heat can easily be adjusted based on personal preference by adding additional chili sauce. For an even spicier dish, Thai red chilies (remove seeds and membranes) can sautéed with the curry paste.

Does Panang Curry have peanuts?

Yes, Panang Curry typically contains peanuts in the curry paste, providing a rich, sweet and nutty flavor to the curry. Panang curry paste is traditionally made from a combination of dried red chili peppers, shallots, garlic, lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime zest, and a blend of aromatic spices like coriander and cumin. Roasted peanuts or peanut butter, shrimp paste, and fish sauce complete the rich and complex flavor profile. These ingredients are ground together to form a flavorful and aromatic paste used as a base for Panang curry dishes.

What’s the difference between Panang Curry and Red Curry?

Panang Curry and Red Curry are both Thai curries that contain common core ingredients such as coconut milk, chili peppers, shallots, garlic, lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime zest, and a blend of aromatic spices like coriander and cumin.

The primary difference is Panang Curry, is milder, sweeter and richer than Red Curry. The Panang curry paste includes peanuts which lends a nutty richness and makes the curry thicker and creamier. In contrast, Red Curry is spicier, more pungent, and typically uses a higher amount of red chili peppers.

showing how to serve panang in a bowl with rice garnished with basil and chilies




©Carlsbad Cravings by

Panang Curry Chicken

This Chicken Panang Curry tastes better than your favorite restaurant at a fraction of the price but is incredibly easy to make in 30 minutes all in one pot! It's lusciously coconut creamy thanks to my secret ingredient, tangy, savory, sweet and salty perfection and will have you joining readers in "wanting to chug the sauce." Once you have the curry paste, the rest of the ingredients are pantry friendly so you can make it at a moment's notice 👏.
Servings: 6 servings
Total Time: 30 minutes
Prep Time: 18 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes

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  • 2 tablespoons coconut/olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Panang curry paste (I use Mae Ploy brand)*
  • 2 pounds chicken breasts or thighs thinly sliced into 1/8” slices against the grain
  • 3 red bell peppers, thinly sliced (or other veggies)**
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 14 oz. cans quality coconut milk
  • 1-2 tablespoons cornstarch (depending on desired thickness)
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 cup loosely packed Thai basil or regular, roughly chopped

Garnish (optional)


  • Heat oil over medium high heat in large saucepan or braiser. Add curry paste and sauté for 1 minute.
  • Add sliced chicken and cook just until chicken is no longer pink. Add ginger and garlic and sauté 30 seconds.
  • Add 1 ½ cans coconut milk. Whisk cornstarch into remaining ½ can coconut milk then add to skillet. Stir in sugar, fish sauce, lime juice, bay leaf, and thyme.
  • Simmer for 5 minutes then add red bell peppers and basil and simmer 2-3 minutes or until peppers are crisp tender. Discard bay leaf.
  • Adjust to taste: Sweeten it up with additional brown sugar, add tang with additional lime juice, spice it up with additional Asian chili paste, add salt/more umami with additional fish sauce or salt. You may also add additional curry paste for more overall flavor and heat.
  • Garnish with additional optional fresh basil, cilantro and chili sauce to taste. Serve with rice.



  • *2 tablespoons is medium-spicy – about a 4 spice level on the Thai 1-10 restaurant scale if using Mae Ploy brand.  I have found Mae Ploy to be a little spicier than other brands so it is possible that 2 tablespoons other brands might just be medium heat, and you may need to add more to taste at the end. (I used 3 TBS, that is why my curry is darker.)
  • Chicken is much easier to slice if partially frozen. It will thaw quickly once sliced.
  • You can slice your chicken and red bell peppers in advance for even quicker meal meal prep.
  • I recommend one red bell for sweet crunch, then you can swap in other vegetables such as snap peas, bamboo shoots, zucchini, carrots, etc. 

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Carlsbad Cravings© Original

Same great recipe from 1-1-2018, photos updated!

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  1. Diane Haines says

    Just finished eating this for dinner, and the flavor is wonderful, although mine didn’t look like yours. Yours looks thicker than mine, and mine was like a thin soup. I did add the 1 T. of cornstarch, and measured everything meticulously, so I’m not sure why it’s like a thin soup. I put it over rice, and really enjoyed the interesting flavors. Thank you for a great recipe and for the suggestion of using the Mae Ploy Panang Curry.

    • Jen says

      Thanks, Diane! I’m not sure why it was thin, but I am so glad you enjoyed it regardless! I hope it turns out even better next time!

  2. April says

    This was so yummy!! Thank you for all your hard work and sharing. It’s so nice not to have to go out for food like this. You made it very easy 😉

    • Jen says

      You are so welcome, April! I am thrilled you enjoyed this recipe! Thank you so much- comments like yours make my day!

  3. Monika says

    I love this recipe! It’s become a go to for me.

    • Jen says

      Thank you Monika! I’m thrilled it’s been a repeat for you!

  4. Missy says

    I make this on a regular basis in my house & it is delicious, it’s better than what I get at my favorite Thai restaurant! Thank you for sharing. I was thinking would it be ok to use rotisserie chicken instead?

    • Jen says

      I love hearing that! I think that it should work just fine! Shredding the chicken might help it soak up more flavor. Let me know how it goes if you try it!

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