This authentic vegan Thai red curry recipe is quick and easy! I learned to make it in Thailand when I took a cooking class in Chiang Mai.
I was really surprised by how easy it is. Most of the work happens when prepping the veggies. Then it’s just a matter of stir frying the spices and cooking the soup and veggies. It really couldn’t be more simple. In fact, you’ll probably spend more time doing the dishes than you will making this vegan Thai red curry recipe. Trust me though, those dishes are well worth it!
Thai red curry was a staple for me during the months I spent in Thailand. If you haven’t visited South East Asia, you may not know that eating out is incredibly affordable. Since this was the case, outside of the cooking course I took I didn’t cook a single meal when I was in Thailand. So, I got to try this dish at a lot of different restaurants in Thailand.
The biggest difference I noticed between what I was slurping up there as the fact that the curry was about a billion times more fragrant and flavorful than what i was eating back home in the United States. That’s the reward fresh ingredients like kaffir lime leaves and galangal gives you.
The other thing I noticed is that the curry was much much more thin and soupy in Thailand. I was used to thick and creamy Thai red curry, but in Thailand I was served something more delicate. Still, it included coconut milk, but that ingredient took second place to the spices. This was kind of an eye opening realization. What I had been eating all along, wasn’t the real deal.
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Vegan Thai Red Curry
If you’re vegan and have visited Thailand you’ve likely had the pleasure of tasting vegan Thai Red Curry. You’ve also had the sorrow of leaving its bold and delicious flavors behind when you board the plane to return home.
Luckily vegan Thai Red Curry is incredibly fast and easy to make. Just a few ingredients and a few minutes are needed to create this dish. The first bite of this delicious dish will transport you back and conjure memories of your time in Thailand.
What is Thai Red Curry
Thai Red Curry is a succulent, soupy dish bursting with flavors and spices and served with veggies, protein, and rice.
The star, and ingredient which gives it its name, is red curry paste. This paste is an amalgamation of spicy red chili pepper, garlic, lemongrass, galangal, shallots, kaffir lime leaves, turmeric, and salt. It can include shrimp paste so be sure to double check before buying it or eating this dish (more on that below).
This paste is combined with fatty coconut milk that softens the spice blow, and gives the soup a superb mouthfeel. It is also usually cooked with Kaffir leaves, and topped with Thai basil, which turns up the flavor levels to the max!
Thai Red Curry also includes veggies which can range from carrot, zucchini, Japanese eggplant, sweet pepper, and bamboo shoots or baby coconut tree (if you happen to be able to get your hands on it). Throw in some tofu (stir fried, or puffed) and serve it with rice and you pretty much have the perfect lunch or dinner.
Why Traditional Thai Red Curry Isn’t Vegan
Thai red curry is a very versatile dish. No surprise then that it’s usually served with a meat like chicken, or seafood like shrimp, or scallops. It can even include some sort of meat based broth or fish sauce or shrimp paste. So, be careful when ordering this curry at a restaurant or when you’re in Thailand. Always, always, always ask if it contains any of the following: 1. bone or animal broth, 2. fish sauce, 3. shrimp paste, 4. meat or seafood.
So, how does vegan Thai red curry stack up to the “real” thing? Amazingly. Trust me…you won’t miss the meat. This dish is all about the spices and aromatics (mentioned above). So, subbing soy sauce for fish sauce, and mushroom or veggie broth for bone broth is not a problem at all. You’ll be just as pleased with the vegan version, and just as prone to craving it as the non-vegan version.
Learning from the Pros
When I was in Thailand I wanted to make sure I took the opportunity to learn to cook some traditional dishes. So, I took a vegan cooking class in Chiang Mai at a vegetarian restaurant called Taste of Heaven. Sadly, it’s now closed but I will forever have this memory to look back fondly on.
Taking this class was one of the best decisions I made while in Thailand. I saw, tasted, and learned about traditional Thai ingredients. I was shown fast and simple cooking methods, and I was able to spend time with two incredible locals who gave me insight about Thai cooking.
During that class I learned to make five different vegan versions of traditional Thai dishes. One of which was a vegan Thai Red Curry. The dish was fantastic and I’ve made it probably hundreds of times since taking that class.
Below is a slightly modified version of the dish I made in Chiang Mai Thailand. This recipe makes two servings. So, if you want to make it for your family, be sure to increase the ingredients accordingly.
Vegan Thai Red Curry Recipe
- 1 Tbsp Red Curry Paste Make sure your curry paste is vegan and doesn't contain shrimp/fish in the ingredients
- 1 Small Japanese Eggplant, cut in half and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 4 oz Baby coconut tree, cut into 1/2 inch squares You can substitute with sliced, canned bamboo shoots if coconut tree isn't available.
- 4 oz Firm tofu, cut into 1/2 inch squares
- 20 Sweet Thai Basil Leaves, washed and stems removed
- 10 Kaffir Lime Leaves, stems removed
- 1 Capsicum Pepper, cut in half and then 1/2 inch slices. You can substitute with a small red sweet chili or bell pepper.
- 5 fl oz Coconut Milk
- 13.5 fl oz Water
- 1 Tbsp Mushroom Powder You can substitute this with soy sauce if you don't have mushroom powder.
- 1/2 tsp Sugar
- 4 Tbsp Canola Oil
- 1/2 Mushroom or Veggie Bouillon Cube
- 1 Cup Cooked Rice
- Fry curry paste and mushroom bouillon in a wok in cooking oil over medium high heat for one minute.
- Add Coconut milk and mix until everything melts together.
- Once the mixture starts to boil add the eggplant, baby coconut tree, capsicum, tofu and kaffir lime leaves. Let boil about 3-5 minutes. If the mixture gets too dry add more coconut milk and water.
- Add mushroom powder or soy sauce and sugar and stir. Let cook for 30 seconds.
- Remove from the heat. Add sweet basil leaves, stir, and add to a bowl.
- Serve with rice.