Veggies and tofu simmer in a dreamy 5-ingredient sauce in this easy vegan, gluten-free coconut curry recipe. Served warm with rice, Thai coconut curry is a light comfort food for any time of year.
This healthy recipe is perfect for making ahead or meal prepping. I like to slice/mince/dice my ingredients on Sunday so it’s easy to get started cooking dinner later in the week.
Thai coconut curry is also super versatile for whatever vegetables you have on hand (or, in my case, whatever veggies need to be used up at the end of the week!). I’ll consider this my new go-to Friday night meal.
If you’re doing meal prep, the simple curry base is easy to build on with different herbs, sauces, or toppings so that you won’t get bored with the same meal everyday. See my serving suggestions further down below!
Curry Paste <3 Coconut Milk
As is common in Thai green curry dishes, we’re combining curry paste with coconut milk to build the base of a light, tastey sauce. Brown sugar, lime juice, and tamari round out the flavor.
Coconut milk helps create a thicker, creamy sauce with a good consistency for pairing with rice, tofu, and veggies.
Curry paste is a very concentrated flavor, so rather than simmering for hours to build flavor like you sometimes need to do for soups or chili, you’ll get a complex, delicious curry sauce in just the few minutes it takes to cook vegetables.
Red versus green curry pastes have slightly different flavors, but can often be interchangeable depending on the level of heat you prefer. Although Americans are accustomed to associating red with spicy, in traditional southern Thailand cuisine, it’s the green curry paste that’s the spiciest.
Yellow and red curry pastes are more mid. They tend to get their color from the type of chilies used. Bird’s eye chilies provide the heat in green curry paste. Feel free to substitute red for green curry paste in this recipe.
Curry Paste vs. Curry Powder
Curry paste and curry powder share some universal spices, but it is not recommended to interchange them because they have separate flavor profiles and are used at different stages of cooking. Curry paste is used in Thai dishes, often combined with coconut milk. By contrast, curry powder is a Western name for a blend of spices used in Indian dishes. Used as the foundation of a dish, curry paste is added at the beginning of cooking, while curry powder is used like a spice to season when cooking is already underway.
Another key difference is turmeric, which is the primary ingredient in curry powder, but absent in red and green curry pastes. Curry powder is a mix of turmeric and other dried spices like red pepper, chilies, and coriander. Curry paste uses fresh ingredients like lemongrass, garlic, and chilies combined with oil to form a thick mixture.
I use Thai Kitchen curry paste from the Asian foods aisle of my grocery store. You can also buy curry paste on Amazon here. It comes in a small jar and stays good in the fridge for up to six months, so you can put this recipe into your weekly rotation, or find other uses for the curry paste!
How to fry tofu
The most important rule for fried tofu is don’t crowd the pan! None of your tofu cubes should touch each other. Otherwise, they will stick together and tear when you try to flip them half way through cooking.
Start by heating an empty pan on medium-high heat. After a couple minutes, add oil of your choice. I use grapeseed or vegetable oil most often because they can handle high temperatures. The amount of oil you need depends on the size of your pan. Add enough oil so that about 1/4 of a piece of tofu will be submerged. When the oil is hot enough for frying, it will start to shimmer.
Carefully add the tofu to the hot oil, taking care to not let the cubes touch each other. Fry in batches if your pan isn’t large enough. Fry for 4-5 minutes on each side. Use tongs or a spatula to flip.
See my Tofu Lettuce Cups recipe for another in depth explanation on how to prepare crispy tofu for frying by coating with cornstarch or arrowroot powder.
Serving Suggestions for Coconut Curry
- Topped with Thai basil and freshly squeezed lime juice
- Sprinkled with red pepper chili flakes, toasted coconut shreds, green onion slices, or black sesame seeds
- Drizzled with sriracha or a spicy aioli
- Served with other grains like brown rice, basmati, or quinoa
- Substitute broccoli and peppers with whatever veggies you have on hand
This Thai curry recipe keeps well for a few days in the refrigerator for leftovers. Enjoy!Print
- 1 cup uncooked long grain white rice (or other rice of your choosing)
- 1 14-ounce package extra firm organic tofu
- 5 tbsp grapeseed oil
- 2 tbsp coconut oil
- ½ large yellow onion, diced
- 1 pinch salt
- 2 tbsp minced garlic (about 4 cloves)
- 3 tsp ginger, minced
- 2 cups broccoli florets (about 2 small heads of broccoli)
- 1 bell pepper, sliced into ¼” strips
- 1 tbsp green curry paste*
- 1 14-oz can unsweetened coconut milk
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tbsp lime juice
- 2 tbsp tamari
- 4 tsp light brown sugar
- ½ cup snow peas, cut in half
- Drain the tofu and remove excess moisture by wrapping in several layers of paper towels, placing on a flat surface, and resting something heavy on top. Press like this for at least 15 minutes.
- In the meantime, cook rice according to package directions. When done, set aside.
- In a large pan, heat grapeseed oil on medium heat. Unwrap tofu from paper towels and slice into small cubes. Add cubes to pan and fry for about 5 minutes on each side.
- Remove tofu from pan and drain on a layer of paper towels. Empty oil from the pan and wipe clean.
- Heat coconut oil on low heat in the pan. Add onions and cook for about 8 minutes until translucent, stirring occasionally.
- Add the garlic, ginger, and curry paste. Stir for 30 seconds, then add broccoli and peppers. Increase heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes.
- Add coconut milk, water, lime juice, tamari, and sugar. Stir to combine. Simmer on low-medium heat for 5-8 mins.
- Add snow peas and tofu. Cook for 5 more minutes.
- Serve warm with rice.
You can substitute green with red curry paste, but don’t use curry powder
- Category: dinner
- Cuisine: Thai
Keywords: curry, Thai, coconut curry, curry paste, tofu, vegetables