I’m lucky enough to live in a city where there are several amazing vegan-friendly Thai restaurants; green curries, yellow curries, red curries, tom yum soup, pad see ew, pad Thai, and of course Thai iced tea with coconut milk. Amazing vegan Thai food is never more than a few blocks away.
Naturally, I’ve been inspired to start exploring Thai cooking at home lately, and I thought I’d share my recipe for a classic Thai curry: a coconut-based red curry with plenty of veggies and tofu. It’s super easy to make (like 25 minutes from start to finish) and the flavors are incredibly authentic.
Now, the biggest component of a Thai curry recipe is the curry paste, which gives the dish its distinctive flavor and color. Normally I would have you hunt down kaffir limes and lemongrass and have you grind out the paste yourself in a mortar and pestle… but not today. As I was searching through the grocery store for all these crazy ingredients with the intention of making my own paste, I found this stuff:
Surprisingly, it’s made with nothing a handful of real ingredients, it’s available pretty much everywhere, costs 3 bucks, and tastes almost as good as homemade curry paste. As much as I hate the principle of using pre-made foods in jars, this is a worthwhile exception… unless you actually enjoy spending 4 hours looking for kaffir limes, this Thai Kitchen curry paste is perfect.
Makes 3-4 servings
- 1 small yellow onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon grated ginger
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 cup sliced mushrooms
- 3 tablespoons red curry paste
- 12 oz light coconut milk
- 1-2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 12 oz extra firm tofu
- 1-2 thai chilis
- 1 lime (juice + zest)
- 8 basil leaves
- Brown basmati rice, for serving
Finely mince the onion, garlic, and fresh ginger. Add these to a large skillet over medium heat with a splash of water and allow to soften for about 5 minutes, until the onions turn slightly translucent.
Next, add in a sliced red bell pepper and sliced crimini mushrooms along with about 3 tablespoons of the infamous red curry paste and stir until the paste is evenly coating the veggies.
Meanwhile, you should probably start cooking some rice unless you already have leftovers.
Add in the coconut milk and soy sauce. A classic thai curry would have fish sauce, but since that isn’t quite going to cut it in our vegan version, soy sauce is an excellent substitute. Stir for a minute or two until the paste has dissolved into the liquid and everything is looking beautiful.
Cut the extra firm tofu into fairly large cubes and use a paper towel to squeeze out some excess water. Toss these into the pan along with the juice and zest of 1 lime and, if you’d like extra heat, 1-2 minced red thai* chilis.
* If the thai chili plant in your garden is languishing as badly as mine and doesn’t actually have any chilis yet, feel free to substitute Anaheim, jalapeño, or anything else you have on hand.
Finally, allow this to simmer uncovered for at least 15 minutes, until the curry reduces and becomes slightly thicker, then add in a few sliced fresh basil leaves and cook for just another minute or so. At this point, give it a taste and add some salt or more curry paste if needed. When it’s perfect, ladle over fresh brown rice and enjoy.