Served with some simple steamed rice, this fragrant Thai Panang Curry with Prawns (Shrimp) is quick and easy but filled with all the flavours of an authentic Panang curry.

Love Asian flavours as much as me? Try these Salt and Pepper Prawns or this Lime Chilli Coconut Chicken.

Top down view of a black skillet filled with prawn curry and a bowl filled with rice.

Why you’ll love this

  • Quick and easy to make
  • A creamy, spicy sauce
  • Big juicy prawns / shrimp – or sub with other proteins.

You can serve this Panang curry with chicken too or even tofu to keep it vegetarian.

What is Panang curry

Panang curry has a thick sauce and is similar to a Thai red curry but with slightly more tang to it. It has a sweet and sour flavour to it and includes peanuts (or often peanut butter), unlike a red curry.

Your local Thai restaurant likely has Panang curry on the menu and that’s exactly where I first came across it. Complex but balanced, the sauce is creamy and a little spicy with notes of peanut and coconut.

Sauce being poured over prawns in a bowl with rice.

Panang curry paste

For this recipe, I keep things simple with a store-bought Panang curry paste. Most grocery stores should stock it in the international section, but you can (and I have) made panang curry using a red curry paste as well.

Panang curry is big on tangy ingredients like lemongrass, ginger, galangal, lime and citrus. Even with all that, it’s balance out by the creaminess off peanuts and coconut.

While making a curry paste from scratch is very satisfying but it does take a large array of ingredients, many of which are often not readily available so a store-bought paste makes life a lot easier, however, I find all store-bought curry pastes need a bit of oomph, so I always add a bit more onion and garlic at the very least.

Ingredients

Ingredients for prawn panang curry laid out on a marble benchtop.
  • Panang curry paste: if you’re in a real bind, you can use red curry paste and it will be a close substation. Add a little very finely chopped lemongrass to get a little more tang in the sauce.
  • Prawns / shrimp: I prefer to shell my own raw prawns as they have a much better texture than those that have been pre-shelled, then frozen for sale. You can swap these out for chicken, tofu or even beef.
  • Vegetables: My favourite veggies in this curry are beans, capsicum (bell pepper) and bean sprouts. Tinned bamboo shoots also work great and you can add other things like carrot too.
  • Fish sauce: Absolutely essential to Thai cooking, fish sauce has a pungent smell but that dissipates once it’s in your sauce. It not only adds salt but also umami.
  • Coconut milk and cream: The typical coconut flavour in a Thai Penang curry comes from the coconut milk and cream. Coconut cream is on the thicker side, perfect for this thicker style curry.
  • Palm sugar: This is the type of sugar used in Thai food. It comes in block form and you grate the amount you need. While it stores well, you can use brown sugar in it’s place if you don’t want to buy it especially just don’t pack the measure as brown sugar is far sweeter.
  • Peanuts: Raw peanuts would be used in an authentic Penang curry, but many use a natural peanut butter to simplify things. I prefer raw peanuts that I toast first for added nutty flavour.
  • Kaffir lime leaves: These fragrant leaves are quintessential in south-east Asian cooking and often come in packs where fresh herbs are kept in grocery stores or Asian stores. With a really unique flavour it’s best not to use a substitute but if you really can’t get them use a bruised lemon grass stalk or a few peelings from a lime.

How to make prawn Panang curry

Before you start:

Prep all your ingredients at the start as this moves quite quickly. If you’re serving rice with it, you’ll likely want to get that started first. Toast the peanuts in a dry pan over medium heat until they start turning golden.

A collage of 4 images showing Panang prawn curry cooking in a skillet.
  1. First you’ll grind the peanuts to crumbs, then add onion, curry paste and spices and blend it together.
  2. Heat a pan with some oil, then add the curry paste mixture. Fry that stirring often until fragrant then pour in combined coconut milk and cream (photo 1). Bring it to a boil and allow it to thicken for a couple of minutes.  
  3. Add the beans and capsicum (photo 2) and cook for a couple of minutes.
  4. Now add the prawns (photo 3) and again, cook 2-3 minutes until starting to turn opaque.
  5. Add the remaining ingredients (photo 4) cooking another few minutes before it’s done.
  6. Have a last taste test to make sure the balance is right – a little more fish sauce for saltiness, sweetness if it’s too savoury or lime juice if it needs a bit of zing.
  7. Remove the kaffir lime leaves before serving.

If you’re using chicken, add it when the vegetables go in.

A black skillet filled with prawn curry and a dish of rice in the background.

Tips and tricks

  • Shell the prawns yourself: I know it’s not for everyone but I promise, prawns / shrimp with their shells on when you buy them will always have a much better texture than those already shelled. As most are frozen before they’re sold, the shells protect that delicate meat when freezing. Shell them ahead of time, to save time when cooking this dinner.
  • Serve it with: Plain steamed rice works best but add some wedges of lime and a sprinkle of fresh herbs like coriander (cilantro) or Thai basil. Some whole toasted peanuts are also great for some crunch.
  • Full fat coconut milk and cream: Full fat will give the best flavour and thicken up nicely.
  • Kaffir lime leaves: Give these a scrunch before you add them in as it will release their fragrant oils. Any leftover kaffir lime leaves will keep in the freezer well, so no need to throw away the ones you don’t use.

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A bowl with rice and prawn curry with a bowl of rice in the background.

I present to you Thai Panang Curry with Prawns. It’s great served with a 3 ingredient flatbread to mop up all that juice too. Now ‘curry-up’ and give it a try (aaah, yep that just happened). Enjoy!

If you try this prawn Panang curry recipe, make sure to come back and leave a rating and comment below. I love hearing from you.

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A black skillet filled with prawn curry.

Thai Panang Curry with Prawns (Shrimp)

4.75 from 4 votes
Want a simple curry that is rich and tasty? This Thai Panang Curry with prawns (shrimp) is just what you need. Loaded with flavour and on the table in less than 30 minutes these Thai curried prawns will become a favourite.

Ingredients

  • cup unsalted peanuts
  • cup Panang Curry paste
  • 1 small red onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp ground white pepper
  • 1 ½ tablespoons peanut or coconut oil (notes 1)
  • 1 ½ cups coconut milk (375ml) (notes 3)
  • 1 cup coconut cream (250ml) (notes 3)
  • 1 medium red capsicum (bell pepper), sliced
  • 1 cup green beans, trimmed, fresh or frozen
  • 1.2 kg raw prawns, shell on (or 600g prawn meat) (2.5lb shell on / 1.3lb shelled) (notes 2)
  • 1 tablespoon grated palm sugar (notes 1)
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce (notes 1)
  • 4-5 kaffir lime leaves, scrunched (notes 4)
  • 1 handful of bean sprouts
  • steamed rice, sliced red chilli and wedges of lime, to serve
  • Fresh coriander (cilantro) or Thai basil, to serve

Instructions
 

  • Toast the peanuts in a dry pan over medium heat, stirring often until turning golden.
  • Grind the peanuts to crumbs in a blender or spice grinder. Add the curry paste, onion, pepper and coriander and 1 tablespoon of water and blend to combine.
  • Heat the oil in a large pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Cook stirring often for 2 minutes until fragrant.
  • Add the combined coconut milk and cream. Stir to combine, then bring to a boil for a couple of minutes until slightly thickened,
  • Add the beans and capsicum and bring back to a simmer. Cook for 1 minute.
  • Add the prawns and cook for 2-3 minutes until starting to curl up and turn white.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients – palm sugar, fish sauce, kaffir lime leaves and bean sprouts. Stir and cook for a further 1-2 minutes until the prawns are fully cooked.
  • Add a little water if you want to thin out the sauce, then taste for seasoning. Add a dash of fish sauce for saltiness, little more palm sugar for sweetness or a squeeze of lime for zing.
  • Remove the kaffir lime leaves then serve immediately over rice. Add lime wedges, sliced chilli and herbs.

Notes

  1. I use an Australian standard 20ml tablespoon (= 4 teaspoons worldwide).
  2. Shell the prawns yourself: I know it’s not for everyone but I promise, prawns / shrimp with their shells on when you buy them will always have a much better texture than those already shelled. As most are frozen before they’re sold, the shells protect that delicate meat when freezing.
  3. Full fat coconut milk and cream: Full fat will give the best flavour and thicken up nicely.
  4. Kaffir lime leaves: Give these a scrunch before you add them in as it will release their fragrant oils. Any leftover kaffir lime leaves will keep in the freezer well, so no need to throw away the ones you don’t use.
  5. Serve it with: Plain steamed rice works best but add some wedges of lime and a sprinkle of fresh herbs like coriander (cilantro) or Thai basil. Some whole toasted peanuts are also great for some crunch.
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