Skip to Content

Panang Curry Vs. Red Curry: Are They Any Different?

Sharing is caring!

So it is finally the weekend and – as every foodie likes to do – you decide to make some soul-warming Thai food such as a curry. What you need to do now is decide which one it’s going to be. The battle of the Asian giants begins: panang curry vs. red curry.

Each makes for a great choice since they are ideal for freezing leftovers and enjoying throughout the week. That is, if there are any leftovers since this delicious food will vanish from your plate in seconds.

The only thing left to do is to decide which curry you should make: red or panang curry. It is worth your while to think about this thoroughly so let’s start your thought process.

I will give you their 5 main differences, so continue reading to see what they are.

Panang Curry Vs. Red Curry: 5 Main Differences To Know

Panang Curry and Red Curry

1. Color Difference

If you are a person that pays attention to how your food looks, this difference will matter. Color is actually the first and most obvious difference that no one will fail to notice.

Every curry gets its color from the kind of pepper, spices, and additional ingredients that are being used when cooking it. This is the reason why there are many Thai and Indian curries literally named for their color like Indian red curry, Thai green curry, yellow curry and others.

Just as the name states, red curry tends to have a strong red color, while that does not have to be the case with panang curry.

Red curry gets that vibrant color from the red chili peppers which are an irreplaceable ingredient when making it. Red chili powder and red curry paste help to enhance this color.

Panang curry is considered as a kind of red curry while keeping its originality with a few important differences. Panang curry can have a milder color which also signals a different taste.

This difference in color comes from coconut milk or coconut cream which gives it a variation of red color such as light red, pink, or even orangish.

2. Different Main Ingredients

An additional difference is found in individual ingredients that are being used to make this appetizing Thai dish. Both curries have a base called curry paste. However, that curry paste is different for each of the curries.

Red curry paste contains ingredients such as coriander, turmeric, cumin, olive oil, garlic, diced shallots, red chili pepper, black pepper (or cracked black pepper in some cases), ginger, and lemongrass.

There is also a meat of your choice (chicken does the job), fish sauce, coconut milk, and shrimp paste, with optional veggies.

At the end, add a bunch of coriander leaves and enjoy your curry with cooked jasmine rice topped with some lime juice.

Panang curry paste consists of galangal, kaffir lime leaves, ginger, garlic, shallots, onion, rosemary or its substitutes, lemongrass, cumin seeds, coriander root, and coriander seeds.

The main difference is in adding peanuts in any form, ranging from crushed peanuts to a creamier ingredient such as a peanut butter. The most important difference is made with peanut butter or crushed peanuts and coconut cream.

Another distinctive part of this milder version of a Thai dish are red bell peppers which are not a part of red curry. Bell peppers add a different texture. Along with peanut butter, they are responsible for the sweetness of the panang curry.

If panang curry isn’t mild enough for your taste, try making massaman curry since it has similar ingredients (it includes ground peanuts) but it is a very mild form of red curry. Massaman curry originates from Malaysia and includes the following ingredients: makrut lime, cilantro, yellow curry paste or green curry paste (whichever you have on hand), Thai basil leaves, green chili, red curry powder, and soy sauce.

3. Different Preparation Method

Panang Curry and Red Curry on table

This is another difference worthy of your consideration when analyzing differences of these two stars of Thai cuisine. Though it may not be as obvious as their color and ingredients, the way in which you make your curry plays a role in differentiating the two.

Since the recipes for Thai red curry and panang curry can include different forms of meat, the time for cooking each curry will be different.

Red curry is commonly made with chicken so the preparation time will be shorter. If you decide to choose red meat, bite–sized beef steak will work great.

On the other hand, sirloin or sliced strip steak is a common meat option to add into your panang curry before you cook it along with other ingredients.

You can choose different kinds of meat for both of the curries depending on your personal dietary and taste preference.

Worthy of mention is also that panang curry will contain peanut butter so this curry will be a bit more demanding to prepare because it will require more of your attention. Make sure not to leave it on the stove for too long since peanut butter may stick to the dish.

4. Taste Difference

Well, you cannot skip this variance. When it comes to taste, red curry tends to be very hot and spicy due to the red chili peppers added into the mix. Capsaicin is a common component of this type of pepper and is known to make you feel like your mouth is on fire.

Capsaicin also has some interesting health benefits.

If you are not used to piquant sensations on your taste buds, perhaps you will want to skip this type of curry.

On the contrary, panang curry has a milder taste and is less spicy since the peanut butter adds a sweet nutty flavor to the overall dish.

Also, it doesn’t include red chili peppers which are replaced with red bell peppers. Bell peppers give a bit of a sweet aroma and make panang curry less spicy.

The taste emphasis in this type of curry is made on the savory but sweet flavor of coconut milk with an aromatic touch coming from galangal and kaffir lime leaves.

5.Different Texture

There is another thing to consider when choosing between the two curry dishes: that is the texture. So, let’s take a closer look at these delicious dishes and their texture.

Coconut cream is used more frequently than coconut milk when making panang curry. The coconut cream gives it a more powerful, thick texture which you will enjoy on top of your rice.

Panang curry owes its amazing texture to the peanuts which are added into every panang curry dish. The addition of peanuts is an important game changer here since it adds crunchiness to the texture. The crunchy peanuts or peanut butter change the consistency of the dish by making the sauce heavier and more substantial.

Red curry has a smoother texture that reminds me of a thin liquid sauce. Since coconut milk is used more than cream, it is not as heavy as its cousin dish. In comparison with panang curry, this sauce will soak into the rice and go through the grains more smoothly when served.

If you like creamy food, opt for panang curry and if you prefer to eat a soupy dish, red curry will suit your taste.

How Can I Eat Panang Curry And Red Curry?

You can eat panang curry and red curry with rice or with bread. Most Thai restaurants serve these dishes with rice.

The best rice to soak up the awesomeness of a curry sauce can be jasmine rice, basmati, or the usual long-grain white rice.

After the rice is cooked, it is often quickly fried in a pan with butter and then served on a large plate. Then, the curry is spread all across the rice whether you opted for panang curry or red curry. When it comes to utensils you can choose between using a spoon or a fork.

Another way of eating these two types of curry is with slices of bread. In this case, pieces or slices of bread are toasted beforehand and then served along with the curry on the same plate.

Then the slices are dipped into the curry sauce. Since you will be dipping the bread, make sure to not leave it in the curry sauce for too long. Otherwise, the bread can become soggy and you will need to use a spoon to fetch it. Usually, eating curry with bread requires a few messy bites while scooping up the curry sauce but many say it’s worth the effort.

What To Choose? Panang Curry Or Red Curry?

Panang Curry and Red Curry side by side

Do you prefer a bold savory bite with a challenging spiciness to your taste buds? If you do, feel free to choose the red curry since its unique taste will leave you feeling the boost of the red chili pepper.

If staying on the safe side and enjoying a mellow and warm-hearted meal sounds better in the moment, panang curry is the choice to make.

Both curry recipes are easy to make if you have the right ingredients ready and prepared. Panang curry and red curry are similarly made, but these five main differences are what sets them apart.

You are ready to make a decision now when you’re aware of 5 main differences between these two types of Thai curry.

To Sum Up

If you made up your mind when thinking about the panang curry vs. red curry battle, it’s time to do the work and make it. No matter which Thai curry you choose to make, rest assured you will not regret it.

Each of them will make your weekend lunch or dinner feel like a fine dining experience at the nicest restaurant in Thailand.

Just now, when the battle of these two Thai dishes is over, it’s time to enjoy the fruits of it.