This creamy, lightly sweet and spicy Coconut Curry recipe is inspired by the curries I ate during our trip to Thailand a few years ago. This version is made with easy-to-find ingredients, packed with rich Thai flavor, has a lovely creamy texture, AND is vegan too!
Why You’ll Love This Easy Curry Recipe
- Warm, Bold Flavors. Thai food is complex and aromatic, with sweet, spicy, and tangy notes from ingredients like chilis, citrus, garlic, and fish sauce or soy sauce. From Shrimp Pad Thai to Panang Curry, we LOVE it!
- Fast + One-Pot. This is a 30-minute meal and if you discount the rice, it’s also a one-pot meal. Meaning less time washing dishes and more time eating the best-ever coconut curry!
- Pantry Ingredients. The ingredients in this recipe are streamlined and easy to find, no matter where you live! Keep Thai red curry paste (which is widely available in grocery stores throughout the U.S.), a can of chickpeas, canned coconut milk, and a bag of frozen veggies on hand, and you can whip up this recipe (or Massaman Curry!) anytime.
- Saucy. The sauce is one of the best parts of curry. Creamy coconut milk tames the heat and makes curry sauces extra yummy over brown rice or sopped up with bread.
- Healthy. This vegetarian coconut curry is packed with vegetables, plant-based protein, and is even dairy free (so yes, it’s vegan!).
- Adaptable. No chickpeas on hand? Take a note from my Tofu Curry and swap cubed sautéed or Air Fryer Tofu. Swap the veggies here for whatever is in your crisper drawer.
5 Star Review
“I’ve made this a bunch of times and it’s now in my regular rotation. Really easy, delicious, healthy, and quick.”— Jen —
How to Make Coconut Curry
In Thailand, most of the coconut curries we tried were made with chicken (like this Thai Chicken Curry), but to keep this recipe extra super-duper speedy, I turned it into a Thai vegetable curry by using chickpeas instead.
- Chickpeas. The chickpeas’ mild flavor meshes well with the bolder spices in the easy curry sauce, and their pleasantly chewy texture is a nice contrast to the sauce’s creaminess
- Red Curry Paste. The star of the show that packs flavor and punch into every bite of this healthy vegetarian curry with chickpeas. Craving variety? Pick up green curry paste and use it for a Green Curry!
Note that every curry paste is a little different in terms of flavor and heat (some are SPICY others are more on the mild side.) Take some time to explore to find your favorite red curry paste.
- Coconut Milk and Coconut Sugar. Infuse this dish with coconut goodness and make it rich, creamy, and slightly sweet.
- Soy Sauce. For some good old-fashioned umami flavor.
- Rice Vinegar. Balances the dish and lends it some vital acidity.
- Vegetables. I used bell peppers, onions, carrots, and peas, all of which I found in my coconut curry bowls in Thailand at one point or another.
- Ginger + Garlic. An essential duo of dynamic spices that give this recipe some extra zip.
- Rice or Quinoa. For serving. Brown rice (I love to make brown rice in the Instant Pot) or cooked quinoa are my favorites to add some bulk and additional plant-based fiber to this recipe to make it more filling. You can also use white rice.
- Saute. I like to use coconut oil but canola oil or avocado oil work too.
- Add the Aromatics. Garlic, ginger, and the curry paste bloom with flavor over the heat.
- Add the Veggies. Feel free to play around with your vegetables of choice.
- Add the Coconut Milk and Chickpeas. Stir it all together.
- Simmer. In 10-15 minutes, your curry will thicken.
- Add the Finishing Ingredients. Soy sauce and rice vinegar, plus frozen peas if you like (they’ll thaw immediately).
- Serve. Over rice or quinoa, garnished with fresh cilantro, or borrow from Indian curries and dip with Homemade Naan. ENJOY!
- To Store. Keep leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.
- To Reheat. Warm in a skillet over medium heat until steaming. You can also microwave in a covered microwave-safe container until heated through.
- To Freeze. I do not recommend freezing, as I have not had the best luck freezing sauces with coconut milk bases.
Recommended Tools to Make Coconut Curry
- Dutch Oven. (This one is outstanding. This is another excellent, more economical option.)
- Instant Pot. I cook brown rice in my Instant Pot, and it’s perfect every time. (You can, of course, cook rice in a regular saucepan too!)
It’s comforting to know that while I might not be able to sneak back to Chiang Mai to bathe an elephant anytime soon, at least I can relive the experience via this easy vegan coconut curry recipe.
Recipe Tips and Tricks
- Use Your Favorite Veggies. Feel free to swap in different vegetables to suit your tastes and what’s in your fridge—cauliflower, broccoli, pea pods, bok choy, sweet potatoes, eggplant..it’s all fair game! Keep in mind the cooking times may need to adjust since some veggies will cook faster or longer than those selected for the original recipe.
- Invest in a Few Thai Ingredients. It truly is amazing how many more recipes you can make when you have fish sauce, a jar of red curry, and a can of coconut milk. See these Asian-inspired recipes for even more ideas and add them to your grocery cart!
- Taste, Taste, Taste. Don’t be afraid to adjust the sauce to suit your tastes as you go. Add additional soy sauce (for more saltiness), coconut sugar (for more sweetness), or red pepper flakes (for more heat). This recipe is versatile to suit different palettes.
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil or substitute extra-virgin olive oil or grapeseed oil
- 1 medium yellow onion thinly sliced
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger or in a pinch, 2–3 teaspoons ground ginger
- 3 tablespoons Thai red curry paste plus 2 teaspoons
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 6 small/medium carrots peeled and cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds (about 2 cups)
- 2 large red bell peppers cored and sliced
- 2 cans light coconut milk (14-ounce cans)
- 2-4 teaspoons coconut sugar brown sugar, or turbinado sugar
- 1 can reduced-sodium chickpeas (15 ounces), rinsed and drained
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce plus 2 teaspoons, or tamari to make the recipe gluten free
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 cup frozen peas
- Chopped fresh cilantro for serving
- Prepared brown rice or quinoa for serving
Heat a large pot such as a Dutch oven over medium. Once hot, add the coconut oil and onion. Sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, until slightly softened.
Add the garlic and ginger and let cook 30 seconds, then add the red curry paste and red pepper flakes. Stir to combine and let cook 1 additional minute. Add the carrots and bell pepper and stir to coat with the spices and curry.
Stir in the coconut milk, 2 teaspoons sugar, and chickpeas, then bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Then reduce the heat to low and continue cooking (uncovered) for 10 to 15 minutes, until slightly thickened and the vegetables are crisp-tender.
Stir in the soy sauce and rice vinegar. Taste and add additional soy sauce (for more saltiness), sugar (for more sweetness), or red pepper flakes (for more heat) as desired. Stir in the peas and let cook for 3 additional minutes. Serve warm over rice or quinoa, garnished with fresh cilantro.
- TO STORE: Keep leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.
- TO REHEAT: Warm in a skillet over medium heat until steaming. You can also microwave in a covered microwave-safe container until heated through.
- TO FREEZE: I do not recommend freezing, as I have not had the best luck freezing sauces that have a coconut milk base.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! For those with dietary restrictions, this vegan curry recipe can easily be made gluten free. You will need to swap the soy sauce for gluten-free tamari and also should check the labels of all other ingredients to ensure you select those that are gluten free and manufactured in a gluten-free certified facility.
While I don’t calculate my recipes’ exact sodium content for many reasons, curry recipes are generally not the best for those trying to watch their sodium. Both soy sauce and red curry paste tend to contain a lot of sodium. However, there *are* lots of homemade curry paste recipes out there that would help you control the sodium level as much as you’d like. Some brands offer lower-sodium varieties of these ingredients too.
While both Indian and Thai cuisine have curries that include coconut milk, this coconut curry recipe is more reminiscent of those you would find in Thailand or at Thai restaurants around the world.