Instant Pot Thai Curry
Published Feb 24, 2023
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Instant Pot Thai Curry is a hearty vegetarian curry with chickpeas and sweet potatoes in a spicy, creamy coconut broth. Cook pot-in-pot rice at the same time for a one-pot meal that comes together fast.
If you’ve been following this blog for some time, you know that every February we feature an entire month of Thai food here on the site. #ThaiFoodMonth is our favorite way to celebrate the cuisine that we fell in love with when we lived in Bangkok. And at the top of my favorite Thai meals is curry. I have spent a lot of time sharing my love of curry on the pages of this website, from my Guide to Thai Curries, to recipes for red curry, green curry, and the truly unique Massaman.
And as simple as it is to make Thai-style curry at home, it’s even easier to make it in the Instant Pot. Instant Pot Thai Curry has been a bit of a game-changer for me, and I hope it is for you too. Even better is that you can use the pot-in-pot method to cook rice at the same time. Instant Pot and done.
Let’s get cooking!
With the exception of our absolute favorite Thai Food restaurant here in Kansas City (looking at you Waldo Thai Place), Frank and I almost always prefer to make Thai food at home. We don’t often make dishes that require special ingredients or complicated cooking techniques. A basic curry, using store-bought curry paste, is about as easy as it gets and hits the sweet spot that many great Thai dishes do.
This Instant Pot Thai Curry is:
- Vegetarian (!)
- Easy to Customize
Here’s how to make this entire meal in the Instant Pot on 6 minutes high pressure.
What is Panang Curry?
Panang (sometimes spelled panaeng, phanaeng or phanang) Curry is a Thai curry with a creamy, coconut base. It is very similar to Thai red curry but has the addition of ground peanuts that make the curry sauce thicker, more mild, and a bit creamier. It is one of the most mild Thai curries since the peanuts mellow the spice and give it a natural sweetness.
This recipe uses a shortcut Panang Curry with that jar of peanut butter (instead of ground peanuts) sitting in your pantry stirred in at the end of cooking. It’s not totally authentic, but it’s easy, fast, and makes an incredibly delicious, not-to-spicy curry.
- Unsweetened Coconut Milk – Regular canned coconut milk (not light) will give the curry a rich, creamy base.
- Red Curry Paste – Thai curry pastes are becoming so common that you can find them in the international aisle of most grocery stores. American brands like “Thai Kitchen” are typically less spicy than Thai brands that you might find at the international / Asian grocery store. See the recipe notes for tips on adjusting the curry paste to fit with your spice preference. (Note for vegetarians: Be sure to check the ingredients if you don’t eat fish. Many curry pastes are made with shrimp / shrimp paste, so you may need to seek out a vegetarian-friendly version.)
- Soy Sauce, Brown Sugar, and Lime Juice -These give the curry the balance of savory, sweet, and sour that is so iconic in Thai curries. Add the soy sauce and brown sugar at the beginning of cooking, but stir lime juice in after cooking to help it retain its fresh flavor.
- Fresh Garlic and Ginger – These fresh aromatics build so much flavor in the curry.
- Chickpeas and Sweet Potatoes – These are the protein / vegetable base of this curry. If you want to make a meat-based version, substitute 1 1/2 lbs Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast (more on alternatives in this post).
- Creamy Peanut Butter – To give the Instant Pot Thai Panang Curry its distinctive peanut flavor, stir peanut butter into the finished curry. It’s easy, fast, and uses an ingredient you probably already have in your pantry. I prefer unsweetened “natural” peanut butter, but see the recipe notes for tips on using other peanut butter.
- Fish Sauce – If you are pescatarian or don’t adhere to a strict vegetarian diet, a little fish sauce stirred into the end of the curry makes this dish taste truly authentic. Once the fish sauce is stirred into the curry, it doesn’t taste particularly fishy, but has a rich, savory flavor.
How to Make Pot-in-Pot Rice
Perhaps the best part about making Thai curry in the Instant Pot is that you can cook the rice at the same time, right inside the Instant Pot. This technique has been a total game-changer for me. Check out this post on the Pot-in-Pot Method for the Instant Pot for more details on this handy method.
For Instant Pot Thai Panang Curry, just put rice and water in a bowl elevated above the curry. Use a 1:1 ratio of rice to water. When the dish is done cooking, set the rice aside, covered so it will continue to steam slightly until you’re ready to serve.
More Recipes that use Thai Red Curry Paste
- Thai Crispy Rice
- Thai Coconut Chicken Curry
- Thai Sweet Potato and Chickpea Curry
- Thai Chicken Meatballs in Coconut Curry
- Thai Curry Noodle Soup with Chicken
- 6-Quart Instant Pot Duo – This is the Instant Pot / pressure cooker I use to test all meals on this site. It easily makes enough to serve the 5 members of our family (usually without leftovers). Though this recipe was not tested in the larger 8-Quart Instant Pot, it should work in that version.
- Instant Pot Rack – This 2.3-inch rack is just the right height to hold a bowl above the other ingredients to cook using pot-in-pot method described in this recipe.
- Instant Pot Bowl (for pot-in-pot method) – I test all of my recipes using a 7-Cup Round Pyrex Dish. This will fit in the 6-Quart Instant Pot.
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Instant Pot Thai Curry Recipe
- 6-quart Instant Pot / pressure cooker
- Pressure cooker-safe metal trivet and bowl
- 1 14 ounce can unsweetened regular coconut milk (not light)
- 3 Tablespoons Thai red curry paste (see note)
- 2 Tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
- 2 14 ounce cans chickpeas / garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed (I prefer Bush’s or Goya brand)
- 12 ounces sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 1 1/2 cups long grain rice (Jasmine or Basmati rice work really well with this method)
- 1 1/2 cups water
To Finish the Panang Curry
- 1 1/2 Tablespoon creamy peanut butter (see note)
- 2 teaspoons fish sauce (sub soy sauce for a vegetarian, non-fish version)
- 2 teaspoons lime juice
- 1/4 cup roasted peanuts (optional)
- chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
- In the bowl of the Instant Pot, combine all of the ingredients for Panang Curry – unsweetened coconut milk, curry paste, soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, chickpeas, and sweet potatoes. (Note: If you don't want to add the pot-in-pot rice, skip ahead to Step #5.)
- Top the curry with a 2” rack then with a 7-cup glass bowl. (Be sure that both the rack and bowl are approved for use in the Instant Pot.)
- Rinse the rice well.
- Fill the bowl with rice and 1 ½ cups water.
- Close and lock the lid.
- Set the steam valve to Sealing.
- Cook on manual / high pressure for 6 minutes.
- When done cooking, leave the machine on Warming (most machines automatically revert to this after cooking). Allow pressure to release naturally for 10 minutes. (Tip: I like to set a kitchen timer so that I don’t get distracted and forget.)
- Manually release any remaining pressure.
- Carefully remove the bowl of rice and rack and set aside, covered, to keep warm.
- To the curry, stir in peanut butter, fish sauce, and lime juice. (Note: Stir gently – the sweet potatoes will be very tender.)
- Taste sauce. If you’d like it to be spicier, stir in some more curry paste or some hot sauce.
- Serve curry over rice. Top with roasted peanuts and cilantro.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.