Chicken Panang
Chicken Panang
5 from 1 vote
Craving a tantalizing trip to Thailand right in your own kitchen? Chicken Panang brings the lush aromas and rich flavours of Thai cuisine to your table. This scrumptious curry is a heavenly blend of spicy, sweet, and creamy—enough to make your tastebuds sing.
Chicken Panang

So, we meet again, curry aficionados and aspiring chefs! Let me introduce you to Chicken Panang, a recipe that takes you on a culinary journey straight to Thailand.  

Thailand, the land of smiles, golden temples, and… spices, so many spices! Panang curry stands out as a culinary gem in Thai cuisine, a sophisticated sibling in the family of red, green, and yellow curries. 

Making Chicken Panang is akin to painting a masterpiece with your tastebuds. Now, don’t be alarmed; it’s not a Rubik’s cube. We’re talking moderate difficulty here, alright?  

If you’ve dabbled in the kitchen a bit, you’ll handle this dish like a pro. With the right ingredients and a pinch of patience, voila, you’ll be serving up a feast. 

Variety is the spice of life, and Chicken Panang offers a lovely canvas for improvisation. If you’re feeling adventurous, play around with protein; think shrimp or tofu. Ooh la la! Even a simple switch of veggies can create a different sensory experience. Think of this recipe as your culinary playground. 

Ah, the Panang curry paste, the heart and soul of the dish. Handmade beats store-bought any day. We’re grinding shallots, garlic, lemongrass, and red chillies into a fragrant paste.  

That’s right, we’re going old school with mortar and pestle; it’s not just a decorative item you know. Though, I must admit, your food processor will do the trick too, if you’re pressed for time. 

For the Chicken Panang, it’s all about that succulent chicken thigh meat absorbing the luscious blend of coconut milk and curry paste. Poultry is more than just a protein here; it’s a sponge for flavour. Imagine chicken pieces doing the backstroke in a creamy, aromatic pool of coconut milk. Need I say more? 

What’s a curry without the veggies? Dull, that’s what it is. But not in our Chicken Panang. The red bell pepper adds a pop of colour and a slight sweetness, while the green beans bring in the crunch. Ah, and the garnish—fresh basil leaves—that’s the crown, my friends, the finishing touch. 

In a nutshell, Chicken Panang is a confluence of ingredients that tell a tale of texture, flavour, and culture. A dish not just for special occasions but to make any occasion special. Ready to add this culinary masterpiece to your repertoire? Let’s get cooking! 

What Ingredients to Use & Why 

Alright, let’s talk ingredients, shall we? Because let’s face it, it’s the ingredients that make or break a dish. 

In Chicken Panang, each ingredient has a specific role to play, a unique contribution to the overall flavour and texture. So, as we dive into this tantalizing Thai masterpiece, understanding the ‘why’ behind each ingredient will elevate your culinary game. 

Shallots: Shallots bring in the right balance of sweetness and acidity to our Panang curry paste. The subtle oniony flavour makes a divine base without overpowering the dish. Alternative? Go for red onions, but keep in mind, they have a stronger flavour profile. 

Garlic: Ah, the aromatic superstar. Garlic adds a savoury punch to the curry paste. It’s like the bass guitar in a rock band—may not be the face of the band but certainly holds the music together. No garlic? Try garlic powder as a quick fix, though it’s not quite the same. 

Lemongrass: This is where the citrusy and floral notes come from. Lemongrass adds a unique touch to our Panang curry paste. You could substitute it with lemon zest, but honestly, there’s no real replacement for the true flavour of lemongrass. 

Red Chili: Bring on the heat! Red chillies spice up the paste and bring that quintessential Thai kick. Not a fan of hot stuff? Opt for a milder chilli or even bell pepper for colour and mildness. 

Ground Coriander and Cumin: The dynamic duo that adds depth and complexity. Coriander brings in a citrus-like flavour, while cumin adds warmth. If you’re out of either, a garam masala blend could be a last-minute save. 

Shrimp Paste (optional): This little ingredient adds a briny punch, imbuing the dish with an authentic Thai flavour. It’s optional because some might find it too potent. No shrimp paste? Fish sauce can step in, but tread lightly. 

Boneless Chicken Thighs: The star of the show, soaking up all the beautiful flavours. Chicken thighs are tender and moist, making them perfect for this dish. Prefer white meat? The chicken breast will do, but may not be as juicy. 

Vegetable Oil: Your standard medium for cooking, making sure everything melds well. Coconut oil could add an extra layer of flavour if you’re into that. 

Coconut Milk: The luxuriousness of this dish comes from the creamy coconut milk. It mellows the heat and spices, resulting in a balanced, rich curry. Light coconut milk is an option if you’re calorie-conscious. 

Fish Sauce: Umami in liquid form. Fish sauce adds a savoury depth that complements the creamy coconut milk. Soy sauce can be an alternative, especially for vegetarians. 

Brown Sugar: Just a hint of sweetness to balance out the heat and salt. If you’re out of brown sugar, palm sugar is a worthy alternative. 

Red Bell Pepper and Green Beans: These add a splash of colour and a crunch, offering a contrast to the creamy, spiced chicken. Feel free to get creative here; baby corn or carrots would also work wonders. 

Fresh Basil Leaves: Last but not least, fresh basil leaves are the crowning glory. Their peppery, slightly sweet flavour provides a burst of freshness and elevates the dish. No basil? Try mint for a different twist. 

And there we have it, folks! A deep dive into the ensemble cast that creates the masterpiece called Chicken Panang.  

These ingredients come together in a harmonious blend, each adding its own special touch, just like an orchestra. Now that you’re armed with this knowledge, let’s turn you into a maestro in your own kitchen! 

How to Make the Perfect Panang Curry Paste from Scratch 

Let’s break it down—making your own Panang curry paste is like capturing the essence of Thai cuisine in a jar. Seriously, it’s that transformative. And before you toss this idea into the “too complicated” bin, hear me out. This endeavour is easier than you think and oh-so rewarding! 

Begin with sourcing the right ingredients. A jaunt to your local Asian grocery store should do the trick. Shallots, garlic, red chilli, and lemongrass should be on your list.  

Yes, you can snag a ready-made paste from the shelves, but where’s the adventure in that? Plus, once you go homemade, you never go back. 

Mortar and pestle or a food processor—choose your weapon. A mortar and pestle allows you to quite literally grind love into the paste. The hard work pays off as you achieve a texture and flavour that’s hard to mimic. But if you’re strapped for time, a food processor gets the job done in a jiffy. 

Now, let’s talk spice levels. Your red chilli is the proverbial litmus test. Want it spicy? Keep the seeds. Prefer it milder? Remove those firecrackers. At the end of the day, your Panang curry paste should reflect your own palate. 

Finally, storage. You can store the paste in an airtight jar for about two weeks in the fridge.  

But let me tell you a secret: it also freezes beautifully. So go ahead, make a large batch and freeze it in portions. Trust me, future you will send thankful vibes when whipping up Chicken Panang becomes just a matter of thaw and cooking. 

Coconut Milk in Chicken Panang: Why It’s Non-Negotiable 

Friends, if there were an Oscar for the best supporting role in Chicken Panang, it would go to coconut milk. You heard it right! This isn’t just any milk; it’s the golden elixir that turns your Chicken Panang from ho-hum to oh-yum. 

Coconut milk lends itself beautifully to this dish, providing that lush, velvety texture. It embraces the spicy and salty elements, offering them a creamy counterbalance. It’s like a mother hugging a rowdy child, calming yet allowing the spirit to shine. 

Let’s get science-y for a second. Coconut milk contains lauric acid, a fatty acid that lends a naturally sweet and rich profile to dishes. It’s this sweetness that makes it an irreplaceable component in Chicken Panang. 

But what if you’re calorie counting? Light coconut milk is an option, but fair warning: you’re trading off some of that creaminess. It’s like choosing skim milk over whole; it works, but it’s not quite the same. 

Another substitute often touted is cow’s milk. But let’s get real. Cow’s milk, or even almond or soy milk, lacks the full-bodied richness that coconut milk brings.  

If Chicken Panang were a Broadway musical, coconut milk would be that unforgettable showstopper number that you can’t get out of your head. So, while you might consider skipping it, I’d say that would be tantamount to culinary heresy. 

The Art of Balancing Flavours in Chicken Panang 

Ever heard the saying, “Cooking is an art but baking is a science”? Well, in the case of Chicken Panang, I dare say it’s a bit of both. The magic lies in balancing a symphony of flavours—spicy, sweet, salty, and umami, each hitting your taste buds in perfect harmony. 

The spicy kick from red chilli, sweet notes from brown sugar, a salty tang from fish sauce, and the depth of umami from shrimp paste and chicken. This dish is like that fascinating dinner guest you can’t help but be enthralled by, keeping you on your toes, and making you guess what’s coming next. 

So how do you achieve this balance? It starts with an intimate knowledge of each ingredient. Knowing which elements bring what to the table is crucial. For example, the brown sugar isn’t just a sweetener; it’s a flavour equalizer. It tames the spicy and enhances the salty. 

Fish sauce, on the other hand, adds that irreplaceable briny saltiness that turns this dish unmistakably Thai. It’s the olfactory trip to the streets of Bangkok without ever leaving your kitchen. 

Lastly, don’t forget the umami. This fifth taste sensation, often overlooked, is what gives Chicken Panang its rounded, satisfying fullness.  

Whether it’s the optional shrimp paste in your Panang curry paste or the chicken itself, these ingredients layer the dish with a complexity that’s as intriguing as it is delicious. 

Why Fresh Basil Leaves are the Unsung Heroes of Chicken Panang 

Let’s talk about the underdog of the Chicken Panang saga—the humble basil leaf. You’ve sweated over the stove, followed every instruction to the letter, and even whispered sweet nothings to your chicken as it simmered in the Panang curry.  

Now, you’re ready to garnish and serve, but wait—don’t forget the basil leaves! These green beauties aren’t just for show, you know. Basil leaves add an irreplaceable aromatic finish that’s like the cherry on top of a sundae.  

The moment those leaves hit the hot curry, they release oils that infuse your dish with a perfume that’s both subtle and captivating. 

But it’s not just any basil we’re talking about here. Thai basil is the star of this dish, with its liquorice-like notes that mesh so well with the rest of the ingredients. If you can’t find Thai basil, your next best bet is sweet basil.  

The flavour profile won’t be quite the same but trust me, it’s better than leaving it out altogether. 

This leafy addition is more than just a garnish; it’s a final flourish, an olfactory high note that rounds out the flavour symphony of Chicken Panang. If this dish were a book, basil would be the twist ending you never saw coming but couldn’t imagine the story without. 

The Versatility of Chicken Thighs in Chicken Panang 

It’s not all about breasts, my friends! Oh no, when it comes to Chicken Panang, chicken thighs truly shine like the unsung heroes they are. These tender, juicy pieces of poultry aren’t just a mere addition to the dish; they are the backbone. Why you may ask? Well, let’s dive in. 

Chicken thighs are undeniably richer in flavour compared to their breast counterparts. This richness comes from the fat that’s interlaced with the meat.  

This, my dears, is what stands up so well to the complex and spicy nature of Panang curry. It’s like they’re made for each other, like wine and cheese, or me and a bottle of Rosé on a Friday night. 

What’s that? Are you into clean eating? Well, while you can absolutely substitute chicken breasts, you’ll be sacrificing a bit of that juicy, flavourful oomph. On the flip side, if you’re feeling adventurous, you might consider duck meat as a delightful alternative. A little gamey, but oh-so luscious. 

And let’s not forget how forgiving chicken thighs are when it comes to cooking time.  

Overcooked chicken breasts, and you’ve got a meal fit for your dog. Overcooked chicken thighs, however, and you still have something tender and delectable. It’s the ingredient that keeps on giving, even when you’re not at your culinary best. 

Demystifying the Role of Shallots and Garlic in Chicken Panang 

In the realm of aromatic duos, shallots and garlic are like the Batman and Robin of Chicken Panang.  

Yes, the spices and protein get all the glory, but these two unassuming ingredients are the backbone of the dish, imparting layers of nuanced flavours that make you say, “Mmm, what is that?” every time you take a bite. 

Let’s start with shallots. These little bulbs are a bit sweeter and less harsh than onions but do a similar job of building a solid foundation for the other flavours to dance upon.  

It’s like setting a stage, only much tastier. When sautéed and integrated into the Panang curry paste, they release sugars and absorb surrounding flavours like a culinary sponge. 

Garlic, our favourite pungent friend, is far from a wallflower in this dance of flavours. Garlic brings a kind of earthy, spicy tang to the Panang curry. It gives the dish a depth that would be sorely missed otherwise. 

Together, shallots and garlic become more than the sum of their parts. They are the melody to the symphony, the thread that ties together the multitude of elements in Chicken Panang. 

If you’re looking to experiment, you could swap shallots with red onions or white onions, although you’ll get a different flavour profile. As for garlic, well, there really is no substitute. You can play around with the amount, but remove it altogether, and you’ve got a dish missing its soul. 

Unveiling the Secrets of Lemongrass in Chicken Panang 

When it comes to Chicken Panang, lemongrass plays a role that’s equivalent to a plot twist in your favourite binge-worthy TV series. You might not notice it at first, but once you do, oh darling, you’ll never forget it.  

Lemongrass is not just an ingredient; it’s an experience. A splash of citrusy freshness wrapped up in herbal complexity. 

The joy of lemongrass is that it marries exceptionally well with the intense flavours of our beloved Chicken Panang.  

With its citrusy and slightly gingery notes, it cuts through the richness of coconut milk and the heat from red chilli, bringing a balance that’s as perfect as your favourite rom-com. It’s the yin to the yang, the salt to the caramel. 

But wait, you’re not a fan of hunting down lemongrass at your local grocery store? You can absolutely swap it for lemongrass paste or even lemon zest mixed with a pinch of ginger. However, do know that you’ll be forfeiting some of that authentic Thai complexity that the fresh stalks bring. 

And let’s talk about its anti-inflammatory benefits for a moment. While I’m no doctor, I do enjoy knowing that the food I eat does more than just please my palate. Lemongrass has compounds that are said to relieve anxiety, boost oral health, and even relieve pain. 

So, if you’ve been on the fence about whether to include lemongrass in your Chicken Panang, jump off that fence and embrace it. Your taste buds (and maybe even your soul) will thank you. 

Fish Sauce: The Umami Bomb in Chicken Panang 

In the culinary orchestra that is Chicken Panang, think of fish sauce as the bass guitar. It’s not flashy, it doesn’t steal the show, but oh my, does it add depth and umami that makes you go back for that second helping. Let’s be honest; this salty, fishy elixir is more than a condiment. It’s liquid gold. 

Fish sauce might be daunting for those not used to its pungent aroma, but trust me, it integrates beautifully, especially with the coconut milk. It adds a rich, salty complexity that simply can’t be replicated with just salt. It’s that je ne sais quoi that you never knew you needed. 

What if you’re vegan or simply can’t stand the idea of adding fish sauce? Fear not! You can opt for soy sauce or even tamari as a substitute. While these alternatives don’t offer the same complex fishy goodness, they can certainly step in and give your dish a different kind of umami punch. 

Another perk of using fish sauce is its long shelf life. Buy a bottle, and you’ll have it as your culinary ally for months or even years, ready to elevate not just your Chicken Panang but also other Asian-inspired dishes. If that’s not a win, I don’t know what is. 

The Role of Red Bell Pepper in Chicken Panang: More Than Just a Pretty Colour 

Red bell peppers, the Rubies of the Vegetable Kingdom. Trust me, the role of these vibrant gems in Chicken Panang is so much more than ornamental.  

While it may seem like these peppers are just in the recipe for their vivid hue and Instagrammable beauty, they’re actually the secret agents of sweetness and subtlety in this otherwise robust dish. 

When you bite into Chicken Panang, you’re immediately hit with a burst of rich, complex flavours. Coconut milk gives you that creamy goodness, the curry paste sets your tongue tingling, and just when you think you’ve figured it out—bam! —A bite of red bell pepper offers a sweet, palate-cleansing reprieve. 

Here’s the catch: If red bell peppers are hard to find or if you simply prefer another colour, go ahead and switch it out! Yellow or orange bell peppers can make a fantastic stand-in. They’ll offer the same crunch and a slightly different shade of sweetness, still playing the role of the peacemaker in this robust dish. 

And let’s not forget, red bell peppers are rich in vitamins and antioxidants, so not only are they delicious, they also add a little nutritional oomph to your meal. Of course, we’re not making a salad here, but every bit of goodness counts, right? 

So, don’t underestimate these radiant beauties the next time you whip up Chicken Panang. They’re doing a lot more work than you think, ensuring each bite is a balanced, multifaceted experience. 

The Magic of Brown Sugar in Chicken Panang 

Brown sugar, is the unsung hero that turns Chicken Panang from an ordinary dish into something sublime. Sure, it’s just a tablespoon, but don’t let the quantity fool you. It’s a powerhouse that adds a certain mellowness, a perfect counterpoint to the spiciness of red chili and the tartness of the fish sauce. 

Ever wondered why some Thai dishes have that mysterious depth of flavour? A touch of sweetness rounds out the dish, making each element sing in perfect harmony. That’s where brown sugar comes into play. It has molasses, which adds a complex sweetness that white sugar simply can’t achieve. 

Now, I know what you’re thinking: Can I use an alternative sweetener? Absolutely. Maple syrup or honey can work if you’re out of brown sugar. However, these will give a different flavour profile, so be prepared for a subtle twist in your Chicken Panang story. 

But it’s not just about sweetness. Brown sugar adds a smooth finish to the texture, helping to thicken the sauce so it beautifully coats each piece of chicken. Think of it as the stylist who makes sure everyone looks good on the red carpet. 

Check Out These Other Recipes 

If you found yourself swooning over my Chicken Panang recipe, then oh boy, do I have a few more treats that’ll send your taste buds into overdrive.  

Imagine, it’s a Friday night, and you’ve just made the Chicken Panang—a creamy, spicy dream—and you’re pondering what else could possibly live up to this culinary magic. Well, wonder no more. 

Firstly, if you loved the Thai-inspired flavours in Chicken Panang, you’d be absolutely smitten by my Coconut Chicken. It’s like the milder, sweeter cousin of Chicken Panang, cooked in creamy coconut milk and aromatic spices.  

It’ll make you close your eyes and pretend you’re in a Thai beach paradise for a moment. 

And while you’re floating on that imaginary beach, let’s not forget the ever-fabulous Chicken 65, another Asian treat that is a sheer delight for anyone who loves the blend of spicy and crunchy.  

It’s essentially deep-fried chicken pieces seasoned with a bouquet of spices that dance on your tongue. Trust me, this one is a must-try! 

But if you’re in the mood for something richer, I’ve got Chicken Korma waiting in the wings. Its silky sauce kissed with a touch of saffron and creamy yoghurt, creates a luxurious pairing with the tender chicken chunks.  

One bite, and you’d be hooked; you might even forget about your love for Chicken Panang, just for a brief second though. 

For the curry aficionados, let’s take a detour into Chicken Tikka Masala territory. This one’s an explosion of flavours and colours, with succulent chicken pieces marinated and cooked in a tangy tomato-based sauce. It’s a symphony of spice and everything nice. 

Last but not least, why not dive into some Chicken Biryani? This is a one-pot wonder that combines chicken, rice, and an array of spices into a dish that’s more than the sum of its parts. Aromatic, flavourful, and perfect for those moments when you want something truly satisfying. 

So go ahead, give these recipes a whirl and let your kitchen turn into an Asian culinary haven for a night or more. And hey, don’t forget to drop me a comment. I’m dying to know which recipe made you feel like a Thai chef in your own kitchen! 

Chicken Panang

Chicken Panang

by Nabeela Kauser
Craving a tantalising trip to Thailand right in your own kitchen? Chicken Panang brings the lush aromas and rich flavours of Thai cuisine to your table.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine Thai
Servings 4
Calories 565 kcal


For the Panang Curry Paste:

  • 2 Shallots Chopped
  • 3 cloves Garlic Minced
  • 1 stalk lemongrass Sliced (only the white part)
  • 1 Red Chilli Deseeded and chopped
  • 1 tsp Coriander Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Cumin Powder
  • 1/4 tsp White Pepper
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 1/4 tsp Cinnamon Powder

For the Chicken Panang:

  • 500 g Chicken Thighs Sliced
  • 2 tbsp Oil
  • 400 ml Coconut Milk
  • 2 tbsp Panang Curry Paste From above
  • 1 tbsp Fish Sauce
  • 1 tbsp Brown Sugar
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper Sliced
  • 100 g Green Beans Cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Basil For garnish


  • In a mortar and pestle or a food processor, combine the shallots, garlic, lemongrass, red chili, ground coriander, ground cumin, shrimp paste (if using), ground white pepper, salt, and ground cinnamon.
  • Grind or process until you have a smooth paste. Set aside.
  • Heat the vegetable oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the panang curry paste and cook for a minute until fragrant.
  • Add the sliced chicken thighs and cook until they are no longer pink on the outside.
  • Pour in the coconut milk and stir well to combine with the chicken and curry paste.
  • Add the fish sauce and brown sugar, and give it a good stir.
  • Bring the mixture to a simmer and let it cook for about 15-20 minutes, allowing the flavours to meld together and the chicken to cook through.
  • Add the sliced red bell pepper and green beans to the pan. Continue to simmer for an additional 5-7 minutes until the vegetables are tender.
  • Once the chicken and vegetables are cooked and the sauce has thickened, remove the pan from the heat.
  • Serve the Chicken Panang over steamed jasmine rice, garnished with fresh basil leaves.
  • Enjoy your delicious homemade Chicken Panang!


You can adjust the amount of red chili in the curry paste to control the spiciness according to your taste preferences.
If you prefer a smoother consistency, you can strain the curry paste before using it.
Panang curry paste can be quite salty due to the fish sauce, so make sure to taste and adjust the seasoning before serving.
For an extra burst of flavour, you can also add kaffir lime leaves to the curry while simmering.
Nutritional facts:
The provision of nutritional information is done so merely as a courtesy and should not be taken as a guarantee.


Calories: 565kcalCarbohydrates: 13gProtein: 24gFat: 48gSaturated Fat: 24gTrans Fat: 0.1gCholesterol: 123mgSodium: 739mgPotassium: 639mgFibre: 2gSugar: 5gVitamin A: 331IUVitamin C: 10mgVitamin D: 0.1µgCalcium: 63mgIron: 5mg
Keyword Chicken, Chicken Panang, Cooking, Curry, Food, Recipe
Tried this recipe?Mention @CookwithNabeela or tag #CookwithNabeela!

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Hi, I’m Nabeela and I love to cook! I want to share with you my favourite, delicious family-friendly recipes. I want to inspire you to create fantastic food for your family every day.

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