This is the BEST Tofu Thai Red Curry you will make that's prepared with bell peppers, chestnuts, string beans, tofu, Thai basil leaves, and Kaffir lime leaves.
How I learned to make Thai Red Curry?
After college, it's often hard to make friends that will last you a lifetime, but if you're lucky, you'll meet a small handful of them.
I met one such friend at my last job; the lady who also taught yours truly how to make Thai Red Curry. Not only is my bestie Sheetal an amazing friend, but she's also a brilliant cook and feeds me anything my heart desires when I see her. Let's take a trip down memory lane on how we met, shall we?
Sheetal would pass by my desk at work each day, and she appeared pleasant, sweet, and low maintenance. She looked like someone I could easily connect with, but neither one of us would say hi to the other. I know... this is beginning to sound more like a love story. 🙂
It was 2007, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and we both found ourselves by the elevator. I proceeded to introduce myself and suggested we grab lunch the following week (so NOT my style). LOL! I believe there are some people you simply have an instant connection with, and Sheetal was undoubtedly one of them.
Obviously, she accepted my invitation! And well, the rest is history. Since then Sheetal remains one of my closest friends and someone who adds light and humor to every situation. She is abruptly honest and says it like it is, which I think is a virtue in a true friend.
Needless to say, without her, I would never have perfected this Thai Red Curry with Tofu. She pointed out one crucial mistake I was making, and that adding lime juice to my curry instantly changes the texture of this curry. After six attempts, I FINALLY got it right. 🙂
What is Tofu Thai Red Curry?
Thai Red Curry is a very popular Thai dish that you will find at practically any Thai restaurant. Essentially, Thai Red Curry consists of a red curry paste that's cooked in coconut gravy with vegetables along with protein. Here I am using tofu, but feel free to use chicken, shrimp, or other fish.
Tofu Thai Red Curry is:
- Authentic & Aromatic
- The perfect weeknight meal
- Full of Flavor
- Rich & Creamy
- Vegan - use vegan fish sauce
- Versatile... add your choice of protein and veggies
- Makes delicious leftovers
Ingredients for Tofu Thai Red Curry
Tofu: I like to use organic extra firm tofu for this dish. Make sure you press the tofu before using it to remove access moisture. You can skip tofu and use chicken, shrimp, or another protein instead.
Thai Red Curry Paste: I love Maesri brand for all my curry pastes. It's authentic, spicy, imported from Thailand, spicy, and so good. You can use as little or as much as you'd like, but it is spicy.
Thai Basil Leaves: are required for this dish for it to taste like you're eating Thai food.
Kaffir Lime Leaves: have a unique lime flavor and they're hard to find, if you can't find them at your local Asian Food Market, then skip them. Do not substitute with lime juice as it will thin out the gravy - I've made that mistake.
Veggies: red & green bell peppers, string beans, and chestnuts. You may use other veggies such as broccoli, baby corn, and zucchini, just don't overcrowd the veggies as the dish will be difficult to stir.
Coconut Palm Sugar: I recommend using coconut sugar for this recipe and not just any sugar. You can easily find coconut palm sugar at Trader Joe's or Whole Foods.
Coconut Milk: I love Chaokoh coconut milk, however due to the recent forced monkey labor issues, I recommend looking into another brand. I haven't found one I liked yet but will be checking at Whole Foods for a brand that is ethically sourced.
Fish Sauce: I know many of my followers are pure vegetarian, so now they have vegan fish sauce easily available at Whole Foods or Amazon. If you want, you can totally skip the fish sauce altogether, but this sauce adds a saltiness that's needed in Thai food. You can also substitute with soy sauce.
Water: needed if you want to thin out the sauce slightly - I would only use a quarter cup at the most for this recipe.
How to make Thai Red Curry recipe step by step?
1. Begin by draining the tofu. Cover the tofu with paper towels, and place a heavy skillet over it for 20-30 minutes.
2. In the meantime, prep your veggies. Slice the bell peppers, string beans, and water chestnuts - if they're whole. Set aside. Measure out the Thai basil leaves and kaffir lime leaves. Set aside.
3. Once done, check on the tofu and cube it into 1-inch cubes (or smaller if you prefer).
Cook the Tofu
Make the Thai Red Curry
If you want to be super healthy, use quinoa. You can also use farro which would be really good with red curry.
Additionally, you can serve Thai Red Curry with ramen noodles - they're so delicious with noodles.
Tips on making Tofu Thai Red Curry
- Press the tofu half an hour before sauteing it.
- Prepare the veggies before you begin to cook. You need to thinly slice the red & green bell peppers and cut the string beans into 1-inch pieces.
- Saute the tofu in a castiron skillet or nonstick pan if you prefer.
- Add the coconut milk and heat it up before adding curry paste. There is more than enough fat in the coconut milk so you don't need to add additional oil to cook the paste. This will save you fat and calories.
- Do not overcook the veggies else they will get soggy. You want the veggies to hold up and have some crunch.
- For other protein options instead of tofu, you can use shrimp, chicken, or any other protein you wish.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Do all Thai Red Curry Paste brands contain the same level of spice?
No! Not all Thai curry paste brands are the same. For this recipe, I used Maesri Thai Red Curry Paste which is authentic and spicy. You can find Maesri at your local Asian Market or on Amazon.
For a brand that's easily available at most US-based grocery stores, check out Thai Kitchen which is not as spicy.
2. Can I make Vegan Tofu Curry?
Yes! Simply omit the fish sauce or use vegan fish sauce as mentioned above.
3. Can I make Gluten-free Thai Red Curry?
Yes! Just make sure the fish sauce brand you are using is gluten-free. If you choose to use soy sauce, make sure it's gluten-free.
4. Do I need to add water to this dish?
Adding water is completely optional. Red Curry tends to get very thick when using coconut milk (especially Chaokoh) so to thin out the sauce a little, it doesn't hurt to add ¼ to ½ cup of water.
5. Is Thai Red Curry good for leftovers?
Yes! It tastes amazing the next day because the sauce thickens up even more. You can even double the recipe, but note you will end up with 6 servings.
6. How do I reheat leftovers?
Add the Thai curry to a pot and heat it up on the stove. Do not add any water to thin out the sauce because once you simmer the curry, the sauce will become a little runny. Also, do not heat up the sauce for too long else the coconut milk will thin out, heat it up until just right.
7. What if I can't find Thai Basil Leaves?
If you can't find Thai Basil Leaves at your local Asian Food Market, this dish won't have the same authenticity. You really do need Thai Basil Leaves for this dish, else just omit them.
8. What if I can't find Kaffir Lime Leaves?
If you can't find Kaffir Lime Leaves at your local Asian Food Market, it's okay. This dish will still taste amazing without it. Do not add lime juice as a substitute else it'll thin out the sauce which you don't want to do. Trust me, I've already tried this.
9. Instead of tofu, what other protein can I use?
You can use chicken, shrimp, salmon, and more. Add your favorite protein to this dish.
More Thai Curries
📖 Recipe Card
Tofu Thai Red Curry Recipe
for the sauteed tofu
- 8 ounces extra firm organic tofu, pressed & cubed into 1" pieces
- ½ tablespoon avocado oil
for the curry
- 3 tablespoon coconut milk, to cook the red curry paste
- 3-4 tablespoon red curry paste, I use Maesri
- 13.5 fl ounces canned coconut milk, I use Chaokoh
- 1 cup French string beans, trimmed & cut into 1" pieces
- ½ red bell pepper, thinly sliced
- ½ green bell pepper, thinly sliced
- 8 ounces water chestnuts
- ½ tablespoon coconut palm sugar
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce, you can omit, or use vegan fish sauce
- add sauteed tofu, or all of it
- ¼ cup Thai basil leaves
- 5 kaffir lime leaves
- ¼ - ½ cup water, optional (if you want to thin out the curry)
- Begin by draining the tofu. Cover the tofu with paper towels, and place a heavy skillet over it for 20-30 minutes.
- In the meantime, prep your veggies. Slice the bell peppers, string beans and water chestnuts. Set aside.
- Measure the Thai basil leaves and julienne the kaffir lime leaves. Set aside.
- Once done, check on the tofu and cube it into small cubes.
- Heat up a cast-iron skillet on low-medium heat. Once hot, add oil. Add the cubed tofu and cook for 5-7 minutes.
- We want to lightly saute the tofu. Gently stir around once lightly browned. You can use a nonstick if you're not comfortable using a cast-iron while sauteing tofu. Turn off the stove, Set aside.
- Now make the curry. Heat up a wok on medium heat, once hot add oil followed by red curry paste. Cook for 1-2 minutes stirring continuously.
- Shake the coconut milk well, and pour the entire can into the wok.
- Keep stirring using a wooden spoon and cook the coconut milk for 3-5 minutes.
- The coconut milk will start to bubble and thicken up.
- Add the red & green bell peppers, string beans, and chestnuts. Stir to combine.
- Cover and cook on low-medium heat for 5 minutes. The veggies will soften slightly, but you don't want them too mushy.
- Add the coconut palm sugar and fish sauce. Stir.
- Now add the tofu. Stir and cook for 1-2 minutes.
- Finish it off with Thai basil leaves and kaffir lime leaves. Turn off the stove. Stir.
- Optional: add water to thin out the sauce slightly. I added a ¼ cup of water. Serve with brown rice (white rice or quinoa). Enjoy!