Thai Massaman Curry with Sweet Potatoes and Tofu

Massaman curry is, without a doubt, one of my absolute favorite meals on this planet. I remember falling in love with Thai food during my early twenties. First I discovered pad Thai. Good. Then Curry, starting with red. Better. Then green. Even better. Then, finally…where have you been all my life??!?!…massaman curry! Of course, this happened when I wasn’t quite as wise a vegetarian as I am now. You need to be careful with curries. I discovered this when, after a few months or maybe even years or regularly ordering massaman or occasionally some other curry off of the vegetarian section of some Thai restaurant menu, I scanned some of the other menu items and descriptions and noticed references to stuff like “fish sauce” or “shrimp paste.” That was a big uh-oh moment. Nowadays, I’m always super careful. I always inquire as to not only “is this item vegetarian?” but more specifically, “are there any meat, fish or other seafood ingredients, like fish sauce or shrimp paste in here?” Not everyone defines “vegetarian” in the same way, so you gotta look out for yourself.

I met with a similar challenge when I decided to start creating my own Thai dishes. A Thai curry can be a super quick meal if you use a pre-prepared curry paste, and such pre-prepared curry pastes are readily available in the Asian sections of most supermarkets. Even better ones can be found in Asian markets. Most of these curry pastes, however, contain some kind of fishy ingredient. You can get around this in one of two ways: (1) Make your own curry paste. Lucky for you, I’ve provided a recipe below for just that. Or (2) do some research and find a vegetarian curry paste. Also lucky for you, I’ve already gone ahead and done that. Maesri is my favorite vegetarian store-bought curry. It’s tasty (though not as tasty as homemade) and totally vegan. Keep a couple cans on hand and you’ve got a head start on a quick and delicious curry any night of the week. If you opt, instead, to make your own, keep in mind that you can freeze it. Yes! Make a big old batch, stick it in the freezer and most of your work is done. Once again, you’re just thirty minutes away from a weeknight curry.You can use all kinds of vegetable combos in this dish. The green beans and red peppers in my version are fairly traditional, but you’d normally find white potato in place of the sweet potato if you got this in a restaurant. Serve this alongside some jasmine rice, and experiment with different veggies. There’s all kinds of ways to make this meal delicious.With all of that in mind, I should warn you that the ingredients list for the homemade variety of massaman curry paste is quite long. I keep a pretty well stocked pantry these days, so I only had to go out and buy a few of the fresh ingredients. Once I had all the ingredients on hand, making the paste was a breeze, because all it involves is throwing everything into a food processor. I also made life a little easier by using ground spices, whereas most truly authentic recipes would use whole cloves, cardamom pods, etc. If you prefer the whole versions and can do the conversions, go right ahead and make it that way. In either event, if you have a substantial spice collection and a food processor in your kitchen, I totally encourage you to make your own paste. It’s the tastiest way to go, probably the cheapest as well, and you know exactly what is going into your food.

Thai Massaman Curry with Sweet Potatoes and Tofu
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Entree
Serves: 6
  • 2 cans of coconut milk
  • ¼ cup of homemade curry paste (recipe below) or 1 can of store bought
  • 1 sweet potato, diced into ½" to 1" cubes
  • 2 cups fresh green beans, chopped to 1" to 2" pieces
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 lb extra firm tofu
  • about 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • about 4 scallions, sliced
  • ¼ cup roasted peanuts, chopped
  1. Drain and press tofu.
  2. Mix coconut milk and curry paste in large saucepan. Heat to a simmer, stirring frequently.
  3. Add sweet potato, and allow to simmer about ten minutes.
  4. Add green beans and simmer about another four minutes, and then add pepper and simmer another two minutes. Your broth should be thick and creamy by now and your veggies tender.
  5. Taste test, and add a bit more curry paste if you'd like some extra umph.
  6. While your veggies simmer, cut your tofu into bite sized pieces. Heat oil over medium skillet, and pan fry tofu pieces on each side until slightly browned.
  7. Add tofu to curry mixture. Ladle onto plates or bowls and top with scallions and peanuts. Serve with rice.

Massaman Curry Paste
Prep time
Total time
  • ½ cup roasted peanuts
  • 1 tbsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. ground cloves
  • ⅛ tsp. ground pepper
  • ⅛ tsp. ground nutmeg
  • ⅛ tsp. cardamom
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 5-15 dried red chili peppers*, soaked in water for about 10 minutes and seeded (use gloves!)
  • 1 stalk of lemongrass, minced
  • 1 three inch piece of fresh ginger root, sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 shallot
  • 1½ tsp. lime rind
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • juice of 2 limes
  1. Place all ingredients in food processor bowl and process until a paste is formed, scraping bowl as needed.
Base the number of chili peppers on your personal heat preference. If you're not sure how many to use, go with less. You can always add some extra peppers or chili paste to the curry during cooking.

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  1. says

    I rarely say this but can’t you be my personal chef? I don’t think there is anything you have made that I wouldn’t fall in love with. Ooo and I just got the new forks over knives cookbook and can’t wait to see what I come up with from that!

    • says

      Well, I am currently looking for a new job, but I’ll just take that as a huge compliment 😉 Thanks so much!!! Can’t wait to hear about the new cookbook – the reviews make it sound awesome!

  2. says

    this looks amazing and I have ALL of the ingredients… I am def gonna give this a try. Thanks for a wonderful sounding dish. I get Massaman curry at my local thai restaurant.

  3. Frankie Gamble says

    I made this recipe last week and it was really delicious and so incredibly simple! I have made thai green currys before using a paste I bought at the shop as I always thought making my own paste would be too hard but you have showed me how simple and how rewarding it is to make your own! Really made the curry come alive with tons of flavour! HIGHLY recommend this recipe! <333 x

    • says

      I know right?! I was so intimidated by the idea of making my own paste for the longest time, but it’s really not hard at all, and it’s way better than the kind you buy in stores. I’m so glad you enjoyed this – thanks for sharing your results!!!

    • says

      Yes! That’s one of the things I like best about making my own. I’ve been making large batches and freezing them in little baggies that hold just enough paste (1/4 cup) for one batch of curry.

  4. says

    This is one of my fabourite curries, but i always have to have them take out the peanuts (though I didn’t know it had fish or nuts in the sauce). If you “shouldn’t” have peanuts or even tree nuts, do you think substituting with either hemp, sunflower or pumpkin seeds would taste ok?

    • says

      That’s tough, but roasted soybeans might work as a sub. I’m not sure how they blend up, so you might want to try soy nut butter – I bought a jar of this once and the taste isn’t too far off from peanut butter. Sunflower seeds might work too, as I’ve heard sun butter is pretty close to peanut butter, though I haven’t tried it myself. Either way, you might end up with something that tastes a little different but is still delicious. Please let me know how it works out if you try a substitute!

  5. says

    Although the chopsticks posing in the pictures look lovely, most Thais that I know would probably eat such a dish using a fork and a spoon.

    • says

      Thank you! Yeah, I used a little artistic license there…and I do that a lot. I might have more chopstick photos on this blog than fork photos. They really do just look prettier. I put chopsticks in a salad post recently and ALMOST in a burger post (for real).

  6. Mandy says

    I made this for dinner tonight and it’s AMAZING. I didn’t have any peanuts, but I followed the recipe other than that. My kids love it too. It didn’t take much time to make and it’s absolutely fantastic.

    • says

      Awesome! Good to know that it’s still tasty without the peanuts, for future reference. I’m glad you enjoyed it and thanks so much for taking the time to comment and let me know :)

  7. Eline Luper says

    I made this tonight and it was excellent. My husband said it is addictive and ate way too much. No left overs for tomorrow. My paste came out a lot thinner than expected and I think that the next I will use less lime juice. Thank you for this great recipe. It is going to be one of our favorites.

    • says

      Yay! So glad you both liked it!! I find this one pretty addictive too…with the peanuts and coconut it’s pretty hard to resist. Thank you so much for taking the time to let me know how it worked out. :)

  8. Ailsa says

    I’ve just discovered your blog, and this is the first recipe I’ve tried. Its fabulous! I think this is first time I’ve made a dish that tastes so authentic and delicious. Can’t wait to try another recipe

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