Crispy pan-fried tofu, veggies and tender sweet potato chunks are simmered in a peanutty Thai-spiced coconut curry sauce to create this flavorful vegan massaman curry.
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 curry. Better. Yellow curry. Still better. Then green curry. Even better. Then, finally...where have you been all my life?! Massaman curry! Of course, this happened when I wasn't quite as wise 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?" or better "is this item vegan," but more specifically, "are there any meat, fish or other seafood ingredients, like fish sauce or shrimp paste in here?" Not is in the know as far as the terms "vegetarian" and "vegan" are concerned, so you gotta look out for yourself.
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 pastes. It's tasty (though not as tasty as homemade) and totally vegan.
Keep a couple of 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. 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 your vegan massaman curry. 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.
Ingredients You'll Need
- Vegan massaman curry paste. I haven't included all of the ingredients for homemade massaman curry paste here, because I'm guessing that most folks will use store-bought paste. You'll find everything you need in the recipe card though!
- Coconut milk. Make sure to use canned coconut milk, and not the stuff sold in cartons for drinking. Full-fat coconut milk is ideal, but light coconut milk will probably work too.
- Sweet potato. This goes so well with the mild sweetness and spicy flavors of massaman curry. Regular potatoes and winter squash are a couple of suitable substitutes.
- Green beans. Prefer a different green veggie in your curry? Try some broccoli!
- Red bell pepper.
- Extra-firm tofu. I find extra-firm tofu to be the closest to what you'd get in a Thai restaurant, but it does require pressing before cooking. Feel free to use super-firm tofu if you'd like to skip that step.
- Vegetable oil.
- Lime juice. Please use freshly squeezed lime juice (not bottled!) to give your curry the best flavor.
- Peanuts. Roasted and salted peanuts work best. Cashews can be substituted if you'd like.
- Rice. This isn't a required ingredient, but it's great for serving with your curry. I recommend using jasmine rice.
How It's Made
Vegan massaman curry is super easy to make in just a few steps.
- Combine your curry paste and coconut milk in a medium pot. Heat it up to a simmer.
- Add diced sweet potatoes, let them simmer for a bit, then add the green beans and diced bell pepper and let the curry continue simmering.
- Pan-fry the tofu according to this method while the curry simmers.
- Add the pan-fried tofu to the curry and take it off of heat. Season the curry with some freshly squeezed lime juice and salt to taste.
- Serve the curry over rice with a sprinkle of chopped peanuts and scallions.
Leftovers & Storage
Leftover vegan massaman curry will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about 3 days, or in the freezer for about 3 months.
More Vegan Thai Curry Recipes
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Thai Massaman Curry with Sweet Potatoes and TofuMassaman Curry Paste
For the Massaman Curry Paste
- ½ cup roasted peanuts
- 1 tbsp. ground coriander
- 1 tsp. cumin
- ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp. ground cloves
- ⅛ tsp. ground pepper
- ⅛ tsp. ground nutmeg
- ⅛ tsp. ground cardamom
- 1 tsp. ground turmeric
- 5 to 15 dried red chili peppers (see Note) 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
- 1 ½ tsp. lime rind
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- juice of 2 limes
For the Massaman Curry
- 2 (14 ounce) cans coconut milk
- ¼ cup homemade massaman curry paste, recipe above or 1 (4 oz.) 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
- 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon lime juice, or to taste
- Salt, to taste
- 4 scallions, sliced
- ¼ cup roasted peanuts, chopped
To Make the Massaman Curry Paste
Place all ingredients in food processor bowl and process until a paste is formed, scraping bowl as needed.
To Make the Massaman Curry
Drain and press tofu.
Mix coconut milk and curry paste in large saucepan. Heat to a simmer, stirring frequently.
Add sweet potato, and allow to simmer about ten minutes.
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.
Taste test, and add a bit more curry paste if you'd like some extra umph.
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.
Add tofu to curry mixture. Remove the pot from heat and stir in lime juice and salt to taste.
Ladle onto plates or bowls and top with scallions and peanuts. Serve with rice.
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.