Flexible Weeknight Vegetable Red Curry


One of my favorites for several years, this Flexible Weeknight Vegetable Red Curry is as quick as it is customizable. I’ve made this with shrimp, chicken, and tofu- shrimp is the quickest though! Add in whatever veggies are in season or sound good to you! This is a much longer post that I normally write, but I’ve made this one so much and there are a lot of options on how you customize it. Based on my MANY variations of this, here are some tips to help you decide what to include and guide you through the best way to ensure everything is cooked properly.

P.S. This recipe has been updated in Fall 2020 and post updated in Summer 2021.

What vegetables should I use in this Flexible Weeknight Vegetable Red Curry?

  • Choose 2-3 vegetables. When I’ve done more, the flavors get more muddled and it’s overwhelming (and not in a good way). Occasionally I might add 4, but that’s tops.
  • Consider cooking times for each vegetable. Some cook very quickly (like pepper), while others take longer (like sweet potato). If you’re a beginner cook, choose vegetables with similar cooking times. If you’re more comfortable with adding vegetables in at different times, you can play around with it. Just add them in order for longest to shortest cooking time based on my guide below.
  • Think about vegetables that “go together.” Some of this is personal preference, but there are certain flavor combinations that just work. If you’re unsure, use of the ones below or check at the market for what’s in season. Of course, It’s up to you how experimental you go and you can also just have fun with it.
  • Some nice combinations I often do in this Flexible Weeknight Vegetable Red Curry:
    • Cauliflower, Eggplant, & Green Beans: Quite possibly my favorite combination, although eggplants can be hard to find and generally I try to do this when I can find the smaller Asian varieties.
    • Green Bean, Red Pepper, & Bok Choy: All relatively quick cooking vegetables; I like this one for summer because it’s lighter, but these vegetables generally can be found in good quality year round too.
    • Green Bean, Cauliflower, & sometimes Kabocha Squash: More of a fall/winter style curry. I love the way cauliflower and squash soak up the curry flavor.
    • Zucchini, Bok Choy, and Snow Peas: A bit of a green theme here. Snow peas are a fun add!

Cooking Time Guide for Vegetables

I’ve used so many different combinations of vegetables in this Flexible Weeknight Vegetable Red Curry before it’s hard to keep track. This cooking guide is still a work in progress, as a lot of times I eyeball the times for when these veggies are tender. I’m working on making this more precise and measuring the times more to make this guide better!

Very Quick Cooking Vegetables

These require about 1-3 minutes of cook time in a broth that is just above a simmer (almost like a low boil).

  • Spinachtakes about 1 minute to just wilt.
  • Bok Choy– takes about 1 minute to just wilt.
  • Bell Peppers– I usually go for green or red. Takes about 3 ish minutes.
  • Bamboo Shoots– I’ll buy these canned and just rinse and drain. These don’t need to cook, but I think they soak in the flavor a bit and tenderize just slightly within 3 minutes. They are harder to overcook compared to the other veggies.

Quick-Ish Cooking Vegetables

These require about 3-5 minutes of cook time in a broth that is just above a simmer (almost like a low boil).

  • Zucchini– I usually cut these into large-ish bite size pieces by doing thick half moon slices. If you get too small, they just cook way too quickly and get too soft.
  • Snow Peas– Keep these whole.
  • Green Beans– Keep these whole or cut them in half.
  • Broccolini and Broccoli – Broccolini will be on the quicker end of this time, broccoli on the longer end of this time. Be sure your florets are cut into bite-size pieces.

Longer Cooking Vegetables

These require about the longest amount of cooking time in a broth that is just above a simmer (almost like a low boil).

  • Cauliflower– Like broccoli, make sure your florets are cut into bite-size pieces. These will take about 6–8 minutes.
  • Eggplant– While you can try these with a variety of eggplant, try to get a small Asian variety rather than a very large Italian Eggplant. I like to cut these on a bias into about 1.5” pieces.
  • Sweet Potato, Kabocha Squash or Pumpkin– These by far have the longest cooking times. However, I enjoy adding these during the winter. I’ll be honest, it’s been a while since I’ve used these and I’m not the best at always recording time, but it probably takes a solid 20 minutes for them to become closer to tender. Sometimes I’ll even roast or steam them separately and add them in at the end.

Cooking Time for Proteins:

  • Tofu: honestly if you like tofu and are worried about messing up cooking times, this is the best one to do because you can’t mess it up. It’s seriously hard to overcook or undercook tofu. Use firm tofu (but not extra firm). P.S. If you like the tofu version of this, you may really enjoy this Weeknight Red Lentil & Coconut Dal!
  • Shrimp: a great option if you want something that’s quick cooking. Generally cook in about 3-4 minutes. Add at the end with some of the quick cooking vegetables for solid timing.
  • Chicken: the longest cooking option here, but still fairly quick, as long as you cut into bite sized pieces. The piece will generally cook in about 8 minutes.

Behind the Recipe: The Base in this Flexible Weeknight Vegetable Red Curry

While there are so many things that are customizable about this Flexible Weeknight Vegetable Red Curry, the base is not (I mean… I guess you could, but then it’s not this recipe!). I’ve worked a lot on getting the exact flavor right for this base.

  • Coconut Milk vs. Water vs. Reduced Fat Coconut Milk: In my first rendition of this recipe, I used half coconut milk and half water. One day I decided to just go only coconut milk and I quickly realized that THIS was why my curry tasted different than the restaurant version. The extra fat and flavor just made this SO much better. Oh and reduced fat coconut milk is essentially watered down coconut milk, so if you really don’t want that much fat in the recipe, just use some water. Reduced fat coconut milk is not a good bang for your buck!
  • Red Curry Paste: The second big change I made to my initial recipe: amping up the amount of red curry paste. Another flavor bomb that you won’t regret adding more of. I like this one by Thai Kitchen.
  • Fish Sauce: I find that a lot of people are afraid to add fish sauce because they think the smell and flavor is too pungent. However, it’s so key to adding complexity to this curry and I’ve played around with the perfect amount so it’s not overbearing.
  • Honey/Sugar: I don’t normally like to add sugar into my savory recipes if it’s not needed, but it really helps amp up the flavor here (and most restaurants do it- probably a lot more than here).
  • Ratio of Broth to Vegetables/Protein: In general, I like my soups loaded up with veggies and protein and not swimming in broth, so just keep that in mind. If you prefer a lot of broth, you can double it up.

Original Post (September 2015):

Since last spring, I always go to this Thai restaurant in DC whenever I’m craving take-out (Beau Thai in Shaw). And I always get the same red curry, every time. When thinking about what I wanted for lunch for the week, I kept thinking about this curry. Finally, it came time to try to replicate this dish on my own. And bonus points: I got to choose exactly what vegetables to put in!

For the vegetables, I chose based off of what I saw at the farmer’s market. I had a couple of ideas in mind, but ended up switching based off of what was fresh. I recommend using eggplant for a different texture, a slightly hearty green vegetable like broccoli, green beans or snap peas, and then a more delicate green like spinach or baby kale.

5 from 3 votes

Flexible Weeknight Vegetable Red Curry

This red curry is like a template: The base doesn't change (red curry paste, fish sauce, honey, etc.), but tou can really customize it depending on what protein and veggies you want to add. The biggest key is cooking time, so see my notes above for help on that!
Servings 4 servings
Total Time 30 mins
  • 2 16-oz cans coconut milk, 4 cups total (full fat recommended)
  • 4 tablespoons red curry paste
  • 3 teaspoons fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon honey or white sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon grated ginger
  • 1/2 tablespoon grated garlic, (about 1 clove garlic)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, , or to taste
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 pound protein of your choice

assortment of vegetables depending on what's in season and looks best **see notes above – usually about 3 cups total

  • 2 small fairytale eggplant or other small variety, see note above, cut into quarters
  • 2 small sweet red peppers, cut into a larger 1’’ dice
  • 1 small bunch bok choy
  • Place a large sauce pot over medium heat.
  • Add in coconut milk and red curry paste. Let come to a a soft boil. Whisk until combined. Add in fish sauce, honey, garlic, ginger. Season with a bit of salt.
  • Bring to a boil, and then lower to a simmer.
  • At this point, you can add in veggies and protein depending on cooking time. Here are two examples:

Chicken, Eggplant, Red Peppers & Bok Choy

  • Add in chicken and eggplant. After about 8 minutes, the chicken should be mostly white, about 70% of the way cooked, and the eggplant should be getting quite tender. Add in peppers. Cook at a simmer for another 3 or so minutes, until the chicken is done, eggplant is tender, and peppers are slightly soft as well. Add in bok choy at the very end- it needs 30 to 60 seconds to just wilt.

Shrimp, Eggplant, Red Peppers & Bok Choy

  • Add in eggplant. After about 8 minutes, the eggplant should be getting quite tender. Add in peppers and shrimp. Cook at a simmer for another 3 or so minutes, until the shrimp is opaque and pink, eggplant is tender, and peppers are slightly soft as well. Add in bok choy at the very end-it needs 30 to 60 seconds to just wilt.

The Final Touch: For Both Curries

  • Top with juice of lime (start with 1/2 lime and taste the broth and adjust as desired). Serve with rice.
5 from 3 votes
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