Panang Curry vs. Red Curry – What’s The Difference

Whether you are in the suburbs of England or the streets of India, curry is known as a staple dish. Curry comes in many forms and many different flavors. There are even distinctions between how curry is prepared in different countries, like Japan and the Philippines.

In general, many people enjoy curry. Each country and culture has many different flavors of curry-based dishes to offer. Each one has a different taste and delicious aroma. Since there are plenty of curries available, how can you know which one to actually try?

First of all, let us look at 2 different curries: Panang curry and red curry.

What Is The Difference?

Both Panang curry and red curry are very popular in Thailand. They both have a bold, vivid red appearance. However, there are clear distinctions between both flavor as well as texture. Panang curry tends to contain much less spice in comparison to red curry.

Red curry typically includes much more red chili, thus enhancing the dish’s spiciness. Panang curry has additional ingredients to lessen the spice, including peanuts as well as coconut cream. With the addition of these ingredients, Panang curry is often accompanied by a creamy texture and a thicker base.

Those who have frequently consumed both of these dishes are likely able to see the differences between them. This is especially true for those who have tried the authentic versions. This is because the preparation method, serving method, and ingredients all differ when making either red curry or Panang curry.

Why Might Some People Be Unable To Differentiate Between The Curries?

The main reason why some people may not be able to tell the difference between the curries is due to their similarities. While they might share a lot of differences, those who do not regularly eat them may be unlikely to tell the distinction, at least on a surface level.

By surface level, we mean that appearance-wise they can be quite similar. Both curries sport a beautiful red color and both have a spicy flavor associated with them.

What is surprising is that those native to Thailand are likely to be unaware of the red curry that we have spoken of previously. ‘Red curry’ in Thailand is typically used to describe any type of curry that is red; this includes Panang curry.

Another type of curry that is considered to be red curry is Gaeng Ped. This type of curry is typically the most well-known as red curry in the United States of America.

Specifically, What Are The Main Differences Between Panang And Red Curry?

In general, the majority of traditional food from Thailand is likely to have some form of spice. Those who are accustomed to spice may feel that it is much too spicy for their palette. However, all curries feature a distinct level of spice.

To help you better comprehend the spice levels, we will cover 3 different types:

1. Mellow – As in the name, mellow spice level curries are not as spicy. The taste and flavor of these curries usually arise from certain ingredients that help to reduce the spice level; ingredients such as peanuts.

2. Mild – Mild spice level curries have a much spicier taste in comparison to mellow spice level curries. They have a savory taste developed using certain ingredients such as turmeric.

3. Hot – These curries feature chilies as part of their array of main ingredients. Red curry is considered to have a hot spice level. One of the spiciest types of curries is green curry, which many people are not able to handle due to the effects of the spice.

Panang And Red Curry: Flavor And Texture

Panang curry tends to use different types of sauces including fish and shrimp-based sauces. It also includes several others, particularly peanut-based.

Red curry is quite similar, it has a sort of sour flavor with a large hint of spice. It contains the same fish and shrimp-based sauces mentioned above.

The main ingredient that gives Panang curry that distinct taste is peanuts. The use of peanuts helps to reduce the spice level of Panang curry. It also gives the curry a sweeter taste in comparison.

Red curry typically uses more chilies, whereas Panang curry uses less. Although they have many ingredients in common, due to the differing portion of ingredients, they have different tastes.

In addition, red curries use tomato sauce. This does help to also reduce the level of spice in the curry, however, not to the extent of Panang curry. Panang curry has a much thicker texture in comparison to red curry, this also contributes to the reason why they are served differently.

Curry Recipes And Methods Of Serving

Due to the clear differences in taste and texture, the curry dishes and sides they are served with also vary. They may also appear in different sections of restaurant menus due to their consistency.

In several Thai restaurants, it is possible to purchase many different types of soups based on red curry. However, Panang curry is much too thick in texture to advertise or serve as a soup. As such, Panang curry is often served accompanied with rice.

Traditionally, red curry is typically used with different types of meats in comparison to Panang curry. Panang curry is often preferred with beef, whereas red curry with chicken. In addition, red curry often comes accompanied with coconut milk.

With Panang curry, instead of coconut milk, coconut cream is typically used. The cream helps to make the curry itself much thicker in texture.

All of this does depend entirely on your preference. There are no constraints to how you can prepare the curry that you and your household like to eat.

When it comes to eating at a restaurant, those who prefer something less spicy and sweeter may find it to be beneficial to choose Panang curry. Alternatively, those who like sour curries that are spicier may benefit more from choosing red curry.

Before making any decision on which type to eat, it is important to always keep in mind the spice levels. If you cannot handle higher spice levels, Panang curry is still a brilliant and classic option.

Culinary Tricks And Tips

Regardless of whether you choose to make red or Panang curry, there are certain tips and tricks that could help you with the recipe and cooking process. These elements can help you to make restaurant-level curries that taste professionally made.

When cooking, ensure that you bear in mind these particular instructions:

Cook At A Slow Pace – This means that you should not attempt to hasten the process of cooking. In order to help the ingredients blend well together and to ensure that they all retain a good amount of flavor, you must be patient.

Slowly handling all of the food preparation can also work out to be safer than attempting to quickly prepare all of the ingredients. It is also important to keep the heat at a low or slightly higher level. This is because cooking at too high heat can cause a significant change in the taste of the curry.

Cook The Meat Slowly And Patiently – In order to make sure that the meat is soft, delicate and delicious, it is important to cook it slowly. This can help it to completely absorb the different flavors that are present from the addition of the other ingredients.

Stir-Fry Using Hot Oil – For the best results in flavor, it is vital to ensure that the oil you use is hot prior to adding curry paste. If the oil itself is only mildly hot then it can cause a very distinct change in the flavoring.

Debates And Concerns

There are plenty of individuals who cannot eat dishes at a certain spice level. However, this does not mean that spicy foods are unsafe or unfit for consumption. It is well-known that traditional curries contain plenty of nutrient-filled ingredients that can yield multiple benefits.

Consuming curry can lead to many different health advantages. There are ingredients such as coriander and turmeric that help to give you some of the daily nutrients required. As an example, both cumin and turmeric are anti-inflammatory compounds and cumin can help control blood sugar levels.

Chilies also come with their own added health benefits. One such benefit is the fact that they are typically rich in vitamin C. There have also been studies that linked the consumption of curries to the reduced risk of type II diabetes.

Additionally, garlic is used in many Thai curries. It, along with the other ingredients, also comes with multiple health benefits. Garlic is a small source of many different types of vitamins and can also help to reduce blood pressure.

On the other hand, there may be a concern with Panang curry for some people. This is because peanut allergies are quite common with many different individuals. For those who are allergic or have suspicions of a peanut allergy, Panang curry is best avoided.


Overall, whilst both Panang and red curry share many similarities, they are both entirely different in taste, texture, and serving method. They also feature different spice levels, flavors, and levels of thickness.

Panang curry is much thicker and sweeter in comparison to red curry. Those who are less partial to spice may find this curry to be more suitable for their palette.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where Does The Term Panang Curry Originate From?
Malaysia is home to a city called ‘Penang.’ This is considered by many people to be where the Penang recipe was first developed.

Which Curry Is Spicier: red or green?
Authentic green curry has a much higher spice level in comparison to authentic red curry. However, there have been instances when green curry in the USA has a milder flavor in comparison to red curry.

Thai Curry With Least Spice Level?
The Thai curry with the lowest known spice level is Panang curry. This is due to the addition of peanuts and other ingredients that help to lower the spice levels. Alternatively, Massaman curry is also likely to have a low spice level depending on the restaurant.

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