Recipes > Lunch/Dinner > Easy Coconut Curry Base Recipe

Easy Coconut Curry Base Recipe

This easy coconut curry base recipe is a staple in our kitchens for quick, flavorful, and nutritious weeknight dinners.
easy coconut curry in a gray bowl served with quinoa and tofu

This is one of the base recipes featured in Part 2 of our Whole Life Meal Plan. This easy coconut curry base recipe is a staple in our kitchens for quick, flavorful, and nutritious weeknight dinners. Use this base recipe as a guide, then have fun mixing it up with different vegetables, proteins, and curry pastes to change the recipe to YOUR taste!

Three Must-Know Cooking Skills:

For recipe success, learn how to:

Culinary Tips for Making the Best Thai Coconut Curry 

Beware the spice level of the curry paste! Different brands vary greatly in heat level. You could taste the paste on its own, but that might light your mouth on fire! Start with less, then add more to your taste. You can mix in extra after all the coconut milk is added, just whisk well.

Canned coconut milk naturally separates and hardens. Shake well before using.

Slice or dice veggies into similarly-sized pieces for even cooking.

For this recipe, don’t worry about being exactly precise with the veggie measurements. If you have 2 ½ cups of veggies, that’s okay! Just note that the more veggies you add, the less soupy the curry will be.

Add veggies in order from hardest to softest to ensure even cooking and a crisp-tender texture.

If using leafy greens, you can double the amount. 1 cup only counts as ½ cup veggies because it cooks down so much.

Rather than adding the lime juice and basil to the entire dish, you can also serve them on the side as an optional garnish for your dining companions.

Ingredient Substitutions

  • Protein Food: use plant-based or lean animal proteins. Tofu, tempeh, chickpeas, chicken, and shrimp are all good options. If using chicken, slice it thinly for best texture.
  • Full-Fat Coconut Milk: use the canned variety – not the kind sold as a drink. You can substitute light coconut milk, but the curry won’t be quite as creamy.
  • Thai Curry Paste: use red, green, yellow, or panang; just remember to be careful with the spice level!
  • Low-Sodium Chicken or Vegetable Broth: use homemade or store-bought. You can substitute water in a pinch, but it’s not preferred.
  • Brown Sugar: substitute sugar in the raw for the most similar flavor. White sugar and coconut sugar will work as well.
  • Fish Sauce: substitute low-sodium tamari, liquid aminos, or soy sauce.
  • Vegetables: use any combination of hard, medium, and/or soft. Adjust cook time as appropriate. 
  • Thai Basil Leaves: substitute Italian basil or cilantro. 
  • Lime: substitute bottled lime juice or lemon.

Simple Coconut Curry Recipe Variations

Because this is a base recipe, the goal is for you to customize it to your taste! Add or remove ingredients based on what you have on hand and what your body is craving. When it comes to creating coconut curry recipes, the sky’s the limit!

If you want a vegetarian coconut curry, use soy sauce or tamari instead of fish sauce and choose a plant based source of protein.

Use this base recipe as a guide, but feel free to add other ingredients that compliment your dish.

Equipment Recommendations

Use these kitchen tools for recipe success!

Is this a Healthy Coconut Curry?

You bet! Filled with vegetables, herbs and spices from the curry paste, and lean protein, this is a delicious and nutritious main dish.

Colorful Vegetables

Vegetables are rich in essential vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that promote health and help fight diseases. It’s important to eat a variety of vegetables, as each color provides different benefits!

Thai Curry Paste

Thai curry pastes contain chili peppers, garlic, galangal (or ginger), lemongrass, herbs, spices. All of these flavorful ingredients are rich in vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that promote health and fight disease. Lemongrass even has antimicrobial abilities! (1, 2)

Lean Protein

Lean proteins such as tofu, beans, and chicken help promote satiety, making the curry a more filling meal. Protein has many functions in the body including helping to build and repair body tissues and assisting in cellular processes, like energy metabolism.

Curry Serving Suggestions

Serve curry over Jasmine brown rice, quinoa, or another whole grain for a balanced meal.

How to Store and Reheat Leftover Coconut Curry

Cool curry completely, then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

To reheat, transfer to a microwave-safe dish and heat through in the microwave. 

Looking for more easy weeknight dinner recipes?

Try out these delicious recipes!

Baked Tostadas Base Recipe

Healthy Whole Grain Pasta Base Recipe

Salmon with Yogurt Sauce Base Recipe

easy coconut curry in a gray bowl served with quinoa and tofu

Easy Coconut Curry Base Recipe

This is one of the base recipes featured in our Whole Life Meal Plan. This easy coconut curry base recipe is a staple in our kitchens for a quick, flavorful, and nutritious weeknight dinner. Use different vegetables, proteins, and curry pastes to change the recipe to YOUR taste!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine Asian
Servings 4 cups


  • 12-16 ounces protein food (tofu, chickpeas, chicken, etc.)
  • 1 – 14 ounce can full-fat coconut milk, divided
  • 2-3 Tablespoons Thai curry paste
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon fish sauce (sub tamari or soy sauce)
  • 2 cups assorted vegetables*
  • ¼ cup roughly torn Thai basil leaves
  • 1 medium lime (~2 Tablespoons juice)


  • In a 3-4 quart saucepan, bring ½ cup coconut milk to a boil. Add curry paste and stir. Continue cooking over medium high heat, stirring until thick and bubbling. The coconut oil may start to separate from the paste.
  • Add the remaining coconut milk, broth, sugar, and fish sauce. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer.
  • Add the protein food and any hard vegetables and continue to simmer. As the vegetables soften, add medium-firm vegetables, cook for a few more minutes, then soft vegetables. Continue to cook until all vegetables are crisp tender and protein is cooked through, ~8-10 total minutes.
  • Turn off heat and stir in the Thai basil and lime juice. Serve over quinoa, brown rice, or Jasmine rice. Enjoy!


Hard Vegetables:
Broccoli or cauliflower
Green Beans
Sweet Potatoes
Medium Vegetables
Baby Corn
Bell Pepper
Bok Choy Stems
Snow or sugar snap peas
Summer squash
Soft Vegetables
Bean sprouts
Bok choy leaves
Frozen edamame, shelled, thawed
Leafy greens (Double the amount; 1 cup only counts as ½ cup because it cooks down so much.)
Shredded cabbage
Water chestnuts
Keyword Easy Coconut Curry

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Tallon E.

    The Thai red curry paste really sets this recipe off. I’ve used mushrooms as part of the vegetables before, and they add a great umami flavor.

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