5-Ingredient Thai Curry in a Hurry

I should start off by telling you my friend Megan doesn’t call this recipe “curry in a hurry.”

Vertical close-up image of a black bowl with fluffy white rice, pineapple chunks in red sauce, and oiled snap peas, with chopsticks resting on the side of the bowl, with text on the top and bottom of the image.

Curry in a hurry is what I call it – because, my friends, this is a dish that can be on the table in 20 minutes or less.

If the rice and vegetables are cooked ahead of time, or at least simmering away on the stove while you’re off doing something else, the prep work required to make this meal barely qualifies as dinner prep. It takes less time to make than it would take to go pick up takeout!

Megan calls this dish red curry with pineapple. Although this meal is quick and foolproof, it’s also an amazing approximation of one of the most popular entrees that you’ll find at Thai restaurants everywhere in the US.

Vertical top-down image of two black bowls with fluffy white rice, snap peas, and pineapple chunks in a red sauce with chopsticks resting on one bowl on the side, all on top of a blue checkered towel next to cups.

The knockout flavor-maker is the red curry paste. I use a store-bought version that’s made with red chili peppers, garlic, lemongrass, Thai ginger, salt, shallots, and makrut lime. It should be easy to find a jar at your local grocery store.

Combined with thick and rich coconut cream, fish sauce for a touch of savory umami flavor (or a little low-sodium soy sauce for a vegetarian version), chopped fresh pineapple, and red chili flakes added to taste, this dish is not just quick to make, it’s also the best knockoff takeout recipe that I know.

I recently rewatched “The Godfather,” and what hit me more than anything else upon this viewing was the food: Clemenza teaching Michael to make tomato sauce, a box of cannoli being salvaged from a murder scene, veal parmesan ordered at a restaurant, Connie’s insane wedding cake that is probably taller than our front door.

I’m endlessly fascinated by the way food serves as a backdrop to life, in the stories that we tell in books and movies, and in our lived day-to-day experiences.

Vertical image of white rice, chopped pineapple in a light red sauce, and snap peas in a black bowl with chopsticks in front of cups on a blue checkered towel.

I mean, here we all are, pursuing our different goals and nurturing our different relationships and fighting our different battles. But no matter what, we all have at least one thing in common: we all have to eat.

Food is the base layer, the setting against which we do everything else.

Sometimes these meals can be complicated, made lovingly and painstakingly, following recipes with many steps. Other times, we’re too tired to do more than toss a few ingredients into a pan and call it dinner.

But no matter what it is, if the ingredients are tasty and a touch of love is thrown in, you can create a satisfying moment that warms you from the inside out, and gives you the strength to meet life’s challenges.

Tim and I ate this amazing curry for the first time on a weeknight when we were both exhausted and preoccupied with work, the way we are on many weeknights in this season of our lives.

Vertical image of two black bowls with fluffy white rice, snap peas, and pineapple chunks in a red sauce with chopsticks resting on the sides of the bowls, all on top of a blue checkered towel next to cups.

While I dumped the few ingredients in a pan in the kitchen, my laptop was still open on the table, and he was still propped up on the sofa, typing away.

These ordinary, full days, the kind that send us falling hard to bed, lend themselves to “mindless” meals that are easy to prepare. But that doesn’t have to mean microwaving something frozen out of a box, or picking up the phone to order delivery. This dish is the perfect simple, flavorful ending to a full day of life.

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Horizontal image of a black bowl with fluffy white rice, oiled snap peas, and yellow fruit chunks in a light red creamy sauce, with chopsticks resting on the side of it, in front of cups on a checkered blue towel.

5-Ingredient Thai Curry in a Hurry


  • Author: Shanna Mallon
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x

Description

5-ingredient Thai curry is just the recipe to pull out when you need to get dinner on the table fast. It’s an easy meal that’s full of flavor.


Scale

Ingredients

1 14-ounce can coconut cream

2 tablespoons red curry paste

1 tablespoon fish sauce (or low-sodium soy sauce)

12 teaspoons crushed red chili flakes, to taste

1/2 fresh pineapple, chopped into 1-inch pieces (about 1 1/4 cups)


Instructions

  1. Add the coconut cream, red curry paste, and fish sauce to a large saucepan, and place it over medium heat. Stir to combine. 
  2. Add 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes, until thickened. 
  3. Stir in the pineapple and warm through, about 3-4 minutes. Season to taste with additional red pepper flakes as desired.
  4. Serve with jasmine rice and steamed vegetables, or your choice of accompaniments.

  • Category: Curry
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Thai

Keywords: Thai, curry, pineapple, coconut cream, red curry paste

Cooking By the Numbers…

Step 1 – Chop Pineapple and Measure Remaining Ingredients

Horizontal image of a whole pineapple, three small glass dishes with assorted seasonings, and a white bowl with coconut cream on a black surface.

Chop half a pineapple into 1-inch pieces. You can use a pineapple corer or slicer to make this part easier. If you like, cut them a little bigger. You should have about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups total.

If you want to save even more time, you can buy pineapple pre-cut in the produce department of the grocery store. Just be sure to use fresh pineapple instead of canned for the best flavor. (In a pinch, you can use canned – I won’t tell anyone, and it will still be delicious!)

Measure out all of the remaining ingredients as listed on the ingredients list.

Step 2 – Make Sauce

Horizontal image of a wooden spoon stirring a light red cream sauce in a black pot.

Add the coconut cream, red curry paste, and fish sauce to a large saucepan over medium heat. Don’t forget that you can use soy sauce or even liquid aminos instead for a vegetarian option, if you prefer. Stir to combine.

Add red pepper flakes and bring the mixture to a simmer. I like to add 1 to 2 teaspoons for a nice kick. If you don’t like your food too spicy, add less to start, and season to taste until the heat level is to your liking.

Cook for an additional 5 minutes, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.

Step 3 – Finish and Serve

Horizontal image of a black bowl filled with rice, snap peas, and pineapple chunks in a creamy red sauce on a checkered blue towel.

Stir in the pineapple and continue to cook until it’s warmed through, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, and serve with jasmine rice and steamed vegetables, or any other veggie side dish of your choosing.

Note: You can also serve this curry with pre-cooked protein, if you like. Simply add 1 cup of bite-sized pan-fried tofu, poached or roasted chicken, grilled shrimp, or broiled fish to the mixture along with the pineapple. Cook until warmed through, and serve. This is a great way to use up leftovers if you have them.

Everyone Likes Their Curry a Little Bit Different

When it comes to recipes like this one, it’s not uncommon to find that the various family members and guests around the table differ greatly in their flavor preferences.

Horizontal image of a black bowl with fluffy white rice, oiled snap peas, and yellow fruit chunks in a light red creamy sauce, with chopsticks resting on the side of it, in front of cups on a checkered blue towel.

At a restaurant, you can specify your heat level for your own personal bowl. But what can you do when you’re making curry from scratch at home and your partner likes a huge hit of spice, but this level of heat makes you unable to take a second bite?

Since this recipe is so simple, it’s practically begging for you to customize it any way you want to. And fortunately, making it your own doesn’t require a lot of effort.

Start mild, and try some of the following recommendations to make each bowlful your own:

  • Want more spice? Add red pepper flakes 1/4 teaspoon at a time until it’s hot enough for you. Or add 1/2 teaspoon chili garlic paste if you have it on hand.
  • Want some acid? Add a squeeze of fresh lime juice, about 1/2 teaspoon, to brighten things up.
  • Need some herbaceousness? Add 1/2 teaspoon chopped cilantro leaves.

Personally, I like a medium level of spice with a little burst of citrus to enjoy at the end of a long day. But there’s nothing wrong with serving this recipe as is, of course!

For more curry inspiration, check out the following recipes from Foodal:

What’s your favorite vegetable to serve alongside Thai red curry? Tell us in the comments below, and be sure to rate the recipe after you’ve tried it as well, to let other readers know how much you enjoyed it.

Photos by Meghan Yager, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on April 5, 2013. Last updated: September 23, 2020 at 11:17 am. With additional writing and editing by Meghan Yager and Allison Sidhu.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

About Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon is a freelance writer who holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Kitchn, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home, Houzz.com, Foodista, Entrepreneur, and Ragan PR. In 2014, she co-authored The Einkorn Cookbook with her husband, Tim. Today, you can find her digging into food topics and celebrating the everyday grace of eating on her blog, Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. Shanna lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with Tim and their two small kids.

18 thoughts on “5-Ingredient Thai Curry in a Hurry”

  1. Curry in a hurry is an excellent name for a dish (and now you having me totally craving that hit of spices) and I love the idea of food being the backdrop to life and a way to bookend our days.

    Reply
    • Kathryn, I know just what you mean about that hit of spices–I crave it often!

      Also, I brought the Enid Blyton books home for the weekend and showed them to my dad and he was so delighted! Thank you again!

      Reply
  2. I’ve been looking for more quick recipes lately, as my dinner prep time is going to be very limited once the summer months arrive. This one is definitely going on the list. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  3. I do that when I’m reading books — perk up and pay more attention when the paragraphs turn into deep descriptions of what’s on the characters’ plate. Which explains why I like reading books and blogs that incorporate food in the story. I also like how you describe meals as “a backdrop against a full day of life.” Have I ever told you I love your writing? 😉

    Reply
  4. Thank you so much for the kind words, Shanna! So glad you made the curry and enjoyed it. And I agree with Jacqui. Your writing is tops 🙂

    Reply
    • Thanks, Megan — and thanks again for this recipe! I was so excited when I ate the first spoonful: just like the Thai curries I love! A definite keeper.

      Reply
  5. I was just thinking this exact thing today – how food is the backdrop of life. It all returns to the fact that we have to nourish ourselves. So many layers to that thought! This particular dish sounds so savory!

    Reply
    • Exactly! I feel that way about so many thoughts — that, once I get thinking about the idea, the layers keep coming! — this is a good one to stew on for a while. : )

      Reply
  6. Shanna – we all need recipes like this. Nourishing in the midst of real life. PS. The site is looking beautiful – I love the header and the new photo of you guys!

    Reply
    • Aw, thanks so much, Jess! It might go against everything they say about branding, but I love changing things every month. : )

      Reply
  7. Love this! I always entertain the idea of making Thai food at home but then I look at how many ingredients I’d have to buy that I would never use again (preserved turnips??) and am instantly discouraged. I think I can handle 5 ingredients though 😉

    Reply
  8. I am so overdue for a leisurely visit here… Long ordinary days full of life have very much been my reality for quite some time. Sometimes, I am grateful for them, and sometimes I long for more time to take things in… Anyway, I am not very familiar with curries, but you had me at pineapple with this one. Adding to my pinterest recipe to do list. 🙂

    Reply
    • You are so sweet, Helene. I know just what you mean — I’m ever longing for more time, too. Please tell me what you think if you try Megan’s curry! We were so impressed!

      Reply

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