Panaeng Curry with Beef (พะแนงเนื้อ)

There appears to be two big camps when it comes to how modern-day panaeng curry is supposed to be: one camp prefers their panaeng saucier and more herbal1; one camp goes for a thicker, meatier, and sweeter panaeng with the taste of peanuts more prominent. These two seem to form the opposing ends of a spectrum on which the kinds of panaeng you’d find on the streets of, or at shophouse eateries in, Bangkok fall. This, of course, is entirely based on my own very unscientific observation.

I have always preferred the former since I grew up eating it both at home and at school,2 but I have in recent years come to embrace the richer, more Rendang-like panaeng which seems to be well liked among patrons of Thai restaurants in the US.

If you like the first type of panaeng, please check out my post on panaeng curry with pork and kabocha squash. However, if you like your panaeng more unctuous and nuttier, I believe this beef panaeng curry recipe would better suit your taste. No recipes will give you exactly what you get from your favorite restaurant, but this one should serve you well as a guide. You can always season it with fish sauce and palm sugar to taste; you can also adjust the consistency of the sauce to your liking.

Regardless of which version you prefer, having fresh kaffir lime leaves on hand is essential in creating good panaeng curry. Dried kaffir lime leaves just won’t do.

Panaeng Curry with Beef (พะแนงเนื้อ)
(Serves 8)

3 lbs beef, cut into 1.5-inch cubes (Use the kind of cut you’d use for a pot roast, i.e. rich in collagen, somewhat fatty, and tough. Lean beef will only ruin the dish.)
1 13.5-ounce can of Chaokoh coconut milk
¼ to ½ cup (or 2 to 4 ounces) of Panaeng curry paste depending on your heat tolerance (I use Maesri, but any imported brand will do.)
3 tablespoons of natural, unsweetened peanut butter (I’ve found regular peanut butter to create an off taste and smell, even the ones that say “all natural.” The best type to use is the type with one ingredient listed: peanuts. You can also grind up some plain roasted peanuts.)
6-7 fresh kaffir lime leaves, cut into very thin strips
1-2 Thai long chilies (jalapeño or Serrano will do), cut on a diagonal lengthwise (optional)
Fish sauce
Palm sugar

* In a saucepan, set over medium-high heat, heat up the coconut “head” (the thick part that rises to the top of the can) along with the curry paste, stirring constantly.
* When the mixture starts bubbling up around the edges and the coconut cream starts to separate, stop stirring and let it boil gently.
* Turn the heat up a little and add the beef.
* Stir to make sure the beef is all coated with the curry sauce.
Add half of the coconut “tail” (the remaining thin, watery part) and just enough water to cover the beef.
Add about 1/4 cup of fish sauce and 1 tablespoon of chopped palm sugar to the pot and bring the whole thing to a boil.
Immediately turn the heat down and let the curry simmer gently, covered, for 45-60 minutes. Check on it occasionally to make sure there’s no scorching on the bottom of the pot and that the beef is fully submerged in liquid (you may need to replenish the liquid with more water, bring the pot back to a boil and turn down the heat again to resume a gentle simmer).
After 45 minutes, check to see if the beef is tender enough. If not, simmer a bit more. If so, give it a stir, remove the lid, and let the braising liquid reduce down to desired consistency.
Once that is achieved, stir in the peanut butter, half of the julienned kaffir lime leaves, and the red peppers. Correct the seasoning with more fish sauce and palm sugar as necessary; take the pot off the heat.
Serve the curry, sprinkled with the remaining kaffir lime leaf strips, with steamed jasmine rice.

1 With Thai basil added to it in addition to the essential fresh kaffir lime leaves.

2 About once every two weeks or so, a mild and saucy panaeng curry with pork and sliced long beans showed up on the school’s lunch menu — one of my favorites.

3 You can also grind up some unsalted roasted peanuts, measure out 3 tablespoons, and use that in lieu of the natural peanut butter. They’re essentially the same thing, though.

52 Responses to Panaeng Curry with Beef (พะแนงเนื้อ)

  1. Kristen April 7, 2011 at 7:02 pm #

    Oh, looks like the perfect meal to spice up a cold dreary day. Perfect comfort food when the boys come home all drenched & muddy from soccer. I’m giving this a try real soon!

  2. mycookinghut April 7, 2011 at 8:36 pm #


  3. C April 8, 2011 at 12:27 am #


  4. @rramirez4444 April 8, 2011 at 12:58 am #

    Looks rather simple, yet delicious – going to try this one soon!

  5. LIsa April 8, 2011 at 8:38 am #

    Looks gorgeous, I’m starving now and I’ve just had my breakfast!
    Just one question Leela, will frozen kaffir lime leaves work instead of fresh?

  6. Leela April 8, 2011 at 12:51 pm #

    Lisa – Yes. Kaffir limes leaves freeze very, very well and hardly lose any potency. They’re just about as good as fresh!

  7. Lan April 8, 2011 at 5:05 pm #

    Wow that looks delicious! Do you have a suggestion for an alternative for canned coconut milk? To my sadness and surprise, I just read that canned coconut contained one of the highest amount of PBA. Not sure what to do as I love and frequently use chaokoh coconut milk!

  8. Leela April 8, 2011 at 7:04 pm #

    Lan – Whole Foods’ brand, 365, *may* be BPA- free, but I’m not sure. While researching which brands are and which are not, short of milking your own coconut milk from fresh or frozen grated coconut meat, your best bet is to use coconut milk powder. Chaokoh makes that too. Just dilute it with water and use like coconut milk. It certainly won’t be the same as canned coconut milk, and the finished curry won’t form a rich, thick sauce. But the fact that it doesn’t have BPA should make up for it.

  9. Sara April 8, 2011 at 7:06 pm #

    Lovely! This dish looks so tempting. Definitely need to try this very soon!

  10. Aisha Jameel April 8, 2011 at 8:16 pm #

    I was always a huge fan of Thai food … thanks to your blog 🙂 Now I can cook by following your recipes 😉
    Please do visit and follow my blog as well if you wish to @ 🙂

  11. Joel April 8, 2011 at 9:08 pm #

    I somehow managed to spend 10 months in Bangkok without once eating Panaeng curry. Then, just before going home we had Panaeng for the first time, and it became our favorite. I now judge Thai restaurants not by Pad Thai (a blah dish, I much prefer Pad Kee Mao), but by their Panaeng curry. Best I’ve had was at a restaurant in Dallas that started out as a lunch counter in a gas station, but eventually moved across the street into a strip mall and became quite up-scale.

  12. George April 9, 2011 at 4:11 am #

    Leela, what do you recommend for beef? I like shank for curries but I can’t always get it. Is flank good for this?

  13. Leela April 9, 2011 at 4:28 am #

    George – Chuck is the best; rump is a distant second. Other cuts aren’t that great. I love shank, but not in this particular dish.

  14. Mark April 9, 2011 at 11:23 am #

    Hi there, I am Thai from Bangkok and a self declared foodie. Penang curry is always with thick sauce too dilute and you almost find yourself with abowl of red curry ;-)) now course peanuts? in paneng curry? never heard of in authentic recipes….. great pic btw

  15. Leela April 9, 2011 at 1:03 pm #

    Mark – Thanks. Agreed. Most street curries you find these days are too diluted.
    As for peanuts in panaeng curry, that’s pretty common knowledge. A quick primary Google search for พะแนงเนื้อ ถั่วลิสง or นำ้พริกแกงพะแนง ถั่วลิสง yields over 5000 results including anecdotal evidence of old recipes requiring peanuts in the paste (or stirred into the sauce later as a finishing touch). Some even insist that the presence of peanuts (and I would add “kaffir lime leaves”) is what essentially sets panaeng apart from red curry or khua curry (แกงคั่ว). Otherwise, to them, panaeng is just a thicker, meatier red curry.

    Leading commercial curry paste brands, e.g. Nittaya, have peanuts mixed into their panaeng formula. There are also other examples.

    So, authentic or not, these recipes that call for peanuts represent what has been done for the last four decades, according to some people’s recollection. Recipes that don’t call for peanuts exist as well and they fall closer to the other end of the spectrum as mentioned in the post.

    Authenticity is a word I have learned to use much more carefully and responsibly these days. It’s easy to throw around; it’s harder to defend.

  16. Vichai April 9, 2011 at 11:11 pm #

    It is interesting to read Mark’s comment for my 57 years experience has been the opposite. If we’re to use our own experience as a judge on what is authentic and what is not, then only panang that contains peanuts is authentic to me.

    As a matter of fact, Leela, I’m even thinking that maybe what’s at the other end of the continuum which you’ve described as more herbal could very well be kang kua in disguise for I’ve never considered anything other than what you’ve shown us in this post as authentic panang.

  17. Leela April 9, 2011 at 11:13 pm #

    Vichai – Thanks for your input.

  18. Laura April 10, 2011 at 4:12 am #

    The minute I read your post title I just knew this was going to be about peanuts. I’ll throw my own 2 cents in as well for the heck of it. I used to always think of paneng curry as having a strong peanut flavor also. Until I went to Thailand, where I had the experience that it did not have a peanut taste (this was less than 10 yeahrs ago). Further, just to confuse the issue more 😉 I did take a cooking class in Chiang Mai, and we made paneng, so I asked the Thai instructor about it. He said that “You can put peanuts in if you want.” but nothing about peanut butter. So since then I have made without peanuts. I am curious to add some peanut butter now to my paneng (I make my own paste-do you have a paste recipe you like?).

  19. Leela April 10, 2011 at 4:14 pm #

    Laura – The peanut smell/taste is barely there. By no means should it be a prominent feature of the curry. Some people, as I’ve mentioned in the post, don’t even add peanuts to their panaeng.

    The use of natural peanut butter in this recipe is solely due to the fact that commercial curry paste is used and it makes more sense to use peanuts in paste form. Had this involved making curry paste from scratch, I would have suggested you add some roasted peanuts into the mortar as you pound the paste. Also, as noted in the post, only natural peanut butter should be used as it’s the closest thing to grinding your own roasted peanuts. The reference to “peanut butter” often surprises or alarms people, but natural peanut butter is nothing but roasted peanuts ground to a paste. I wouldn’t use regular peanut butter in this or any Thai recipes.

  20. Arwen from Hoglet K April 13, 2011 at 7:47 am #

    My sister has a kaffir lime tree, so I’ll have to get some leaves from her next time I’m there, especially since you mention freezing them. I’m curious that you’re less fussy about your brand of curry paste than of coconut milk. I’ll have to see if Chaokoh brand is available in Australia.

  21. Leela April 13, 2011 at 1:44 pm #

    Arwen – Aw. Kaffir lime envy. Yes, the leaves freeze very, very well and thaw beautifully. All you have to do is put them in a zipper freezer bag; as long as the bag is zipped up tight at all times, you’re good.

    Yeah, the Thai curry paste brands that have exported overseas are mostly respectable brands in the motherland, so they’re all good. Of course, some prefer one or two over the others (read the discussion in my post on easy Thai green curry). But in general, any imported brands won’t let you down.

    In an ideal world, you’d use great curry paste and great coconut milk. But if one of them has to be inferior, I’d prefer that it be the curry paste as opposed to the coconut milk. This is because flavor can be adjusted as you go; the fat content or the consistency of the coconut milk which forms the body of the curry is hard to fix.

    For what it’s worth, out of necessity, I once made red curry with canned coconut milk that contains guar gum and it didn’t go very well. Once I opened the can and saw that the coconut milk came in a nice, thick, homogeneous, emulsified state and I feared the worst. Went ahead and made curry with it anyway.

    The result was a most disgusting, slimy curry I’ve ever had any time anywhere. And it was made with my favorite curry paste.

  22. Anonymous April 24, 2011 at 8:39 pm #

    This looks great…so great that I could not find Kaffir Leaves in my area and just ordered a Lime tree shipped for the leaves only!!! (lets see if I can keep it alive in Chicago) I guess my only concern was about the tenderness of the meat, cooking only for an hour. I would love to pre cook the meat then do the recipe. Have you had experience with your meat (and i assume its california cut chuck roast, choice grade and cut) being a little tough for this dish.? Thank you for sharing this….love your sight! Gin

  23. Leela April 24, 2011 at 8:51 pm #

    Gin – Whoa. Talk about dedication! You can order fresh kaffir lime from online Thai grocers as well. They survive the transit and freeze very well.

    Regarding the cooking time, each cut of meat is different. That’s why I suggest you check for tenderness at the 45- to 60-minute mark and let the meat cook some more if necessary. Chuck roast would be perfect for this.

  24. Emilyplays May 29, 2011 at 3:38 am #

    This sounds delicious. The peanuts are not in the recipe I’ve been using, but I’ll switch. What can I say, you’ve never let me down! To the above comment regarding the BPA in canned goods – I’ve been working to remove that from my diet also and found coconut cream in a tetra-pak. The brand is Aroy-D and it contains no icky gum-like additives. In the late 80’s when I was in college, I didn’t know you could buy coconut milk and would make my own every time I cooked thai food. Love buying it now!

  25. Leela May 29, 2011 at 3:50 am #

    Emilyplays – Thanks! I’ll look for the tetra-pak coconut milk. It’s very commonly found in Thailand and I hope we’ll see more of it in the US.

  26. Melissa July 27, 2011 at 2:34 pm #

    I just discovered your site not long ago, and I’m really glad I found it! I tried this recipe last night, and while the flavors were very good, I found it far too salty for my personal tastes. I used a full 4 oz. of the curry paste (Maesri) and the full amount of fish sauce called for. Do you think I could reduce either the amount of fish sauce or the curry used to reduce salt, or would that alter the recipe too much?

  27. Admin July 27, 2011 at 2:44 pm #

    Melissa – Yes, you can reduce the amount of the fish sauce to taste. I wouldn’t reduce the amount of curry paste, personally, because that would make for an anemic curry.

    One thing about Thai curries, or Thai dishes in general, is that most of them are made to be eaten with rice. That’s the way we eat; rice is the main dish and the curry accompanies the rice. So the dishes are seasoned in such a way that it has enough flavor not only in itself but also for the bland rice. One spoon of curry should be mixed with roughly 3-4 spoons of rice on your plate.

  28. Melissa August 31, 2011 at 7:29 pm #

    Please pardon my late reply, but thanks so much for your advice. I’m going to try this recipe again shortly with your suggestions in mind.

  29. Pam February 10, 2012 at 10:10 am #


    If we can’t find Panaeng curry paste, can we use any curry paste?



  30. Admin February 10, 2012 at 10:24 am #

    Pam – With kaffir lime leaves, you *might* be able to get away with using red curry paste and end up with something close to panaeng. I’m afraid, though, that if you live in an area where panaeng curry paste isn’t available, you’ll have a hard time finding fresh kaffir lime leaves too.

    Any chance you can order panaeng curry paste from an online Asian grocer?

  31. Eric May 6, 2012 at 12:43 am #


    What do you think about adding potatoes to this? Would you do it after you’ve got it at a simmer after adding fish sauce/sugar and bringing to a boil?



  32. Admin May 6, 2012 at 12:48 am #

    Eric – Potatoes are not traditionally added to panaeng. I’d add them to massaman beef, but not this.

  33. Ta Granados May 28, 2012 at 3:12 am #

    I’ve been loving your recipes : ) If possible, can you post recipes for homemade curry paste? I have my mortar and pestle ready and would love your take on homemade paste!

  34. Anonymous July 20, 2012 at 7:10 pm #

    How does one scale up curry recipe such as this one? Lets say I wanted double the meat, would I need to double all ingredients or would you leave the coconut milk unchanged and add more curry paste?

  35. Admin July 20, 2012 at 10:36 pm #

    Anon – You want to double everything.

  36. Errol October 7, 2012 at 7:42 am #

    Hi can I use chicken instead of beef?


    • Leela October 7, 2012 at 7:48 am #

      Errol, yes, you can. Simply replace the beef with the same amount of boneless chicken, sliced into pieces slightly larger than bite-size (it shrinks a bit when cooked). Since chicken doesn’t require stewing for a long time, you need to adjust the cooking time accordingly. If you use boneless chicken breast meat, this curry shouldn’t be cooked longer than 10-15 minutes, if that long. Also, put in less water than you think prudent and add more only if necessary in achieving the consistency that you like.

  37. Khanitha Roebig November 8, 2012 at 3:56 am #

    Sawasdee kra Khun Leela,

    I’ d been looking for the word พะแนงเนื้อ in thais so that why I had click on your image!!!
    this is proof that you พะแนงเนื้อ look real I meant authentic…because I as well try to keep my mom authentic thais recipe and I found your พะแนงเนื้อ recipe…and your pic. tell me that you do a good job:)) fantastic.
    Good Luck and keep carry on:))
    Ning @ Ning’ s Küche

  38. Jeff January 11, 2013 at 4:48 pm #

    Leela, love your site and in Atlanta we have access to all the ingredients folks seem to struggle finding. BTW, used lamb shoulder with this recipe and it was awesome!

    • Leela January 11, 2013 at 8:50 pm #

      Jeff, I can imagine how great lamb shoulder would be in this. Great idea.

  39. Korteztk February 10, 2013 at 6:51 pm #

    So, when you make Penang beef with chuck beef or a similar cut, shoulder, shank, or a tough cut like that, I have presumed you treat it similarly to Massaman curry and cook it far longer that 45-60 minutes, so the fibers, collagen, et al have a chance to break down and make the meat soft and tender? If you keep it firmly covered, you shouldn’t lose much liquid, but if you do might it be wise to start with a very strong curry mixture to prevent having a peanut butter curry instead?

    • Leela February 10, 2013 at 6:59 pm #

      Yes to the first part. The second part, I’d say start out with more liquid, but not more curry paste. While the beef is stewing (and being tenderized), it should be submerged in liquid at all times. But after it has become tender or close to where you want it to be, that’s when you don’t have to worry about it being submerged in liquid anymore; in fact, that’s when you want to reduce the sauce, allowing it to thicken (I like my panaeng saucy, not soupy). When reduced, the sauce becomes concentrated in flavor, so if you add more curry paste than necessary (or add more fish sauce than necessary), the end result ends up being too intense in flavor. Don’t worry about cooking out the curry flavor; it withstands long cooking just fine.

  40. Komi March 30, 2013 at 5:54 pm #

    Are Kaffir lime leaves edible when sliced thin? Also how thick do you cut lemongrass? Does it depend on the dish? Love everything i’ve tried so far!! I swear I must have been Thai in another life, its all I want to eat. Thanks

    • Leela March 31, 2013 at 10:30 am #

      Komi – Yes. This dish doesn’t contain lemongrass, though (except the lemongrass that has already included in the paste).

  41. Miss Yum April 1, 2013 at 10:54 am #

    Aughh!! I find myself craving this on a regular basis! Why is it so addictive? Thanks for another great recipe.

  42. Liam May 9, 2013 at 7:07 pm #

    I have a pound and a half of chuck and I want to make this but I need a large portion. Are there any good vegetables that I can use to fill it out or should I just make a half portion?

    Also, when I cook with chuck in for example, a soup, I religiously defat the surface of the liquid as it cooks. I know you intentionally separate the oil from the coconut milk and that layer is “desirable” but won’t there be a ton of animal fat in there as well? I know curries are supposed to be rich and would never use low-fat coconut milk but it seems like skimming the beef fat wouldn’t hurt the flavor.

    Thanks! I love that you are still answering questions about this 2 years later! You have a great blog; keep up the good work.

    • Leela May 10, 2013 at 10:04 am #

      Liam – Kabocha pumpkin and green beans? Removing some of the fat on the surface should be okay.

  43. Andres November 14, 2013 at 6:24 pm #

    Hi Leela,

    Id like to start off by saying the recipe looks very inviting and I look forward to making it soon. I also have a question for you.

    I ordered panaeng from a Thai restaurant in San Diego and the version I had included pineapple. I felt it compliment the spices very well but after reading all the reviews I haven’t seen anyone else mention pineapple. leads me to wonder, what did I actually eat that day? – Andres

    • Leela November 15, 2013 at 9:07 am #

      Andres – I’ve never seen or had panaeng with pineapple. Some versions of massaman curry do contain pineapple, though.

  44. Vesna January 11, 2014 at 4:27 am #

    Hi Leela, do you have a recipe for a homemade paste? I am avoiding the industrial due to heath concerns bur also because i want to proof myself as a thai cook 😉 Thanks!!


  1. Chicken Panaeng Curry (พะแนงไก่) « The Furious Pear Pie - November 14, 2012

    […] sprinkled with just lemongrass, which I eyed with mild suspicion.  Reading about the different versions of this dish on Leela’s blog confirmed my thoughts: however you vary the curry, you do not […]