Anytime someone asks me for a restaurant recommendation here in town, my immediate answer is: Lucky Lotus. This locally-owned restaurant serving southeast Asian fare inspired by family-recipes is a can’t miss. Take my money, I’m done. You’re done. We’re all done. Their food is SO DANG GOOD!
LL’s menu changes seasonally and offers a ton of gluten free, vegetarian, and vegan dishes. It’s one of a handful of spots here in town that all five of us can eat at, considering the kids’ food allergies/preferences and my Celiac Disease, so we get their take out once a week. It probably goes without saying, but it’s my favorite night of the week. ;)
One of my current favorites is their Sweet Potato Panang Curry, which is perfectly spicy and creamy – and I don’t even really like sweet potatoes?! They just make it so well. Every time I dig in I tell Ben, “I could eat this for every single meal of the day.” And it’s true! So much so that I decided to make my own version at home so if I wanted to, I could!
Behold (humbly): Thai Sweet Potato Curry, aka my new go-to red curry recipe with a coconut and peanut twist! It is creamy, saucy, and spicy, with a satisfying lime and fresh herb twist to cut through the richness. Packed with protein and vegetables. INCREDIBLE! I can’t wait for you to try it.
Red Curry Paste + Peanut + Coconut = MAGIC
Like I said, the inspiration for this Thai Sweet Potato Curry is Lucky Lotus’ Panang Curry. From my research, panang curry paste is similar to Thai red curry paste though panang curry also includes roasted peanuts. To mimic the flavor, I added a thwack of peanut butter to store-bought red curry paste then seared the mixture in a hot wok to get those roasted peanut undertones.
There’s only one tablespoon of peanut butter in the entire recipe but it really brings a new, deep, and delicious dimension to this red curry. Super, super good. Add a can of creamy coconut milk and you’ve got yourself a rich and silky, red curry peanut sauce that you’ll want to drink with a spoon.
Battle of the Fresh Herbs
Lucky Lotus serves their sweet potato curry with fresh Thai basil and, if you can find it, it’s a must try. Thai basil is very different than regular garden basil – it tastes like licorice and really stands out in each bite. During recipe testing I could only find Thai basil once, so I’ve also included instructions for how to incorporate cilantro into this dish as the fresh herb.
Both options are totally delicious – though if you can find Thai basil near you, it really elevates the dish.
Make it Vegetarian or Vegan
Lucky Lotus does a great job of customizing their dishes to be gluten-free, vegan, and/or vegetarian, and this dish is also super easy to customize.
To make it vegetarian:
- Swap the chicken for a can of drained/rinsed canned chickpeas OR cubed extra firm tofu.
- Use vegetable broth or vegetable stock instead of chicken broth.
To make it vegan:
- Use the above swaps and also omit the fish sauce. Add a drizzle of gluten free Tamari to mimic the savory richness fish sauce provides, or use a vegan fish sauce substitute.
- Add more veggies like cauliflower or carrots to pump the dish up.
Ready to get the restaurant experience at home?!
How to Make Thai Sweet Potato Curry
Start by stir frying sliced yellow onions in a little oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat until golden brown and tender, 5 minutes. Add freshly minced garlic cloves and grated ginger then stir fry until very fragrant, 1 minute.
Next add red curry paste and peanut butter then smash the mixture into the bottom of the wok and let it sear. Stir then press/sear in 20-30 second increments until you can see that the red curry paste has browned a bit, 1 – 2 minutes.
This is the Thai red thai curry paste I buy at the grocery store. Despite the label reading “hot”, I don’t find it to be that spicy – a whole jar makes this dish maybe a 5 or 6 out of 10 on the heat scale (1 being water and 10 being a habanero pepper.)
That said, if you’re sensitive to spice, start with half the jar then add more to the sauce later on if you tolerate it!
Next add full fat coconut milk, chicken stock or broth, a drizzle of fish sauce, and sweet potato that’s been peeled then diced into 1/2 inch cubes and bring the mixture to a boil. Turn the heat down to low then simmer until the sweet potatoes are just barely tender, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
By the way, I highly recommend using full fat coconut milk in here, vs light coconut milk – it really makes the dish creamy and balances all the flavors.
Next add thinly sliced chicken breasts then cook through, 3-4 minutes. I like to thinly slice the chicken breasts then cut each slice in half vertically to create thin strips. That way they cook extremely quickly in the hot curry mixture.
Almost done! Add fresh baby spinach then cook until tender, 1-2 minutes.
Lastly, add fresh lime juice and the Thai basil leaves, if using, then let the Thai Sweet Potato Curry sit to cool and thicken for at least 10 minutes. When it’s time to eat, scoop over cooked jasmine rice then garnish with finely chopped peanuts, lime wedges, and fresh cilantro if that’s the route you went. Finally, dig in!
I hope you love this extremely sauce and satisfying, restaurant inspired sweet potato coconut curry – it truly is a winner! Enjoy!
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Thai Sweet Potato Curry
Thai Sweet Potato Curry is rich, creamy, and tastes like it's been simmering all day. Chock full of protein and healthy vegetables!
- 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 yellow onion, cut in half then thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
- 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
- 4oz jar Thai Kitchen Red Curry Paste (see notes)
- 1 Tablespoon peanut butter (see notes)
- 13.6oz can full fat coconut milk
- 3/4 cup chicken stock or broth
- 1 Tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 medium sweet potato (~12oz), peeled then diced into 1/2" cubes
- 1lb chicken breasts, sliced into thin strips (see notes)
- 2 packed cups baby spinach
- 1 clamshell Thai basil, leaves plucked from stems OR 1 small bunch fresh cilantro
- 2 limes, one cut in half and one cut into wedges
- For serving: cooked white rice, finely minced peanuts
- Heat oil in a large wok or skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add onions then saute until golden brown and slightly softened, 5 minutes. Add garlic and ginger then saute until very fragrant, 1 more minute. Add red curry paste and peanut butter then mash ingredients to combine and saute for another 2 minutes or until you can see the red curry paste has browned a bit. I like to mash the mixture into an even layer in the bottom of the wok then let it sear for 30 seconds before stirring again and repeating a few more times.
- Add coconut milk, stock or broth, fish sauce, and sweet potatoes to the wok then turn heat to high to bring to a boil. Turn heat down to low then simmer until sweet potatoes are just tender, 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add chicken strips then simmer until just cooked through, 3-4 minutes. Add baby spinach then simmer until tender, 2-3 more minutes. Turn off heat then stir in Thai basil leaves (if using) plus juice from 1/2 lime. Let dish cool for at least 10 minutes then taste and add more lime juice if desired. Scoop over cooked rice then garnish with cilantro (if using instead of Thai basil), lime wedges, and minced peanuts.
- If you can't find the Thai Kitchen brand of curry paste, use what you can find with the understanding that it may be more or less hot than the Thai Kitchen brand. I recommend starting with 2 Tablespoons of the brand you can find then adding more to your liking as the dish simmers.
- As written, using a 4oz jar of Thai Kitchen Red Curry Paste, the dish is ~6 out of 10 on the heat scale. You can add a squeeze of siracha if you want more heat.
- If using natural-style peanut butter (meaning, the only ingredient is peanuts) you may need to add 1-2 teaspoons coconut sugar to balance the flavors.
- The key to quick cooking chicken in this dish is to slice the chicken breasts into thin strips. Slice the chicken breasts then slice the wider slices in half to create strips.
This recipe is courtesy of Iowa Girl Eats, http://iowagirleats.com.