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Thai Coconut Curry Stew

Pan-fried, curry-rubbed tofu and rice round out this Thai Coconut Curry Stew — a warming, comfort food meal that’s perfectly spiced with savory curry, and Thai flavors like ginger, lemongrass, and kaffir lime leaves. {Vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free}

Thai Coconut Curry Stew from SoupAddict.com

It’s Meatless Monday, let’s do it up right! And while we’re all here together, bonding over rich and creamy Thai coconut curry stew, let’s talk about meatless meals, and how you can get your peeps on board without feeling like they’re eating an alien dinner from Mars.

Now, SoupAddict is not a vegetarian blog, and it won’t ever be. But it does — at least for the last few years — reflect how I eat IRL, which is … how shall I say it without sounding like a total goob … vegetable strong. I’m not a vegetarian, but meat figures in few of my meals, maybe 30% per week, overall.

I was, however, a vegetarian for many years, so I know a little something about making that transition. Although my vegetarian story is the topic for another post, I’ll just sum up its beginnings by saying that the decision to go veg happened in a split second.

I was digging through my freezer one day, unexpectedly shocked and saddened at how many packages of beef and chicken had worked their way to the back wall, dried out and freezer burnt. All those animals, wasted. By the time I closed the door, I was a vegetarian.

Thai Coconut Curry Stew from SoupAddict.com

So, to say I hadn’t prepared properly was an understatement, lol. It did help that I was (and am) a vegetable gardener, and love love vegetables.

But when I started on my veg journey, I had no big-picture meal plan, and I had no particular experience with preparing meal after meal of vegetarian recipes. So, in short order, everything revolved around white flour. Bread and pasta were staples. Green salads and steamed veggies were in there, too, for sure, but every meal was built around toasty bread, or tortilla wraps, or a sandwich, or pasta of some sort.

Meat substitutes back then were weird. Okayish, but weird (they’re soooo much better now, though). Tofu, omg, I fumbled tofu so many times that just seeing one of those packages at the grocery would make my stomach roll over. So it was, Hello, Pasta, you’re my veg love.

Over time, this reliance on white flour food caught up with me, in a big way. Again, the deets are for another post, but I didn’t turn the health corner until I began looking at meals in a totally different way: instead of relying on carby starches to create a satisfying meal, I began seeking out well-rounded recipes that were naturally — and completely unintentionally — vegetarian.

As I discovered, there are so many delicious dishes out there that are vegetarian without even trying. And when I say, without even trying, I mean that there’s no, “well, this ingredient isn’t vegetarian, so what oh what oh what should I substitute?” Just simply, scrumptiously meat-free.

What are some naturally vegetarian dishes that you already know and love in the American diet? Spaghetti and marinara sauce. Vegetable soup. Guacamole and tortilla chips. Baked beans. (And, shhhh, they’re naturally vegan, too.) Mac & cheese.

And soooo many other dishes become easily and deliciously vegetarian with familiar substitutes: beef stroganoff becomes mushroom stroganoff. Chicken tacos become guacamole tacos. A beef stir fry becomes veggie loaded. No weirdness there!

Thai Coconut Curry Stew from SoupAddict.com

One result I loved about stretching my recipe repertoire was exploring the foods of other cultures. Mexican — real Mexican, not Taco-Bell-Mexican — Mediterranean, Indian, Thai. The spice palates of these new-to-me cuisines were wicked eye-opening. The American spice palate is pretty basic: salt, black pepper, garlic, chili powder, some herbs. But omg, the ginger, lemongrass, curry blends, smoked paprika, saffron. Wowza.

And all these years later, I have to say, Thai food is my spirit animal. I cook up Thai food all the time. Authentic? Probably not. Respectfully inspired? Absopositivelylutely.

In fact, I make today’s Thai coconut curry stew so often that I had to check my blog twice because I couldn’t believe I hadn’t shared it before now.

Thai Coconut Curry Stew from SoupAddict.com

Thai coconut curry stew is one of those naturally vegetarian (and vegan) dishes that tastes knock-your-socks-off amazing. But I do want to highlight one of the ingredients: tofu.

There are, I think, two broad hurdles that meat-lovers face when contemplating a vegetable-strong way of eating. One, is missing the flavor of meat. There really is nothing quite like a perfectly grilled hamburger at a summer picnic, amirite? Two, is losing the texture of meat. From chili to chicken soup, meat adds a certain “chew” that meat lovers get used to and anticipate in their meals.

To help overcome — or at least offset — the first, naturally vegetarian meals are the way to go with your meat-lovin’ peeps. Don’t even try to win them over with the meat substitutes, it. won’t. work. It’s like trying to pass off diet Mt. Dew as regular {shiver}.

But, for the second issue, meat substitutes can come in handy. And that’s why I’ve added tofu here.

As I mentioned, my early encounters with tofu were rife with ickiness and salty tears. But then I learned how to properly prepare tofu from Kiersten Frase, the founder and former owner of Oh My Veggies.

Tofu by itself has barely any flavor of its own, but it is an amazing sponge for other flavors. And, when prepared properly, it has a vague chicken texture that works in many dishes, including this one.

The secrets to perfectly textured tofu: use “extra firm” tofu, and squeeze out as much liquid as you can; rub the tofu with flavorful spices; bake or pan fry the tofu until crispy on the outside. When prepared like this, you’ll have to hold yourself back from snacking on the tofu cubes right out of the pan. It’s just that good!

If you or your fam are just not ready for tofu yet, no worries, you can skip it! But either way, I hope you’ll try this tasty Meatless Monday meal, and see how tasty vegetable-strong can be! I’m not here to convert anyone to anything, only to help ease peeps into meat-reduced recipes, if I can. If you have any questions about vegetable-strong eating — or even flat-out vegetarianism — ask away! I’m happy to help!

Karen xo


Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Thai Coconut Curry Stew

Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time30 minutes
Total Time1 hour
Servings: 4 generous servings
Author: Karen Gibson


for the tofu

  • 14 ounce package extra firm tofu
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon mild curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon green Thai curry paste

for the rice

  • 1 cup dried rice
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped cilantro stems
  • 1 kaffir lime leaf optional

for the stew

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1/2 onion small dice
  • 1/2 red bell pepper small dice
  • 1 small carrot small dice
  • 1 tablespoon mild curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon green Thai curry paste
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 can coconut milk well-shaken
  • 1/2 fresh lime
  • kosher salt

suggested garnishes

  • chopped cilantro leaves
  • chopped cashews
  • sliced green onions
  • lime wedges


for the tofu

  • Remove the tofu from the package and discard (along with the soaking liquid). Gently but firmly press the tofu block between the palms of your hands over the sink to drain the soaking liquid. Turn the block and press again. Continue turning and pressing until the block no longer drips, taking care not to break the block. Alternatively, line a bowl with a thick pad of paper towels, place the block on the towels, layer another thick pad on top, and then lay something heavy on top of the tofu, such as a small cast iron skillet. Let drain for an hour. Slice the tofu into 1/2" cubes.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon coconut oil over medium-high in a medium skillet until melted. Stir in the curry powder and paste until fragrant (just 10 seconds or so). Add the tofu and stir everything together to thoroughly coat the tofu cubes. Cook the tofu, turning frequently, until the edges begin to brown. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

prepare the rice

  • Cook the rice according to package directions, adding the cilantro stems and kaffir leaf to the water as it comes to a boil. When cooked, fluff the rice and set aside.

prepare the stew

  • Heat the coconut oil in a roomy sauteuse or other wide-bottomed 4 quart pot over medium until melted. Add the onion, bell pepper, and carrot, and cook until softened. Add the curry powder, curry paste, and garlic to the vegetables and saute until fragrant.
  • Increase heat to medium-high, and add the broth, soy sauce, and brown sugar. Bring the soup to a gentle boil, then reduce to medium-low, and let the soup settle down (no bubbling). Stir in the coconut milk, along with the tofu and rice. Squeeze the lime half over the soup and mix well. Taste for salt and adjust as desired.
  • Serve immediately with garnishes.
Nutritional information, if shown, is provided as a courtesy only, and is not to be taken as medical information or advice. The nutritional values of your preparation of this recipe are impacted by several factors, including, but not limited to, the ingredient brands you use, any substitutions or measurement changes you make, and measuring accuracy.

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Thai Coconut Curry Stew - a warming, comfort food meal that's perfectly spiced with savory curry and Thai flavors like ginger, lemongrass, and kaffir leaves. Pan-fried, curry-rubbed tofu and rice round out this filling, satisfying stew. Recipe at SoupAddict.com | vegetarian stew | stew recipe | healthy stew | vegan stew | gluten-free | coconut curry soup | thai stew | tofu | food in bowlsThai Coconut Curry Stew - a warming, comfort food meal that's perfectly spiced with savory curry and Thai flavors like ginger, lemongrass, and kaffir leaves. Pan-fried, curry-rubbed tofu and rice round out this filling, satisfying stew. Recipe at SoupAddict.com | vegetarian stew | stew recipe | healthy stew | vegan stew | gluten-free | coconut curry soup | thai stew | tofu | food in bowls

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