I tried to make a Thai peanut curry and used a highly rated recipe: I have no experience making Thai food and have only eaten it in restaurants.

It did occur to me that the peanut butter content seemed very high in that recipe. The resulting dish was in fact far too sweet and fatty and not nearly spicy enough. My first inclination would be to eliminate the sugar, reduce the peanut butter. The spiciness was easily remedied by the liberal application of sriracha. My goal is not just to make a tasty dish but to also be as authentic as possible.

What should I look for in an authentic Thai curry recipe? About what ratio of peanut butter should I expect? Should they add sugar as this one did?

  • 4
    When copying restaurant dishes keep in mind that most Thai, Chinesse, Japonesse, Indian (etc.) restaurants use modified versions of the recipies that satisfy common tastes in the country they are found, with just an etnic flavor; otherwise they would not have as many clients. So if you find authentic recipies they would differ those in restaurants, may even be to exotic or etnic for your taste. And it's not only for exotic restaurants. You may be even surprized by differences between Italian cuisine in America and Italian cuisine in Italy.
    – Coral Doe
    Oct 9, 2012 at 6:38
  • Note that not all peanut butter has added sugar. (I prefer one with only peanuts and no other ingredients at all.)
    – gidds
    Apr 13, 2023 at 19:57

2 Answers 2


Many Asian recipes, especially from the Thailand have large amounts of sugar in them.

Traditionally this would have been a more raw form of sugar, or just some sweet fruit paste

I would suggest first trying the original Asian dishes (i.e. go bush in Thailand, or find some recent Thai immigrants to hang with!), and then make you own sauces based on those experiences, but adjust ingredients to taste and sensibility


The dish in that recipe is a non-authentic panang curry (แกงพะแนง in Thai). If you have a good quality curry paste you only need the following ingredients (according to David Thompson):

  • panang curry paste
  • coconut cream (yes, cream and not milk because it takes less time and less cans)
  • fish sauce
  • palm sugar

For panang curry you can also add some coarsely ground roasted peanuts as garnish as well as finely sliced kaffir lime leaves.

There is definitely no peanut butter in authentic Thai cuisine. They didn't have peanut butter when the recipes were created.

Palm sugar may be difficult for some people to obtain. I suggest you buy it online and have it shipped. You can buy it in a thick liquid or hard form. The hard form is more effort to use but has a longer shelf life. A mortar/pestle, blender, food processor or spice grinder does make it easier.

Buy the coconut cream/milk with the highest percentage of coconut that you can find. Buying this online will also give you a better selection though shipping will be expensive. Buy a crate hehe.

Please take a look at my universal Thai curry method based on Thompson's technique.

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