PZ’s simple curry recipe

I made a curry tonight, and was asked to share my recipe. I was a little reluctant, because this is a really easy recipe, and explaining it will erase my mystique as a cook. But I’m a scientist, not a chef, and we believe in exposing all the mysteries, dammit. So here it is. Bonus: it’s vegan!

Take some extra firm tofu and let it rest under a weight for a while, until it’s extra firmerer.

You’re going to need a small pot. Put a cup of coconut milk in it, and then a couple of healthy dollops of peanut butter, and a variable amount of red curry paste. You get to control the final heat here: add a spoonful or two if you you like it mild, throw in half a tub of the stuff if you want to set the world on fire. Let it simmer until all the chunky stuff melts and you’ve got a nice brownish sauce with rivers of red like blood threading through it.

Now rescue your tofu from the crushing weight and cube it. Slice it into small bits, about the diameter of the tip of your little finger. Use a sharp knife, and maybe you’ll get a finger tip as a standard — you’ll only get to do that twice, so learn fast. Heat up some olive oil in a pan, and fry the tofu cubes up for a while, until they’re getting a toasty brown around the edges. This gives ’em a little more texture. Tofu needs it.

Sad confession. I’d like to add some of those tasty little red dried chilis at this point, and simmer them in the oil with the tofu, but I haven’t yet found any in Morris, so I usually don’t. I should check the Mexican grocery next time.

When the tofu looks good, throw them into the peanut butter/coconut milk/curry paste sauce. Simmer a while. They’ll absorb the flavor and get nutty-spicy.

Get a big white onion and chop it fine. Go ahead and let your tears spatter into it to add a personal touch. Saute in your cooking pot in some olive oil for 5 minutes or so, and then add a healthy dose of grated garlic, like a couple of cloves worth. Add some grated ginger, a bit more than the amount of garlic you added, and swirl it around in the hot oil and onions. Add peanuts. How many peanuts do you like? I throw in a couple of handfuls. Saute some more.

Time to add some spices. If you’re as lazy as I am, just get that yellow curry powder and toss in a couple of big spoonfuls. OK, add another spoonful. Maybe more. To taste. If you don’t have the curry powder, add turmeric and cumin and a bit of ground coriander. Swirl it around until everything is coated and hot, and dump in your coconut milk plus pepper plus peanut butter and tofu. You should get a nice blast of delicious steam in your face.

Really, that might be the best part of cooking this stuff, that moment when you get to breathe in the spices. Sinuses now all clear.

OK, now add a splash of soy sauce, and a couple of splashes of rice vinegar. If you think it’s not robust enough, spritz in some sriracha sauce to invigorate it.

Now we might diverge a bit: I use an instant pot pressure cooker. I just need to zap it at high pressure for 3 minutes or so to turn it into liquid gold. If you’re using a slow cooker, you might need to let it cook for an hour or more. Do the experiment! Do frequent tastings to see how it’s coming along!

Somewhere in here get your rice cooking. I like jasmine rice with this curry.

Final step: add pineapple chunks and simmer for a few minutes. I just use a whole large can of the stuff, but if you want more sweetness, add more (I think Mary wants me to add a couple of pineapples worth). Put it on rice and consume.

Curries are surprisingly easy to make — it’s all in the spices, and they’re easy to come by. I also have a red curry I make with lentils and potatoes, but I’m not telling because I have to keep some secrets.


  1. MHiggo says

    Good call, PZ. I make my curries in my slow cooker as I lack a stove; plus, it lets me make 5-6 batches for cold storage and future consumption. Don’t think I’ve tried pineapple with curry, though I do usually throw in a Fuji apple or two. Might have to give pineapple a try at some point.

  2. Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y says

    This actually sounds pretty good except for the sad, sick suspicion that it actually tastes like BURNING.

  3. jacksprocket says

    Not the curry we had for tiffin when I was in Poonah! But then the tradition we’ve learned here in UK is usually Indian (the whole subcontinent, including Pakistan) rather than SE Asian. And beware Mexican chilis. In my experience, about -1 is the right number.

  4. etfb says

    Excellent timing – I was just wondering what to make the monkeys for dinner. My Beloved is away in the north being Official (she has a major ceremonial role in the SoCiAl activity that we’re involved in) so I’m being Bachelor Bat.

    A couple of variations from your recipe. I was dubious about the pineapple, but once I smelt the rest I realised it would probably work well. Sadly, we seem to be out of pineapple! I used coconut oil rather than olive oil, because I find it goes better. I used granulated peanuts instead of whole ones, but I think whole ones would be better. The tofu I used was probably not firm enough, or else I should have toasted it for longer — it was only slightly tanned on some edges. Also, we had Laksa curry paste rather than red, which again is odd because the latter is one thing we ALWAYS have.

    Next time: toast the tofu more, add pineapple, add more of all the spices, use a bigger pot and simmer longer.

    Verdict from myself, the BatPup and the Boy Wonder: success! This will go into the Big Red Folder of useful recipes. We will be referring to it as Atheist Curry henceforth.

  5. etfb says

    Footnote: the Boy Wonder just stuck his head in the door and said “is there more? that was super tasty!” I told him we have to let Mummy have some, and he cursed sacrilegiously… so you know I’m raising him right!

  6. says

    Tip for tofu cookery: a block of firm tofu, frozen solid and then thawed, has a chewy, interesting texture, with greatly improved mouthfeel and the capacity to absorb sauces. Frozen-then-thawed tofu can be cubed and put on a skewer for shish-kebabs and it will not fall apart. In a curry it will behave more like a solid paneer.

  7. says

    No respect for those of use with allergies! Worst is the dreaded peanut. Even the smell can trigger an extreme reaction. Then there is the tofu ….and you threaten lentils next time.
    The horror.

  8. KG says

    Final step: add pineapple chunks and simmer for a few minutes.

    As a dedicated member of the “No fruit out of context” movement, I am truly horrified. Almost as bad as pineapple on pizza, for which I might consider relaxing my opposition to capital punishment.

  9. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    Peanut butter? You trying to kill me?

    Seriously, I hope you warn guests about all the allergens before you serve this.

  10. TheGyre says

    Sorry, no can do as you do. I’ve got a soy protein allergy that manifests as congested ears and all that goes with it (I’ll spare you the details.) But I agree that curries are a very flexible and forgiving way to cook almost anything. Yesterday I made a sweet potato, Brussel sprouts, chickpea and coconut milk curry. A great way to take the bite out of the sprouts.

  11. oolon says

    Can’t imagine tofu in a curry, but sag paneer is lovely and you can make your own paneer cheese pretty easily.

  12. grasshopper says

    From the Rodgers and Hammerstein book of paltry recipes.
    “Chicks and ducks and geese in a curry”.

    Please do not cry fowl.

  13. MetzO'Magic says

    Looks like PZ has unwittingly (maybe that’s a tad harsh) stumbled on a recipe for Thai Panang curry, which is my fav Thai curry. I’m going to try this, but will substitute chicken for the tofu, and my wife cannot do whole peanuts due to diverticulitis. So will use smooth peanut butter with roasted cashews (which are soft enough) for the nuttiness. And no pineapple. Great for sweet and sour pork, but doesn’t belong in a Thai dish… even though this is obviously a westernised version of it.

    Will let you know how we get on if we’re still alive after the fact.

  14. michaelumilik says

    “Curries are surprisingly easy to make”
    Let me fix that for you: Western “must-get-it-done-in 5-minutes” versions of curries are surprisingly easy to make.

  15. ajbjasus says

    Hmm – thai paste, yellow (indian) curry powder, pineapple, very eclectic for sure, but not sure it does it for me.

    On the red chili thing – every year I buy an “apache” chili plant from the nursery, and grow it as a house plant -it prodeces loads of fruit, which I dry in a low oven, and always have enough fire-power for the whole of the following year.

    They’re really pretty plants, too.

  16. bhebing says

    “Western “must-get-it-done-in 5-minutes” versions of curries are surprisingly easy to make.”

    Let me fix that for you: curries are easy to make, even if you take to time to make, say, a proper vindaloo. You don’t have to do anything too advanced, other than invest time and attention.

    But yes, like all thinks culinary, the 5 minute version will never stand up to the 2 hour version, but that has nothing to do with technique.

    Also… Pineapple??? In a curry?? Guess it really does take all sorts…

  17. rorschach says

    Use Maggi instead of soy sauce and the (less salty) world will be your friend, always.

  18. rorschach says

    And obviously, the pineapple go into a sweet & sour dish not a curry. Like, never. But you’re American so yeah.

  19. davem says

    Tofu in a curry? Seriously? Yikes!. Most Indian curries are vegetarian, and thoroughly delicious. I say that as a meat eater. I approve of the Instant Pot however. It’s great for curries. I saute meat and onions on the saute setting, then chuck in all other ingredients,and 20 minutes on high pressure gives pretty good results. Having a local Indian-owned supermarket helps. I still have no idea what the vegetables are that they slll, though…

  20. blf says

    It’s not so much there is a single curry recipe, as all current curry recipes are a pale imitation of the real thing. Curries started, says the mildly deranged penguin, as a way of dealing with left-over Brontosaurus. The original recipes were similar to:

    ● Tonnes of Brontosaurus. (Gutted, not necessary to debone.)
    ● Tonnes of vegetation. (Avoid toxic plant parts unless properly prepared.)
    ● Tonnes of spices.

    Dig pit deep enough to fully contain the Brontosaurus. Stuff full of burnable materials, such as the inedible parts of the vegetation (trunks of the pineapple trees…). Ignite.

    Whilst the fire pit is burning down, wash the edible vegetation, and then stuff into the gutted Brontosaurus. When there is a nice toasty bed of coals in the fire pit, heave the stuffed Brontosaurus into the pit on top of the coals.

    Extinguish any fires caused by the flying sparks. (Be sure to check hair and beards.) Shovel in the spices, burying the roasting stuffed Brontosaurus. It will start to simmer in its own juices. (Do not cover the spices with dirt.)

    Leave it to cook. Post a guard. Return in a few days.

    Unbury and enjoy. Serve with mead & grog. A typical curried Brontosaurus will feed a hungry village for weeks.

    May contain parasites. Have several days worth of food available to eat whilst the curry is cooking.