Massaman Curry vs. Panang Curry (How To Tell Them Apart?)


It goes without saying that all curries are tasty. But some people would rather a curry be sweet while others would rather it be hot. The same can be said about the color of the curry. You might like it when a dish has a distinct look and appearance. So, what’s the difference between Massaman vs. Panang curry?

Short answer:

Massaman curry, a variant of yellow curry, is loaded with spices such as cardamom and cinnamon and is mild in heat. On the other hand, Penang curry is a variant of red curry and tends to be sweeter than most curries. It has roasted grounded peanuts in the curry paste, giving it a mellow and nutty flavor.

But you might be asking yourself – aren’t all curries sweet?

Does it matter if you use Massaman vs. Panang curry?

Won’t it give the same results?

Well, stick around, and all your questions will be answered.

What Is Massaman Curry?

image of Massaman Curry

Massaman curry is derived from yellow curry and usually has a tangy taste, thick curry, and milder heat in comparison to other Thai curries. (*)

It is a combination of Thai aromatics (garlic, galangal, and lemongrass) and Indian spice, giving it an explosive sensation of flavor and sweetness.

Additionally, Massaman curry is also referred to as the Muslim Thai curry.

The reason being pork, an ingredient in Panang curry, is forbidden for Muslims. So, massaman curry comes in either lamb or beef.

Did you know? The Massaman curry is a famous iconic Thai dish that is certified as a favorite worldwide!

What Is Panang Curry?

image of Panang Curry

Panang curry comes from red curry. (*)

It is less spicy if you compare it to other types of red curries and it is usually thicker than other Thai curries.

Panang curry can be very spicy but not as spicy as different red and green curry.

However, it still packs a punch and usually is sweeter than the other Thai curries.

  • Fun fact: The main components include basil leaves, Panang paste, kaffir lime leaves, fish sauce, and coconut cream that gives the curry a thick texture.

The Difference Between Massaman Curry vs. Panang Curry:

1. Similarities


Both the Massaman and Panang curry paste contain similar base ingredients with only a few variations.

Interestingly, you can actually add peanuts to both curries!


Both of them have a thick and smooth consistency and can contain peanuts and coconuts. 


If a small concentration of chili is used in Panang curry, both curries might have a similar color. 

2. How Are They Made?

The Panang curry typically uses Panang curry paste. So, what is in a Panang curry paste? It is a blend of peanuts, coconut cream, and spices!

Other ingredients you can use for this dish include galangal, shallots, kaffir lime rind, garlic, lemongrass, shrimp paste, white peppers, coriander root, and salt.

Massaman curry is a fusion of Indian and Thai-style curries. Aside from the red-style curry paste, this dish also includes dry spices such as coriander, cumin, nutmeg, and cinnamon. For an additional layer of texture and richness, you can include roasted peanuts in the mix.

3. Taste

Panang curry has a sweet and salty taste, with some touch of nutty flavor as it also contains roasted peanuts. In comparison to other curries, Panang curry is a lot sweeter! The addition of peanut butter or roasted peanuts makes a huge difference, making this curry sweet, and even sweeter. Unlike other Thai curries, Massaman curry is milder.

It has a spectacular, tangy taste and is sweet at the same time. One of the secrets to this curry is the tamarind present which gives it a tangy flavor.

4. Color

Massaman curry is from the yellow curry family. Yellow curries typically take their yellow color from turmeric and dried curry. On the other hand, Panang curry originates from the red curry family. However, it is not as thick and spicy as other red curries.

5. Uses

You can Massaman curry to flavor stews, soups, sauces, meat, marinades, and vegetables. On the other hand, the Panang curry can serve as a substitute for the Massaman curry.

The Panang curry is also a good dish to go with rice. Instead of adding gravy or soup (Thai dish), you can pour curry onto the rice to add flavor.

6. Storage

We advise that you should store Panang curry and Massaman curry in the refrigerator. You can actually keep it there for about 3-4 days. Or, you can place the unused curry in a container and simply place it in the fridge.

Lastly, you can store Massaman and Panang curry for up to 3 months in the freezer.

7. Price

Depending on the parcel or amount you need, both the massaman and Panang curry can be relatively cheap or expensive. After all, you can also purchase the ingredients and make both curries yourself. You might find it to be cheaper and better than the ones sold on the market. If anything, it will be an experience.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which is better, Panang curry or Massaman?

The Massaman curry might be the best curry dish for some curry lovers, while others might prefer the Panang curry. However, taking an unbiased look at both curries, the massaman curry tastes typically better and is sweeter. On the other hand, the Panang curry is just hotter and thicker.

Can you freeze Panang curry?

Yes, you can freeze Panang curry. Like any other curry, it can be frozen for about 3 months. Along with you appropriately wrapping it or placing it in a sealed container, it will freeze well.

Is Panang curry healthy?

Yes, Panang curry is not only delicious, but it is also healthy. It consists of a package full of flavor, vitamins, and minerals. Additionally, it contains sodium, potassium, calcium, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, carbohydrates, proteins, etc.

What’s the difference between Red and massaman curry?

Red curry is a bright red color that comes from dried red chilis. They are hot, unlike other curries. (*) On the other hand, Massaman curry is from the yellow curry family. Yellow curries typically take their yellow color from turmeric and dried curry. It is on the milder side compared to red curries.

Take Away

Curries have many benefits, which include fighting cancer, supporting digestion, and even improving heart health.

But how do you choose between Massaman vs. Panang curry?

Well, if you desire a mild, tangy yet sweet curry, the Massaman curry should be your choice.

If you like something sweet and hot at the same time, then the Panang curry is the best option.

Happy eating!

About The Author

Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top