May 24, 2024


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Massaman Curry Vs. Panang Curry | Are They Same?

8 min read

If you love curries, then Thai curries must intrigue you. They are a complex blend of spices that make for the most flavorful, rich, and bright curries. But more often than not, their appearance leaves us confused. One such case stands with two finest curries, Massaman and Panang curry.

Massaman Curry Vs. Panang Curry

To make things easy for you, I’m going to give you an insight into how different Massaman curry is from Panang curry despite having a similar appearance. And which is the best?

Three main types of Thai curries—red, yellow, and green—are categorized by the color of the curry paste. The different colors of the chilies achieve this distinct hue and other ingredients used.

However, Massaman and Panang curry look so similar to pastes that they are often mistaken to be used the same. However, these two curries bring different flavors to the table.

Read on to learn more about the difference between Massaman and Panang curry.

Massaman Curry vs. Panang Curry | Difference Table 

Basis of Difference Massaman Curry Panang Curry
Origin Massaman curry is known to be a That curry, but is said to be originated in Malaysia. Thai Panang curry originates from the central region of Thailand.
Taste Massaman curry is savory and slightly sweet curry with mild heat. It is loaded with spices. Panang is a aromatic curry having a nutty and spicy flavor.
Texture Massaman is a rich and creamy curry. Panang is a thick curry.
Appearance Although Massaman curry is considered to be a red curry, it is a variant of yellow curry because of the presence of turmeric. Panang curry is red in color.
Ingredients Massaman curry is made using dry whole spices like cumin, coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, turmeric along with ginger, garlic, lemongrass, and coconut milk. Panang curry is made with chilies, lemongrass, galangal, lime zest, coriander, garlic, shallot, shrimp paste, cumin, coriander, and peanuts along with coconut cream, soy sauce, and fish sauce.
Uses Massaman curry pairs well with chicken, beef, duck, meat, tofu, vegetables, sticky rice, steamed rice, and noodles. Panang curry pairs well with seafood, chicken, and beef.

What Is Massaman Curry?

massaman curry

Massaman is a popular curry that hails from the south of Thailand. This curry is quite different from other Thai curries, having a unique blend of spices.

This curry packs a punch of fragrance, the sweetness and tang of lemongrass and galangal, and a mild heat. Another unique quality of this curry is its flavors pair well with veg and non-veg food items.

What Is Panang Curry? 

Panang Curry

Panang curry is a red Thai curry that has a uniquely rich texture. While this curry also comprises a similar list of ingredients, it is on the spicier side and has a bright red color. Moreover, this curry has a mild nutty taste due to the addition of peanuts.

While many types of meat can be added to Panang curry, sliced pork is the most popular meat. This curry can also be cooked with poultry or vegetables.

Massaman Curry vs. Panang Curry | What’s The Difference?

1. Origin

Due to the similar appearance of both curries, Massaman and Panang curries are often confused and thought to have a similar taste. However, the two don’t taste the same, nor have the same place of origin.

Massaman curry is said to have originated in Malaysia. Still, its spices are believed to have been influenced by the blend of Persian and Indian cuisine brought to Asia by Persian merchants.

If you go by its name “Massaman,” it originates from the Persian word “moselman,” meaning Muslim.

On the other hand, Panang curry has been used in Asian cuisine for over 100 years, with its birthplace being Thailand.

2. Taste and Texture

Massaman and Panang curries are often confused with being the same. However, the two come with different characteristics.

Massaman curry has a sweet, tangy, and savory taste with a creamy and rich texture. At the same time, Panang curry has more spice and a thicker consistency.

3. Appearance

If you notice carefully, you will also find that both these curries have different colors. Panang curry is red in color, whereas Massaman draws a yellow hue due to the addition of turmeric.

4. Ingredients

With a mix of Thai, Persian, and Indian influences, Massaman curry paste features ingredients like cilantro seeds, cumin, cinnamon, nutmeg, turmeric, lemongrass, shrimp paste, chili peppers, and garlic.

All these ingredients are transformed into a thick paste and fried with coconut cream. This flavor-packed sauce also calls for fish sauce, tamarind paste, coconut milk, and sugar.

The curry paste used to make Panang curry features seeds, cumin seeds, dried chili peppers, galangal, lemongrass, makrut lime zest, garlic, shallot, shrimp paste, salt, and peanuts.

5. Uses 

Massaman curry is most commonly made with chicken. Other meat pairings include duck, beef, venison, goat, and mutton. It is served with a bowl of steamed rice, such as jasmine or basmati rice.

The most popular meat added to Panang curry is sliced pork. It can also be cooked with poultry or simply with vegetables as a vegetarian option.

Massaman Curry vs Panang Curry | Which One Is Healthier?

If you are looking at Massaman and Panang curry from a health point of view, you would be happy to know that both curries are healthy to eat. They contain a great blend of spices that are not harmful.

Massaman Curry vs. Panang Curry | Which One Is Tastier?

By now, you must have noticed some similarities between the Massaman and Panang curry with the list of Thai spices and flavorings, along with coconut cream, fish sauce, and sugar.

However, whilst Massaman and Panang curries have a lot in common, some key differences result in different tastes.

Massaman curry includes a range of Persian spices, such as cumin, cinnamon, and nutmeg, adding a new dimension of warm notes in flavor and aroma. You will find this unique flavor missing in Panang curry.

In contrast, Panang curry has a zingy zestiness to the sauce due to the presence of lime leaves and a kick of heat.

Moreover, the biggest difference comes with the use of chili peppers. While Massaman curry uses a lesser amount of chili peppers, one of the key ingredients in Panang curry is chili peppers.

Keeping in mind the ingredients list of both curries, Massaman makes for a tastier curry because of its complex flavors. If you enjoy spicier food, adding some chili can always increase the heat.

Top Recipes To Make With Massaman Curry 

1. Thai Massaman Chicken Curry

Thai Massaman Chicken Curry

If you are looking for a delectable chicken curry recipe infused with Thai flavors, you must try out the That Massaman chicken curry recipe. 

This curry brings warm and mouth-watering flavors to the table and looks attractive. It is a great dish to serve for lunch or dinner meals with steamed or Jasmine rice.

2. Massaman Curry


If your heart desires beef, try out this Massaman curry recipe that delivers beautiful layers of flavor. Peanuts, coconut, aromatic fresh and ground spices, potatoes, and fall-apart beef makes this dish worth your time.

Top Recipes To Make With Panang Curry

1. Panang Curry

Panang Curry

If you want to savor the spicy flavors of Panang curry, check out this amazing recipe that can be made with chicken, any meat, or vegetables. This recipe is super easy to make and is full of rich and creamy flavors.

2. Panang Curry With Pork 

Panang Curry With Pork 

If you wish to enjoy pork in Panang curry, check out this sumptuous recipe that best uses pork tenderloin. This dish is infused with zesty and spicy flavors sure to delight you.

Massaman Curry vs. Panang Curry | Which One Is More Versatile?

While the debate over which curry has a better taste depends on personal preference, in terms of versatility, Massaman surely scores more than Panang curry.

Massaman curry has a milder heat as compared to Panang curry, which makes it better for people who cannot tolerate too much spice. Moreover, you always have the option to increase the spice on individual preference.

Massaman curry also has a thinner consistency and creamy texture that makes it easy to use.

Massaman Curry vs. Panang Curry | Which One Is Better?

The war of which one tastes better than the other is always debatable. Massaman curry happens to be the most popular curry. It is tagged as the “King of the Curries” because of its unique taste.

You can pair this curry with any meat and vegetable and serve it alongside rice or noodles.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the difference between Thai red, green, and yellow curries?

Thai red, green and yellow curries are the most popular types of curries found in Thai restaurants. While these curries have a common list of ingredients, the difference lies in the spice level.
Green curry is a sweet curry containing large amounts of coconut and lime juice. Red curry is a relatively spicy curry. Yellow Thai curry falls somewhere in between these two.

Which color Thai curry is the hottest?

Every Thai curry has its own unique flavor and level of spice. Red Thai curries are usually the hottest, and yellow fall somewhere in between.

Is Thai Panang curry healthy?

Thai Panang is a healthy and delicious curry packed full of flavor.

What kind of rice goes with Thai curry?

Sticky rice, Jasmine rice, and steamed rice go well with Thai curries.

How to make vegan or vegetarian Thai curry?

To make a vegan or vegetarian Thai curry, skip adding shrimp paste.

What meats pair well with Massaman and Panang curry?

You can add chicken, duck, pork, steak, and mutton with both Massaman and Panang curry.


Curries are a very important part of Asian cuisine lovers. And curries come in many flavors. But Massaman and Panang curry happens to be the top-rated curry among them all.

So, if you like your curry spicy and creamy, then the Panang curry is for you. On the other hand, if you prefer something mild, aromatic, and tangy yet sweet, Massaman curry would be the right choice for you.

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