Give Now  »

Indiana Public Media | WFIU - NPR | WTIU - PBS

Coconut Milk For The Sweet And Savory

thai yellow curry in a bowl

Sometimes you just need a bit of coconut. The creamy, sweet flavor makes up for the hundreds of calories in saturated fat...really!

The other day, Eoban and I decided to make one of our favorite dishes - Thai yellow coconut curry with basil.

Since my adventures in vegetarianism began, we decided to make the curry with fried tofu, instead of the usual chicken. Eoban prefers the meaty version, but veggies are cheaper and healthier, and he doesn't complain.

Anyway, the calories in regular coconut milk always shock me. Each can has 850 calories. That's pretty much half your recommended daily intake right there. It's absurd, and even if it's natural and vegetarian, that doesn't mean it's necessarily good for you.

To compensate for those calories, I've started refrigerating the cans of coconut milk so that fat can harder and be scraped off. Eoban doesn't like it, because it makes the curry less thick, but I think the sacrifice in taste is worth it.

The problem is, yesterday I saved the fat from the coconut, and I didn't want to waste it. So, in a flash of inspiration, I decided we should make coconut chocolate ice cream.

We had some baking chocolate, so we melted it with vegetable oil added a bit of sugar, then stirred in the warm coconut milk. We added a splash of fat free milk, too, just to have a bit more liquid. The results were so spectacular, I never got a chance to put them on film. But I highly recommend coconut-based ice cream. It's creamy, flavorful, and absolutely delicious.

The problem is, I didn't make those calorie savings I was trying for by scraping the fat off the coconut milk. Instead of going in our curry, it went in our ice cream - and was devoured even more quickly. Alas, healthy eating is something to strive for, but sometimes my desire for yumminess wins out.

Here's my recipe for classic Thai-inspired yellow curry. It's not quite like what you find in the restaurants - but it's close enough for comfort. And with all that coconut milk, this is truly a comfort food. Make sure to include fresh basil, and don't be afraid to fry up that tofu!

One last thing - I was so excited to find locally made tofu at the last Saturday Farmer's Market! If you're local to Bloomington, be sure to look for it next Saturday-before the market ends for the winter.

Thai Yellow Curry With Basil And Tofu


  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 package extra-firm tofu
  • 1/2 can of yellow curry paste
  • 4 cans coconut milk/cream (for calorie savings, refrigerate first and scrape off the solid fat)
  • 1-2 chopped carrots
  • 4-5 chopped red potatoes
  • 1 large red onion
  • 1-2 sticks chopped celery
  • 1 chopped zucchini, squash, broccoli, or other vegetable of your choice
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 sprig fresh basil


  1. Be sure to start out by pressing the tofu ahead of time. If you don't know how to press tofu, read instructions here.
  2. Slice tofu into bite-sized chunks. Heat oil in a frying pan, and fry tofu until browned on both sides.
  3. Once tofu is fried, add curry paste and chopped onion. Allow onions to cook until translucent.
  4. Add coconut milk. Add chopped celery, carrots, and potatoes.
  5. Bring mixture to a boil, turn to low heat and allow to simmer until thick and flavors combined. Taste; add salt as needed.
  6. Chop up zucchini (or other chosen vegetable) and steam. Add in just before serving so it isn't over-cooked.
  7. Serve over jasmine rice with fresh basil garnish.

Hope you enjoy this one! It's a wonderful way to keep warm as the nights get colder, and once you've made it a few times it's pretty easy to whip up without much planning.

More Recipes

If you like the curry flavor, check out this recipe for Curried Carrot Soup. And for you eggplant lovers out there, experiment with this Eggplant Coconut Curry recipe. Leave a comment to let us know how these dishes turned out!

Subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, and for more Earth Eats updates, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter!

Support For Indiana Public Media Comes From

About Earth Eats

Harvest Public Media