Cooking Thai curry with coconut milk in a slow cooker or crock-pot

by Nitsa Raymond

I’m often asked if you can cook these Thai curry recipes using a slow cooker or crock-pot. In particular, some of the dishes that I describe as benefiting from a long cooking time, like Beef Massaman for example, might seem ideally suited to cooking in a slow cooker. Whilst it is possible to use a slow cooker, the recipe would have to be adapted. The reason for this is that coconut milk is not suited to the long cooking times typical of most slow cooker recipes. The coconut milk would have course “split” due to the length of time it had been heated, however if you have read the article on cooking with coconut milk then you would know I don’t regard that as a problem in itself. The problem is more that the coconut milk solids seem to degrade or deteriorate over this period and can render the whole dish rather unpleasant tasting. Of course, if you happen to be cooking a recipe like Chiang Mai curry, which does not use coconut milk, then certainly you can use a slow cooker. If however you are cooking a curry that uses coconut milk, you do not want to add that coconut milk more than 30 minutes before the end of cooking. This would mean that you would have to adapt the recipe, possibly by rubbing the meat with the paste and adding a little water and only add the coconut milk shortly before the end of the cooking process. I must admit I prefer to cook dishes like Beef Massaman in a casserole pot on the stove or in the oven. Certainly they can always be cooked the day before and then warmed up the next day if time is a factor, indeed with some curries I find a period of refrigeration can actually enhance the flavour of the curry.

Incidentally, I don’t find that it is a problem to cook a curry containing coconut milk for up to 2 or 3 hours if necessary when using a casserole pot. The oil that will have separated can either be skimmed off or blended back into the sauce. Doing it that way I’ve never encountered the problem with the milk solids that seem to happen with a slow cooker. At this point, I also have to say that I only ever use good quality coconut milk. Given some of the additives in inferior brands of coconut milk, I can well imagine the problems that might occur. Therefore, if you have not checked out my page on cooking with coconut milk now might be a good time to do so!

Thai Red Curry Paste
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Nitsa Raymond
Nitsa Raymond

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