How To Cook With Fig Leaves|Panang Curry Recipe

How To Cook With Fig Leaves|Panang Curry Recipe

A new use for the Fig Tree

This is a sad story with a happy ending. This past spring we had a late freeze. The average last frost date in our zone is mid April. Normally, it’s warm enough for us to put a majority of our early spring crops in by St. Patrick’s Day. This past spring and winter was unusually cold and we did not get our spring garden in until mid April.

Long story short, we got a late freeze about a week before out last frost date and it damaged many of our plants. Our fig tree had begun to bud and it was hit hard. We had to cut it to the ground. Fast forward to August. It’s grew over the summer to reach over 5 feet! It’s a nice comeback but there were only a few figs on it. Now it’s September and we have only harvested 3 figs. There are a few more on the tree, but they will not ripen before first frost.

How To Cook With Fig Leaves|Panang Curry Recipe

How to use fig leaves

I came across a Fig Leaf Coconut Rice recipe on 101Cookbooks. Intriguing. I have heard of fig leaf tea, but I have never heard of using the leaves as an aromatic for cooking. I’ve always thought fig leaves smelled wonderful. They have a slight coconut aroma. So, I gave it a try in my own rice pilaf recipe. It’s was great.

This got my mind churning. What else could I use fig leaves in? I researched other fig leaf recipes and came across some who have used fig leaves as a wrapper (similar to grape leaves). I have yet to try that, but I decided to use them in my Panang Curry.  Panang is a coconut milk curry from Thailand. It’s my favorite curry. The traditional recipe uses Kaffir lime leaves in the dish. I decided to replace the lime leaves with fig leaves. The result was wonderful! The fig leaves gave the curry a fruitier and nutty flavor.

Panang Curry With Fig Leaves

Panang Curry With Fig Leaves


  • Serves 4
  • 1-4oz jar red curry paste (I use Thai Kitchen)
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2-15oz cans of full fat coconut milk
  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast, cubed
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce, or to taste
  • 2 large fresh fig leaves, torn (keep the leaves a good size, they will be removed before serving)
  • 2 fresh red chili peppers, sliced (optional)
  • 1 cup of sliced green peppers (optional)
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves


  1. Add the canola oil to a large skillet or wok. Add the cubed chicken breast. Cook until lightly browned.
  2. Add the red curry paste and fry over medium heat until fragrant.
  3. Stir the coconut milk into the curry paste and add the torn fig leaves and sliced green peppers. Bring to a boil for 10 minutes.
  4. Remove the fig leaves
  5. Stir the brown sugar sugar and fish sauce.
  6. Taste and adjust the saltiness by adding more fish sauce if necessary. Let it simmer for 5 minutes
  7. Garnish with sliced red chili peppers and basil leaves before serving.

I am still a little bit sad I didn’t have enough figs to make my fig jam and chutney this year. However, I am glad I learned how to cook with fig leaves. I am going to experiment with using them in a sweet dish. I’m thinking perhaps a bread pudding or cheesecake? What the heck, I’ll do both! So, if you have a fig tree or know someone who does, get out there a pluck a few leaves. Throw them in a pot of rice or steam them with some fresh veggies. You’ll be happy you did.


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