Thai Curry Ground Beef (Slow Cooker or Stovetop)

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This Thai Curry Ground Beef is a new way to make Thai curry with ground beef, coconut milk, and red curry paste. It's warm, slightly spicy, and couldn't be easier to make.


This simple ground beef with Thai curry is the ultimate comfort food on a cold night. It warms you up from the inside out with the spice from the curry and the creaminess of the coconut milk. Whether you serve it over rice or noodles, this easy Thai Ground Beef Curry will quickly become a favorite.

When I think of Thai curry, I usually reach for popular options like Thai Red Curry Chicken or Coconut Curry Shrimp. But last week I was majorly craving curry and all I had on hand was ground beef. 

I thought about curry meatballs but wanted something easier. So I whipped up this Thai curry ground beef inspired by the Indian dish keema, which is basically curried ground beef but with Indian curry (think garam masala and curry powder) instead of Thai curry paste. 

Although it isn't the most beautiful dish, it is so delicious. There is the perfect amount of spice from the red curry paste all balanced with fresh lime juice and coconut milk. Trust me, you want to make this next time you are craving Thai flavors

The other great thing about this meal is that it can be cooked in less than 30 minutes on the stovetop or you throw it in the slow cooker while you go about your day. Either way tastes amazing. 

Ingredients and Easy Swaps

Here's everything you need to make this tasty Thai Curried Beef.

  • Ground beef: Use any style of ground beef you like, usually I use 90-95% lean since it has less fat and doesn't need to be drained. Swap in ground chicken, ground turkey, or ground pork if you like. This dish also works in the slow cooker with beef roasts.
  • Leeks, garlic, and ginger: These flavors amplify the flavors in the curry. Swap in onions or shallots for the leeks if you prefer a stronger onion flavor.
  • Red curry paste: I love the richness of red curry paste with beef. Red curry paste tends to be a bit spicer than green curry paste since the base is dried red chiles. Green curry paste can also be used, which is a sweeter and more mild Thai curry paste made with cilantro, kaffir lime leaf, basil, and green chilies. You could also use yellow curry paste, which has a warmer flavor from turmeric.
  • Tomato sauce: Tomato sauce adds some acid and sweetness to the dish. Swap in chicken or vegetable broth if you prefer, but the sauce will be thinner. You could also use extra coconut milk.
  • Coconut milk: Coconut milk is an essential part of Thai curry. Use full-fat or lite canned coconut milk. If you want something extra rich and creamy, use coconut cream.
  • Soy sauce: Soy sauce adds salt to this dish. swap in tamari, or coconut aminos. Or simply season with kosher salt as needed.
  • Fresh lime juice: This brightens up the dish! It makes everything pop and shouldn't be skipped.
  • Fresh basil: Herbs also help brighten up the dish and complement the herbs in the curry paste. Cilantro, basil, or mint would all work in this dish.

Two Ways to Make Thai Curry Ground Beef

This dish can be made quickly on the stovetop or can cook all day in the slow cooker. The slow-cooked dish will have a bit of a deeper flavor, but both are delicious.

Both versions start the same. Heta up some oil in a skillet and add the leeks or onions. Cook them for a few minutes until they begin to soften.

Next, add the curry paste and cook for 1 minute. Cooking the curry paste helps develop the flavors in it and releases the oil into the dish.

Then add the ground beef, garlic, and ginger. Cook, breaking up the meat as it cooks for about 6-8 minutes, or until the beef is no longer pink

  • Stovetop: If you are making this on the stovetop, add the tomato sauce, soy sauce, and lime zest to the ground beef mixture.  Simmer covered over low heat for 10-15 minutes or longer. When you are ready to eat, open the pan and gently stir in the coconut milk. Cook for 1-2 minutes so the coconut milk is incorporated into the curried beef. Top with fresh lime juice and basil.
  • Slow cooker: Add the ground beef and curry mixture to the slow cooker. Stir in the tomato sauce, soy sauce, and lime zest. Cook on low for at least 4 hours, it can cook for up to 8 hours. When ready to eat, open the slow cooker and stir in the coconut milk. Let cook for about 10-15 minutes in the slow cooker with the lid off. It will thicken slightly. Finish with lime juice and basil.

Side Dish Ideas

There are lots of ways to serve up this ground beef. Most often I just pair it with some steamed rice and veggies. Here are some more ideas:

Storage and Leftovers

This dish keeps really well in the fridge and may even taste even better the next day. 

  • Fridge: Let the curried beef cool completely and then store in an airtight container for 4-5 days in the fridge.
  • Freezer: This ground beef also freezes well. Let it cool completely and then store it in a freezer-safe container or bag for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge and then reheat in a skillet.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the most common questions about making this curried ground beef.

Traditionally beef chuck roast is used in Thai curries and it is cooked low and slow until the beef is super tender and fork tender. 

To speed up the cooking process, this recipe uses ground beef instead of a beef roast that typically needs much longer to cook. 

This recipe works great with additional vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, squash, or bell peppers. If you add more than 1-2 cups of vegetables, make sure to double the sauce so that the vegetables also have plenty of curry flavor. 

In the skillet version, simply saute the vegetables before adding the beef to the pan. Remove them from the pan and set aside. Then cook the beef. Then add them back when you add the coconut milk so they maintain a nice, texture.

For the slow cooker version, cook the vegetables separately and add them to the slow cooker before serving or add them in the last 30 minutes of cooking. One exception to this is heartier vegetables like squash and sweet potatoes that can cook low and slow the entire time. 


The Recipe
Thai curry ground beef with red curry pasta and coconut milk served over a bed of white rice.

Thai Curry Ground Beef (Slow Cooker or Stovetop)

COOK TIME: 4 Hours
TOTAL TIME: 4 Hours, 15 Min
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  • 1 lb 95% lean ground beef
  • 1 leek, sliced thin (or onion)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 tbsp red curry paste (more to taste)
  • 1/2 cup canned tomato sauce
  • 1 tsp lime zest
  • 1 tbsp low sodium soy sauce (or coconut aminos)
  • 1/2 cup canned light coconut milk
  • 1 lime, juice (plus more to taste)
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped

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Slow cooker: Heat a skillet over medium heat and spray with cooking spray. Add the leeks and cook for 4 minutes. Add the curry paste and cook for 1 minute. Add the beef, garlic, and ginger and cook until the beef is no longer pink. Add that mixture to the slow cooker with the tomato sauce, soy sauce, and lime zest. Cook on low for 4 hours. Open the lid and stir in the coconut milk and lime juice. Let cook for 15 minutes longer and serve. If you are cooking this in a large slow cooker, I recommend doubling the recipe. This freezes well.


Stovetop: Heat a skillet over medium heat and spray with cooking spray. Add the leeks and cook for 4 minutes. Add the curry paste and cook for 1 minute. Add the beef, garlic, and ginger and cook until the beef is no longer pink. Add the tomato sauce, lime zest, and soy sauce. Turn the heat down to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in coconut milk and fresh lime juice. Let cook for 2 more minutes.


Serve topped with fresh basil and more lime juice, soy sauce, or Asian hot sauce to your tastes. This is delicious as a lettuce wrap, served over rice or cauliflower rice, or served with rice noodles and vegetables.


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Nutritional Facts
Serving Size: around 6 oz.
Amount Per Serving
Calories 206
Calories from Fat 19
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 8g
Saturated Fat 4g
Monounsaturated Fat 2g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Cholesterol 70mg
Sodium 580mg
Total Carbohydrate 9g
Dietary Fiber 2g
Sugars 3g
Protein 25g

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.


This recipe also works great with ground turkey, ground chicken, or ground pork if you prefer.

Curry paste can vary in flavor greatly from brand to brand. Taste the dish as you are cooking and adjust the amount fo curry paste to your liking.

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About the author Meet Kristen McCaffrey
Hi, I’m the cookbook author, recipe developer, and food enthusiast behind Slender Kitchen. I am obsessed with making healthy food that is easy to prepare and absolutely delicious. Meal planning is my secret weapon and I hope I can make meal time easier for you with our tried and tested recipes and foolproof meal plans. Learn More
On Thai Curry Ground Beef (Slow Cooker or Stovetop)
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December 9, 2023 - 11:29
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Cooking right now! Should I use any salt lol Wondering!!! Smells amazing. Can't wait to try!
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March 30, 2018 - 14:35
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This has made it into the regular rotation in our house, even for my two-year-old. A winner!
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