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The 5 Best Substitutes for Red Curry Paste

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Have you ever wondered what gives Thai food its signature flavor? If so, you’re not alone.

The distinctive taste of Thai cuisine is often attributed to ingredients like fish sauce, coconut milk, and lime juice.

However, one other key ingredient essential to many Thai dishes is the red curry paste.

Red curry paste is a flavorful blend of chili peppers, garlic, ginger, and lemongrass that can be used to add spice and depth of flavor to soups, stir-fries, curries, and more.

Plus, it’s easy to make at home with just a few simple ingredients.

If you’re looking for a way to add some heat to your next meal, read on for everything you need to know about red curry paste.

Along with some tips on using it, we’ll also share five of the best substitutes for red curry paste so that you can still enjoy your favorite Thai dishes even if you’re out of this key ingredient.

What is Red Curry Paste?

what is red curry paste

Red curry paste is a popular ingredient in Thai cuisine.

It is made from a blend of red chilies, garlic, shallots, lemongrass, and spices.

The paste can create both traditional Thai dishes and more fusion-style meals.

When cooking with red curry paste, it is important to remember that a little goes a long way.

The paste is very concentrated and fiery hot, so it should be used sparingly at first.

Once you get a feel for the flavor, you can adjust the amount according to your taste.

Red curry paste can be added to soups, stews, curries, and stir-fries.

It is also often used as a marinade for grilled meats or as a dipping sauce.

With its bold flavor and versatility, red curry paste is an essential ingredient in any Thai kitchen.

The 5 Best Substitutes for Red Curry Paste

If you’re out of red curry paste or can’t find it at your local grocery store, don’t worry.

There are several substitutes that will work just as well in your recipe.

1 – Curry Powder

curry powder

Curry powder is a blend of spices that originates from India.

The precise ingredients vary depending on the region, but common spices include turmeric, coriander, cumin, and chili pepper.

Curry powder can be used to add flavor to both meat and vegetable dishes.

When cooking with curry powder, it is important to add the spices early in the process in order to give them time to release their flavor.

Like curry powder, red curry paste can be used to add flavor to both meat and vegetable dishes.

Red curry paste is generally spicier than curry powder, so it is important to adjust the amount used according to your preferences.

If you do not have red curry paste on hand, you can substitute an equal amount of curry powder.

2 – Yellow Curry Paste

lemon curry powder

Curry pastes are a blend of fresh or dry-roasted spices, herbs, and other seasonings ground into a paste.

They are used as a base in many curries and other dishes for their intense flavor.

While there are many different types of curry pastes, yellow curry paste is popular due to its vibrant color and milder flavor.

To make the yellow curry paste, the most common ingredients include turmeric, cumin, coriander, lemongrass, galangal, and chili peppers.

These ingredients are often roasted and then ground into a fine paste.

Some recipes may also call for additional seasonings such as ginger, garlic, shallots, and lime leaves.

Once the curry paste is prepared, it can be used in various dishes.

It is often added to coconut milk to create a rich and flavorful curry sauce.

Yellow curry paste can also be used as a marinade for meats or vegetables before grilling or roasting.

And it makes an excellent addition to soups and stews for a flavor boost.

If you cannot find red curry paste at your local grocery store, it can easily be substituted with yellow curry paste.

However, remember that the flavor will be slightly different than what is traditional for red curry dishes.

3 – Green Curry Paste

green curry paste

Green curry paste is a key ingredient in Thai green curry.

It is made with a blend of aromatic spices, including green chilies, galangal, lemongrass, and cilantro.

The paste can be used to flavor both chicken and vegetarian dishes.

To cook with green curry paste, simply add it to a pan with oil and cook until fragrant.

Then add your chosen protein or vegetables and continue to cook until they are cooked through.

Green curry paste can also be used as a marinade or added to soups and stews for an extra boost of flavor.

If you don’t have red curry paste on hand, you can substitute green curry paste.

However, keep in mind that red curry paste is generally hotter than green curry paste, so you may want to start with less and add more to the taste.

4 – Sambal Oelek

sambal oelek

Sambal oelek is a chili sauce or paste originating from Indonesia.

It is typically made from a blend of chili peppers, vinegar, and salt.

The ingredients are ground together to form a thick, fiery paste.

Sambal oelek can be used as a condiment, added to soups or stews, or used as a marinade for meats.

It can also be used as a substitute for red curry paste.

When cooking with sambal oelek, it is important to keep in mind that a little goes a long way.

The paste is very spicy and can quickly overwhelm a dish if too much is used.

For this reason, it is often added to dishes towards the end of cooking.

When substituting sambal oelek for red curry paste, start with half the amount of curry paste and then add more to taste.

5 – Harissa Paste

harissa paste

Harissa paste is a North African chili paste that is common in Tunisian, Algerian, and Moroccan cuisine.

It is made from a blend of chili peppers, garlic, olive oil, and spices such as cumin and caraway seed.

The paste can be used to flavor soups and stews or as a condiment for grilled meats or vegetable dishes.

Harissa paste can be purchased at most Middle Eastern markets or made at home using fresh or dried chili peppers.

When cooking with harissa paste, be mindful of the heat level and start with less than you think you need; the spice level can always be adjusted upwards, but it is difficult to tone down the heat once the dish has been cooked.

For a milder paste, substitute red curry paste for the chili peppers.


In conclusion, a few different substitutes can be used in place of red curry paste.

Some substitutes include Thai curry powder, green curry paste, yellow curry paste, sambal oelek, and harissa paste.

Each of these pastes will provide a different flavor to your dish, so be sure to choose the right one based on your personal preference.

If you cannot find any of these pastes, you can also use a combination of chili peppers, ginger, and garlic to create a homemade red curry paste.

Whichever route you choose, add the paste slowly and taste as you go to ensure that you don’t end up with a dish that is too spicy or not spicy enough.

The 5 Best Substitutes for Red Curry Paste

Recipe by Andrew Gray Course: Substitutes


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  • Curry Powder

  • Yellow Curry Paste

  • Green Curry Paste

  • Sambal Oelek

  • Harissa Paste


  • Pick your favorite substitute from the list above.
  • Follow cooking directions for your selected substitute with the proper ratio of ingredients.

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