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5 Best Substitutes for Red Curry Paste: Elevate Thai Recipes

Hold on to your aprons, kitchen warriors! Today, we’re peeling back the spicy layers of the culinary world to uncover the best kept secrets for swapping out one of the most cherished ingredients in Southeast Asian cuisine: red curry paste.

Whether you’re out of the fiery staple or you’re simply looking to sprinkle your dishes with a dash of adventure, we’re here to guide your flavor expedition. Trust me, I’ve navigated these exotic tastes more times than I can count, and I’m excited to share my findings with you.

Key Takeaways:

  • Red curry paste is a versatile and flavorful ingredient that can be used in a variety of dishes.
  • The key to a good red curry paste lies in the perfect blend of spices such as chilies, garlic, lemongrass, and galangal.
  • There are several substitutes for red curry paste, including curry powder, Thai red curry sauce, homemade red curry paste, garam masala, and harissa paste.
  • These substitutes can add their own unique flavors and textures to dishes, encouraging creativity in the kitchen.

Overviewing Red Curry Paste

Red curry paste is a versatile and flavorful ingredient that can elevate any dish with its bold flavors and rich aromas.

The secret to a good red curry paste lies in the perfect blend of spices. Each ingredient plays a crucial role in creating a balanced and flavorful paste. The red chilies provide heat and color, while the garlic and shallots add a subtle sweetness. Lemongrass brings a citrusy note, and galangal adds a slight tang. Together, these ingredients create a harmonious blend of flavors that will make your taste buds sing.

Red curry paste is incredibly versatile and can be used in a variety of dishes. Here are some tips to get the most out of this flavorful ingredient:

  • Use it as a base for curries by sautéing it with coconut milk before adding other ingredients.
  • Mix it with some oil to make a marinade for meat or vegetables.
  • Add a spoonful to soups and stews for an extra kick of flavor.
  • Use it as a seasoning for stir-fries or fried rice dishes.
  • Mix it with mayo or yogurt for a spicy dip or spread.

5 Best Substitutes for Red Curry Paste

We’ll explore five splendid substitutes that encourage creativity in the culinary realm.

1 – Curry Powder

When the pantry is bare, curry powder often comes to the rescue. This pantry staple may not pack the same punch as curry paste, but it brings a complex blend of spices that’s up for the task.

Curry powder is a gentle swirl of turmeric, coriander, cumin, and other spices, giving it an earthy, slightly sweet profile. Its fine, powdery texture disperses evenly through a dish, ensuring a consistent flavor profile.

To use curry powder effectively in place of curry paste, mix a tablespoon of powder with a teaspoon of oil to form a paste for every tablespoon of curry paste in your recipe.

2 – Thai Red Curry Sauce

A close relative of red curry paste, this sauce is a ready-made ally in the kitchen. It embodies the essential flavors of a red curry paste but in a smoother, liquid form.

Thai red curry sauce carries the same striking flavors as the paste, but with the convenience of a swift pour. Its texture is smooth and satiny, making it an ideal sauce for pour-over dishes like chicken or vegetables.

In a recipe that calls for red curry paste, simply use the same quantity of the sauce for a shortcut that hardly skimps on flavor.

3. Homemade Red Curry Paste

Creating a homemade curry paste is an utmost labor of love. It’s a back-to-basics approach that ensures the freshest of flavors for your culinary creation.

A homemade red curry paste, with its bold blend of ingredients like red chilies, lemongrass, and garlic, delivers an aromatic punch that’s hard to beat. It’s a coarse, textured paste that adds layers of depth to any dish.

Mix one tablespoon of homemade red curry paste for every tablespoon of store-bought paste you need. The substitute ratio is 1:1, ensuring the exchange doesn’t diminish your dish’s integrity.

4. Garam Masala

Indian cuisine whispers its secrets into our culinary tapestry with garam masala. The robust spices in garam masala might not mimic red curry paste’s tang, but they’re well acquainted with the dance of heat and flavor.

Garam masala is warm and complex, a melange of spices like cinnamon, cardamom, and fennel. Its coarse powder form adds texture to a dish while its rich, earthy profile combines beautifully to offer a flavor adventure.

To use garam masala as a red curry paste alternative, start with a ratio of 1:2; for every tablespoon of curry paste, use two tablespoons of garam masala. Adjust to your personal taste, and savor the fusion of culinary worlds.

5. Harissa Paste

Hailing from the shores of North Africa, harissa paste is a fiery and full-flavored alternative to red curry paste. It brings a delightful heat and smokiness that complements various culinary fusions.

Harissa paste is a thick, red condiment made from dry or fresh chili peppers, garlic, and a mix of caraway seeds, coriander, and cumin. Its coarse texture makes it a bold addition to soups, stews, and marinades.

In your culinary escapades, substitute one tablespoon of harissa paste for every tablespoon of red curry paste, ensuring that your dish retains a robust and smoky kick.


Homemade Red Curry Paste

This homemade red curry paste is a labor of love, bringing fresh and bold flavors to any dish. Use it as a base for curries, marinades, soups, or stir-fries.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Course Condiment
Cuisine Thailand
Servings 8 people
Calories 72 kcal


  • Food processor or blender


  • 6 dried red chilies deseeded and soaked in hot water for 10 minutes
  • 3 garlic cloves peeled and chopped
  • 2 shallots peeled and chopped
  • 2 stalks of lemongrass white parts only, thinly sliced
  • 1 inch piece of galangal or ginger peeled and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon shrimp paste optional
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil


  • In a food processor or blender, combine the soaked red chilies, garlic, shallots, lemongrass, galangal or ginger, shrimp paste (if using), coriander seeds, cumin seeds, turmeric, and white pepper.
  • Blend or process until a smooth paste forms, scraping down the sides as needed.
  • In a skillet or wok, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the curry paste and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly, until fragrant.
  • Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, or freeze for up to three months.


  • For a spicier paste, leave the seeds in the dried red chilies.
  • To make this paste vegan, omit the shrimp paste or use a vegetarian substitute.
  • Adjust the amount of curry paste used in recipes according to personal taste preference.


Serving: 1tablespoonCalories: 72kcalCarbohydrates: 5gProtein: 2gFat: 5gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0.04gCholesterol: 7mgSodium: 27mgPotassium: 162mgFiber: 1gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 325IUVitamin C: 50mgCalcium: 20mgIron: 1mg
Keyword homemade red curry paste
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5 from 2 votes (2 ratings without comment)
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