Red curry paste is one of the most popular curry variants and purees in the United States. It is famous for its relatively mild flavor and warm smell and its range of applications.
Despite their popularity, however, cooks and experts have been looking for ways to capture the essence of red curry paste in some other ingredient.
So, what is the best substitute for red curry paste? Curry powder has emerged as the ideal substitute for red curry paste. Thanks to their relatively similar tastes and flavors, curry powder and red curry paste are exciting options that you can use interchangeably. Curry powder also works as a great substitute if you’re in a rush and need to get a suitable alternative in a time crunch.
An Overview of Red Curry Paste
Red curry paste is a puree of red chili peppers and several other ingredients that originate from Thailand. The puree has been used as a flavor base for curries in the Southeast Asian country for centuries, and it has finally become a famous spice and ingredient in the West as well.
Ingredients for red curry paste can vary based on your requirements if you’re making it at home. You can have onions, shallot, neutral-flavored oil, lemongrass, fish sauce, garlic, kaffir lime peel, and ginger.
You can use red curry paste for several things – marinating chicken and fish meals, adding it to stir-fry dishes, and much more. It also lands in stews, other curries, and condiments. It’s easy to see why red curry paste will be such a popular puree with such a diverse application base.
You might think that red curry paste will have a red-hot flavor due to its name. However, it doesn’t. The puree’s flavor is mostly mild, with a little kick that will make you feel it but won’t slap so hard. You’ll also love the aromatic and exotic smell, which perfectly complements the arm flavor.
Why Replace Red Curry Paste?
- Taste differences: Every now and then, we all look to try something new with our cooking. If red curry paste doesn’t do it for you, get something else.
- No capacity for heat: While it doesn’t have an overly intense taste, red curry paste still has some level of heat to it. If you’re cooking for children, for instance, you might not want to use this just yet.
- Time crunch: Most grocery stores have red curry paste. However, if the one close to you doesn’t have any, you might want to get a substitute just in case.
Options for Red Curry Paste Substitutes
Best Overall Substitute for Red Curry Paste: Curry Powder
Curry powder is a famous puree spice that you probably have in a kitchen jar at this very moment. So, beyond just being the best substitute for red curry paste, it is also an excellent option for many who don’t have so much time and would like to season their recipes.
In truth, curry powder and red curry paste don’t particularly taste the same. There are significant similarities between the two of them, but curry powder is a generally milder option. So, if you want to capture the same taste of red curry paste, you will need to add more spoons. Essentially, curry powder isn’t a one-to-one substitute for red curry paste.
Curry powder generally has a unique flavor that will depend on the combination of spices used to make it. There are savory options like turmeric, cumin, and bay leaf that can provide the powder with an earthy flavor. Then, there are sweet spice ingredients like clove and cinnamon that make the powder sweet.
Keep in mind that there are also milder curry flavors. So, be careful with what you choose. Experts recommend that you start small and season to taste—no reason to throw your entire curry into the mix and come out with something unpalatable.
You will also need to be careful about heat. The heat level in curry powder is primarily determined by the amount of pepper used to make it. Curry powders with milder heat are probably made with ginger and black pepper, while the hot ones come with red chilies and others.
Best Substitute for Taste Differences: Thai Green Curry Paste
This option is pretty much the green curry cousin of the red curry paste. The flavor base for it is green curry paste, which you can get from combining shrimp paste, shallots, green chillies, makrut limes, lemongrass, cumin seeds, and more.
The primary benefit of the Thai green curry paste is that it works pretty much for the same reasons as red curry paste. You can use it for marinating and as a garnish, and you could even add it to other curry dishes to improve their flavor.
In terms of taste, it is similar to red curry paste in that it is relatively mild when it comes to heat. However, it doesn’t have many similarities to the former regarding actuarial taste profiles, so keep that in mind.
Best Substitute for Full Control: Homemade Red Curry Paste
If you’re looking to control the taste profile and make a few alterations, there’s hardly any better way than to make your own red curry paste. The entire process isn’t too challenging, and it won’t take your time as well.
All you need are the following ingredients:
- Six large, deseeded red chili peppers
- Three stalks of lemongrass. You can also replace this with one lemon zest
- One pierced ginger
- Four to six peeled garlic cloves
- Two tablespoons of neutral-flavored oil
All you will need to do is to puree the lemongrass, chilies, garlic, and ginger with two oil tablespoons. Put them in a food processor and let it work on them until you have a chunky-looking puree. As an alternative, you could also pound the entire thing with a mortar and a pestle.
When you’re done, keep the entire thing in an airtight container. You can preserve the red curry paste in a freezer for weeks on end.