Red curry paste is one of my favorite ingredients. It comes in very handy when I am making a marinade for chicken, red meat, or fish as well as a stir fry.
Red curry paste is basically a mixture of Thai red chilies. Manufacturers make it by mixing dried red chilies with onions and other spices. Red curry paste is a popular ingredient, especially in Thai cuisine. Red curry paste makes it so easy to quickly whip up a tasty curry.
Red curry paste spices up and enhances the flavor of dishes that would otherwise be dull and simple.
Red curry paste has become quite popular. However, you may not always have it stocked. So what happens when you have none but you are craving a tasty Thai curry but do not have any on hand? Luckily, there are a few simple ingredients that you can use as substitutes for red curry paste.
Other curry pastes (green and yellow) and curry powder are good substitutes for red curry paste. Alternatively, you can make your own red curry paste at home. For some reason, homemade red curry paste always works better compared to the store-bought one. We will get into the details of these substitutes but first, let us talk about red curry paste.
Where to buy red curry paste
Considering how popular red curry paste has become in the United States, it has become readily available. You can easily find red curry paste in any well-stocked grocery store.
Alternatively, you can buy it in any Asian market. You can also buy red curry paste online.
Red curry paste substitutes
Other curry pastes (green and yellow)
There are three main types of curry paste. They include; red curry paste, green curry paste, and yellow curry paste. These three varieties are actually very similar. The only notable difference is the color. Most of the main ingredients used to make these curry pastes are the same. The color difference is merely a result of the extra spices added to them.
Red curry paste has a red color because it contains red chilies and manufacturers use cilantro roots instead of cilantro leaves. Green curry paste gets its green color from the green chilies used as well as green chile leaves and cilantro leaves. Yellow curry paste gets its yellow/golden color from the significant amount of turmeric that is added to it.
Red curry paste, green curry paste, and red curry paste all have slightly different flavors. This is because of the extra spices that are added to each. All three curry pastes are traditionally used to make different curries.
You can substitute red curry paste with green or yellow curry paste in equal amounts. If your recipe requires you to use one tablespoon of red curry paste, use one tablespoon of green curry paste or yellow curry paste instead.
I recommend using these two substitutes when making any kind of curry.
Curry powder is another good substitute for curry paste. Although the flavor profile of red curry paste and curry powder are not the same, curry powder is a good addition to any curry and is a speedy alternative.
The intensity of red curry paste and that of curry powder also vary. Therefore, if your goal is to have a curry that a mild taste, you should use curry powder sparingly.
Start by adding little by little until you get the flavor that you want. I insist on adding a little at a time because you can easily adjust the flavor to your liking by adding more. It can difficult to salvage your dish when you add too much at once.
For every tablespoon of red curry paste that your recipe requires, use ¾ tablespoon of curry powder. In case the flavor is not as intense as you would want it to be, you can add more to your preference.
A mixture of ginger, lemongrass, garlic, and shallots.
In case you want a quick fix that will have the same effect that red curry paste usually has in your dish, this mixture will work perfectly. Simply place fresh ginger, chopped lemongrass, fresh garlic, and shallots in a food processor or blender and blend the ingredients until they form a fine paste. You can add some cayenne paper to taste.
This mixture works well in most recipes that call for red curry paste. However, you should keep in mind that it may not have the same amount of salt or spices that red curry paste has. Therefore, you will need to counter this by adding spices and salt to the dish you are preparing.
Substitute red curry paste with this mixture in equal amounts. For every tablespoon of red curry paste that your recipe requires, use one tablespoon of this mixture.
Homemade red curry paste
Making red curry paste is actually way easier than most people think it is. There are several methods you can use to make red curry paste. I’ll share with you some of my favorites and you can choose the method that suits you best. Here is how to make red curry paste.
You will need;
- 4 chopped spicy red peppers. I suggest using Thai peppers in this case but if you have none red serrano or cayenne pepper would work just fine.
- 4 cloves of garlic (chopped)
- 1 shallot (chopped)
- 1 stalk of lemongrass (chopped). Alternatively, you can use a tablespoon of lemongrass paste.
- 1 tablespoon galangal (chopped)
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro (chopped)
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon shrimp paste
- ½ teaspoon ground white pepper
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon of sea salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
The first thing you need to do is add all the ingredients to a blender or food processor. Cover the blender or food processor and blend/process until the ingredients form a fine paste.
This will take approximately 30 seconds. Turn off the blender or food processor, scrape down the sides of the jar and blend again until the ingredients form a smooth paste.
Once the ingredients have formed the smooth paste, your red curry paste is ready for use. Pour it into a jar and use it in your recipe as desired.
Place the solid ingredients in a mortar and use a pestle to grind them. Slowly add the liquid ingredients and continue mixing until the ingredients form a thick paste or until you get the consistency that you want.
You can drain out the excess liquid in your homemade red curry paste or use it as it is. Once your red curry paste is ready, you can either use it immediately or store it in an airtight container and place it in your refrigerator. When stored properly inside a refrigerator, homemade red curry paste stays fresh for up to one week.
Tips and tricks to make the best homemade red curry paste
- Use dried peppers
Dried peppers work best especially when making homemade red curry paste. To use them, you first have to place them in hot water. The hot water will rehydrate them and make them soft. You can proceed with the recipe once the dried peppers are soft.
- Thai chili peppers are your best bet
Dried Thai peppers will give you the best results in this recipe. They are readily available in Thai grocers. If you are unable to find them, you can use red serrano peppers or red jalapeno peppers.
- Add other ingredients for a stronger citrusy flavor
I love it when my dishes have a strong citrusy flavor. To achieve this flavor in your homemade red curry paste, simply add lime zest or lime juice to your ingredients. Alternatively, you can add kaffir leaves or double the amount of cilantro.
Can you freeze homemade red curry paste?
Yes, you can easily freeze red curry paste for future use. Frozen homemade red curry paste lasts for a long time compared to when you store it in the refrigerator. Another plus is that the red curry paste does not lose its flavor when frozen.
To freeze homemade red curry paste, pour the curry into ice cube trays and place the trays in your freezer. Once the red curry paste freezes, remove the trays from the freezer and place the frozen cubes in a freezer-safe container before placing them back inside the freezer. Each frozen red curry paste cube is approximately one tablespoon of red curry paste.
Red curry paste is an amazing ingredient. It is a great addition to various dishes. If you have none on hand or simply want to experiment with something else, you can use green curry paste, yellow curry paste, or curry powder.
A mixture of ginger, lemongrass, garlic, and shallots are also a good option. Homemade red curry paste is arguably the best substitute since you can easily alter it to achieve the flavor that you want.