Red curry is known for being a versatile and flavorful ingredient, especially for Thai dishes. It has an explosion of flavors of red chili peppers, lemongrass, turmeric, shrimp paste, garlic, and salt, among others.
There are countless ways to use red curry paste. You can use it for salsa, sauces, soups, and stews, among others. It is commercially available, making it easily accessible. Nonetheless, if it is nowhere to be found, you can consider the best red curry paste substitutes, including those we’ll talk about below.
The 8 Best Red Curry Paste Substitutes
The rich and bold flavors of red curry paste will be reminiscent of Asian cooking. Nonetheless, you might not find it all the time in your kitchen, or even in a supermarket. In case it is unavailable, below are some of the options worth considering.
1. Green Curry Paste
If you have green curry paste, it will make an excellent alternative to a red curry paste. The most obvious difference between the two is the color. This difference in color is because of the use of green chili peppers, such as serrano peppers.
More than its appearance, however, they are also different in terms of their flavor profile. Green curry paste has a subtler flavor, making it perfect for people who do not like the robust spice of red curry.
Making a green curry paste is easy. All that you need is to blend or puree green chilies, turmeric, coriander seed, cumin seed, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, sea salt, lemon juice, and grapeseed oil.
2. Yellow Curry Paste
Another excellent alternative to red curry paste is yellow curry paste. The main difference is that it uses yellow chilies, which are milder than their red counterparts. With that, you can also expect that it is less spicy but has an equally rich flavor that makes any dish stand out.
You can also make your own version of yellow curry paste. Some of the ingredients you need include yellow chilies, lemongrass, shallots, galangal, garlic, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, fish sauce, shrimp paste, turmeric, pepper, brown sugar, and lime juice.
All that you need is to combine the ingredients in a blender or food processor. Blend them until you achieve the desired consistency. Pay attention to proper handling and storage to ensure the extended lifespan of the curry paste.
3. Chili Powder
While this may not have the same complex and tongue-tickling flavors of red curry paste, it will suffice when the latter is unavailable. The best thing about chili powder is that it is easy to find. It is a staple in many kitchens, especially for people who love spicy foods.
Buying chili powder is convenient, but for those who would like to make one on their own, it is easy. The ingredients that you will need include dried chili peppers, whole cumin seeds, garlic powder, oregano, coriander seeds, smoked paprika, and garlic cloves.
To make chili powder, remove the stems from chilies, clean, remove the seeds, and heat in a pan. Roast the chilies until they turn fragrant. Once dried, blend the chilies along with the other ingredients until they are in powdered form.
4. Chili Paste
Chili paste is better than chili powder if you want to recreate the texture and flavor of red curry paste. However, the secret here is to choose one that is made of the right pepper. Some of the best include serrano, cayenne, poblano, and rocoto.
Take note that chili paste is different from chili sauce. They might have the same ingredients, but they are not made in the same ways. Chili sauce is more watery while a chili paste is more consistent.
5. Tomato Paste with Chili
If your goal is to recreate the color and texture of red curry paste, then you cannot go wrong with tomato paste. They are available in packs that you can buy in supermarkets. They are slightly sweet and sour.
To achieve the spicy kick of red curry paste, add chilies. You can use chili powder or chili paste to go with the tomato sauce. Alternatively, you can also throw in fresh chilis if you want to add texture in your dish.
6. Turmeric with Chili Paste
A vivid and fragrant spice, turmeric is another great alternative if you are looking for a flavorful ingredient in a Thai dish. On its own, however, it is quite distant from the taste of genuine red curry paste. The best thing to do is to add chili paste, which will give it a spicy kick.
To make a turmeric paste, the most important that you will need is ground turmeric spice. To make it more flavorful, add ground cinnamon, fresh ginger, black, pepper, and coconut milk. Add all the ingredients in the pan with little water. Whisk until the ingredients melt.
7. Harissa Paste
Many of you are probably not aware of harissa paste, but it is another great option if you are looking for the best curry paste substitutes. This sauce is from North Africa, which is specifically associated with Tunisia.
One of the best things about harissa paste is that it is also red. With the similar color, it will make a great pick if red curry paste is unavailable. It can add complex flavors and spice in any dish. It is also perfect as a condiment, which makes a great alternative to Sriracha.
8. DIY Red Curry Paste
If you have the time and if you want better control of the overall flavor, then why not consider making your version of a red curry apste/ Most of the ingredients are pretty basic, so you can access them easily. The process also takes only a few minutes, so it is worth a try.
For a DIY red curry paste, below are the ingredients that you will need:
- Red chili peppers
- Lemongrass or lemon zest
- Garlic cloves
- Neutral-flavored cooking oil
Once you have the ingredients ready, follow the steps below:
- Put the chilies garlic, ginger, and lemongrass in a food processor. Puree until you achieve the desired consistency.
- Alternatively, you can also prepare the chili paste manually by pounding in a mortar and pestle.
- Once done, refrigerate the paste in a sealed container to prolong its shelf life. You can also keep it in the freezer to make it longer lasting.