12 Best Red Curry Paste Substitutes 

Red Curry Paste

Craving Asian food? How about preparing a lovely Thai curry or a classic Asian stir fry! But oh no, you’re all out of red curry paste! Well, in that case, this article is meant for you!

Read along to learn about substitutes for red curry paste and the best combinations to add a zing of spice to that Asian stir fry or curry!

Red curry paste has a distinct taste of chilies, ginger, garlic, and other spices. It adds a hot, spicy flavor to food and is extensively used in Asian food. 

So what are some substitutes for red curry paste? The best substitutes for red curry paste are green curry paste, yellow curry paste, chili powder, chili paste, curry powder, vindaloo paste, harissa, and many more!

Although, before we get into the substitutes, let’s dive in to know a little more about red curry paste!

Quick Peek: Red Curry Paste

Red Curry Paste

This section will help you understand more about curry paste. Read along to learn about curry paste, its ingredients, taste, texture, and nutritional information!

What Is Red Curry Paste?

Red curry paste is a dense paste made predominantly with dried red chilies. It contains other ingredients like garlic, shallots, galangal (Thai ginger), shrimp paste, and salt.

It also makrut lime leaves, coriander root and coriander seeds, cumin seeds, peppercorns, and lemongrass to amp up the flavor. It is a very popular ingredient in Asian cuisine, especially Thai food.

If I have to take the traditional route, red curry paste is made with a mortar and pestle, and it remains moist throughout the process. Its use isn’t limited to only curries, though! It can be used to prepare marinades and stir fry preparations to add a rich, spicy flavor to the same.

Describing Curry Paste: Flavor and Texture

Red curry paste is shockingly red in color because of its main ingredient: dried red chilies. It has a thick consistency that can be thinned down with water, coconut milk, or other liquid. 

The paste has a distinct, spicy taste because of the addition of lots of seasonings and flavorings. Traditionally used to make Thai red curry, curry paste has gained immense popularity in other Asian cuisines as well.

Red curry paste isn’t vegetarian due to the addition of shrimp paste. However, there are various vegetarian and vegan options available for the same in the market. Red curry paste is completely gluten-free.

Uses of Red Curry Paste

Originally, red curry paste was made only to be used as a base for Thai red curry. However, red curry paste is now used as a marinade or to add flavor to various non-Asian foods!

Red curry paste is now used to make various international foods like Thai red curry salsa, shrimp cakes, Thai roasted chicken, sweet potato and lentil curry, and many more! If you want to add a kick of spice to any food, especially curries, red curry paste is the perfect solution!

Red Curry Paste On The Health Radar | Looking Through the Wellness Telescope

Since it is used in smaller volumes, red curry paste isn’t really a source of any important nutrients. It has an extremely pungent and spicy taste, and hence usually, recipes require only a few tablespoons of it. However, red curry paste is very low in fat content!

Red curry paste has a high sodium level and should be used in moderate amounts for those with certain health issues. Although not an important source, red curry paste does have minute quantities of potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and iron.

It also contains traces of sugar and dietary fibers. One serving of red curry paste which is about one tablespoon or 15 grams, would contain close to 20 calories.

Now that we’re all thorough with red curry paste let us get to its substitutes!

12 Best Red Curry Paste Substitutes

The 14 best substitutes you could use in place of red curry paste are as follows:

1. Curry Paste

Curry paste

Curry paste is mostly used in Indian food. It is flavor-packed as it has ingredients like onion paste, tomato puree, ginger-garlic paste, and spices- turmeric, ground cumin and coriander, garam masala, and salt. It has an extremely rich and spicy taste.

Although not as hot as red curry paste, Indian curry paste still works as a great substitute. It will not add the pungent aroma and strong taste of red chili or red color to your food. However, it will definitely produce a delicious dish! 

To add to the heat of curry paste, a small quantity of red chili powder can be added to it. This will also help add the distinct red color that you get with red curry paste.

Want to make something amazing with curry paste. Well, give Bangkok curry noodles a try. Here’s the recipe for the Bangkok curry noodles. You’ll find the recipe for curry paste in it as well.

2. Green Curry Paste

Green Curry Paste

Green curry paste has essentially the same ingredients like red curry paste. However, the only difference is that in green curry paste, green peppers are used instead of red.

Green curry paste is a little milder in taste than red curry paste. It works as a great substitute if you want to stick to Thai cuisine.

Of course, it will change the color palate of your food. Regardless, it will give you a very similar taste profile as that of red curry paste. So, it can work as a great substitute for your red chili paste.

You can use green curry paste to make some delicious Thai green curry chicken. Find the recipe for Thai green curry chicken here. It also has the recipe to make homemade green curry paste.

4. Chili Powder

chili powder

Chili powder and red curry paste have one thing in common: the addition of chilies. Though it won’t give the same flavor as red curry paste, it does add a kick of heat and red color to your food and works as a great substitute.

Red chili powder is concentrated and packed with heart. So, the recommended amount to be used in a recipe as a substitute is less than red curry paste. However, this depends completely on your heat tolerance!

You can make great spice rubs and seasonings using chili powder. Here’s how you can make some flavorful chili seasoning at home.

5. Chili Paste

Chili Paste

Chili paste is essentially the same as chili powder, just in a paste form. It is concentrated and very high on the heat level. Although it won’t taste the same as red curry paste, it definitely will add a lot of flavor and color to your food.

Pair the red chili paste with some ginger and garlic paste to enhance the flavor and make it slightly similar to red curry paste. 

6. Tomato Paste

Tomato Paste

Tomato paste can work as a great alternative to red curry paste. It has a fresh, distinct taste of tomato and is pulpy. It has a sweetness to it and can be a great base to add extra spices.

Yes, tomato paste tastes very different compared to red curry paste. However, if you add some red chili flakes and ginger garlic paste to it, it is for sure going to work as a great substitute.

The best part? You can decide how much of it you’d like to add to tomato paste, as per your heat and flavor preference. You can make some amazing marinara sauce using tomato paste. Here’s how you can make Gordon Ramsay’s marinara sauce at home.

7. Yellow Curry Paste

Yellow Curry Paste

Like green curry paste, yellow curry paste has the same ingredients like red curry paste. The only difference is, it is made with yellow peppers. Yellow curry paste is much milder in taste than red curry paste. So, a larger quantity can be used in a recipe to increase the spice content.

To add red color to your food, pair the yellow curry paste with a little bit of tomato paste. This is for sure going to work as a great substitute. Here is a list of yellow curry paste substitutes.

8. Curry Powder

Curry Powder

Curry Powder, just like curry paste, is very popular in Indian food. It has a lower heat content as compared to red curry paste. However, it can be a great substitute as it gives a similar curry taste.

Along with curry powder, you can also add some other spices to enrich the flavor of your food. Pair it with a little tomato paste, and it will add red color to your food.

9. Massaman Curry Paste

Massaman Curry Paste

Massaman curry paste is very similar to red curry paste in terms of freshness. It has an addition of different whole spices to it like cardamom pods, whole clove, cinnamon stick, coriander seed, cumin seed, and whole peppercorn.

If you want your food to be a fusion between Thai and Indian, massaman curry paste is the best substitute for you!

Add some red chili powder or chili flakes to massaman curry paste. This will give it a slightly similar taste to that of red curry paste. Massaman curry paste will add a whole lot of flavor to your food.

10. Vindaloo Paste

Vindaloo Paste

Vindaloo curry paste is very prominent in Indian cooking. It is made with sweet spices like cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and heat from black pepper and red chilies. Despite not having the same ingredients as red curry paste, it is quite similar in taste due to the heat from red chilies.

Vindaloo curry paste is usually used to make vindaloo sauces. However, it can work as a great substitute for red curry paste.

The paste will add a red tinge to your food and will also add a sufficient amount of heat. Regardless of the flavor not matching with red curry paste, vindaloo paste will for sure turn up the heat in your food.

11. Panang Curry Paste

Panang Curry Paste

Panang curry paste is another variety of Thai curry pastes. Similar to red curry paste, it is made with fresh ingredients like dried chili peppers, galangal, ginger, lemongrass, kaffir lime zest, kaffir lime leaves, coriander root, coriander seeds, and cumin seeds. 

However, Panang curry paste is much milder than red curry paste, especially in terms of heat. The other difference is the addition of coriander root and seeds in the paste.

A slightly larger quantity of Panang curry paste can be used while substituting for red curry paste. This will help add some extra heat to your delicious meals!

12. Harissa Paste

harissa paste

Harissa paste has very similar ingredients like that to red curry paste. It is made with red chilies, garlic, oil, acid, and warm spices. However, it is slightly milder in taste than red curry paste.

Harissa paste works as an excellent substitute for red curry paste! Consisting of almost the same ingredients as red curry paste, it can be used as it is without adding anything to it.

However, to increase the level of heat in your dish, you can add two spoons of harissa paste for every one spoon of red curry paste.

13. Sriracha


Sriracha, just like harissa and red curry paste, is also made with red chilies. It has garlic, vinegar, sugar, and salt too. This American sauce is thinner in consistency than red curry paste.

Due to its thin consistency, sriracha might not be the most favored substitute for curries. However, it works as a great substitute for red curry paste for marinades! A few dashes of sriracha to any marinade will definitely turn up the heat!

Sriracha is also great in many things, like a poke bowl. Here is the recipe for some delicious poke bowl.

Short Recap

Now that you know so much about red curry paste and all its substitutes, are you confused about which one to use? Let me break it down further as per suitability, availability, and flavor.

Most Suitable: Harissa paste would be the most suitable substitute for red curry paste. They have almost the same ingredients, distinct red color, and a touch of heat.

Easily Available: Tomato paste would be the most easily available substitute in the market.

Best Flavor Profile: As we talk about flavor profiles, green or yellow curry paste would work as the best substitute. They have essentially the same ingredients, like red curry paste, just a different form of pepper. However, when paired with coconut milk, these pastes are bound to give an Asian flavor to your food.

Final Word

As we’ve gotten to the end of the article, I hope it has helped you know all about red curry paste and helped you find the correct substitute. Let me know in the comments if it helped.

Although red curry paste can be used to make various things, it works best when paired with some fresh meat and vegetables to make a delicious Thai curry.

Red curry paste is not vegetarian or vegan due to the addition of shrimp. However, most of the substitutes given are vegetarian and will add a kick of spice and zing of flavor to anything you make! I’ll see you next time!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)

Is red curry paste the same as chili paste?

No, they are not the same. Chili paste is made only with chilies, whereas red curry paste has other ingredients added to it, along with chilies.

Is red curry paste spicy?

As dried red chilies are one of the main ingredients in red curry paste, red curry paste does have a high amount of heat

Is red curry paste the same as harissa?

Harissa is more acidic than curry paste due to the addition of vinegar.

Can I use curry powder instead of curry paste?

Yes, curry powder can be used as a substitute. Use one teaspoon of curry powder for every one tablespoon of curry paste.

What is the difference between red curry paste and green curry paste?

They are both made with different types of chilies. Red curry paste is hotter than green curry paste.

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