Red Curry Paste Substitutes

Spice Up Your Cooking: Top Red Curry Paste Substitutes to Try

Red curry paste is a vibrant and flavorful ingredient that forms the backbone of numerous dishes, primarily in Thai cuisine but also in other Southeast Asian and even fusion recipes. It’s a harmonious blend of red chilies, garlic, lemongrass, galangal, and other spices, all ground into a rich, aromatic paste. Its unique blend of heat, sweetness, and earthy notes can elevate a dish from ordinary to extraordinary in just a spoonful. Whether you’re making classic Thai red curry, spicy soups, stir-fries, or marinades, the role of red curry paste is often indispensable for achieving authentic flavors.

While red curry paste’s impact on cuisine is undeniable, circumstances often arise where alternatives are sought. Whether due to dietary restrictions, ingredient scarcity, or personal preferences, having a diverse repertoire of substitutes at hand empowers chefs and home cooks to maintain the essence of their dishes. By understanding the composition and role of red curry paste, you can discover suitable substitutes that uphold the essence of flavor, color, and aroma that this paste brings to the table.

Composition of Traditional Red Curry Paste

Red curry paste is a blend of potent ingredients that work in concert to create a symphony of taste sensations. Primary constituents include:

  • Red Chili Peppers: The fiery foundation that imparts the paste’s signature heat.
  • Garlic and Shallots: Providing depth and aromatic undertones.
  • Lemongrass: Offering a citrusy, fresh fragrance and flavor.
  • Galangal or Ginger: Adding warmth and pungency.
  • Coriander Seeds and Cumin: Enhancing the overall aroma and complexity.
  • Shrimp Paste (Kapi): Lending a distinct umami quality.

Red Curry Paste Substitutes

1. Green or Yellow Curry Paste

Yellow and green curry pastes are close relatives to red curry paste, each with their own unique flavor profiles.

Green Curry Paste

  • Heat Level: Generally spicier than red curry paste.
  • Primary Flavors: Fresh green chilies, basil, and kaffir lime leaves give it a brighter, more herbaceous character.

Yellow Curry Paste

  • Heat Level: Milder than both red and green curry pastes.
  • Primary Flavors: Rich in turmeric and often includes cinnamon and cardamom, providing a warmer, more earthy profile with a touch of sweetness.

Adjustments in Recipe

When substituting red curry paste with green or yellow curry paste, here are some considerations:

For Green Curry Paste

  1. Amount: You might want to start with a smaller amount if you’re sensitive to spice.
  2. Additional Ingredients: Consider balancing the herbaceous flavors by adding a little extra coconut milk or a touch of brown sugar.
  3. Compatibility: Works well in recipes that can accommodate a brighter, more herb-focused flavor.

For Yellow Curry Paste

  1. Amount: Generally, you can use it in a 1:1 ratio as a red curry paste substitute.
  2. Additional Ingredients: To mimic the heat of red curry, you might add a pinch of red pepper flakes.
  3. Compatibility: Ideal for recipes with poultry or root vegetables that can benefit from the warm, earthy flavors.

Ideal for: Specific Recipes That Can Tolerate Flavor Variations

Both green and yellow curry pastes can be used in a variety of dishes, but they are ideally suited for recipes that are flexible in terms of flavor:

  • Green Curry Paste: Excellent for lighter meats like chicken or fish, as well as vegetable-based dishes. It can also be used in soups where an herby, fresh flavor is welcome.
  • Yellow Curry Paste: Works wonderfully in dishes that traditionally use warmer spices. Think stews with potatoes and carrots, or even a spicy version of a chicken pot pie.

2. Homemade Red Curry Paste

Creating your own red curry paste at home opens the door to a world of customization, authenticity, and culinary pride. While store-bought options offer convenience, crafting your own paste allows you to fine-tune flavors and spiciness to your preference.

Recipe for Homemade Red Curry Paste


  • 6-8 dried red chili peppers (soaked and deseeded)
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 2 shallots
  • 1 stalk of lemongrass (white part only)
  • 1 thumb-sized piece of galangal or ginger
  • 1 teaspoon of coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon of shrimp paste (omit for vegan version)
  • Zest of 1 lime
  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil


  1. In a dry pan, lightly toast coriander seeds and cumin seeds until fragrant. Let them cool.
  2. Blend the toasted seeds, soaked chili peppers, garlic, shallots, lemongrass, galangal/ginger, and lime zest to a smooth paste.
  3. Add shrimp paste (if using) and blend again.
  4. In a pan, heat vegetable oil and sauté the paste until fragrant and the oil separates.

Customization and Advantages

Homemade red curry paste provides the flexibility to adjust the levels of spiciness, aromatics, and other elements to your taste. You can experiment with the balance of ingredients to create a paste that perfectly suits your dishes. Additionally, crafting your own paste offers a rewarding experience, allowing you to connect with the origins of the cuisine and take pride in your culinary creations.

Ideal for: Those Who Want a Near-Perfect Match

If you are a purist at heart and crave the authentic flavor of red curry paste, going the DIY route is your best bet. This is ideal for individuals who have a bit of time to invest in preparation and cooking, as well as those who enjoy the culinary process. With a homemade version, you can adapt the spice level, omit allergens, and even incorporate organic or locally sourced ingredients.

3. Garam Masala

Garam Masala is a fragrant and warming spice blend originating from Indian cuisine. Although it doesn’t offer the exact flavors or heat of red curry paste, it can be an effective substitute in a pinch, particularly for recipes that would mesh well with Indian spices.

Flavor Comparison

  • Heat Level: Garam Masala is generally not spicy, but it brings a warm, aromatic complexity to dishes.
  • Primary Flavors: Garam Masala typically includes spices like cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, cumin, and coriander, among others. These spices give it a warm, slightly sweet, and earthy profile.
  • Complexity: While red curry paste features the brightness of lemongrass and the depth of shrimp paste or fish sauce, Garam Masala leans more towards a mix of toasted, earthy flavors.

How to Use It as a Substitute

  1. Ratio: Since Garam Masala doesn’t have the same moisture content as red curry paste, start with a smaller quantity. A good rule of thumb is to use 1 tablespoon of Garam Masala for every 2 tablespoons of red curry paste.
  2. Additional Ingredients: To mimic the heat and complexity of red curry paste, consider adding:
    • Red pepper flakes or a bit of cayenne pepper for heat
    • A touch of lemon zest or a splash of lime juice to replicate the tanginess of lemongrass
    • A small amount of minced garlic or garlic powder for depth
  3. Cooking Method: Toast the Garam Masala briefly in oil to release its essential oils before adding other ingredients. This can help mimic the depth you would get from red curry paste.
  4. Adjust to Taste: As always, taste as you go. You may need to tweak the seasoning to get closer to the desired flavor profile.

Ideal for: Indian Dishes, or Dishes That Can Tolerate Indian Spices

Garam Masala can be a suitable substitute particularly in dishes that wouldn’t clash with its Indian spice profile. This includes:

  • Indian curries that may traditionally use different bases, like tomato or yogurt
  • Non-traditional or fusion dishes that are open to interpretation, such as stews or casseroles
  • Quick stir-fries or sautés where a touch of exotic flavor would be welcome

4. Tom Yum Paste

Tom Yum paste is a versatile and flavor-packed ingredient commonly used in Thai cuisine, particularly for making the popular Tom Yum soup. It’s a blend of various herbs and spices, making it a viable alternative when you’re out of red curry paste.

What is it?

Tom Yum Paste is a pre-made condiment or flavor base consisting of a variety of ingredients commonly found in Thai cuisine. These can include:

  • Lemongrass
  • Galangal
  • Kaffir lime leaves
  • Lime juice
  • Fish sauce
  • Sugar
  • Thai chilies
  • Garlic
  • Shallots

Some commercial versions may include additional spices or flavor enhancers, but the above components are the most traditional.

Flavor Characteristics

  • Heat Level: Generally, Tom Yum paste is moderately spicy but can be adjusted according to personal taste.
  • Primary Flavors: It has a sour, spicy, and slightly sweet profile, offering layers of complexity in each spoonful.
  • Herbaceous Notes: The lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves in Tom Yum paste give it a citrusy and herbaceous undertone that can add a refreshing quality to your dishes.

Ideal for: Soups and Stews

Given its origins in soup, Tom Yum paste is exceptionally well-suited for liquid-based dishes. Here are some ways you can incorporate it:

  • Thai-inspired Soups: Naturally, Tom Yum paste can be a direct addition to any Thai or Southeast Asian soups, even those that traditionally call for red curry paste.
  • Seafood Stews: The tangy, spicy profile pairs brilliantly with seafood, offering a refreshing change from a more robust red curry base.
  • Vegetable Broths: Add a spoonful to vegetable broths for an instant lift in flavors and complexity.
  • Chicken Soups: A bit of Tom Yum paste can turn a basic chicken soup into something exotic and invigorating.

5. Miso Paste with Red Pepper Flakes

Miso paste combined with red pepper flakes might sound like an unconventional substitute for red curry paste, but it can be surprisingly effective, particularly in vegan or Asian fusion recipes. It in a fermented, umami depth, while red pepper flakes offer the needed spiciness.

How It Mimics the Flavor and Heat

  • Umami and Depth: Miso paste, a fermented soybean paste, is rich in umami and can mimic the deep, savory notes of shrimp paste found in traditional red curry paste.
  • Heat Level: Red pepper flakes can bring the spicy kick that you’d expect from red curry paste. Adjust the amount according to your heat tolerance.
  • Complexity: Although it won’t provide the same blend of Thai-specific flavors like lemongrass or galangal, the miso-red pepper flake combo offers a satisfyingly complex taste.

Preparation Tips

  1. Ratio: Start with a base of 2 tablespoons of miso paste and adjust the amount of red pepper flakes according to your spice preference. A good starting point could be 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes.
  2. Mixing: Blend the miso paste and red pepper flakes together in a small bowl to create a unified paste. For added complexity, you could throw in a splash of soy sauce or a teaspoon of minced garlic.
  3. Cooking: To release the flavors fully, sauté this mixture in a bit of oil before adding it to your dish. This step is especially useful if you are using it in stir-fries or sautés.
  4. Additional Ingredients: If you want to get closer to the Thai flavors, consider adding a squirt of lime juice or finely chopped lemongrass to the mixture.
  5. Taste as You Go: Always taste your dish after adding your substitute to make any necessary adjustments.

Ideal for: Vegan Dishes or Asian Fusion Recipes

  • Vegan and Vegetarian Cuisine: This substitute is plant-based and offers a depth of flavor that can stand in for the non-vegan components of traditional red curry paste.
  • Asian Fusion: The miso’s umami richness can lend itself to various Asian fusion recipes, whether it’s a noodle dish, a stir-fry, or even a marinade for tofu or tempeh.
  • Innovative Soups and Stews: Feel free to add this substitute to your soups and stews that could benefit from a spicy, umami kick.

6. Sriracha and Soy Sauce Mixture

When you’re in a rush and don’t have time for intricate substitutions, a quick blend of Sriracha and soy sauce can save the day. While not an exact replacement for red curry paste, this mixture can add a spicy, umami punch to your dishes, making it a suitable stand-in for quick meals like stir-fries.

Proportion of Each to Use

  1. Ratio: A good starting point is to mix 2 tablespoons of Sriracha with 1 tablespoon of soy sauce. You can adjust the ratio depending on how spicy or salty you want the dish to be.
  2. Customization: Feel free to add additional elements like minced garlic or a splash of lime juice to bring in more complexity.
  3. Testing: Always test a small amount in your dish before committing to the full quantity, as both Sriracha and soy sauce are potent ingredients.

How it Matches Up

  • Spice Factor: Sriracha brings in the heat that red curry paste usually offers, although it leans towards a garlicky, vinegar-infused spiciness.
  • Umami: Soy sauce offers a salty, umami depth, though it lacks the varied spice and herbaceous elements found in red curry paste.
  • Simplicity: One advantage of this mixture is its availability. Most people have Sriracha and soy sauce stocked in their kitchens, making it a convenient last-minute substitute.

Ideal for: Quick Fixes, Stir-Fries

  • Quick Stir-Fries: When you’re in a hurry and need to whip up something quick and flavorful, this mixture can be a real lifesaver. Its liquidity works well for sautéing vegetables and meats rapidly.
  • Weeknight Meals: This is the substitute to reach for when you’re short on time but still want to infuse some dynamic flavors into simple, weeknight meals.
  • Marinades: While it won’t recreate the nuanced flavors of a Thai curry marinade, it can still impart a tasty, spicy zing to your proteins.

7. Sambal Oelek

Sambal Oelek is a chili paste that hails from Indonesia and is widely used in Indonesian, Malaysian, and some other Southeast Asian cuisines. Comprised mainly of ground fresh chili peppers, it’s a robust and versatile ingredient that can act as a makeshift substitute for red curry paste, especially in dishes that already lean towards Indonesian or Malaysian flavors.

Flavor Profile

  • Heat Level: Sambal Oelek is generally quite spicy, owing to its primary ingredient-fresh chili peppers. However, it lacks the multi-layered complexity of red curry paste, which typically includes a blend of herbs, spices, and sometimes even shrimp paste.
  • Primary Flavors: It has a straightforward but intense chili pepper flavor, with some brands including a bit of vinegar, lime, or garlic for added tang and depth.
  • Simplicity: One of the benefits of Sambal Oelek is its simplicity. It’s easy to customize by adding other ingredients if you wish to mimic the more complex profile of red curry paste.

Usage Guidelines

  1. Starting Ratio: As Sambal Oelek is quite spicy, start with half the amount you would use for red curry paste. From there, you can add more according to your heat preference.
  2. Additional Ingredients: To mimic the more complex flavors of red curry paste, you can add a splash of fish sauce (or a vegan alternative), a squeeze of lime, and some minced garlic or shallots.
  3. Cooking Method: It can be added at the same stage of cooking as you would add red curry paste-generally, sautéed in a bit of oil to release the flavors before adding other ingredients.
  4. Adjusting for Salt: Since Sambal Oelek lacks the saltiness present in some red curry pastes, you may need to adjust the salt level of your dish accordingly.

Ideal for: Indonesian or Malaysian Recipes

  • Nasi Goreng: This popular Indonesian fried rice dish can benefit from the spicy kick of Sambal Oelek.
  • Rendang: If you’re making a quick version of this slow-cooked dry curry, Sambal Oelek can be a suitable stand-in for red curry paste.
  • Satay Sauces: While not a direct substitute, adding a bit of Sambal Oelek can provide a spicy edge to peanut or soy-based satay sauces.
  • Soups and Stews: In recipes like Indonesian Soto Ayam or Malaysian Laksa, Sambal Oelek can provide the required heat and spice, albeit with a different flavor profile.

8. Harissa

Harissa is a North African chili paste that has gained popularity in various global cuisines. While it originates from a different culinary tradition, its robust combination of flavors can serve as a stand-in for red curry paste, particularly if you’re cooking African or Middle Eastern dishes.

North African Alternative

  • Ingredients: Harissa is typically made from a blend of red chili peppers, garlic, olive oil, and spices like cumin, coriander, and caraway seeds.
  • Heat Level: Depending on the brand or homemade recipe, Harissa can range from moderately spicy to quite hot.
  • Flavor Profile: With its smoky undertones and spice-forward palette, Harissa offers a different but interesting flavor dimension compared to the more tropical and herbal notes of red curry paste.

Adjustments Needed

  1. Proportional Use: Start by using Harissa in a 1:1 ratio as a substitute for red curry paste, and then adjust according to your taste preferences and the dish’s requirements.
  2. Balancing Flavors: Given that Harissa lacks the sweetness and umami flavors typical of red curry paste, you may need to balance your dish with a touch of sugar or a splash of fish sauce or soy sauce.
  3. Additional Ingredients: If you want to bring it closer to a Southeast Asian flavor profile, consider adding ingredients like lemongrass, ginger, or lime zest.
  4. Reducing Salt: Harissa can be quite salty, so you may need to cut back on any additional salt or salty ingredients like soy sauce or fish sauce in your recipe.

Ideal for: African or Middle Eastern Dishes

  • Tagines and Stews: The rich, spicy character of Harissa works exceptionally well in slow-cooked dishes like Moroccan tagines or Tunisian stews.
  • Grilled Meats: Whether you’re making kebabs or grilled chicken, a Harissa marinade can add a beautiful depth of flavor.
  • Rice Dishes: In meals like pilafs or jollof rice, Harissa can bring an interesting, spicy twist.
  • Hummus or Dips: While not a traditional addition, a little Harissa can spice up hummus or other Middle Eastern-style dips.

9. Tahini and Paprika

Tahini and paprika may not be the first ingredients that come to mind when thinking of red curry paste substitutes, but their combination can create a unique and intriguing flavor profile. While they don’t perfectly mimic the complex taste of red curry paste, they can offer a mild, creamy spiciness suitable for specific recipes, especially those of Mediterranean origin.

Unique but Effective

  • Texture & Flavor: Tahini, made from ground sesame seeds, is creamy with a mild nuttiness. When combined with paprika, it gets a smoky, spicy dimension, creating a paste that is both rich and aromatic.
  • Heat Factor: Paprika provides a milder heat compared to red chili peppers. Depending on whether you use sweet or smoked paprika, the flavor can range from sweet and mild to smoky.

Proportions and How to Use

  1. Ratio: Begin with 2 tablespoons of tahini and mix in 1 teaspoon of paprika. Depending on your desired flavor intensity and heat level, you can adjust these proportions.
  2. Blending: Whisk the tahini and paprika together in a bowl until well combined. For additional depth, consider adding a splash of olive oil or lemon juice.
  3. Cooking Method: If using in a dish, it’s best to add this mixture during the latter stages of cooking to maintain its creamy texture. Overcooking might cause the tahini to become too thick or lose its nuanced flavors.
  4. Taste & Adjust: Always taste the mixture before adding it to your dish to ensure the balance is right. If you want more heat, consider incorporating a pinch of cayenne pepper.

Ideal for: Mild-Flavor Dishes, Mediterranean Recipes

  • Mediterranean Stews: The creamy nuttiness of tahini combined with the mild heat of paprika can complement Mediterranean vegetable or legume stews.
  • Salad Dressings: For a unique dressing twist, use the tahini-paprika mixture as a base, adding some olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic.
  • Sauces and Dips: Enhance the flavor of hummus, baba ganoush, or other Mediterranean dips with this blend.
  • Marinades: For dishes like chicken skewers or grilled vegetables, the tahini-paprika combo can serve as a flavorful marinade, offering a mild, smoky undertone.

10. Coconut Milk and Spices

For a substitute that introduces creaminess and a rich depth of flavor, a blend of coconut milk and spices can be a delightful departure from traditional red curry paste. This alternative offers a unique combination that evokes the essence of Southeast Asian cuisine.

Crafting the Blend

To create a coconut milk and spices substitute:

  1. Coconut Milk Base: Begin with a base of coconut milk, which brings creaminess and a hint of natural sweetness to the dish.
  2. Spice Infusion: Add ground cumin, ground coriander, and a pinch of cinnamon for complexity.
  3. Balance with Acidity: Introduce a squeeze of lime juice to balance the richness and add a touch of acidity.

Achieving Depth of Flavor

The combination of coconut milk and spices introduces a unique flavor profile that is distinct from traditional red curry paste. The spices add layers of taste, while the coconut milk lends a velvety texture.

Additional Ingredients

For a more complex flavor, consider incorporating minced garlic, grated ginger, and a touch of soy sauce for umami. These ingredients contribute to the overall depth and authenticity of the dish.

11. Curry Powder

Curry powder, a staple spice blend in many cuisines, can be a versatile substitute for red curry paste. While it differs from the paste in terms of texture, its medley of spices can infuse dishes with a distinct and captivating flavor profile.

Using Curry Powder as a Substitute

To replace red curry paste with curry powder, consider the following steps:

  1. Quantity Adjustment: Start with a small amount of curry powder, about 1-2 teaspoons, and gradually increase according to your desired taste.
  2. Sauté and Bloom: In a pan, sauté the curry powder in oil until it blooms and releases its aromas. This process deepens its flavors.

Flavor and Spiciness Differences

It’s important to note that while curry powder introduces an array of spices such as turmeric, cumin, coriander, and fenugreek, it lacks the chili heat and the nuanced flavors of lemongrass, ginger, and shallots present in red curry paste. This makes it milder in terms of spiciness and may result in a different overall taste profile.

Adjusting for Desired Taste

To mimic the complexity of red curry paste, consider adding additional ingredients such as minced garlic, ginger, and a touch of tomato paste. This helps bridge the flavor gap and create a more harmonious substitute.

12. Tomato-Based Alternatives

When searching for a substitute that introduces color, texture, and a touch of sweetness to dishes, tomato-based alternatives can be an excellent choice. By leveraging the richness of tomato paste or canned tomato sauce, you can craft a vibrant and flavorful base that harmonizes well with an array of ingredients.

Tomato Paste as a Base

Tomato paste offers concentrated tomato flavor and a deep red color. To create a substitute:

  1. Sauté Aromatics: Sauté minced garlic, onion, and ginger in oil until fragrant.
  2. Add Tomato Paste: Stir in tomato paste, allowing it to caramelize slightly for added depth.
  3. Spice Infusion: Introduce ground spices like cumin, coriander, and a pinch of cinnamon for complexity.

Canned Tomato Sauce Alternative

For a smoother base, canned tomato sauce can be used:

  1. Sauté Aromatics: Begin by sautéing garlic, onion, and ginger in oil.
  2. Introduce Canned Tomato Sauce: Add canned tomato sauce and allow it to simmer, melding flavors.
  3. Spice Blend: Incorporate a spice blend that includes cumin, coriander, paprika, and a touch of cayenne for heat.

Enhancing the Substitute

To replicate the multifaceted flavors of red curry paste, consider adding a dash of soy sauce for umami, a squeeze of lime for acidity, and a touch of brown sugar or honey to balance the tartness of tomatoes.

13. Chili Paste and Paprika Blend

When aiming to replicate the heat and color of red curry paste, a combination of chili paste and paprika can offer a compelling alternative. By blending these two elements, you can infuse your dishes with both spiciness and vibrancy.

Crafting the Blend

To create a chili paste and paprika blend:

  1. Chili Paste: Begin with a teaspoon of chili paste. Adjust the quantity based on your spice tolerance.
  2. Paprika Infusion: Add a teaspoon of paprika, which contributes color and a mild smokiness.
  3. Balancing Flavors: Consider introducing a pinch of ground coriander or cumin for depth.

Experimenting for Balance

Finding the right balance between chili paste and paprika is key. If the mixture is too spicy, increase the paprika; if it lacks heat, add more chili paste. Aim to create a harmonious blend that aligns with your taste preferences.

Subtle Flavor Enhancements

To bring out the full spectrum of flavors, you might consider enhancing the blend with minced garlic, a touch of grated ginger, and a splash of coconut milk or vegetable broth for a subtle creaminess.

14. Thai-Inspired Alternatives

For those who desire an authentic Thai twist in their dishes, turning to individual Thai ingredients can be a rewarding endeavor. By incorporating components like Thai red chili peppers, lemongrass, and ginger, you can evoke the essence of Thai cuisine in your creations.

Embracing Thai Red Chili Peppers

Thai red chili peppers offer a distinctive heat that’s synonymous with Thai cuisine. To use them as a substitute:

  1. Mince Chili Peppers: Finely mince Thai red chili peppers, removing the seeds for a milder heat.
  2. Infusion Technique: Sauté the minced chili peppers in oil to release their flavors and heat.

Incorporating Lemongrass and Ginger

Lemongrass and ginger play pivotal roles in Thai dishes. To introduce their aromas:

  1. Lemongrass Infusion: Bruise a stalk of lemongrass and add it to your cooking for a subtle citrusy aroma.
  2. Ginger Addition: Grate or finely chop fresh ginger to infuse your dishes with its characteristic warmth.

Achieving Thai Flavor Profile

By combining these elements with other Thai-inspired spices like coriander, cumin, and a splash of coconut milk, you can craft a substitute that mirrors the multifaceted flavors of Thai cuisine. Taste-testing and adjustments will guide you toward your desired outcome.

15. Roasted Red Pepper Paste

When seeking a milder yet flavorful alternative to red curry paste, roasted red pepper paste steps up to the plate. This substitute brings a touch of sweetness, vibrant color, and a subtle smokiness that can be a delightful addition to various dishes.

Creating Roasted Red Pepper Paste

To craft roasted red pepper paste:

  1. Roasting Red Peppers: Char red bell peppers on an open flame or in the oven until the skin blisters and blackens. Place them in a covered bowl to steam, making peeling easier.
  2. Peeling and Blending: Peel the peppers, remove seeds, and blend them into a smooth paste.

Mild and Sweet Flavor Profile

Roasted red pepper paste brings a naturally sweeter flavor profile compared to the spiciness of red curry paste. This mildness makes it suitable for those who prefer subtler heat levels.

Enhancing Complexity

To mimic the depth of red curry paste, consider adding a pinch of smoked paprika, a hint of ground coriander, and a touch of minced garlic for complexity. Balancing the sweetness of the roasted red peppers with these complementary flavors can create a more well-rounded substitute.

16. Special Mention: Ingredient Combinations

Sometimes, the key to a successful substitute lies in the artful combination of various ingredients. When a single alternative doesn’t fully capture the complex flavors of red curry paste, mixing different substitutes can lead to a more nuanced and satisfactory result.

Examples and Proportions

  1. Sriracha + Miso + Soy Sauce: For a fusion of flavors and a hit of umami, mix 1 tablespoon of Sriracha with 1 tablespoon of miso paste and 1 teaspoon of soy sauce.
  2. Harissa + Tahini: Create a smoky, creamy paste by combining 1 tablespoon of Harissa with 2 tablespoons of tahini. You can add a pinch of cumin for added depth.
  3. Sambal Oelek + Fish Sauce + Brown Sugar: To capture the spicy, salty, and sweet trifecta found in red curry paste, blend 2 tablespoons of Sambal Oelek with 1 teaspoon of fish sauce and 1 teaspoon of brown sugar.
  4. Green Curry Paste + Paprika + Soy Sauce: If you only have green curry paste at hand, add 1 teaspoon of paprika and 1 teaspoon of soy sauce to 2 tablespoons of green curry paste to mimic the flavor of its red counterpart.
  5. Garam Masala + Tomato Paste + Red Pepper Flakes: For a rich, Indian-inspired substitute, combine 1 tablespoon of Garam Masala with 1 tablespoon of tomato paste and a pinch of red pepper flakes.

Recipes that Use Red Curry Paste Substitutes

  1. Vegan Thai Curry: A plant-based recipe that uses miso paste and red pepper flakes in lieu of red curry paste. Great for a meat-free Monday or any day of the week.
  2. Indian-Style Coconut Curry: Swap out red curry paste for Garam Masala to make this rich and creamy curry with a different but equally delightful flavor profile.
  3. Mediterranean Spiced Stew: Utilize a tahini and paprika mix to create a stew that’s not only delicious but also leans towards Mediterranean flavors.
  4. Quick Stir-Fry: A fast and easy recipe that uses a Sriracha and soy sauce mixture for those quick weeknight dinners.
  5. Moroccan Tagine with Harissa: Experience the smoky flavors of North Africa by substituting red curry paste with Harissa in a traditional tagine recipe.


Q. What is the closest substitute for red curry paste?

The closest substitute for red curry paste is a DIY version made from red chilies, garlic, lemongrass, and other aromatics. You can blend these ingredients to mimic the flavors of authentic red curry paste closely.

Q. Can I use curry powder instead of red curry paste?

While curry powder can add a similar spice profile to a dish, it lacks the depth and texture of red curry paste. If using curry powder, you may want to add some additional ingredients like garlic, ginger, and perhaps a bit of tomato paste to approximate the complexity of red curry paste.

Q. Is red curry paste very spicy?

The heat level of red curry paste can vary by brand and regional style, but it generally offers a moderate level of spiciness. When using substitutes, consider the spice level of the alternative and adjust the quantity accordingly.

Q. What can I use if I want a non-spicy substitute?

If you want a non-spicy alternative, you might consider using a mixture of tomato paste and some of the milder spices commonly found in red curry paste, like garlic and ginger. For added flavor, include a splash of soy sauce or fish sauce.

Q. Are all red curry paste substitutes vegan or vegetarian?

No, some common substitutes like fish sauce are not vegan or vegetarian. Always read ingredient labels or make your own versions if you have dietary restrictions. Miso paste mixed with red pepper flakes is a popular vegan alternative.

Q. Can I freeze red curry paste substitutes?

It depends on the substitute. Homemade pastes often freeze well, while mixtures using soy sauce or fish sauce may have altered textures or flavors once thawed. Always store in an airtight container and use within a reasonable time.

Q. Can I use green or yellow curry paste as a 1:1 substitute for red curry paste?

While you can use green or yellow curry paste as an alternative, be aware that each has its unique flavor profile. Green curry paste is generally spicier, while yellow curry paste is milder and turmeric-heavy. Adjust the other ingredients in your dish to balance these differences.

Q. What should I avoid when using substitutes?

Avoid using substitutes with overpowering flavors that can dramatically change the dish’s intended taste profile. Also, be cautious of the salt content in some substitutes and adjust the seasoning of your dish accordingly.

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