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Apr 21, 2007 12:12 PM

Substitution for red curry paste?

I am making a thai beef dish tonight that calls for red curry paste, and I cannot find it at my grocery store. Any substitutions that would be easy to make? Thanks!

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  1. What spices do you have that are typical of this part of the world? Ginger, garlic, hot chiles, lemon grass, Thai basil, fish sauce, etc? Do you have experience with other Thai dishes, or expectations regarding this one?


    1. From the ingredients on my red curry paste: Chiles (hot red), garlic, lemon grass (probably not available if you can't get the curry paste), ginger, salt, onion,pepper, lime juice, peanut oil.

      As to amounts I'd go with 2-3 chilis, 1-2 cloves garlic, one stalk or a teaspoon of lemon grass paste 1/2 tsp ginger, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/8 small onion, 1/2 tsp pepper, 1/2 of lime juiced and add peanut oil as you food process everything so it's the consistency of paste. Good luck

      6 Replies
        1. re: adrienne156

          Not in the paste I have a very generic brand. If you want to be authentic I would think the Thai's would use the fish sauce or shrimp in substitution for the salt

        2. re: catsailor

          So is there NO curry in Thai Red Curry Paste? I found some Thai Red CHILI paste with almost identical ingredients to what you list. Seems odd to make a curry recipe, when there's no CURRY in it. (btw my shrimp curry recipe calls for fish sauce as a separate ingredient.)

          1. re: ctcooker76

            curry is just a generic term. there is no relation, other than use of chiles) between dry indian style curry powder and the wet pastes of spices and herbs used in Thailand and called curry pastes, although some curry pastes (ex musaman) include some of the traditional curry spices.

            1. re: jen kalb

              There is also a curry plant; fresh curry leaves are used in some Indian and SE Asian cooking, however most "curry" (in the sense of a sauce) does not contain curry (the leaf).

              Some Thai curry paste has fish sauce or shrimp paste, and some does not. I think galangal is more typical than ginger.

          2. Am I right from your profile that you live in San Francisco? You can find Red Curry if so.

            If not, its hard to sub for. You can come up with some of the ingredients, but curry paste is typically made with fresh spices (whole chiles, fresh lemongrass, fresh ginger and garlic, etc) and you will not get even close to the same results with some chile powder and cumin or whatever you have on the spice rack. Not that you can't make a good dinner, but it will be very different and not very Thai.

            4 Replies
            1. re: andytee

              I know, I couldn't believe that grocery stores in SF did not have it! I was on a bit of a time crunch, so I just went to major grocery stores (aka Cala) and of course they didn't have it in stock. Oh well, I just used red curry powder and hot chili garlic sauce and it turned out okay. I will try it with the paste next time though.

              1. re: bwillia

                I live in a pretty small town. I actually found it at my local health food store. Don't ask me why... I had looked everywhere else. You might try calling around.

                1. re: bwillia

                  I would expect Cala to have it in the "ethnic" aisle. Next to coconut milk, etc. Guess maybe it depends on what neighborhood you are in.

                  Most health-foodie and gourmet stores will have it (Rainbow, Whole Foods, Bi-rite) as will most Asian markets, and I would think even many "normal" grocery stores will stock it.

                  1. re: bwillia

                    Well, if you're in Berkeley, there are a couple of thai markets there where you can get it. also I think berkeley bowl might have it as well but I haven't checked recently.

                2. You can't substitute it. If you want to cook Thai, you must go to an Asian grocery. And when you buy the coconut milk, try to find 'Chao Koh' or 'Mae Ploy' brands from Thailand. Don't shake them when you're ready to use. Instead, spoon out the cream at the top and use that to fry the curry paste in. When you sneeze from the spice, add the meat and stir. After a minute or two throw in the rest of the can of coconut milk. Throw in some veggies too if you want, and top with some Thai basil. Yum!

                  1. here's another one:

                    3 stalks lemongrass, chopped (bottom only not the green leaves)
                    4 tablespoons galangal, chopped
                    zest of one kaffir lime
                    3 kaffir lime leaves, thinly sliced
                    1/4 cup garlic chopped
                    16 dried Thai chili peppers
                    1 teaspoon sea salt
                    1 tablespoon shrimp paste
                    3 tablespoons shallots, chopped
                    2 tablespoons coriander seeds, crushed
                    1/2 tablespoon white peppercorns

                    Using a mortar and pestle, pound the ingredients until it forms into a smooth red curry paste. If you are using a food processor or blender, you may need to add 2 tablespoons of water.


                    3 Replies
                    1. re: asiansupper

                      a+ ! I like your recipe, and will be making this. I just have not been able to find kaffir lime or leaves! Come to think about it, I doubt I'll be able to find the galangal, any thoughts? I hear to use lime to replace the kaffir and to use ginger instead to of the galangal root. Seriously, I'd love to know just how much is the difference in taste, really?

                      Please share your thoughts on, the taste of galangal, and kaffir leaves, and then also the zest of the kaffir lime. Does anyone use the juice or the fruit of the kaffir lime itself and if so, in what ways?
                      Thank you so much for sharing!

                      1. re: chef chicklet

                        How much sun do you get? Kaffir lime plants are easily available, and pretty cheap on Ebay. Just do a search. they are easy to grow in a sunny window...and even better if you can put them outside. They'll handle any temperature above freezing. Buy some lemongrass at an Asian market. Take one stalk and soak the base in water. Roots will appear in a few days, then pot it up. It won't be long before you have lots of lemongrass. Galangal can be grown also, but its so cheap in the markets (frozen) that a purchase of $1.89 lasts all year in the freezer. Lastly, to someone who is not an expert, many Thai curry pastes taste basically the same. If you want to make a red curry, and all you can get is green, don't sweat it. Use what you can get....just buy it in a plastic container, not a can...they don't taste as good out of a can.

                        1. re: chef chicklet

                          hm. while i think lime is an acceptable substitute for kaffir lime, i think ginger and galangal are quite different -- they really only are similar in appearance. ginger is spicy, galangal is peppery, or sometimes wood-y.

                          definitely check the freezer of your asian grocery store, as well as the dried section. sometimes it comes powdered. if you can't find it after all that, i'd just leave it out ... hope that helps!