Difference Between Red And Green Curry (Explained)

difference between red and green curry

Thai curry is a beloved dish known for its vibrant flavors and aromatic spices. Among the various types of Thai curry, red curry and green curry are two popular choices that offer distinct characteristics. Understanding the difference between red and green curry can help you choose the right one to suit your taste preferences.

Key Takeaways:

  • Thai curry comes in different colors and flavors, with red and green being two common variations.
  • Red curry is made with red chillies and is known for its fiery heat, while green curry is made with green chillies and is milder.
  • The color of the curry is determined by the type of chillies used in the curry paste.
  • Both red and green curries typically include ingredients like basil, coriander, and kaffir leaf for added flavor.
  • The choice between red and green curry depends on your spice tolerance and flavor preferences.

The Flavors and Ingredients of Thai Curry

Thai curry is known for its diverse flavors and aromatic ingredients. Whether it’s the fiery heat of red curry or the milder and vibrant green curry, each variation offers a unique taste experience. Here, we delve into the distinct flavors and key ingredients that make Thai curry a beloved culinary delight.

Flavor Profiles:

Thai curries are a fusion of sweet, spicy, and savory flavors. Red curry is characterized by its intense spiciness, derived from dried red chilies that are ground into a paste. On the other hand, green curry boasts a fresh and herbal taste, thanks to the inclusion of fresh green chilies, lemongrass, and makrut lime leaves. Massaman curry, with its Indian influence, offers a mild and slightly sweet flavor. It features aromatic spices like cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves. Yellow curry, reminiscent of Indian curry, has a savory flavor enhanced by the earthy notes of turmeric and a blend of dried spices. Panang curry brings a nutty dimension to the table, incorporating roasted peanuts in its creamy paste.

Key Ingredients:

Thai curry gets its distinct flavors from a range of carefully selected ingredients. Lemongrass, galangal (a type of ginger), and shrimp paste are often used as the flavor base. These ingredients contribute to the rich and complex taste that Thai curry is known for. The addition of spices, such as coriander, cumin, and turmeric, adds depth to the curry, while chilies provide the desired level of spiciness. Other common ingredients include cilantro root, makrut lime leaves, and fish sauce, which further enhance the curry’s flavors.

Each variation of Thai curry showcases a unique combination of flavors and ingredients, making it a versatile and exciting dish to explore. From the fiery red curry to the vibrant green curry, the flavors and aromas of Thai curry are sure to tantalize your taste buds.

Making Thai Curry Paste

Making homemade Thai curry paste allows you to customize the flavors and create delicious curries at home. There are various methods you can use to make curry paste, depending on the tools you have available. The traditional way is to use a mortar and pestle to pound the ingredients together until they form a smooth paste. This method requires some physical effort but results in a paste with a more authentic texture and flavor.

If you prefer a quicker and easier method, you can use a food processor or blender to blend the ingredients into a paste. Simply add all the ingredients to the blender or food processor and blend until smooth. This method is convenient and saves time, especially if you’re making large batches of curry paste.

The key ingredients for Thai curry paste include dried red chilies, shrimp paste, and various spices. It’s important to roast the shrimp paste before adding it to the curry paste as this enhances its flavor. The combination of spices may vary depending on the type of curry paste you’re making. For example, red curry paste typically includes ingredients like lemongrass, galangal, coriander root, and cumin seeds, while green curry paste includes ingredients like green chilies, garlic, shallots, and coriander seeds.

Ingredients Quantity
Dried red chilies 10-15
Shrimp paste 1 tablespoon
Lemongrass 2 stalks
Galangal 1 thumb-sized piece
Coriander root 1 tablespoon
Cumin seeds 1 teaspoon
Green chilies 5-10
Garlic 4 cloves
Shallots 3
Coriander seeds 1 tablespoon

Once you’ve made your homemade curry paste, you can store it in the refrigerator for about a week or in the freezer for up to a year. To store it in the refrigerator, transfer the paste into an airtight container and keep it chilled. If freezing, portion the paste into small containers or ice cube trays for easy defrosting and use.

By making your own curry paste, you have control over the ingredients and can adjust the spiciness and flavors to your liking. It’s a rewarding and creative process that adds a personal touch to your Thai curry dishes. So why not give it a try and experience the authentic taste of homemade Thai curry?

Variations of Thai Curry

Thai curry is not limited to just red and green varieties. There are several other popular variations that offer unique flavors and ingredients.

Massaman Curry

Originating from southern Thailand, Massaman curry features a mild and slightly sweet flavor. It incorporates whole spices like cinnamon and cardamom, along with peanuts for a subtle nuttiness. This curry is often made with beef or chicken, and the combination of fragrant spices and creamy coconut milk makes it a favorite among curry enthusiasts.

Panang Curry

Panang curry is known for its rich and creamy texture. The paste for this curry includes roasted peanuts, which gives it a distinct nutty flavor. Panang curry is typically made with pork or chicken, and its thick consistency pairs well with jasmine rice. The combination of aromatic spices, coconut milk, and peanuts creates a comforting and indulgent curry.

Yellow Curry

Yellow curry gets its vibrant color from turmeric, a spice commonly used in Indian cuisine. This curry is milder in flavor compared to red and green curries, making it a great option for those who prefer less heat. Yellow curry often includes potatoes, onions, and carrots, and the addition of coconut milk gives it a creamy and savory taste.

Sour Curry

Sour curry, also known as “gaeng som,” is a tangy and flavorful variation of Thai curry. It is made using sour fruits like tamarind or green mango, which gives it a unique and refreshing taste. Sour curry is often cooked with fish or shrimp and is known for its distinct sourness, complemented by a hint of sweetness and spiciness.

Curry Variation Main Ingredients Flavor Profile Spiciness Level
Massaman Curry Beef or Chicken, Potatoes, Peanuts Mild, Slightly Sweet Medium
Panang Curry Pork or Chicken, Roasted Peanuts Rich, Creamy, Nutty Mild to Medium
Yellow Curry Chicken or Vegetables, Potatoes, Turmeric Mild, Savory Mild
Sour Curry Fish or Shrimp, Tamarind or Green Mango Tangy, Refreshing Medium to Spicy

Vegetarian and Vegan Thai Curry

Thai curry is a versatile and flavorful dish that can easily be adapted to suit vegetarian and vegan diets. By omitting the shrimp paste commonly used in curry paste, you can create a delicious plant-based version of this traditional Thai dish. There are also several substitutes you can use to add that umami flavor that is characteristic of Thai curry.

One popular substitute for shrimp paste is soy sauce. It provides a similar depth of flavor and can be added directly to the curry itself. It’s important to note that soy sauce should be added to the curry during the cooking process and not to the curry paste. This ensures that the flavors are properly balanced and integrated.

Another option is to use vegetarian or vegan fish sauce. These products are made from fermented soybeans and seaweed, providing a similar salty and savory taste to shrimp paste. They can be found in most specialty grocery stores or online.

For those who prefer a homemade curry paste, you can experiment with different combinations of ingredients to create a vegetarian or vegan version. Some common ingredients include lemongrass, galangal, coriander root, and a variety of spices. By combining these aromatics with your preferred chili peppers, you can create a flavorful curry paste that suits your dietary preferences.

Table: Vegetarian and Vegan Substitutes for Shrimp Paste

Substitute Flavor Profile Usage
Soy Sauce Umami, Salty Add directly to the curry during cooking
Vegetarian Fish Sauce Umami, Salty Add directly to the curry during cooking
Homemade Curry Paste Customizable Experiment with different ingredients to suit your taste

What Can You Make with Thai Curry Paste?

Thai curry paste is a versatile ingredient that can be used to create a variety of delicious dishes. Whether you prefer the vibrant flavors of Thai green curry, the fiery heat of Thai red curry, or the mild sweetness of Thai Massaman curry, there are plenty of recipes to satisfy your cravings.

One popular dish is Thai green curry with chicken, which combines the aromatic flavors of green curry paste with tender chicken, coconut milk, and an assortment of vegetables. The result is a fragrant and creamy curry that is both comforting and satisfying. The combination of spices, herbs, and coconut milk creates a harmonious balance of flavors that is sure to please your taste buds.

If you prefer a spicier option, Thai red curry with chicken is a great choice. Made with red curry paste, this dish packs a punch of heat that is tempered by the creaminess of coconut milk. The red curry paste infuses the chicken and vegetables with its rich flavors, resulting in a mouthwatering curry that is sure to impress.

For those who enjoy a milder curry, Thai Massaman curry with beef is a wonderful option. This curry is made with Massaman curry paste, which combines Thai flavors with Indian spices like cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves. The result is a fragrant and flavorful curry that is perfect for those who prefer a less spicy dish.

Recipe Ingredients
Thai Green Curry with Chicken
  • Green curry paste
  • Chicken
  • Coconut milk
  • Vegetables (such as bell peppers, green beans, and bamboo shoots)
  • Fish sauce
  • Palm sugar
  • Thai basil
Thai Red Curry with Chicken
  • Red curry paste
  • Chicken
  • Coconut milk
  • Vegetables (such as bell peppers, carrots, and zucchini)
  • Fish sauce
  • Palm sugar
  • Kaffir lime leaves
Thai Massaman Curry with Beef
  • Massaman curry paste
  • Beef
  • Coconut milk
  • Potatoes
  • Onions
  • Peanuts
  • Tamarind paste


Thai curry is a culinary delight that offers a wide range of colors, flavors, and spice levels. The distinction between red and green curry lies in the choice of chili peppers used, with red curry being hotter and green curry being milder. These vibrant curries are made with a blend of aromatic ingredients like lemongrass, galangal, and spices that create a symphony of flavors.

However, Thai curry is not limited to just red and green varieties. There are other delicious options to explore, such as the mild and sweet Massaman curry with its unique peanut and spice combination, the creamy and nutty Panang curry, and the vibrant yellow curry with its Indian-inspired flavors. Each variation brings its own character and taste.

The beauty of Thai curry lies in its versatility. With homemade curry paste, you have the freedom to customize the flavors and adjust the spice levels according to your preference. Whether you’re a fan of bold and fiery dishes or enjoy a more subtle taste, Thai curry has something to offer for everyone.

In conclusion, Thai curry is a wonderful addition to any culinary repertoire. So, grab your mortar and pestle or fire up your food processor, and let the fragrant aromas of Thai curry fill your kitchen. Experiment with different variations, explore new recipes, and savor the rich and aromatic flavors of this beloved cuisine.


What is the difference between red and green curry?

The difference lies in the types of chilies used. Red curry is spicier as it is made with red chilies, while green curry is milder and made with green chilies.

What are the flavors and ingredients of Thai curry?

Thai curry starts with a flavor base of lemongrass, galangal, shrimp paste, and other aromatics. The flavors can vary depending on the type of curry, with each having its own unique flavor profile.

How can I make Thai curry paste at home?

Thai curry paste can be made at home using a variety of methods, including pounding the ingredients with a mortar and pestle or using a food processor or blender. Key ingredients include dried red chilies, shrimp paste, and various spices. The curry paste can be stored in the refrigerator for about a week or in the freezer for up to a year.

What are some variations of Thai curry?

There are several popular variations of Thai curry, including Massaman curry, Panang curry, yellow curry, and sour curry. Each variation has its own unique flavors and ingredients.

Can I make vegetarian or vegan Thai curry?

Yes, you can make vegetarian or vegan Thai curry by excluding the shrimp paste and adding other sources of umami flavor, such as soy sauce. It’s important to add the soy sauce to the curry itself and not the curry paste.

What can I make with Thai curry paste?

Thai curry paste can be used to make a variety of delicious dishes, including Thai green curry with chicken, Thai red curry with chicken, and Thai Massaman curry with beef. These recipes combine the curry paste with other ingredients like coconut milk, meat, and vegetables.

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