Thai yellow curry is an incredibly versatile ingredient that finds use in a whole lot of recipes. But what can you do if you find you’re out of this important ingredient? Well, that’s a good time to look at some yellow curry paste substitutes.
A substitute should offer some characteristics of the original, or at least be a viable replacement. So, it’s important to note some of the main characteristics of the yellow curry paste. It’s sweet-scented, fragrant, and of course, has that famous yellow color that also gives the curry its name.
The color of this curry is down to several ingredients. Turmeric is an obvious one, but it also includes yellow chilies, lemongrass, fish sauce, and galangal. The complex taste and flavor are something to enjoy and the heart of this delicacy.
Top Yellow Curry Substitutes To Look At
1. Curry Powder
The yellow curry powder makes the cut. Using it can give you a nice, yellow-colored curry that matches the yellow curry paste in looks and texture. Keep in mind, there is an obvious taste difference between these options.
Curry powder is a British invention to approximate the flavors of Indian curries. As such, the mix isn’t Indian and lacks the nuance found in several recipes. In the same vein, it lacks the flavor profile and nuance of several Thai recipes like the yellow curry paste.
That said, curry powder is a decent substitute and probably the best one to use as a substitute. Curry powder can replace the yellow paste in a 1:1 ratio.
2. Pad Thai Sauce
Here’s another popular recipe that can find effective use as a substitute. Pad Thai has a delicious and complex flavor. Somehow, it manages to be salty, sour, and sweet at the same time. It has a nice touch of ingredients and will make for a decent replacement.
Common ingredients of Pad thai are palm sugar, tamarind, and fish sauce. Respectively, they add the sweetness, sourness, and the saltiness. It’s an acceptable flavor compared to the yellow curry paste. However, this one has a different texture, though it’s not a big problem.
3. Green Curry Paste
Yellow curry paste belongs to the trinity of curry pastes used in Thai cuisine. Yellow has the mildest flavor, while green and red offer stronger flavors.
Green curry paste is an excellent choice to substitute for yellow curry paste. It has a similar texture and ingredients, though with different flavors and colors.
This paste takes on a green color due to the presence of green chilies in the recipe. That makes it spicier than the yellow curry, but it retains that sweet aroma. If the chili and the color don’t bother you, this can be an excellent option to pick.
4. Red Curry Paste
Red curry paste is the third type of popular and common curry pastes used in Thai cuisine. This is the spiciest of the three and makes its presence well-known in any recipe. Its color comes from a rather generous use of red chili peppers, which also give it high heat and spiciness.
Other ingredients in this curry include kaffir lime leaves, galangal, shrimp paste, and lemongrass.
The ingredient set makes it a perfect choice for the curry. But, keep in mind that it’s spicier and has a different color. If the spice doesn’t work for you, it’s possible to find milder versions of this curry. Although at that point, you might as well look towards the green paste.
Laksa is a noodle soup easily available in several Asian and East Asian countries. The aromatic soup uses several ingredients, including a few favorite ones like lemongrass, galangal, turmeric, and Kaffir lime. If you know your recipes, you’ll know that these are also the key ingredients of yellow curry paste.
Thanks to all these ingredients, its flavor is quite similar to that of the curry paste. If you’ve got Laksa at hand, it can be a decent substitute. Pre-packaged Laksa is available as well, if you’d like to stock up or keep a backup for if/when it’s needed.
6. Shrimp Paste
Belacan or shrimp paste comes from salted and fermented shrimp or krill. The shrimp or krill are well-ground and this often becomes a popular item that’s easily available at most southeast Asian stores and some specialty food stores.
While shrimp paste gets the right mouthfeel and texture, it lacks the nuanced flavors and taste that come from the curry paste. Well, that’s a problem which is handled conveniently if you add in some kaffir lime, garlic, and lemongrass, the flavors line up quite beautifully.
7. The DIY Way
Can’t get hold of yellow curry paste? Well, make your own! It’s a prized recipe with nuanced flavors and taste, so be prepared to put in some elbow grease. This is a famous dish with several ingredients. Though it doesn’t take long to cook, new chefs should be careful with the recipe.
If you’re in the US, the tougher part is getting all the ingredients and using them the right way. Most of the ingredients are very specific and difficult to find. Remember to use it well!
FAQs And More On Yellow Curry Paste
How Spicy Is Yellow Curry Paste?
Overall, the yellow paste is mild. There are three curry pastes – yellow, green, and red. Yellow is the milder option while the others get noticeably more heat and chili.
That doesn’t mean that the yellow curry paste has no spiciness or heat. It has mild spiciness and heat. In most cases, it should be bearable even to the most sensitive palate.
Red Curry Vs Yellow Curry – The Highlights
When you pit red curry vs yellow curry, the comparison of the siblings must start with the obvious. For one, both of them are different in color! More importantly, red curry is the spiciest of the three curries (yellow, green, and red).
A big part of this is that yellow curry depends a lot on turmeric for its conventional color. While some use yellow peppers for the curry, conventionally, it uses some red chilis to get that heat and spiciness. It’s still yellow, mainly because the turmeric’s yellow overshadows the other color.
Red curry, on the other hand, uses very hot and spicy red peppers. These give the curry its characteristic color, heat, and spiciness. While some conventional red curries can get very hot, many modern chefs like to keep things on the milder side.
Usually, this involves using something like tomato sauce. This allows the curry to have nuanced flavors, while also adding a deeper hue of red to the color. Still, by way of convention, red curry will be hotter than yellow!
How Do You Thicken Yellow Curry?
The simplest way to thicken curry is to use starch. You can use your choice of starch, e.g. cornstarch, tapioca four, or arrowroot. When using a starch, remember to mix it in cold water first. Using heated water will result in clumps forming in the starch, thus affecting the overall consistency and flavor.
Choosing The Substitute That Suits You
Working with the aromatic and tasty Thai yellow curry paste is a treat. However, if there’s a time that you can’t use it, knowing the best yellow curry paste substitutes could save you a lot of trouble. The delicious paste with its sweet undertones is difficult to match, but it has workable replacements. Besides, the other two curry pastes – green and red curry pastes, can always be a viable choice.