Green curry is one of the most popular curry dishes around, and although many types of curries got their start in India, Thailand is also responsible for many really delicious curry dishes including red and yellow curries.
Out of all the types on offer, green curry is arguably one of the most prevalent in Thai cuisine.
Because of its specialized ingredients and a quite difficult cooking process that involves utilizing coconut oil, sometimes green curry can be pretty hard to source.
So today we’ve prepared a list of the best substitutes for green curry paste you can use to get that same experience during those times you don’t have a green curry to hand.
The best substitutes for Green Curry paste
It’s called green curry because of the green hue of the sauce, which is due to ingredients such as coriander, makrut lime, and basil which are combined with various other ingredients including the all-important green chilis.
Because of its heavy use of green chilis, which all tend to lean towards the medium-hot area, green curry is usually pretty hot too.
It’s served in much the same way you would expect any other curry to be served, with some kind of protein which can range from chicken to fish, lots of vegetables, and a side of white long-grain jasmine rice.
But of course, many restaurants have their own variations on this so you can find that the taste of green curries may vary greatly from restaurant to restaurant as every place seems to have its own idea of what perfect curry tastes like.
So in our substitutes, we’ve tried to provide a range of alternatives that range from broad substitutes to items that can help emulate specific flavor tones of green curry paste. Whether that be the heat, the strong cilantro taste, to the thick and rich sauce.
1. Curry Powder
What curry powder and green curry paste have in common is they both use too many ingredients making them a pain to prepare at home fresh.
But one thing you can rely on is how accessible curry powder is, whereas green curry might not be available at every store. You should have no trouble finding some curry powder for your dish.
Curry powder utilizes many of the same core ingredients which can range from coriander, cumin, garlic, and of course chilies to provide its distinct taste. So although it doesn’t come in the nice thick sauce green curry does, it will give you a remarkably similar flavor.
2. Thai Red Curry Paste
Another incredibly popular choice amongst purveyors of Thai cuisine. This is remarkably similar to Green Curry, particularly in the texture where it’s fried with coconut butter in a similar way.
It also uses many of the same fundamental ingredients meaning it should be fairly close from a taste perspective too.
Now, where it differs is, as you might have been able to tell from the name, in the color. As Green Curry gets its color from the use of green chilies, red curry has a deeper red color due to its use of red chilis.
Generally speaking, red chili tends to be a bit hotter than green ones, so try to be careful about how much you use. You can either choose to simply use less of it or if you want the liquid volume to be the same consider diluting it with more coconut butter or even water also works.
3. Panang Curry Paste
While not quite as similar in taste to a green curry as the red curry paste is, Panang deserves a mention as it does use many of the same base ingredients as green curry.
But in addition to that, there are often a lot of ‘extras’ thrown into Panang curry which can include things like lime, cloves, and even peanuts.
The best way to think of this is an ‘and a little extra’ kind of substitute.
4. Green Harissa Paste
Green Harissa paste contains a slew of herbs, green spices, oil, and roasted peppers. It will oftentimes include some additional things such as garlic and onion.
Its green color makes it an ideal substitute from a visual perspective, with the oil giving it that slightly richer and thicker viscosity. However, the lack of coconut oil will detract a little bit from that buttery taste.
But overall it works great and that wonderful jalapeno taste works well with any dish you’d traditionally use green curry for.
A good tip to get this a little bit closer is to add some extra shrimp paste, if you have some available, to coax the flavor a little more towards that of a regular green curry.
So we’ve established that there are a few other kinds of curries that share similar flavor profiles. But what if you are all out of curry?
Well, this is where something like Chermoula might come in handy.
Although broad in its recipes as they tend to vary from place to place, the core ingredients which include garlic, cumin, coriander, and lemon combined with ground chili peppers make it share quite a few flavors with green curry.
Because it’s designed as a marinade and relish, it’s not going to have that buttery thickness to it and instead will come off a bit more oily, so providing that’s ok for the dish you are making then it’s definitely one to consider!
6. Laksa Curry paste
Laksa curry is a Southeast Asian curry dish that’s usually served with noodles. We associate it with countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore.
Although it has a different color thanks to the use of red chile, it shares quite a few ingredients with green curry, at least putting it in the same ballpark when it comes to flavor. Especially as it will normally also contain that special hint of coconut too.
It’s also one of the most popular Southeast Asian dishes and is arguably much easier to source than other curry paste types, so you should be able to find it at your local supermarket under the imported section without issue.
7. Lemongrass Paste
Although lemongrass is just one of the ingredients that are commonly used in curries, lemongrass paste is something quite different.
It’s pre-combined with many other flavorings including jalapenos which gives it that all-important mild to medium spiciness. It’s definitely not a perfect substitute in terms of taste, but it is close enough to where you could make do with using this if you are stuck.
It’s not quite as easy to source as some of the other curry pastes listed here, so if you happen to catch some at the store it’s well worth grabbing.
8. Vindaloo paste
Usually, in any pre-prepared vindaloo paste you buy, there is already some curry paste within. So that puts it in down as a reasonable substitute straight away.
In addition to that, it also uses coconut milk for the nice butteriness, as well as some delicious caramelized onions, jalapenos, garlic, and a few other spices.
Overall it’s surprisingly similar to green curry and makes a perfectly adequate substitute.
9. Homemade Thai Green Curry Paste
Green curry does make use of a lot of different spices, chilis, and ingredients.
Individually, however, they are all pretty common things you should be able to get from any good supermarket. So if you can build up a bit of a collection over many trips to the store you may find yourself in a position where you have enough ingredients at home to make it yourself.
The preparation process is not too difficult so if you’re a little bit more serious about your cooking this is definitely a worthy method to pursue.
10. Thai Yellow Curry Paste
Many of the substitutes we’ve listed thus far are on the spicier side of things, usually making use of hotter red chili’s simply because they’re so common and accessible.
Yellow curry is a bit more of a milder effort, with less spiciness and a larger focus on that sweet sauce that makes use of things like turmeric, nutmeg, cinnamon, and curry powder.
If you feel that it simply doesn’t have enough spicy kick to it you can add some additional chili of your own.
11. Massaman Paste
Another variation on the many other curries pastes listed here, once again it shares a lot of common ingredients with green curry paste and, despite having its own special flavor, will make an adequate substitute.
It’s also pretty common and easy to source from any Asian supermarket.
How to choose a Green Curry substitute
As you can see, there are a lot of choices available when it comes to picking an adequate substitute for Green Curry paste.
Many other kinds of curry or spicy sauce share common qualities when it comes to the ingredients used which gives them a similar flavor, yet also retains their own bit of personal flair.
So depending on what type of meal you are making, one kind of substitute might be more appropriate than the other, so let’s take a look at which ones might be the best across a range of criteria.
Our recommendation in terms of trying to get the closest and most accurate flavor is the red curry paste. It uses almost the same ingredients but is just generally a bit hotter due to the red chili being used.
But this is easily diluted if necessary, or alternatively, you can also just use less of it!
For this, the most ideal substitute is homemade Thai green curry paste.
It’s not the easiest thing in the world to make, but if you can gather all the ingredients together it will make a perfect substitute.
The best substitute if you are looking to match the same levels of heat is the simple curry powder, this is because it’s available across a range of different heat levels and, much like green curry, can vary a lot from brand to brand and restaurant to restaurant.
Once again curry powder is clearly the best choice here, it’s so common you will be able to find it in all good grocery stores and supermarkets. You won’t even need to head to the import section.
Our top pick
Our number one choice for the most ideal Green Curry paste substitute is Thai Red Curry Paste.
This is because the flavor profile is so close to that of green curry, the only thing you may want to address is the additional heat it can offer due to the red chili. Or perhaps that’s something you prefer in which case feel free to leave it as-is!