I’ve personally taste-tested a variety of green curry paste substitutes to find the best one for every cooking occasion.
Whether you’re on the hunt for the closest flavor match, in need of a last-minute pantry swap, or want a substitute that fits your diet, I’ve got the answers.
Making green curry paste from scratch is the way to go if you want to replicate its authentic flavor profile. But if you’re not opposed to switching things up, try its siblings yellow or red curry paste for a spicier kick. Laksa paste is a great option if you’re making a seafood curry.
Ready? Let’s jump right in.
I made small batches of Thai curry to test out various green curry paste substitutes.
Green curry paste is a staple in Thai cuisine. Unlike its yellow and red counterparts, it’s made from fresh chilies, which gives it its signature green color and a herby note to accompany the heat.
There’s no exact match for green curry paste’s refreshingly balanced flavor profile. But I found a few decent options.
Here are the substitutes I tested and my verdicts:
|Substitutes||How to Substitute||Verdict|
|Homemade green curry paste||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||10/10|
|Yellow curry paste||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||9/10|
|Green harissa||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||7/10|
|Red curry paste||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
|Lemongrass paste||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
|Laksa paste||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
Common uses of green curry paste
Here are some common ways to use green curry paste and the best substitutes for those situations:
- For curries and stews:The homemade version is your best bet when making stews and curries. You can also use yellow or red curry paste, but expect them to be hotter. Lemongrass paste is a good alternative if you want less heat.
- For noodles and soups: Laksa paste is a perfect alternative in soupe, especially if you’re using seafood.
- For salad dressings: Green harissa works well if you want to replicate the color. But if you want to replicate the flavor, try yellow or red curry paste.
Homemade green curry paste
Making you own green curry paste scratch is your best bet to replicate the unique flavor profile.
The process is simple, but some of the ingredients can be hard to find. I was able to pick lots up in my local Walmart e.g green chilies, shallots, garlic, lemongrass, and cilantro. But I had to go to an Asian market to find galangal and kaffir limes.
The extra trip was so worth it, though. This paste tasted just like the one I had when I was in Thailand!
Pssst… dnd don’t worry if you’re vegan. You can swap out the shrimp paste for miso paste, doenjang, or even dried shiitake mushrooms.
This is also far from the only recipe. There are loads of different ways to make the paste, so have a look through a few and pick one you like the sound of.
How to substitute: replace commercial green curry paste in a 1:1 ratio with homemade green curry paste.
Yellow curry paste
Of all the Thai curry pastes, I would say yellow is the most similar to green.
But it will change the appearance of your dish, thanks to the presence of turmeric, and of course the flavor is different.
Yellow curry paste shares many of the same base ingredients as green curry paste – from the shrimp paste to the lemongrass, so you still get those familiar zesty, umami notes.
But the addition of curry powder and turmeric give it more warmth compared to green curry’s herby-ness. The spiciness level can vary depending on the chilis used, but when you’re using it in place of green curry, look for a milder version.
How to substitute: replace green curry paste in a 1:1 ratio with yellow curry paste.
You’ve probably heard of harissa before, a smokey North African chili paste. But did you know there’s a green version?
It’s normally used as a condiment or a marinade, but it worked surprisingly well in my curry recipe. The only adjustment I made was to keep the heat relatively low to make sure I didn’t scorch any of the herbs.
You can also add the harissa later in the cooking process if you prefer.
My curry had a green color, although it was slightly darker than a standard Thai green curry. And in terms of flavor, the green harissa was more herb focused.
But both the curries had a ‘fresh’ feeling, and you can always add some traditional Thai ingredients like shrimp paste, green chilis, or freshly chopped galangal to get closer to an authentic green curry.
How to substitute: replace green curry paste in a 1:1 ratio with green harissa.
Red curry paste
You can definitely swap red curry paste for green curry paste, as long as you’re aware that red curry paste tends to be a lot spicier.
Red curry paste is like green curry paste’s bolder sibling. It shares the same base ingredients as green and yellow curry pastes, but uses dried chilies instead of fresh ones.
And dried chilis pack more heat!
If this is a problem, consider adding extra coconut cream or yogurt to your curry to mellow it out.
Some green curry paste recipes also include fresh herbs like basil, but don’t expect any herby flavor from red curry paste.
How to substitute: replace green curry paste in a 1:1 ratio with red curry paste.
Lemongrass paste might not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about a substitute for green curry paste, but it can be a lifesaver in a pinch.
It carries similar refreshing, herbaceous notes and brings a milder heat, making it an excellent choice if green curry paste tends to set your mouth on fire.
And there’s no shrimp paste, so this is a vegan friendly substitute.
Psst… I’m talking about the Cambodian lemongrass paste, otherwise known as Kroeung, not the ‘squeezy lemongrass’ you can sometimes find in shops.
You’d have a very one-dimensional curry if the only ingredient in your paste was lemongrass!
How to substitute: replace green curry paste in a 1:1 ratio with lemongrass paste.
Laksa paste is a pretty big departure from the flavor green curry paste (it comes from a different country!), but it’s a decent substitute if it’s all you have.
The ingredient lists have a few crossovers, like lemongrass, galangal, shrimp paste, and kaffir limes.
But laksa paste tends to lean less on the heat and more on the tangy side, thanks to the addition of tamarind. If you want some heat, throw in a few green chilis.
Psst… laksa paste pairs beautifully with seafood.
How to substitute: replace green curry paste in a 1:1 ratio with laksa paste.
Substitutes to avoid
Not all of the suggestions above are an exact match for Thai green curry paste, but there were also alternatives that didn’t work out well for me:
- Curry powder – this has a milder, earthier flavor that strayed too far from green curry’s herby, zesty taste. It’s not traditionally spicy and won’t bring a prominent heat to your dish.
- Vindaloo paste – this is popular in Indian cuisine and VERY spicy. I never use caps locks, but I need to emphasise how spicy this paste it. Don’t use it instead of a mild green curry paste.
- Madras curry paste – this is another Indian curry paste, that was recommended by several websites, but I have to disagree. It has a much warmer flavor profile because it’s primarily made of cumin, mustard seeds, cloves, and cinnamon.
- Massaman or panang curry paste – these pastes may have Thai roots, but they have a mild nutty flavor that won’t remind you at all of a tangy green curry. If that’s what you’re looking for, great, but I wouldn’t call them a substitue for green curry paste.
Best Green Curry Paste Substitutes + 5 To Avoid
- 1 tsp white peppercorn
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp shrimp paste
- 3 small shallot
- 1 tbsp kaffir lime rind
- 6 cloves of garlic
- 15 green chillies
- 5 green spur chillies
- 1 tbsp chopped coriander root
- 2 lemongrass stalks, finely chopped
- 1 galangal
- Toast the cumin and coriander seeds for 1 minute in a dry pan.
- Chop the shallots, garlic cloves, lemongrass stalks, kaffir lime rind, coriander root, and galangal.
- If using the a mortar and pestle, ground the spices first then set aside. Then mash the chilis into a smooth paste before adding the rest of the aromatics. Pound the mixture into a smooth paste then add the dry spices and shrimp paste. If using a food processor, chuck everything in and give it a blitz.
- Use immediately or transform into a lidded jar.