Thai Red Curry – everything we know and love about Thai food! Big, bold Thai flavours, beautifully fragrant, the creamy red curry sauce is so good you can put anything in it and it will be amazing!
Make the easy 30 minute red curry recipe using my trick to pimp up store bought curry paste. Or go all out and make a Thai Red Curry Paste from scratch! Complete your Thai banquet with Thai Satay Skewers or Thai Fish Cakes to start.
Thai Red Curry recipe
We’d all love to be able to have a Thai Red Curry any night of the week made with homemade red curry paste. Freshly made, like the best Thai restaurants do every day. But it’s simply not viable.
So today, I’m sharing a recipe for how to make Thai Red Curry two ways:
30 Minute quick version using curry paste in a jar – sharing my secret for how to make an AMAZING curry using curry paste in a jar!
From scratch, using a homemade red curry paste
The BEST Thai Red Curry Paste – Maesri
The best Thai Red Curry Paste by a long shot is a brand called Maesri. This is also the brand I use for Thai Green Curry. Other brands tend to have less authentic flavour and are (usually) too sweet.
Sold in small cans for around $1.30 (it’s the cheapest!), it’s available in large grocery stores (Coles, Woolies, Harris), Asian grocery stores and here is the cheapest one on Amazon US.
Don’t worry if you can’t find it. This recipe is still great even with mainstream curry pastes.
How to make jar curry paste better
Store bought curry paste in a jar lacks the freshness of freshly made curry paste. So if you just dump it into coconut milk, you’re going to be sorely disappointing.
So here is how to make curry paste in a jar taste way (way, way!) better:
Sauté the paste in oil with garlic, ginger and fresh lemongrass or lemongrass paste
Adding the fresh aromatics does wonders for improving the flavour!
What does a Thai Red Curry Taste like??
Thai Red Curry, like most Asian curries, has a great depth of flavour. The sauce flavour is complex, it has many layers from all the ingredients in the paste that is then simmered with broth and coconut milk. It’s sweet and savoury, and it is quite rich.
The use of shrimp paste and fish sauce in the curry paste (jar or homemade) provides the saltiness as well as the umami *. However, this red curry recipe does not have a strong fishy or fermented shrimp flavour like some “hardcore” Thai restaurants. Most non-Thai nationals find those versions too fishy for their palette.
While one may assume Thai Red Curry is fiery hot, if from the colour alone, in actual fact it is not! It is actually quite mild, and generally most restaurants tend to stick with the mild level of spiciness though you will find some restaurants that dial up the heat considerably.
* Food-nerd word for savouriness, now officially considered to be the 5th taste in food along with sweet, salt, bitter and sour.
We love Thai Red Curry for the flavour, the creamy sauce, and how can one not love the colour!!
Complete your Thai meal with a starter of Thai Fish Cakes or Satay Skewers with Peanut Sauce, and a fresh Asian Slaw on the side. And while you can totally serve the red curry with plain steamed Jasmine rice, you could take it to the next level with Thai Fried Rice or Coconut Rice! – Nagi x
PS If you’re wondering if the sauce is supposed to look sort of split – yes it is. The oil is actually supposed to separate. I’ve included some general commentary in the recipe notes, for those that are interested. 🙂
Thai red curry
Watch how to make it
Thai Red Curry with Chicken
Red Curry Paste – choose ONE:
- 5 – 6 tbsp Thai Red Curry Paste (store bought, Maesri best) (Note 1)
- 1 quantity homemade Thai Red Curry Paste
Extras – only for jar curry paste (Note 2)
- 2 large garlic cloves , minced
- 2 tsp fresh ginger , finely grated
- 1 tbsp lemongrass paste or finely chopped fresh (Note 3)
Thai Red Curry
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil (or canola or peanut)
- 1 cup (250 ml) chicken broth/stock , low sodium
- 400 ml / 14 oz coconut milk (full fat!)
- 6 kaffir lime leaves (Note 4)
- 1 tbsp sugar (white, brown or palm)
- 2 tsp fish sauce , plus more to taste
- 350g / 12 oz chicken thighs (boneless and skinless), cut into 0.75 / 1/3″ thick slices (Note 5)
- 150g / 5 oz pumpkin or butternut squash, cut into 1.5cm / 3/5" cubes (~1 heaped cup)
- 120g / 4oz green beans , trimmed and cut into 5cm/2″ pieces
- 12 Thai basil leaves (Note 6)
Garnishes (optional) & serving:
- Fresh red chilli slices (small chilli – spicy, large = less spicy)
- Fresh coriander / cilantro leaves
- Steamed jasmine rice
- Heat oil in a large heavy based skillet over medium high heat.
- Add curry paste and Extras (if using jar paste) and cook for about 2 minutes so it “dries out” (See video)
- Add chicken broth and stir to dissolve paste. Simmer rapidly for 3 minutes or until liquid reduces by half.
- Add coconut milk, lime leaves, sugar and fish sauce. Stir, then add chicken.
- Spread chicken out, bring to simmer, then turn heat down to medium. Simmer for about 8- 10 minutes or until Sauce reduces, the chicken is cooked and the sauce is almost at the thickness you want.
- Do a taste test. Add more fish sauce (or even shrimp paste) to add more saltiness, sugar for sweetness.
- Add pumpkin and beans, stir. Cook for 3 minutes or until pumpkin is just cooked through and Sauce is thickened – see video for Sauce thickness.
- Remove from heat. Stir through a handful of Thai basil leaves.
- Serve over jasmine rice, garnished with fresh red chilli slices and fresh coriander/cilantro leaves, if desired.
Spiciness: Thai Red Curry is not supposed to be crazy spicy but it has a nice tingle to it.
Sauce thickness varies drastically between restaurants – at some it is almost watery, at others it is really thick and seems to be made with coconut cream. I like mine in between – a sauce that is pourable but with a gravy like consistency. I am not a fan of very sweet Red Curry, but if you are, just add more sugar.
Consistency: Thai red curry sauce doesn’t look completely smooth, it looks a bit split because of the oil and that’s the way it is supposed to be.
Stuff in it: There are no hard and fast rules about what goes into a Thai Red Curry. You’ll find Thai eggplant in curries at very authentic Thai restaurants but to be honest, I am not a huge fan of them – they are like tiny eggplants and kind of hard (also not easy to find in shops). I’d say that the two most common vegetables I’ve noticed are pumpkin and green beans or snake beans. While pumpkin may not sound “Thai”, don’t dismiss it, it is spectacular in red curry for both the texture, the sweetness and also because it soaks up the sauce. 8. Nutrition per serving, curry only.
I adore Thai curries
Life of Dozer
It’s lucky he’s so cute because he isn’t going to win any prizes in the spelling bee…. When he bonks his head on the door frame, it sounds hollow. I swear!