Can I substitute chili paste for curry paste?

In this brief article, we will answer the question “Can I substitute chili paste for curry paste?” with an in-depth analysis of the difference between chili paste and curry paste. We will also list down some uses of chili paste and share a recipe for you to try on your own.

Can I substitute chili paste for curry paste?

Yes, you can substitute chili paste for curry paste given that your recipe requires red curry paste. This is because red curry paste contains primarily red chillies. The only requirement for substituting chili paste for curry paste is that you have all the other ingredients like ginger, garlic, turmeric, sea salt, fish sauce, lemongrass, basil, and sesame seeds.

Indonesia is the largest chili producer in Southeast Asia and the fourth largest in the world, contributing 5.8% of global production (3).

What is the difference between chili paste and curry paste?

The reason for having all the other ingredients is that chili paste does not have the same flavor profile as curry paste. These other ingredients are what give the curry paste its unique flavor. This is also why different types of curry pastes taste different and also have different colors.

Thai red curry paste prepared from some herbs, i.e. dried red chili, garlic, shallots, lemon grass, kaffir lime, galangal, spices and additives, such as salt and sugar, all blended together to obtain a homogeneous orange-red paste. It provides the colorful, spicy and authentic fragrance of certain dishes. It has been reported that the major ingredients of this product are good sources of phenolic compounds, such as chili, garlic, shallots, lemongrass and galangal root. Fresh, Thai red curry paste in a semi-solid form has a short shelf life due to its high moisture content (more than 40%). 

Chili paste is used widely in a lot of dishes to make the food more spicy. Depending on one’s own preference, they can add as much or as little chili paste as they like. It is added as an ingredient. On the contrary, curry paste is used with a lot of different meats and vegetables. The star of the dish is the curry rather than an ingredient. 

Chili (Capsicum spp. L., family Solanaceae) is usually called hot peppers, red peppers, pod peppers, cayenne peppers, paprika, pimento and capsicum in different countries. Pungent fruits of all the species of Capsicum are jointly called chili. Its pungency is due to the alkaloid Capsaicin, which has high medicinal values. Capsaicin is an amide derivative of vanilly lamine and 8 methylnon-trans-6-enoic acid. Besides adding pungency and red color i.e. capsanthin to dishes, it is rich in vitamins A, B, C and E, and minerals Ca, P and Fe. For the preparation of chili paste, the pepper fruits are dried and blended with water or oil and preservatives (2).

When to use chili paste?

Chili has many useful properties making it vital in ayurvedic medicine to fight against many diseases, destroys harmful toxins and stimulates gastric juices helping in digesting food. It also helps in clearing nasal congestion, relieves throat infection and acts as a painkiller in muscle (2).

We will list down some popular ways in which chili paste is used for its flavor and spiciness. If you have not tried any of these before and you are a fan of spicy food, then maybe you should try to spice up your food with these tips.

  • Add a couple of teaspoons to your soup for some extra heat.
  • Use it as a marinade for fresh chicken. 
  • Use it as an ingredient for making chicken breasts for burgers.
  • Add it to stew to make it a little hotter.
  • Mix it with mayonnaise, vinegar, salt, and paprika to make a dip. This type of dip goes well with fries and chicken strips.
  • Alternatively you can add soya sauce or oyster sauce to chili paste to make Asian style dipping sauce.

Chili paste is widely used in Korean cuisine. They call it “gochujang”. They add it to most of their dishes. Kimchi, an important Korean staple, is also made from gochujang.

Red chili paste recipe

You can make your own chili paste at home or buy a ready made paste from any store. They come in different spice levels. If you make it at home, you can make it spicy or mild according to your own liking.

Here is a simple recipe for homemade chili paste

Ingredients

  • 1 large onion
  • 10 cloves of garlic
  • 100 gm dried red chillies or 1lb fresh red chillies
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp white sugar
  • 5 candlenuts or macadamia nuts or cashew nuts (whichever ones you have)
  • ½ cup vegetable oil for frying

Instructions

  1. Put some water in a pan and place it over the stove to boil.
  2. Meanwhile, cut up the chillies in 2-3 pieces using kitchen scissors. If you are using a knife, wear gloves as the chillies are very hot and can irritate your skin if you have sensitive skin.
  3. When the water is just about to boil, pour it over the cut up chillies, soak them and cover them for 20 minutes.
  4. While the chillies are soaking, peel the onion and garlic and cut them in halves or quarters.
  5. After 20 minutes, drain the chillies and put them in a blender.
  6. Add all the other ingredients in the blender too apart from oil and blend them together to make a paste.
  7. Next, heat oil in the wok and put your paste in the oil and fry.
  8. Fry for 15 minutes at medium heat.
  9. Then fry for another hour uncovered. Stir it every 15 minutes. As the chili paste becomes drier, it may start to stick at the bottom of the wok or pan so stirring continuously every 15 minutes is necessary.
  10. After 1 hour, remove it from the heat. Let it cool down or come down to room temperature. 
  11. After that, place it in an airtight jar and store in the fridge. It can last upto two weeks in the fridge.

Other FAQs about Chili paste that you may be interested in.

Is chili sauce and chili paste the same thing?

Conclusion

In this article, we answered the question “Can I substitute chili paste for curry paste?” with an in-depth analysis of the difference between chili paste and curry paste. We also listed down some uses of chili paste and shared a recipe for making homemade chili paste.

Citations

  1. Inchuen, Sudathip, Woatthichai Narkrugsa, and Pimpen Pornchaloempong. Effect of drying methods on chemical composition, color and antioxidant properties of Thai red curry powder. Agr Nat Res, 2010, 44, 142-151. 
  2. Babu, Md Shahid Ali, et al. Preparation and storage quality of green chili (Capsicum Annuum L.) powder and paste. Acta Scient Agri, 2020, 4, 01-09.
  3. Wikandari R, Mayningsih IC, Sari MDP, Purwandari FA, Setyaningsih W, Rahayu ES, et al. Assessment of Microbiological Quality and Mycotoxin in Dried Chili by Morphological Identification, Molecular Detection, and Chromatography Analysis. Int J Environ Res Public Health, 2020; 17, 1847.