What is the difference between curry paste and curry powder?

In this article, we will answer the following question: What is the difference between curry paste and curry powder? We describe the differences between curry paste and curry powder and describe the most important curry ingredient you should have: Madras &African curry powder, and Thai curry paste. 

What is the difference between curry paste and curry powder?

The primary difference between curry powder and paste is the moisture content. Curry powder is a rather dry ingredient, to which water and oil must be added to make it functional. On the contrary, curry paste is a wet ingredient.

Curry powder will contain exclusively ground spices, while in a paste we will find mixed spices and herbs. For this reason, curry paste is usually more fragrant. However, it is kept for less time.

Curry paste is most often used in Thai food. It is a moist blend of ground herbs and spices and is usually made fresh when certain herbs are in season. There are several varieties of curry paste, including red, green, yellow, massaman, and Panaeng. The names depend on the ingredients used.

Red curry paste includes red chili peppers, while green chilies are used in green curry paste. Yellow curry paste gets its color from turmeric, which is in the ginger family and is used in curry powder. Panaeng curry paste is milder than the others, and Massaman curry paste includes dried spices as well as fresh ingredients.

Curry powder comes in sweet and hot varieties, and both generally include turmeric, coriander, and fenugreek, a bitter herb used in a number of dishes, including Egyptian and Lebanese dishes. Curry powder mixes can also include cumin, ginger, garlic, cardamom, fennel, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and black pepper.

Curry (from the Tamil Kari, “sauce”) or curry is the name used in the West to define a series of dishes made based on a mixture of spices and condiments. The mixture results in a spicy sauce and has been developed in Asian, East, and Southeast cuisines.

There are a few different types of curry, but generally, it is a powder that is made up of varying amounts of different spices and dried herbs: coriander, cinnamon, ginger, cayenne pepper, cloves, nutmeg, mustard, fenugreek, coriander, and turmeric, among others. The latter is one of the most important ingredients and it is what gives it the yellow color that characterizes it.

Each chef prepares his own curry, according to the region and according to what is going to be cooked or how he has learned it. Hence it follows that there are different types of curries that are marketed in the market. Some of the Curries that stand out are:

Madras style curry: reddish-yellow powder because it contains chili powder. It is very spicy and one of the most used.

Mild Curry: a sunset yellow powder, it is the most commercialized in the West due to its mild flavor adapted to the English palate. Contains a blend of the following powdered spices; chili, basil, saffron, cinnamon, cardamom, dried onion, celery seeds, coriander, cumin, turmeric, fenugreek, ginger, fennel seeds, mustard seeds, and nutmeg, standing out fenugreek, coriander, and turmeric as the main bases.

Green curry: this curry does not come in powder but in the paste and is used for Thai dishes. It is spicy and lemony in flavor.

Red curry: Spicy paste made from red chili and other spices.

Madras or Indian curry powder

It is the main one of all. It is considered the most commercialized and consumed throughout the world. Indian curry, also called Madras curry, is a blend of various spices including curry leaves, cumin, cloves, turmeric, coriander, coriander, cinnamon, chili, bay leaves, allspice, black pepper, and fenugreek. 

It is traditionally used to improve the flavor of sauces and foods. Depending on whether its flavor is strong or spicy, 1 or 2 tablespoons of curry powder is used for each sauce preparation. The following levels are found:

  • Mild: quality of the delicate curries of Northeast India.
  • Punjabi (semi-spicy): the peculiarity of curries without Curcuma from Punjab, province of Pakistan.
  • Madras (spicy): characteristic of aromatic curries from the Madras region of southeast India.
  • Hot (extra spicy): the peculiarity of the spicy curries of South India, flavored with odorous spices.

African curry powder

The African Curry is characterized by containing more spiciness than the Indian curry. Its ingredients include garlic, ginger, coriander, cumin seeds, cayenne pepper, plenty of turmerics, and hot chili powder. This type of curry is used to flavor rice dishes, potatoes, and sauces. It is very spicy.

Thai curry paste

When we talk about Thai curry, we are therefore talking about curry paste. Usually, this paste is made up of a mixture of mashed ingredients, and at the center of which are chili peppers.

Red peppers for the red curry paste, green peppers for the green curry paste … With these peppers, you can put lots of things: lemongrass, ginger, Thai basil leaves or even galangal, garlic, shallots, and the famous shrimp paste (we’ll explain it to you, don’t worry) … 

The principle is always the same: we crush all these ingredients together with a mortar (or with a blender, eh if you are a modern and busy cook like me) until you get a dough. And then, we use this paste (sparingly) to make the various curries!

Because yes, these famous curry pastes, there is not just one, on the contrary. Each region of Thailand has its culinary traditions regarding curry, depending on the culinary influences that the Thai people have encountered throughout their history. 

For example, in southern and central Thailand, where Persian, Muslim, Malaysian, and Indian influences have been powerful throughout Thai history, curries called “Massaman Curry” are produced ( Muslim curry in Thai), and which contain a lot of oriental spices such as cumin, cardamom, star anise … 

In the West and North of Thailand, we will more readily make “green” curries, with the omnipresence of herbs fresh like coriander, kaffir leaves (lemon tree), or lemongrass, even Thai basil.

Other FAQs about Curry that you may be interested in.

Can you reheat chicken curry and rice?

Can you leave Curry out overnight?

How long does prawn curry last in fridge?


In this article, we answered the following question: What is the difference between curry paste and curry powder? We described the differences between curry paste and curry powder and described the most important curry ingredient you should have: Madras &African curry powder, and Thai curry paste. 

The most important difference between curry paste and curry powder is the taste, given by the mixed spices and herbs in the curry paste. Nevertheless, you can use both curry paste and curry powder and manage to cook a splendid dish!

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