If you’ve ever walked by a Thai restaurant, you can likely imagine the mouth-watering aroma of a variety of beautiful, flavorful curry dishes. The scent that arises the second a quality curry paste hits a hot frying pan is nothing short of heavenly.
The best Thai curries are made using fresh ingredients, blended to form a paste. Whether you’ve bought a package of curry paste design for more than a single-use, or you’ve made a large batch of curry paste yourself, there is no way you’re going to want to waste a single morsel of the delicious ingredient.
Can you freeze curry paste? Yes, you can freeze curry paste, though there are many caveats to take into consideration before you do. The real secret to freezing curry paste is sectioning your leftovers into single-serving packages.
We’ve put together a guide on curry paste to explain all the best practices of freezing curry paste and how to use it.
The Ultimate Guide to Freezing Curry Paste
There are 2 easy and convenient ways to freeze curry paste in single-serving packages.
- Use Ice Cube Trays
- Ingredients from curry can stain plastic, so before you measure your paste into an ice cube tray, either spray the tray with a cooking oil spray or put a small amount of cooking oil into a bowl and use a basting brush to coat the inside of your tray. This will help protect your plastic from stains while not altering the flavor or ruining your paste.
- Once this is done, measure out the amount to paste required for your favorite recipes, and add that amount to each position in the tray.
- Place in your freezer until the paste is completely frozen, at least 2 hours to be safe.
- Once each cube is frozen throughout, you can crack them out of the tray and place them all into a freezer-safe Ziploc bag or Tupperware container.
- By freezing them individually first, they won’t stick together and you’ll be able to pull out one cube at a time, as needed.
- Use Plastic Wrap
- Pull out a sheet of plastic wrap and lay it flat on your countertop.
- Measure out single servings of your curry paste and place them in small dabs or balls on the plastic wrap, about 2 inches apart from each other in rows.
- Once you have all your curry paste accounted for, pull out another sheet of plastic wrap and place it over top of the first.
- Press down around the edges of each ball of curry paste and use kitchen scissors to cut in between each line of paste dabs.
- Once they’re cut out, tightly wrap the plastic around the curry paste for a good seal.
- At this point, you can place all your individually wrapped curry paste balls into a single freezer-safe Ziploc bag or Tupperware container and pull out one at a time, as needed.
When Not to Freeze Curry Paste
Elite chefs will often caution against freezing curry paste or any paste or dish that has garlic or onions in the recipe. When members of the allium family are frozen and then thawed, they tend to become bitter and lose a lot of their natural sweetness.
If you have a very finely tuned palate, you may not want to freeze your curry paste at all, but rather make or buy only as much as you’ll be able to use within a few weeks time.
How To Thaw Frozen Curry Paste
For most recipes, you fry your curry paste before adding the rest of your ingredients. Because of this, you don’t really need to thaw frozen curry paste before using it. Simply add it to a pan with some oil, as your recipe calls for, and let it thaw as it cooks.
If you’d prefer to work with defrosted curry paste, you can simply pull out a cube or plastic-wrapped portion the night before you know you’re going to cook with it.
Keep it in your refrigerator until you need it. It should only take an hour or two to completely defrost in your fridge. If you need it more quickly, you can let it thaw on your countertop.
How To Tell If Your Curry Paste Has Gone Bad
If you don’t store your curry paste in the fridge or freezer, it will go bad after a few days. The ingredients will have some natural preservative powers, but oil goes rancid if it’s not properly stored.
If you’ve accidentally forgotten to store it properly, you may notice a fermented smell or even the growth of mold.
However, if you’ve stored your curry paste in your fridge or freezer, it’s highly unlikely it will actually go bad. Many people, myself included, have reported using refrigerated curry paste even after a year, with no ill effects.
However, the nutritional value and peak flavor will begin to fade after about a week, and it will be downhill quite fast after that.
If you’ve purchased a store-bought brand, it will likely have preservatives to protect the flavor, but that will be at a cost to the nutritional value.
If you make your own, you’ll start to notice a difference after about a week, certainly after 2, even if there’s nothing specifically wrong with your paste and it’s still safe to consume.
Curry Paste vs Curry Sauce
Curry paste is a thick, moist blend of fresh ingredients and oil, which is usually fried to bring out the individual flavors before adding the liquid ingredients to your dish.
A curry sauce, on the other hand, is the final product including and broth, coconut milk and/or additional ingredients that you may use to fill your curry dish with. Generally, the sauce does not include rice or noodles but is often served with one or the other.
Freezing Curry Sauce
If you’ve made a sauce from your curry paste, but haven’t eaten it all, you may want to freeze the complete sauce. This is completely safe and a brilliant idea if you like quick and easy freezer-friendly meals.
Saucy, stew type meals usually freeze really well as the liquid protects the ingredients from freezer burn and helps them keep their consistency nicely.
When it comes to freezing a curry sauce, the most important thing to consider is the additional ingredients in your sauce.
Each individual component will freeze differently, so you want to be sure everything in your sauce is reasonable to freeze.
Some ingredients that are common in curry sauces that aren’t ideal for freezing might include:
- Coconut milk: while you can freeze this safely, the consistency may change as the fat and water tend to separate when frozen. Try not to have it frozen for too long (eat within a few months if possible), and be prepared for a slightly grainy texture in the liquid, though the flavor should hold up well.
- Dairy: heavy cream is used in a lot of curry sauces and it freezes remarkably well, however lower-fat dairy, including yogurt, often splits when it’s thawed and reheated. If possible, save some of your curry sauce for freezing before adding the dairy, and simply stir that in fresh when you’re ready to cook your meal.
- Meat: meat freezes well once, but if you’re working with previously frozen meat, you’ll start to notice texture differences if it is refrozen. If it’s frozen raw, cooked and then refrozen, you shouldn’t notice any problems, but try not to refreeze cooked meat.
- Vegetables with high water content: if you add vegetables that have a lot of water in them, such as tomatoes, for example, you may find that your curry thaws with a lot more liquid than the original dish had. It shouldn’t alter the flavor too much, and you can thicken it with a starchy ingredient when you’re reheating it if you prefer.
- Rice or pasta: Keep your curry sauce separate from your rice or noodles, as they do not freeze well. They’ll become mushy and ruin your sauce.
What’s the difference between red, green and yellow curry paste?
Red, green and yellow curries are typically all Thai based, with chili at the core of their recipe. Each color is accented by different supporting flavors.
Red curry is made with red chili peppers, garlic, ginger, and either lemongrass or citrus zest, depending on what you have available.
Green Thai curry is quite a different flavor and might be made with green chilis, ginger, garlic, lemongrass or citrus zest along with a hearty helping of cilantro, basil, and mint.
Finally, the signature ingredient in a Thai yellow curry is turmeric, often paired with cumin and coriander.
How long does homemade curry paste last?
You can store a fresh curry paste in your fridge, whether homemade or store-bought and recently opened, for up to 2 weeks.
It’s best to use as quickly as possible, however, because the flavors have a tendency to seemingly evaporate into thin air.
How do I substitute curry powder for curry paste?
Curry powder is a dry blend of different spices, whereas a paste is a combination of fresh ingredients and oil, blended to form a wet paste.
Another key difference is that curry paste is often used to make Thai curry dishes, whereas you’re more likely to find curry powder called for in Indian dishes, which have a much different flavor profile.
If you were to add oil to curry powder to form a paste, you could swap it in a recipe and likely end up with a unique and delicious dish, but it would be nothing at all like the recipe intended. Curry powder is not a good substitute for curry paste.