Which Is Hotter – Red Or Green Curry?

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If you’re a fan of Thai cuisine, you must have come across the different types of curries. Typically served with hot, steamed rice, red and green curry are two of the most popular varieties made with different types of chilies.

So, which is hotter: red or green curry? While the spiciness of the final dish varies depending on how it is prepared, red curry is generally hotter than green curry.

Read on to find out more about red and green curry, how spicy they are, the differences between them, and much more!

What Is Red Curry?

Red curry, often called Thai red curry, is prepared using a blend of hot red chilies and other aromatic ingredients that give it a distinct red color.

It is a generic term used to describe all curry dishes made with red curry paste (kreung gaeng phet daeng) which is prepared using dry red spur chilies, making red curry dishes very spicy.

Other ingredients include kaffir lime leaves, garlic, galangal, shallots, cumin seeds, coriander seeds and roots, lemongrass, and shrimp paste.

To give it a salty umami flavor, you may also add a few drops of fish sauce into the paste.

Typically served with rice, red curry mostly incorporates coconut milk in the sauce and may also include chicken, beef, pork, duck, shrimp, fish, or tofu. 

Some popular pairings include red curry with Thai turkey meatballs or white fish. For a nice, nutty flavor, you may also incorporate a bit of peanut butter into your red curry.

Is Red Curry Spicy?

The flavor and spiciness of red curry depend on how the dish is prepared as it can have several variations based on the choice of ingredients and way of cooking.

That being said, red curries are generally very hot due to the many red chilies used to prepare the paste that goes into the curry. The flavor of red curry is quite complex; however, the main flavor is that of the chilies used. 

The recipe for preparing the base for red curry, AKA the red curry paste, has remained more or less the same with traditional Thai chefs adding around 20 red chilies to pack up the heat and give it a nice red color.

Some modern chefs, however, prefer to reduce the number of chilies used and substitute them for chili powder. Some even use tomato sauce to give it a deeper red color and enhanced flavor.

What Is Green Curry?

Similar to red curry which gets its name from its distinct red color, green curry gets its name from its distinct green color.

Made by blending a variety of green chilies and other aromatic ingredients, the base ingredient for making green curry is green curry paste (kreung gaeng keo wahn).

Considered one of the most popular curries in Thai cuisine, green curry is made with fresh green chilies and a variety of ingredients such as garlic, galangal, shallots, lemongrass, coconut milk, and fish sauce

It has become more vibrant over the years with the addition of fresh coriander (cilantro), basil, and makrut lime leaf and peel. 

Green curry can be paired with a variety of meat, such as white fish, chicken, prawns, turkey, beef, and tofu, and vegetables such as broccoli, sugar peas, green peppers, cauliflower, and baby corn.

Fish dumplings and Thai green curry with chicken or beef are two common recipes featuring green curry that you will most likely come across in many Thai restaurants.

Is Green Curry Spicy?

Traditional green curry served in Thailand is extremely spicy, perhaps even more so than red curry.

However, in America, they serve a milder version that has little to no heat at all. It is also sweeter and has distinct flavors from the cilantro and lime leaf.

If you’re eating out at a restaurant, you can ask for the spice level to be taken up or down a notch since it all comes down to how the curry is prepared and the ingredients used.

Red Curry Paste Vs Green Curry Paste

Curry pastes are the base ingredients for preparing any type of curry. For instance, you need red curry paste to make a red curry dish and green curry paste to make a green curry dish.

Made from mixing different ingredients, the main difference between red and green curry paste is the type of peppers used. Red chilies are used for red curry paste, while green chilies are used for green curry paste.

Red chilies are usually the hottest peppers, making red curry paste the hottest in the lot. Green chilies, although hot, are not as hot as their red variants.

Difference Between Red And Green Curry

Red and green curry are two popular variants of curry served in Thai cuisine. Both get their name from their color, which is derived from the ingredients used.

Both are made with coconut milk, a variety of spices, and red and green curry paste, respectively.

The curry paste can be made beforehand or prepared while making the curry itself. Some staple curry ingredients include garlic, galangal, lemongrass, shallots, lime rind, shrimp paste, and sea salt.

Just as the curry paste, the main difference between the two curries is the type and color of chilies used to make them.

To make red curry (and red curry paste), you need dried red chilies, whereas fresh green chilies are used for preparing green curry (and green curry paste).

They can also get their color from ingredients such as red tomato sauce for red curry and coriander and other green vegetables for green curry.

Since both red chilies and green chilies have their own distinct color and taste characteristics, they impart their uniqueness to the curry and curry paste that are made using them.

Red curry is called gaeng phed in Thai, which literally translates to “spicy soup”, while green curry is called gaeng keow wahn or “sweet green curry”.

Compared to green curry, red curry is spicier, more savory, and loaded with bold flavors. Green curry, on the other hand, is milder-tasting, sweeter, and has a bright, sharp flavor.

Red curry is prepared using 20 dried red chilies or chili powder, along with a variety of other ingredients, whereas green curry requires fresh green chilies, coriander, cilantro, and other ingredients.

Both curries can be served with rice, noodles, or protein such as chicken, beef, and pork. Seafood is also a popular pairing choice with both the curries. 

When it comes to duck and tofu, red curry is generally the curry of choice to pair them with, while green curry goes really well with vegetables.

Other Types Of Thai Curries

In addition to the red and green varieties, there are several other types of Thai curries including yellow curry, Massaman curry, Penang red curry, and sour curry.

Yellow Curry

Similar to a traditional Indian curry, Thai yellow curry uses turmeric as one of its key ingredients, giving it a unique flavor and typical yellow-golden hue.

In fact, by appearance, you may not be able to distinguish Indian curry from Thai yellow curry due to its similar color.

Made with yellow curry paste (nam prik gaeng karee), it has a hint of spice with a mild, somewhat sweet flavor.

In addition to turmeric, yellow curry incorporates ingredients such as garlic, galangal, coriander seeds, cumin, lemongrass, and yellow or red chilies.

Massaman Curry

Originated in the south of Thailand, Massaman curry is a unique-flavored thick curry with a mild, slightly sweet flavor. 

Its standout feature is the inclusion of peanuts and several whole spices, both of which are rarely found in Thai curry.

Penang Red Curry

Named after the island off the west coast of Malaysia, Penang red curry is richer and sweeter than the other curries.

Often topped with coconut cream, Penang red curry is moderately spicy as it is made using dried or fresh red chilies.

Sour Curry

Made using sour curry paste, which is prepared using only five ingredients, sour curry is probably the easiest curry to make.

Ingredients such as tamarind and sour pineapple give it its unique tartness and, compared to the other curries, it has a looser consistency and is typically prepared with fish or pork.

Related Questions

Now that you know all about red and green curry and which is hotter, here are a few additional questions we thought you might have!

What is the difference between red curry and Penang red curry?

Although Penang red curry may sometimes have a reddish color, it is not the same as red curry.

Red curry is the hottest Thai curry whereas Penang red curry is usually less spicy due to fewer chilies used.

Which is the mildest Thai curry?

The mildest That curry has to be the Massaman Thai curry which is not as strong as the other varieties and is suitable for people who can’t handle much heat.

What is the difference between Thai curry and Indian curry?

Both curries have different base ingredients and flavor profiles. Thai curry is spicier and more likely to include coconut milk

If you’re new to the world of curry, here’s a great video on the subject from the folks over at Babish Culinary Universe!

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