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How much curry powder equals curry paste?

Curry powder and curry paste are two common ingredients used in curries and other Indian, Thai, and Southeast Asian dishes. But what is the difference between curry powder and curry paste? And how much curry powder equals curry paste? This article will explain the differences between these two ingredients and provide conversion guidelines.

What is Curry Powder?

Curry powder is a blend of ground spices used to flavor curries and other dishes. The exact ingredients can vary, but common spices found in curry powder include:

  • Coriander
  • Turmeric
  • Cumin
  • Fenugreek
  • Chili peppers
  • Black pepper
  • Cinnamon
  • Cloves
  • Cardamom
  • Nutmeg

Curry powders can range from mild and sweet to hot and spicy depending on the blend. Some common types of curry powder include:

  • Indian curry powder: Often contains turmeric, coriander, cumin, chili peppers.
  • Thai curry powder: Includes coriander, cumin, garlic, lemongrass, galangal.
  • Jamaican curry powder: Contains allspice, thyme, garlic, scotch bonnet peppers.

Curry powder is usually added directly to dishes dry or fried briefly in oil to release flavors. It provides a complex blend of spices and aromatics.

What is Curry Paste?

Curry paste is a blend of spices and other ingredients made into a concentrated paste. Common ingredients in curry paste include:

  • Fresh chilies
  • Shallots
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Lemongrass
  • Galangal
  • Spices like cumin, coriander, turmeric
  • Herbs like cilantro, basil

The ingredients are ground and mashed into a thick, saucy paste. Curry pastes are integral to dishes like Thai curries. They infuse food with aromatic flavors and provide spicy heat. Some popular types of curry paste include:

  • Red curry paste: Spicy and rich from dried red chilies.
  • Green curry paste: Herbaceous from green chilies and cilantro.
  • Massaman curry paste: Sweeter with cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg.

Curry pastes are often sautéed in oil before liquid is added to a dish. They provide more complex, layered flavors compared to curry powder.

Curry Powder vs. Curry Paste

So what exactly is the difference between curry powder and curry paste?

Here is a comparison:

Curry Powder Curry Paste
Dried spice blend Wet paste of fresh ingredients
Goes directly into dish dry Sauteed in oil before cooking
Provides aroma and flavor Adds flavor, aroma, and texture
Generic “curry” flavor Flavor depends on ingredients
Can be mild or spicy Often very spicy from chilies
Works as background flavor Stands out as star ingredient

As you can see, curry powder acts more as a generic seasoning, while curry paste provides a signature flavor and heat to a dish. So how much of each is equivalent?

Curry Powder to Curry Paste Conversion

When substituting curry powder for curry paste, the general guideline is:

1 tablespoon of curry powder = 3 tablespoons of curry paste

So if a recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of red curry paste, you would use about 1 teaspoon of curry powder. Always start with less curry powder and add more to taste.

Keep in mind that curry paste provides more robust flavor, aroma, and heat from fresh chilies. Curry powder will not have the same impact. You may need to increase the amount of curry powder or add other seasonings like garlic and ginger to compensate.

Here are some recipe conversion examples:

  • 2 tablespoons red curry paste = 2 teaspoons red curry powder + 1 teaspoon garlic + pinch of cayenne
  • 1 tablespoon green curry paste = 1 teaspoon green curry powder + 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 4 tablespoons massaman curry paste = 4 teaspoons mild curry powder + 1 teaspoon cinnamon

For wet curry dishes like curries and gravies, you can also make a quick curry paste substitute by blending together curry powder with oil, garlic, ginger, and other aromatics.

Tips for Using Curry Powder vs. Curry Paste

Here are some additional tips for using curry powder or curry paste:

  • Curry powder is great for rubs, marinades, spice blends. Curry paste is better for sauces, stews, and curries.
  • Store curry paste refrigerated or frozen, while curry powder keeps in the pantry.
  • Bloom curry powder briefly in oil to intensify flavor. Curry paste can sauté for a few minutes.
  • Add curry paste at the beginning of cooking along with aromatics. Curry powder goes in midway or toward the end.
  • Use curry powder for background flavor in dishes. Curry paste will be the star ingredient.

Recommended Curry Powder and Curry Paste Brands

Not all curry powders and pastes are created equal. Here are some recommended brands:

Curry Powder

  • Spicewalla – Hand blended in small batches; many regional varieties
  • Penzeys – Excellent quality with many options like Rogan Josh and Singapore curry
  • McCormick – Reliable pantry staple sold widely in grocery stores
  • S&B – Japanese brand known for the bright yellow curry powder in curries

Curry Paste

  • Mae Ploy – Popular Thai brand; good quality red, green, massaman pastes
  • Maesri – Another trusted Thai brand with many curry paste options
  • Aroy-D – Reliable Thai curry pastes easily found in grocery stores
  • Indian Home Co. – Pre-made Indian curry pastes for dishes like butter chicken

For authentic flavor, look for brands imported from India, Thailand, Malaysia and other Asian countries. Check international markets if you can’t find these locally.

Make Your Own Curry Powder or Paste

You can also easily make homemade curry powder and paste to get exactly the flavor profile you want. Here are some recipes to try:

Homemade Curry Powder

  • 2 tablespoons coriander
  • 2 tablespoons cumin
  • 2 tablespoons turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon fenugreek
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

Mix together and store in an airtight container. Use within a few months for the freshest flavor.

Homemade Red Curry Paste

  • 10 dried red chilies, soaked and chopped
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, tender bulb only, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon shrimp paste
  • Juice of 1 lime

Blend ingredients to a smooth paste. Use immediately or freeze up to 3 months.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is curry powder the same as curry paste?

No, curry powder and curry paste are different. Curry powder is a dried spice blend while curry paste contains fresh ingredients blended into a paste.

What is a good curry powder substitute?

Good substitutes for curry powder include garam masala, Jamaican jerk seasoning, Chinese five spice blend, herb blends like Italian seasoning, or making your own blend.

Can I substitute curry paste for curry powder?

Yes, you can substitute 3 tablespoons of curry paste for every 1 tablespoon of curry powder. Add other seasonings for the best flavor.

What’s the difference between Indian and Thai curry pastes?

Thai curry pastes use ingredients like lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime, while Indian curry pastes contain spices like garam masala, fenugreek, mustard seeds.

How long does homemade curry paste last?

Homemade curry paste will last 4-5 days refrigerated or 2-3 months frozen. Store-bought pastes last 1-2 months refrigerated due to preservatives.


Curry powder and curry paste both add delicious flavor to Indian, Thai, and other dishes. Curry powder provides a basic blend of spices, while curry paste is made of fresh, flavorful ingredients blended into a sauce-like paste. When substituting one for the other, remember these general guidelines:

  • 1 tablespoon curry powder = 3 tablespoons curry paste
  • Bloom curry powder briefly in oil, while curry paste can sauté for a few minutes.
  • Add extra ingredients like garlic, ginger, and chilies when subbing curry powder for paste.
  • Curry paste will provide more robust flavor compared to curry powder.

With this knowledge, you can easily swap curry powder and curry paste in recipes for customized flavor. Now get cooking and enjoy the aromatic world of curries!

Sources used in this article: