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A Guide to Curry Paste and Curry Powder

curry power and pasteThere’s much to love about curry. Though it is predominantly associated with India, curry has traveled to all corners of the globe. And part of the appeal is the sheer variety of curry options available. It’s a highly diverse dish!

If you’re making a curry dish at home, you’ll have to choose between using curry paste or curry powder. In this blog, we’ll take a closer look at the two options, including what they are, and their differences, and answer the big question: are curry powder and curry paste interchangeable?

What is Curry Powder?

Curry powder is a blend of spices. The taste of the powder can vary widely, depending on the core ingredients used to make the powder. There are a variety of spices that you may find in curry powder, including:

  • Turmeric
  • Cumin
  • Ginger
  • Coriander
  • Cloves
  • Garlic
  • Black pepper
  • Fennel
  • Mustard seed

The exact blend of ingredients depends on from which region the curry powder comes.

What is Curry Paste?

Curry paste is, like the name suggests, a paste that is very concentrated. The paste usually has curry powder and other fresh ingredients to give it more flavor. So, it can be added to dishes, typically liquid, such as coconut milk. Though you’ll sometimes find these pastes used in Indian dishes, they’re also commonly used in Thai and Malaysian curries. These pastes are as straightforward to use as powders and are nearly as versatile, except with more flavor.

The ingredients of curry paste can include:

  • Chili peppers (red, green, or yellow, depending on the paste)
  • Tomato puree
  • Ginger
  • Turmeric
  • Cumin
  • Vinegar
  • Lemongrass
  • Paprika

The Difference Between Curry Powder and Curry Paste

You can see the difference between curry powder and curry paste just by looking at it. Pick up a jar of powder, and you’ll notice fine curry dust. Pick up curry paste, and you’ll see a wet concentrate. Powder and paste can provide a similar result, but how you achieve that goal will differ.

Curry powder is cooked with other fresh ingredients before adding the main protein or vegetables. Meanwhile, curry paste is cooked or blended with fresh ingredients and can be added to the pan with your main elements. Some like diluting the paste with a liquid to make it a sauce consistency.

Are Curry Powder and Curry Paste Interchangeable?

We’ve already mentioned how to curry powder and paste taste broadly similar. However, we need to stress the broad part of that sentence. In most cases, you can substitute curry paste for powder, but not the other way around. However, it might have a different flavor since the curry powder does not have fresh ingredients such as shallots or garlic.

Different Types of Curry 

Curry lovers have an endless supply of curry dishes to make and enjoy. By some estimates, people have been eating curries for at least 4500 years, and in that time, there have been a lot of variations!

Curries are generally divided into Indian curries and Thai and Malaysian curries. Thai and Malaysian curries are more similar to each other than Indian curries, but there are also big differences. The best way to find out which one you prefer is to simply, well, look at making all the different types. In all likelihood, you’ll find that you love all of them, just for separate reasons. After all, they’re all delicious in their way.

Stock Up Your Kitchen 

It would be wrong to think there’s some grand curry paste versus curry powder debate. The truth is that it’s recommended to have both of these ingredients in your kitchen. You’ll use both when the moment is right. You can get out your curry powder when you’re looking to make an Indian-style curry. You can use the paste when you’re looking to make a Thai or Malaysian curry. It’s all about knowing which curry form to use in which recipe!