Curry Paste Vs. Curry Powder: The Clash Of The Spice-Titans

You have probably already noticed that I like to spice up both my food and my life (ask my hubby if you do not believe me, he’ll tell you all about it! 🙂 ).

After all, without the precious spices our food would taste bland and our lives would be boring.

Spices provide our meals with infinite diversity and unique tastes that make us enjoy every bite and crave for more. They also allow us to experiment and create new flavors, and that enables every cook, no matter how schooled or not, to develop his or her personal style.

For this reason, my pantry is filled with numerous spices.

I must admit though that some are not used quite frequently (my hubby calls those "dust collectors", lol), but they all had at least one glorious moment in my cuisine! On the other hand, there are some that are used every so often, such as curry powder and curry paste.

You have probably used them too but believe it or not; not everyone knows the difference between the two. They just read the curry part and think the two are interchangeable or even the same, but that is not the case.

This is why I have decided to confront these two spices, and you can read all about it in the following article! Curry Powder VS. Curry Paste - the battle begins!

Curry Powder Defined

As far as we know, the curry powder was first introduced to the western civilization in the 18th century. This exotic spice was initially mentioned in a newspaper advertisement in 1784. As this advertisement stated, this spice had been brought from the East Indies.

In an effort to attract buyers, the health benefits of the curry powder were listed as well, and it was believed that it would help your digestion, better the circulation, and provide you with a powerful libido and a vigorous mind.

1. What is the Curry Powder made of?

  • It is a mixture of dry ingredients, or better to say powdered spices, and it normally consist of coriander, red peppers, and turmeric.

2. Where to find Curry Powder?

  • You can probably find it in the supermarket nearest to you, or a grocery store you shop in. If you are visiting India and want to buy the curry powder, you are sure to have a problem finding it as there is not any actual curry powder being sold in India. Their curry is quite a different story (a different blend made at home rather than bought at the store) worth telling on some different occasions...
  • There are numerous brands of curry powder being sold in the stores in the USA, so make sure that you buy the one that has a good name and is known to be of good quality.

3. Variants of curry powder

  • Yellow curry powder - usually consists of turmeric, cumin, coriander, and salt. It has a mild taste.
  • Brown curry powder - It consists of the same ingredients as the yellow curry plus the peppers and clove. Thanks to the peppers it features a stronger taste and more hotness.
  • There are also green and yellow curry powders, but also numerous other variants with the same basic ingredients and addition of some of the following spices: garlic, ginger, fennel seed, asafoetida, caraway, clove, cinnamon, mustard seed, black cardamom, green cardamom, white turmeric, nutmeg, curry leaf, long pepper, or black pepper.

Related: The Best Electric Wok for great Asian dishes!

Curry Paste Defined

The curry paste shares the Asian origin with the curry powder; however, it finds its origin not in India but in Thailand instead.

Curry paste is typically much hotter than the curry powder and should be used sparingly.

1. What Is The Curry Paste Made Of?

  • It is a blend of spices too but contains wet ingredients which give it a moist texture. Most often the wet ingredients are oils infused with garlic or ginger.

2. Where to find Curry Paste?

  • Most specialized Asian supermarkets or stores will sell the packets of Thai curry paste as it is highly appreciated and sought for in their culture. Once again look for recommendations before you buy if you want to experience an authentic, unique curry paste flavor.

3. Variants of curry paste

There are three basic variants of Thai curry paste that have different ingredients and are used for cooking different dishes; these are:

  • Green colored Curry paste - It contains fresh green chilies. Green curry paste is very popular and mostly paired with poultry such as duck or chicken. It is the hottest variant too!
  • Red colored Curry paste - As you can probably already guess on your own, this variant has red chilies. I prefer the red paste due to its well-balanced heat (it is actually somewhere in the middle) and versatility. You can use it in an array of dishes including poultry, but also seafood or beef.
  • Yellow colored Curry Paste - You know by now how the yellow curry paste got its color, right? From the yellow peppers of course. This variant features the mildest taste which has a sweet note to it but also a somewhat peppery flavor. It is best used in chicken curry.

Curry powder VS. Curry Paste: Who Wins?

It is very hard to answer this question, or better to say it is impossible for me to answer this question for you. You should form your own opinion regarding this matter, and the only way to do that is to broaden your horizons by utilizing both curry powder and curry paste as much and as often as you possibly can.

Once you acquaint yourself with the curry’s unique and dominating flavors, you will be able to judge for yourself and choose the favorite one among the two.

My advice to you though, if you are a curry-virgin, is to start off with the curry powder as it is less overwhelming than the curry paste. Later on, you can work your way to the strongest, hottest and most powerful curry paste and be able to enjoy it as well.

In this way, you will avoid being shocked right away and rather be eased into the world of curry..and oh boy what a world that is!

Curry and Rice? That is a perfect pair but you will need the best rice cooker!


Curry Powder vs. Curry Paste: The Differences In short

Differences​​​​​​​​

Curry Powder

Curry Paste

Texture

Dry powder mix

Moist paste

Food culture

Thai cuisine

Indian-style western cuisine

Availability

Widely available

Only in specialized Asian stores

Heat level

Milder

Relatively hot

Further Reading: Find the best cookware to cook your meal!


Conclusion

If you have not had a clue about the differences between the curry powder and curry paste, do not worry - a lot of good and quite experienced cooks have the same problem.

In general, people tend to assume a lot only by the name, and these two hot spices share the similar title. This tempts you to presume that they are very alike or even the same.

Now you know that curry paste and curry powder are two different ingredients that cannot stand in the place of each other. Substituting one with the other would definitely change the taste of your dish.

So, you might be wondering which to use?

Both curry powder and the curry paste have their advantages and disadvantages. You should know when to use which one if you are aiming for a satisfying curry experience.

Learning how to use these spices properly will surely boost your culinary knowledge and make you a better cook, so it is definitely worth trying.

In my opinion, curry powder should be used for stews and other slow-cooked meals, while curry paste works wonders in soups or fast-cooked food.

You are sure to have an opinion on this matter as well, so please share it with me! 🙂

Barbara Whitney
 

For the last 20 years, I’ve been cooking, preparing, researching, and gathering recipes, tools, and knowledge about food and the way we prepare it. Raising two lively boys and spoiling one great husband later, it’s safe to say that I’ve optimized my kitchen to deliver the best possible meal, no matter the occasion.

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