Basic Thai Red Curry

The redux

I have shared my version of shrimp red curry before (which I think is pretty great ;).

But after going to a thai cooking lesson a few months ago, I learnt some important tips and tricks that have levelled up my Thai curry game. So I had to post a revised recipe and share all the tricks I learnt.

This time I’m going heavy on the veg with this Veggie Thai Red Curry. I used fried tofu as the protien in this recipe. But you can substitute the tofu for any other quick cooking protein you like – boneless chicken, shrimp or fish.

You can also use the same techniques to make green or yellow curry, just switch up the curry paste. Learn to make this one curry and you can make them all!

The first secret I learnt about making Thai curries is that you don’t use any oil to cook the curry. Because Thai curries are cooked with naturally fatty coconut milk (and I do not recommend using the lite stuff), it acts as the base fat, in place of oil, and you can just use that to cook all your ingredients.

Another secret is to always add a bit of sweetness to the curry to bring out that umami flavour. Natural cane sugar is recommended. But I like to avoid adding sugar so I switch this up and add natural fruit sugars instead – I use apple juice and pineapples for a more natural source of sweetness.

There’s also a few key ingredients that you do need to make an authentic tasting Thai red curry. Luckily I can find all these quite easily at my local asian grocer. I’ve also listed some substitutes if you can’t find the exact ingredients, but know that it will slightly change the flavour profile of your curry.

Galangal -Thai Ginger

Galangal looks like regular ginger but has a very thin white or pinkish skin that you don’t need to peel. The flavour is also a quite different from regular ginger. It has a bit more of a citrusy fresh kick, like horseradish. While you can substitute regular ginger for galangal, there will be a difference in flavour. So if you can, I would highly recommend trying galangal in your next curry.

I found frozen galangal at my asian grocer. Which is great because, since I only use a little at a time, it will keep for a few months in my freezer till my next Thai food craving hits.

Kaffir Lime Leaves

I love the smell of kaffir lime leaves. These can be found fresh or dried. I happened to find a bunch of fresh kaffir lime leaves when I made this curry. I let the leftover leaves dry out, and now I store them in my freezer till I need them again.

Kaffir lime has such a great citrusy aroma. They would be great in a marinade for chicken or fish too. Which I will try soon. If you have a hard time finding kaffir lime leaves, you can use a squeeze of lime juice instead, but again it will affect that authentic flavour a bit.

Red Curry Paste

I love to use the Thai Kitchen brand red curry paste, because I find it has the cleanest ingredients. Another great way to find a good authentic curry paste is to ask your favourite local Thai restaurant if they make their own curry paste in house. If they do, ask if they will sell you a small amount to use at home.

I highly recommend doing this as you will get the freshest, and probably most authentic, curry paste from them. The paste will keep in the fridge for months, and then you can make red curry anytime you like.

Thai Basil

This one is a bit harder to find for me. My asian grocer sometimes will have cinnamon basil, which is close. Otherwise regular basil works too. The flavour difference is quite subtle so feel free to use whatever you can find.

In the summer I like to plant my own Thai or holy basil just so I can cook with the real deal.

Fried Tofu

This is not a traditional Thai ingredient, but it is a bit of a unique ingredient that I like to use. I love using fried tofu for my curries because I find it acts almost like a sponge to soak up all that delicious red curry flavour.

The texture is a bit lighter and chewier than firm tofu. I like to cut the fried tofu up to expose the little spongy pockets of air so they can soak up all the flavour while cooking. I find I like this much better that regular old tofu. Give it a try if you haven’t tried it.

I hope you can find all the traditional Thai ingredients and give this slightly more authentic version of Thai curry a go.

Let me know what you think!

Basic Thai Red Curry

Sharing all the secrets to making an authentic Thai red curry that I learnt in my Thai cooking lessons.
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Total Time25 minutes
Course: Main Course
Keyword: dairy free, gluten free, keto, Paleo, Vegan, Vegetarian, Whole30
Servings: 4


  • 2 cup full fat coconut milk, divided
  • 1 1/2 tbsp red curry paste (1/2 tsp more for a spicier kick)
  • 1 tbsp apple juice (sub 1 tsp brown sugar)
  • 1 tsp fish sauce (leave this out for vegan/vegetarian option)
  • 1 pkg fried tofu, chopped (about 2 cups)*
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 medium carrot, sliced into strips
  • 1 head broccoli, chopped into florets
  • 1 red pepper, sliced into strips
  • 1/2 cup sliced bamboo shoots
  • 1/2 cup pineapple, diced
  • 2-3 thai chillies, chopped (sub green chillies)
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves
  • 4-5 leaves thai basil (regular basil also works)
  • 1 cup veggie broth (or water)


  • Wash and chop all your veggies before starting to cook.
  • In a large wok, over medium-high heat, add 1/2 cup coconut milk and bring to a simmer.
  • Add the 1 1/2 tbsp red curry paste, 1 tbsp apple juice (or 1 tsp brown sugar) and 1 tsp fish sauce. Stir till mixed evenly.
  • Add the chopped tofu, and carrots and onions. Stir for a minute to let them heat through then add the remaining 1 1/2 cup coconut milk. Cook till the carrot is softened and tofu is heated through.
  • Add the broccoli, red pepper, bamboo shoots, pineapple, thai chillies, kaffir lime leaves and basil leaves. Stir to combine.
  • Add 1 cup broth/water to help thin out the curry. Feel free to add more if you want more liquid in your curry or more red curry paste to suite your taste. Allow to come to a boil. Give it a taste for spice and salt and adjust to your liking.
  • Serve immediately with rice or noodles.


*Substitute the tofu for chicken, fish or shrimp to change up the flavours and keep this paleo or whole30 compliant.

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