Different Types of Thai Curry Explained

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Many people are familiar with the differences between red and green curry, but there are many other types of Thai curry you may not have heard of. In this post, we will look into several varieties, each made with creamy coconut milk and fragrant curry pastes.

A collection of different types of Thai curries, with red curry, green curry, panang curry, and yellow curry displayed.

Popular types of Thai curry

We’ll start by exploring the differences between Thai curries that are popular in both Thailand and the Western world:

  • Thai green curry
  • Thai red curry
  • Thai yellow curry
  • Thai massaman curry
  • Thai panang curry

Before we begin, it’s important to know that each of these curries can come in various forms with different ingredients and flavors. This is why the difference between Thai curries can vary greatly. It’s hard to say what is authentic and what is not, because even in Thailand, people prepare curries in different ways.

Note: Yellow curry is a variation that is more commonly found in the West; I haven’t seen it often in Thailand, except for Southern Thailand. All the other curries are true staples in Thailand and can be found at almost every food market or Thai restaurant.

Thai green curry

Thai green curry is spicy, aromatic, and slightly sweet. The heat from the green chilies is balanced perfectly by the creamy coconut milk and lots of vegetables, creating a complex and irresistible flavor.

The addition of fresh herbs like basil adds a refreshing citrus note, making the curry both rich and light at the same time.

Authentic Thai green curry pork, known as gaeng keow wan, served in a coconut shell bowl with vegetables on a banana leaf.

Proteins: Green Thai curry is often prepared with chicken or beef, although any protein such as beef, seafood, and tofu can be used.

Vegetables: Typical vegetables in green curry are Thai eggplants, yard long beans, and bamboo shoots, which add a nice crunch and flavor. Fresh basil leaves are always added at the end, providing aroma and flavor.

If you love vegetable curries, make sure to try my recipe for vegetarian Thai green curry!


Thai green curry paste: The green color of Thai green curry comes from the green chilies used in the curry paste. The curry paste is a mix of fresh green chili peppers, turmeric, kaffir lime zest, cumin, shrimp paste, and much more.

Thai green curry paste in wooden spoon over granite mortar.

It’s a very fragrant and spicy paste that can be used to make coconut curries as well as stir-fry dishes like green curry stir-fry and green curry fried rice.

Thai red curry

The flavor of Thai red curry is bold and spicy. It features a rich red coconut curry sauce that’s savory and sometimes slightly sweet, depending on the seasonings used.

Fresh herbs like Thai basil and kaffir lime leaves are often added to the red curry sauce, making it a refreshing and fragrant dinner option.

Close-up of Thai red shrimp curry.

Proteins: Red Thai curry is often prepared with meat like chicken or pork, but also with seafood such as shrimp. Again, any protein like beef or squid can be used to suit any preference.

Vegetables: My favorite vegetables in red curry include bamboo shoots, Thai eggplants, and bell peppers. It’s a very versatile curry, to which almost any vegetable can be added – as seen in my recipes for bamboo shoot curry and kabocha squash curry.

If you love spicy and aromatic dishes, be sure to try my recipes for gaeng daeng (with chicken) and Thai red curry fish!


Thai red curry paste: The deep red color of Thai red curry comes from the dried red chilies used in the paste. This curry paste is a blend of dried red chili peppers, garlic, galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime skin, and shrimp paste, along with other spices.

A clay cup with Thai red curry paste surrounded by herbs and spices.

It’s an incredibly fragrant and spicy paste that not only forms the base for coconut curries but also works beautifully in stir-fry dishes like chicken pad ped and pad prik king.

And did you know that red curry paste can also be used to make the classic khao soi and the lesser known choo chee curry?

Thai yellow curry

Thai yellow curry is one of the least spicy curries, perfect for kids or those who like less heat and a creamy, slightly sweet flavor. This dish is beloved for its sweet, savory taste, with spices like turmeric giving it a warm flavor, balanced by the creamy coconut milk.

Thai vegan yellow curry with vegetables and potatoes in a coconut shell.

Proteins: Yellow Thai curry is often made with chicken or entirely vegan with tofu and veggies.

Vegetables: Common vegetables include potatoes, carrots, and onions, which add lots of flavor and texture.

Yellow curry paste: The yellow color of yellow curry comes from turmeric in the curry paste. The paste is a mix of turmeric, cumin, coriander, lemongrass, garlic, and ginger, among other spices.

It’s a fragrant and mildly spicy paste that’s perfect for making coconut-based curries like gang garee (yellow chicken curry).

Thai massaman curry

Thai massaman curry is a unique and flavorful Thai curry that stands out with its rich, complex taste influenced by Thai and Indian spices. It’s a mild and slightly sweet curry, making it a favorite for those who prefer a less spicy option.

Close-up of Thai massaman beef curry with chunks of beef, carrots, and potatoes.

Proteins: Massaman curry has roots in Muslim culture, which is why you’ll rarely find it made with pork. I like to slow-cook it with beef, but it’s also delicious with lamb, tofu, or chicken. For a version with beef, try my recipe for gaeng massaman neua.

Common ingredients: Potatoes and peanuts are key ingredients, adding a hearty texture and a slight crunch. Carrots and onions are commonly included, enhancing the flavors of the massaman sauce.

Massaman curry paste: The unique flavor of massaman curry comes from its paste, which includes dried red chilies, garlic, shallots, black peppercorns, coriander seeds, cumin, cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves. This blend of spices creates a warm and complex taste that sets massaman curry apart.

Thai Massaman curry paste in a clay cup surrounded by fresh herbs and spices.

Thai panang curry

Thai panang curry is a rich and creamy Thai curry that’s a bit milder than traditional red or green curries, yet full of bold flavors. It’s a favorite for those who love a thicker sauce with less spice and a delicious peanut taste.

Close-up of homemade gaeng panang gai, showcasing tender chicken and spicy, saucy curry.

Proteins: Panang curry can be prepared with just about any protein, making it incredibly versatile. Whether you prefer beef, chicken, pork, seafood, or tofu, this curry adapts well to all.

Vegetables: Traditionally, panang curry is prepared without vegetables, focusing instead on the rich and creamy sauce and tender protein. Strips of kaffir lime leaves are a key ingredient, adding a fresh, citrusy note to the curry sauce.

However, feel free to add vegetables if you prefer. Personally, I enjoy adding some pea eggplants for extra texture and flavor!

If you like a sweet curry with a thick sauce, try my recipes for gaeng panang gai and beef panang curry.


Panang curry paste: The paste for panang curry includes ingredients like dried red chilies, garlic, shallots, lemongrass, kaffir lime zest, coriander seeds, cumin, and roasted peanuts. The ground peanuts in the paste are a key ingredient that adds to panang’s signature thickness and nutty flavor, making it stand out from other Thai curries.

Thai panang curry paste in a clay cup with sliced lemongrass, galangal, and shallots scattered around.

What’s the difference between red, green and yellow Thai curry?

Red Thai curry and green Thai curry can both be very spicy, depending on the amount of chilies and curry paste used. Yellow Thai curry is the mildest curry, with a sweet, aromatic flavor from turmeric and cumin.

Lesser known Thai curries

Thailand has many more curries to explore beyond the standard red and green ones. Each region offers unique flavors, preferences, and ingredients. Here are a few lesser-known Thai curry differences you can explore!

Thai jungle curry

Thai jungle curry is a spicy, broth-based curry that originates from the forested regions of Thailand. Unlike other Thai curries, it doesn’t use coconut milk, resulting in a lighter yet intensely flavorful dish, typically loaded with fresh herbs, vegetables, and meat.

Authentic Thai jungle curry with chicken and mixed vegetables, served in a spicy broth garnished with holy basil and chilies.

Swimming rama

Swimming rama is a unique Thai dish featuring tender slices of meat served on a bed of water spinach and jasmine rice, topped with a creamy peanut sauce. It’s a perfect blend of savory and sweet, with the nuttiness of the rama curry sauce complementing the freshness of the greens.

Thai swimming rama served with pork, jasmine rice, and morning glory on a traditonal bamboo mat.

Hor mok pla

Hor mok pla is a traditional Thai steamed fish curry that’s rich and aromatic. The fish is mixed with a blend of red curry paste, coconut milk, and eggs, then steamed in banana leaf cups. I think this dish is perfect as an appetizer, but it can be served for dinner too.

Traditional Thai hor mok pla served in banana leaf bowls, topped with red chili, kaffir lime and coconut cream, ready to be enjoyed with steamed jasmine rice.

Kaeng som

Kaeng som is a sour and spicy curry soup that’s popular in Southern Thailand. It’s made with a tamarind-based broth, fresh vegetables, and fish or shrimp. The tangy and spicy flavors make it a refreshing yet bold dish, perfect for those who enjoy spice.

Kaeng som curry soup with shrimp, carrots, yard long beans, and papaya slices in a white dish.

Conclusion

Thai cuisine offers so many delicious different types of Thai curry to explore, beyond the classic red and green curries. Make sure to try some of these Thai curries with your friends and family! Don’t forget to follow me on social media: FacebookInstagram, and Pinterest.

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