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Thai Red Curry Sauce

Thai Red Curry Sauce is one of my favorite sauces because of its intense, spicy flavor and its versatility. I spoon it over chicken, fish, shrimp, tofu, veggies, and noodles. You can also use it as a dipping sauce for Thai Turkey Meatballs, Thai Satay, Vietnamese Salad Rolls, and more.

Overhead shot of a bowl of Thai red curry sauce with Thai Turkey Meatballs on the side.

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Why you’ll love this red curry coconut sauce

  • It’s full of flavor—pungent spices, citrusy lemongrass, nuttiness from both coconut milk and peanut butter, and salty from fish sauce.
  • It doesn’t require a ton of ingredients. The recipe uses Thai red curry paste, which already packs layers of flavor in one easy-to-use paste.
  • It’s so versatile! This red curry sauce is delicious as a base for main dishes that include chicken, vegetables, fish or seafood, or tofu. It’s also great as a dipping sauce for Thai Chicken Meatballs, Chicken Satay, and more.

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Thai Red Curry  Red Curry VS Yellow Curry VS Green Curry

What is the difference between red curry and yellow curry or green curry? Here’s how each gets its distinctive color and flavor:

  • Red Curry Paste gets its red color from red chilies. The other ingredients are usually a combination of shallots, lemongrass, galangal, shrimp paste, cumin, and other spices. Red curry paste is the spiciest of the three primary Thai curry pastes.
  • Green Curry gets its color from green chiles and fresh cilantro. It also contains red chilis, lemongrass, the zest of makrut lime, and other seasonings. Green curry paste is milder than red curry paste, but spicier than yellow curry paste.
  • Yellow Curry gets its yellow color from turmeric. It also usually contains ground cumin and coriander, shrimp paste, galangal, lemongrass, and chiles. Yellow curry paste is the mildest of the three.
Overhead shot of the ingredients needed to make thai red curry sauce.

Ingredients you need

For the complete list of ingredients with quantities and detailed prep and cooking instructions, please see the recipe card that appears at the end of this post.

Because this sauce uses curry paste, which packs a whole bunch of ingredients into one product, the ingredient list is nice and short. Here’s what you need:

  • Oil: Any neutral flavored cooking oil will do.
  • Thai red curry paste: You can buy red curry paste in Asian markets or online. Even your supermarket likely has it. I love the Mae Ploy red curry paste. Maesri also makes a good one. Note that different brands of curry paste are different degrees of spicy. Thai Kitchen’s red curry paste is relatively mild, while Mae Ploy’s is quite spicy. Start with a little and add more as desired to reach your personal spice comfort level. Note also that most Thai curry pastes contain shrimp paste, so if you want to keep it vegan, you may need to make your own.
  • Sugar: I love using palm sugar, which you can find in Asian markets or online. If you don’t have it, you can substitute brown sugar.
  • Peanut butter: Choose an all-natural, no-sugar-added peanut butter for the best flavor.
  • Coconut milk: Use unsweetened, canned coconut milk.
  • Fish sauce: Fish sauce provides salt and umami, and distinctive Thai flavor. You can use vegan fish sauce if you like.
  • Lime juice: The acidity brightens the sauce and balances the sweet and salty flavors. If you don’t have limes, you can substitute lemon juice or use tamarind concentrate or tamarind paste.
  • Water or broth: This will thin the mixture to a nice saucy consistency. If you’re making a dipping sauce, you can leave this out.
  • Cilantro: This is an optional garnish, but it adds a lot of fresh, herby flavor to the sauce so I strongly recommend including it!

How do you make it?

For the complete list of ingredients with quantities and detailed prep and cooking instructions, please see the recipe card that appears at the end of this post.

This sauce is super easy and quick to make. Here’s how:

  1. Heat the oil in saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the curry paste and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Next add the sugar, coconut milk, peanut butter, and fish sauce and stir to mix. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium and simmer for about 5 minutes, until the sauce thickens.
  2. Remove from the heat and squeeze in the lime juice. Stir to incorporate.
  3. Serve garnished with cilantro.
Overhead shot of a plate of thai turkey meatballs with thai red curry sauce for dipping.

How do you serve it?

You can serve this as a saucy base for a meat, seafood, or veggie stew or as a dipping sauce. Here are some ideas:

  • Add it to a pot of sauteed onions, peppers, and chicken. Add additional water or broth if needed to get the right consistency. Serve over steamed rice.
  • Serve it as above, but substitute beef, shrimp, or tofu for the chicken.
  • Toss it with cooked rice noodles, ramen noodles, chow mein noodles, or even spaghetti.
  • Add several cups of water or broth, some sliced mushrooms, raw shrimp (peeled), and julienned bamboo shoots to make it into a soup.
  • Omit the water or broth and reduce the coconut milk by half a cup to make it a dipping sauce for Thai Turkey Meatballs, Chicken Satay, Vietnamese Summer Rolls, and other appetizers.

More Thai recipes you’ll love

If you love the robust flavors of Thai cuisine, try these other Thai recipes. Some of my favorite Thai recipes are Tod Mun Pla (Thai Fish Cakes), Thai Curry Puffs, Chicken Satay, Green Papaya Salad, Thai Pumpkin Curry, Thai Chicken Curry, Pad Kee Mao (Drunken Noodles), Veggie Pad Thai, and Thai Larb.

Yield: Makes about 2 cups

Thai Red Curry Sauce

Overhead shot of a bowl of Thai red curry sauce garnished with cilantro leaves.

Thai Red Curry Sauce is one of my favorite sauces because of its intense, spicy flavor and its versatility. I spoon it over chicken, fish, shrimp, tofu, veggies, and noodles. You can also use it as a dipping sauce for Thai Turkey Meatballs, Thai Satay, Vietnamese Salad Rolls, and more.

Prep Time 2 minutes
Cook Time 8 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
  • 2 tablespoons palm sugar or brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • ½ cup water or broth
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Cilantro, for garnish

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil in saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the curry paste and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Next add the sugar, coconut milk, peanut butter, and fish sauce and stir to mix. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium and simmer for about 5 minutes, until the sauce thickens.
  2. Remove from the heat and squeeze in the lime juice. Stir to incorporate.
  3. Serve garnished with cilantro.

Notes

1. To use this recipe for a dipping sauce, reduce the coconut milk to 1 ¼ cups and omit the water or broth. This will give you a thicker sauce that’s better for dipping.

2. Be aware that curry pastes vary widely in their spiciness. Start with a small amount and add more to suit your personal taste.

Nutrition Information

Yield

8

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 138Total Fat 11gSaturated Fat 6gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 4gCholesterol 1mgSodium 341mgCarbohydrates 8gFiber 0gSugar 5gProtein 3g

Nutrient values are estimates only. Variations may occur due to product availability and manner of food preparation. Nutrition may vary based on methods of preparation, origin, freshness of ingredients, and other factors.

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By on September 2nd, 2022

ABOUT ROBIN DONOVAN

Hi, I’m Robin! I am a full-time food blogger, recipe developer, and cookbook author. I spend my days cooking, writing about, and photographing food.

I’m the author of more than 50 cookbooks, including Ramen for Beginners5 Ingredient Cooking for TwoSushi at HomeThe Baking Cookbook for Teens, and the bestselling Campfire Cuisine.

My food writing has also been featured in major print and online pubications including Cooking Light, Fitness, San Jose Mercury News, San Francisco Chronicle, and others. → More about Robin

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