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Curry Paste vs Curry Powder: What’s the Difference?

We Reveal the Similarities and Differences Between Curry Paste and Curry Powder

By on September 6, 2022

Both curry paste and curry powder are used as the basis of a range of, unsurprisingly, curries. But does this mean these two ingredients can be used interchangeably or are they completely different?

The main difference between curry paste and curry powder is in texture. The clue is in the name, after all! Curry paste is wet, unlike curry powder, a dried mix of ground spices.

What is Curry Paste?

As the name suggests, curry paste is a paste that is used to make curry. It is popular in various countries, including India, Thailand and Sri Lanka.


Most curry pastes involve breaking garlic, ginger and chillies down in a pestle and mortar before adding other spices, herbs and ingredients, such as coriander, shrimp paste, curry leaves or fish sauce.

Curry paste will need to be cooked to get the most flavour out of it.

How Do You Use Curry Paste?

Curry paste is often cooked in a large pan to release intense aromas before tomatoes or coconut milk are added to form the base of a curry. Curry paste can also be used as a marinade for meat, fish and vegetables.


Curry Paste in a Pot

What is Curry Powder?

Curry powder is a dry mix of different dried and ground spices.

Generally, curry powder will contain turmeric, cumin, coriander and chilli. Other spices will then be added to tweak the flavour profile, including nutmeg, clove, fenugreek, caraway, fennel, cinnamon and cardamom.

Because it’s curry related and is often used to make curry in the west, people assume it is an authentic Indian ingreidnet. This is not the case, however. It is something invented by the British in the late-1700s in an attempt to recreate the curries they enjoyed in India.

How Do You Use Curry Powder?

Curry powder is often added to onions and garlic in a pan as the base of curries. But it can also be stirred into yoghurt, sauces, dressings and marinades.

Differences Between Curry Paste and Curry Powder

They might both have the word curry in their name, but that’s where most of the similarities end. They are worlds apart. Here are the differences between curry paste and curry powder:

  • Texture – The clear difference between curry paste and curry powder is the texture. Curry paste is made by grinding ginger, garlic and chillies with other spices to form a paste. Curry powder is made by combining toasted and ground spices into a powder.
  • Spice Level – Curry pastes are not made from spices alone but often have ginger, garlic and fresh chillies. This gives them a spice level not usually seen in curry powders.
Curry Paste
  • Origins – Curry powder is often mistaken as an Indian ingredient, but it’s actually a British invention from the 1700s. Curry paste, however, is authentically Asian. Different curry paste variations can be found across Asai from India, Pakistan, Thailand, Malaysia and beyond.
  • Ingredients – Generally, curry powder will contain ground turmeric, cumin, coriander and chilli powder. Curry paste, however, will contain a lot more fresh ingredients, including chillies, ginger, garlic, galangal, lime zest, herbs and shallots.
  • Shelf Life – Because curry paste is often made with fresh ingredients, it will not last near as long as curry powder made solely with dried spices.

Similarities Between Curry Paste and Curry Powder

Although the differences are pretty extensive, there are a few (fairly obvious) similarities between the paste and the powder:

  • Use – Ultimately, curry paste and powder are both used to create the main flavour profile of a curry. They tend not to have many other uses, and their primary role is to add spice.
  • Resultant Dish – Both these ingredients have the word curry in their name for a reason… Because they produce a curry!

Curry Paste vs Curry Powder: Which Wins?

If you’ve got the choice of using either curry paste or curry powder, which would you choose?

Do You Prefer Curry Paste or Curry Powder?

Curry Paste and Curry Powder FAQs

Do you still have questions about curry paste and curry powder as well as how they compare? Then here are some FAQs:

Can You Substitute Curry Paste for Curry Powder?

In a recipe, it’s unlikely to be possible to substitute curry paste for powder or vice versa. This is because the flavour and texture of the two ingredients are completely different, so the recipe will be changed entirely.

What is the Ratio of Curry Paste to Curry Powder

If you want to substitute curry paste for curry powder then you’ll need to use 1 teaspoon of curry powder for every 1 tablespoon of curry paste.

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