This authentic Thai Red Curry recipe will spice up your weekly meal prep. From fragrant herbs to bold spices, this dish is truly mouthwatering. And by using a couple of ingredient swaps, we can make it at a fraction of the calories.
✅ Why This Recipe Works
Easy to make – No hours of prep in the kitchen or chopping needed. This dish will come together in about 30 minutes.
Restaurant quality taste from home – I used the key Thai curry–making techniques from my cooking class at the Blue Elephant cooking school to develop this recipe, so you can make an authentic Thai red curry from home
Healthy and nutritious – Tweaked to be lower in calories and fats and bulked up with protein, this is a great macro-friendly red chicken curry recipe, optimized to help you achieve your fitness goals. This makes a great healthy Thai food recipe.
💭 What is Red Curry?
Thai red curry is a popular dish from Thailand made with a blend of fragrant herbs and spices, including lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, and red chilies, which give it its distinct red color.
The curry is typically cooked with coconut milk, vegetables, and meat or seafood, resulting in a rich and creamy texture with a spicy and savory taste. It is often served with rice or noodles and is a favorite among Thai cuisine lovers around the world. You can also pair it with some egg noodles to make a delicious Khao Soi recipe.
🍎 Calories and Nutrition – How to Make It Healthy
In this recipe, I used key ingredient swaps from my Tips to Make Healthy Thai Curry guide to make this a more macro-friendly and calorie-conscious meal. A serving of this authentic Thai red curry recipe runs at 398 calories with 32 grams of protein, 15 grams of fat, and 46 grams of carbs.
Here's what I did to achieve this:
- Chicken thigh – Chicken thigh is a great lean protein source. I used 4 ounces of this as the protein base for the dish.
- Coconut Milk – Use light coconut milk - a serving of light milk is 45 calories vs 120 calories from normal coconut milk due to less fat content as the light version has less coconut cream.
- Portion sugar and seasonings mindfully – Used 1 teaspoon of sugar and 1 tablespoon of fish sauce. Both are essential to the curry flavor and 1 teaspoon of sugar is only 15 calories of sugar.
- Portion the rice – I used 1 serving of Jasmine rice at 160 calories
- Use cooking spray – Instead of traditional oil for everything that was sautéd or fried. 1 tablespoon of olive oil adds a whopping 120 calories to the dish, whereas cooking spray is 0 calories.
For a detailed breakdown of each ingredient, their portioning, and how they make up the nutrition profile of the authentic Thai red curry recipe, you may refer to the table below:
📋 Ingredient Notes
To make the authentic Thai red curry recipe, you’ll need the following.
Chicken – I used chicken thighs as it's a lean protein that is still juicy. You can also opt to use chicken breast if you prefer.
Thai Red Curry Paste – The essential ingredient for this dish. Red curry paste is typically made from red chilies, which give the curry paste its distinct red color.
You can make your own curry paste, but given the spiciness that comes with Thai chilies, I would recommend using a pre-made curry paste to better account for spice levels.
Among Thai curry pastes, the Mae Ploy brand is a favorite among Thai cooks given that it’s one of the few brands that contain shrimp paste (an essential ingredient for authentic Thai curry).
Light Coconut Milk – Used 1 serving of light coconut milk. This gives the curry its signature flavor at a fraction of the calories. Your typical local grocery store should carry this.
Seasonings – The curry sauce is often seasoned with fish sauce, sugar, and lime juice to give it a balanced flavor. Palm sugar is what's traditionally used but both brown sugar and white sugar also work.
See my recipe card below for a complete list of the ingredients with measurements.
📖 Substitutions and Variations
Use shrimp or seafood – Shrimp and seafood, such as white fish, are other lean protein options that would go well with this recipe. My Thai green curry recipe is an example of one that uses fish.
Add more vegetables – Bamboo shoots and red bell peppers are common favorites for this dish.
Adjust spiciness – If you prefer a more intense spice, you can add more Thai chilies when sautéing the aromatics.
Switch up the rice with Brown rice, white rice, mixed grain rice, or cauliflower rice – Health-wise, they are all similar in calories and macros, with mixed grain rice slightly higher in calories (190 calories vs 160 calories for one serving). Cauliflower rice is a good option for those who prefer a low-carb diet.
Make your homemade curry paste – Use a food processor to blend kaffir lime leaves, galangal, fresh lemongrass, garlic, ginger, red chilies, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, and shrimp paste. Be sure to use fresh ingredients for the best flavor.
🔪 Step by Step Instructions
Prepare the rice – Cook the rice beforehand to save time.
Prepare the aromatics – Slice lemongrass into small pieces, mince the garlic and onions, and remove kaffir lime leaf stem.
Sauté the curry paste – In a large saucepan or deep-set frying pan, saute the aromatics for 1-2 minutes or until fragrant, alongside the curry paste with cooking spray.
Add coconut milk – Turn the stove to low heat and pour in coconut milk. Mix thoroughly.
Cook the chicken – Add the chicken pieces into the curry and cook fully, 2-3 minutes on each side.
Add seasonings – Add the fish sauce, sugar, and lime juice. Add stock if desired to adjust the thickness of the curry. Stir until combined.
Garnish and serve – Serve with rice and garnish with shallots, chopped cilantro, kaffir lime leaves and/or Thai basil leaves. Enjoy your flavorful authentic Thai red curry!
💭 Recipe FAQs
Red curry is typically made of a mixture of red chilies, coriander, cumin, shrimp paste, lemongrass, garlic, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, and shallots. This is pounded by a mortar and pestle into a paste.
The secret to good Thai curry is to use fresh ingredients. Thai curry is a mixture of a variety of herbs and spices that is grounded into a paste. Using fresh ingredients will result in the best flavor.
You can make the curry paste and the jasmine rice in advance to speed up the cooking time. Store the curry paste in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks and the rice in an airtight container for up to 3-4 days.
💡 Expert Tips
Water or stock to deglaze as needed – If the coconut milk seems to be evaporating too much, make sure the heat is lowered and deglaze the pan with water as needed
How to use lemongrass – For the curry paste, we will use the lower white half of the lemongrass stalks. Slice the lemongrass widthwise, until the purple rings begin to disappear.
🍽 Related Recipes
If you liked this recipe, check out these other Thai curry recipes.
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Authentic Thai Red Curry Recipe
Red Curry Sauce
- 1 tablespoon Red Curry Paste (Recommend Mae Ploy Brand)
- 1 clove Garlic
- ¼ Shallot
- 1 stalk Lemongrass
- ⅓ cup Coconut Milk
- ¼ cup Chicken Stock (Veggie stock works too)
- 1 tablespoon Fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon Sugar
Chicken and Garnishes
- 4 oz Chicken thigh
- Kaffir Lime Leaves
- 1 Red Chili
- 3 sprigs Cilantro
- Prepare the rice – Cook the rice beforehand to save time.
- Prepare the aromatics – Slice lemongrass into small pieces, mince the garlic and onions, and remove kaffir lime leaf stem.
- Saute the curry paste – In a large saucepan or deep-set frying pan, saute the aromatics for 1-2 minutes or until fragrant, alongside the curry paste with cooking spray.
- Add coconut milk – Turn the stove to low heat and pour in coconut milk. Mix thoroughly.
- Cook the chicken – Add the chicken pieces into the curry and cook fully, 2-3 minutes on each side.
- Add seasonings – Add the fish sauce, sugar, and lime juice. Add stock if desired to adjust the thickness of the curry. Stir until combined.
- Garnish and serve – Serve with rice and garnish with shallots, chopped cilantro, kaffir lime leaves and/or Thai basil leaves. Enjoy your flavorful red chicken curry!