How Spicy Is Yellow Curry? (Recipe)

Are you a curry lover? Then, you have probably tried red, green, and yellow curries. If not, you might be curious about the differences between these curries, especially their spice level.

In this post, you will learn the answer to how spicy yellow curry is.

Yellow curry is the mildest curry variety I’ve ever tasted. It is usually made with yellow or red chili, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, cumin, and coriander. When added to coconut milk, the curry offers a rich taste with mild and sweet flavors.

Yellow Curry, What Exactly Is It?

Yellow Curry
Thai Chicken Yellow Curry

This curry is one of the top 3 most famous Thai curries. The dish is called “yellow” curry because it looks yellow after preparation. It offers a rich appearance and an alluring scent.

It often stands behind the green and red curries when ranked by “hotness.” However, when it comes to sweetness, the yellow variety is sweeter compared to green and red curries.

The curry appears yellowish after cooking. The color is the result of the ingredients used in the past and the preparation process. In most cases, a large amount of turmeric is added to the yellow curry paste to make it look yellowish.

When it comes to taste, there’s no exact word to describe yellow curry. The final taste will rely on the ingredients used and their quantity. However, the turmeric taste is very dominant.

Although I can taste all the ingredients while eating yellow curry, yellow chilies help enhance the flavor profile. These chilies also make the curry dish a little spicy. Some chefs use powdered chilies to make yellow curries less hot than green or red ones.

Yellow Curry in Thai Cuisine 

Yellow curry is commonly made from turmeric, cumin, coriander, cayenne pepper, lemongrass, bay leaf, garlic, fenugreek, ginger, cinnamon, mace, and salt. This curry often contains less curry compared to other curries.

Indian origin’s prepacked curry powder is sometimes called “yellow curry” in Western countries. However, it differs from the Thai yellow curry’s blend of spices. Outside Thailand, Thai yellow curry is also referred to as “Kaeng Kari.” 

Yellow curry is usually milder and less oily than red or green curry. It is due to the British naval cuisine influence that was disseminated in different Asian countries in the late 19th century to early 20th century. 

Curry powder initially incorporated the typical Anglo-Indian invention into the traditional curry paste, which is made of garlic, shallots, chilies, galanga, cilantro roots, and lemongrass. Sometimes, a few amounts of palm sugar are added, depending on the coconut milk’s sweetness. 

In most cases, Thai yellow curry is served with beef, chicken, and starchy veggies, like potatoes. However, the dish can also be made with vegetables, fish, shrimp, tofu, and duck and eaten with round rice noodles or steamed rice. 

Is Yellow Curry Spicy?

The ingredients to make different curries are pretty spicy and hot. All curry dishes are spicy, but the spice levels differ.

Yellow curry is milder than green and red curries. It is also one of the tastiest Thai curries. To prepare the dish, too many ingredients are not necessary. The cooking time also does not take long.

This curry is spicy but not as spicy as green and red curries. If you want to make it more intense than usual, add more spices and yellow chilies to the curry dish.

The meal’s spiciness largely depends on the taster. For me, yellow curry is a perfect mix of sweet and spicy flavors. But if I want to eat spicier curry, I opt for red or green curries. 

To give you a bigger picture, take a look at the three Thai curries comparison below:

Yellow Curry

Yellow Curry

Turmeric is the ingredient that gives yellow curry the characteristic of yellow color. Although it combines a range of dried, fresh, and fragrant herbs and spices, it is milder than red and green curries. It is because there are often fewer chilies. 

Green Curry 

Thai Green Curry
Thai Green Curry

Thai green curry is for those who can handle the heat. The aromatic ingredients, like Thai basil, kaffir lime, coriander, and fresh green chilies, make this Thai dish deliciously spicy. The coconut milk helps tone down the spiciness, but this curry is often the spiciest variety someone could ever taste. 

Red Curry 

Thai Red Curry

Red curry is often spicier than yellow but less spicy than green curry. It is usually mistaken to be more intense than the green one because of its color. The red chilies in the paste give a red hue to the dish—the coconut milk tones down the chilies’ fiery heat. However, scraping out the chilies’ inner white flesh and seeds helps create a milder paste. If bird’s eye chilies are too hot for you, use long chilies as an alternative.

How to Make Yellow Curry Paste at Home

Thai Yellow Curry Paste

Yellow curry paste is quite versatile. This fragrant paste offers a distinct aroma and flavor to most Asian dishes. I can use it with various noodles, soup, vegetable, meat, and seafood recipes. It is also easy to make from scratch.

Don’t worry if your nearby grocery store runs out of yellow curry paste; here are the ingredients and procedures to make your own:


  • ½ to 1 minced stalk of lemongrass 
  • 1 to 2 sliced yellow chilies 
  • Two sliced shallots 
  • One sliced thumb-sized galangal 
  • Four cloves garlic 
  • One teaspoon of ground cumin 
  • One teaspoon of ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon of cumin seeds 
  • ¼ teaspoons of ground cinnamon 
  • ¾ teaspoon of turmeric 
  • Two tablespoons of fish sauce 
  • ½ teaspoon of shrimp paste 
  • Two tablespoons of brown sugar
  • One tablespoon of tomato puree
  • One tablespoon of lime juice 
  • 3 to 5 oz. of coconut milk (divided)
  • One large pinch of ground white pepper


  1. Gather all the ingredients.
  2. Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and use 3 ounces of coconut milk.
  3. Add more coconut milk to blend the ingredients into a smooth paste.
  4. Process well.
  5. Use the paste immediately on the curry dish or store it in the fridge for later use.
  6. Enjoy!

Is your yellow curry paste not have your desired bright yellow hue? You can add another ¼ or ½ teaspoon of turmeric.

Some ingredients in the yellow curry paste are specifically Asian. So, you might not find them in your local grocery stores. Here are some substitutes:

  • You can replace black pepper with white.
  • If you do not have shrimp paste, opt for an additional tablespoon of fish sauce.
  • Instead of galangal, substitute fresh ginger.
  • 1/3 cup of chopped onion works well in place of shallots.
  • If you cannot find yellow chilies, use ½ to 1 teaspoon of dried crushed chili.
  • You can use 2 to 3 tablespoons of frozen prepared lemongrass instead of fresh lemongrass.
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When storing yellow curry paste, place it in an airtight container in the fridge. You can enjoy it for up to 1 month. If you plan to freeze the paste, put it in an airtight container and enjoy up to 3 months. You can spoon the paste into an ice cube tray and freeze it. Transfer it to a freezer bag for more extended storage. Take out and thaw the cubes every time you make a curry dish.

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Bill Kalkumnerd
Bill Kalkumnerd

I am Bill, I am the Owner of HappySpicyHour, a website devoted to spicy food lovers like me. Ramen and Som-tum (Papaya Salad) are two of my favorite spicy dishes. Spicy food is more than a passion for me - it's my life! For more information about this site Click

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