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Thai Red Curry Noodle Soup

A lightly creamy soup filled with Thai-inspired flavors, slurpy noodles, and savory chicken, easy Thai Red Curry Noodle Soup is a crave-worthy dish that will find a happy home in your cold-weather meal planning.

Easy Thai Red Curry Noodle Soup in a stone blue bowl.

I love all kinds of soups, of course, especially the thick, savory meal-level soups that [almost] make winter bearable. Chicken soups, pasta soups, vegetable soups — I love them all!

But nothing can beat the flavor explosion of a soup featuring amazing Thai-inspired flavors, such as red curry paste, ginger, garlic, and coconut milk.

This soup is something I crave, and happily, it’s easy enough to make on a whim, as the ingredients are easy to stock up in the pantry.

The Ingredient Line-up

Let’s go through the main ingredients, so you can see the role each plays in producing the mouth-watering flavors of Thai Red Curry Noodle Soup.

The Aromatics & Proteins

First we start with an aromatic base of onions, bell peppers, and garlic.

Aromatic ingredients chopped and arranged on a round wooden serving board.

Onions, Red Bell Peppers & Garlic — This trio of veggies creates the foundational layer of flavoring for the soup’s broth. In addition, the gentle crunch of the onions and peppers contribute to the lovely texture of this soup.

Cilantro & Basil (or Thai Basil) — Fresh cilantro and basil add a crisp, verdant flavor. If you can find Thai basil, all the better. It’s a variety of basil that has a sweet pungency and fits well with Asian cuisine.

Did you know that the tender cilantro stems are perfectly edible, too? In fact, they taste just like the leaves with the benefit of withstanding being sauteed. If you’re a cilantro lover like me, don’t hesitate to add a palmful during the saute.

Green Onions — Another member of the onion family, green onions add another layer of flavor to the soup, both during the cook and as a topping.

Chicken — This soup becomes weeknight fast and easy when you use leftover chicken or rotisserie chicken. Because rotisserie chicken is already fully cooked and seasoned, you can literally just add to the soup and feel confident that it will taste great!

The Thai-focused Spices & Ingredients

The real beauty of this soup is sourced in the super flavorful Thai-leaning ingredients. They make the broth deliciously sippable!

Spices and flavorings for Thai Red Curry Noodle Soup.

Red Curry Paste — Of course, the star player in this recipe is the Thai Red Curry Paste. Do note that red curry pastes are available in a wide variety of heat levels. The brand most commonly found in U.S. grocery stores is Thai Kitchen, and is not hot at all.

If you want spicy heat with your soup, you might need to seek out an Asian grocery store to find a brand like Mae Ploy. Also be sure to read the labels if you have any ingredient issues, as some brands contain gluten, fish, shrimp, etc.

Ginger — Ginger is a must-have in this soup! The gently spicy, almost citrusy burst of freshness combines beautifully with the other aromatic ingredients.

Fish SauceFish sauce is such a head-scratcher, right? It smells like death in a bottle but heightens the flavors of everything it touches. If you’ve never used fish sauce before, this is the recipe to start with.

Buy the bottle. Don’t smell it. Don’t taste it. Just pour it in when instructed and prepare for magic.

Brown Sugar — A little added sugar is very common in Asian cooking to offset the sour or bitter notes of the other ingredients. Don’t skip it, but don’t despair. I always use brown sugar, but you can use white sugar instead (and I’m guessing that sugar substitutes like stevia would work, too, although I haven’t tried them).

Coconut Milk — Not shown in the photo above, but essential for classic Thai curry flavors. Not only does it add a smooth creaminess to the soup, but it will balance out any spiciness introduced by the red curry paste.

Rice Noodles — Rice noodles are the perfect bulk-building ingredient for this soup. They’re light in both flavor and weight, and absorb the amazing broth flavors.

Vermicelli Rice Noodles

I also want to point out something here about rice noodles that I hope y’all won’t consider too blasphemous. As I talk about in many of my soup recipes, the soup eating experience is just as important as it’s flavor.

So, while I love and adore chicken soup, you won’t find a recipe on this site with those long, stringy noodles, like from the canned soups of our youths.

I always breakdown long noodles when they’re used in soups (or find short substitutes). For these lovely vermicelli rice noodles, I cook them long, but then use kitchen scissors and snip into the pot to slice up the noodles into spoon-sized lengths.

You can also crush the dried block (or spiral or lengths) of noodles (seen above): wrap the block in a clean towel and then carefully crack the noodles into smaller pieces. Then shake everything into the pot.

This will prevent bits of dried noodles from flying everywhere. This is a good thing (trust me, lol).

Substitutions

“I don’t have all of these ingredients. What can I substitute?” It’s a great question, because it’s happened to all of us: you go to make dinner and realize that you don’t have X. Or an ingredient is hard to find in your region or is out of season. Here are some helpful substitutions.

Ginger & Garlic — Here in the Midwest, while garlic is plentiful year-round, fresh ginger is hit or miss (without going to a specialty store). Most grocery stores now carry both in paste form, which are normally shelved in the produce section (sometimes refrigerated, sometimes not). Substitute the paste one-to-one with fresh.

Honestly, I always keep tubes of both on hand. While I love and support fresh produce, I can’t argue away the convenience of just opening the fridge and having them there.

Fish Sauce — You can count me among the people who are reluctant to stock up on fish sauce. Mostly because Asian cuisine is not well-represented in my neighborhood and in years past, I had to order ginormous bottles of fish sauce, which I never used up.

But now, it’s easy to find small bottles at Kroger, and I hope it’s true for you, too. As far as substitutions go, there’s really nothing comparable to the effect of fish sauce on a recipe. But, to at least introduce the deep umami of fermented products, you could try miso or soy sauce.

Or, if you don’t mind some spice, you could whiz up your favorite kimchi in a blender. That’s really an off-the-wall suggestion that I just thought of, but as I’m typing it out, I’ve intrigued myself and will have to try it sometime (not as a substitute for but in addition to fish sauce!)

Rice Noodles — I really love the super thin rice noodle sticks shown in the photos on this post, but really any rice noodle will do. Read the package instructions, though, as some of the larger noodles take much longer to cook and would work far better if prepared separately.

I’m thinking of, for example, the wider rice noodle sticks that require about 25 minutes of soaking in very, very hot water. I would get those going in a separate pot before starting the soup, and then transfer them over when they’re ready.

I cannot recommend wheat flour pasta noodles for the soup. For my tastes, their rich carbiness over-powers the nuanced flavors of the Thai broth. Very thin soba noodles might do in a pinch.

How to Make Thai Red Curry Noodle Soup

This weeknight easy soup comes together quickly with just a little hands-on effort.

Visuals of steps 1 and 2 for making Thai Red Curry Noodle Soup.

First, saute the onions and bell peppers until they’re softened. Then add the red curry paste, ginger, and garlic to the pan and stir until fragrant.

The direct heat allows the flavors of both the red curry paste and the garlic to bloom and intensify.

Visuals of steps 3 and 4 for making the soup.

Add the chicken broth and coconut and simmer. Then stir in the fish sauce, brown sugar, and chicken

Visuals of steps 5 and 6 for making the soup.

Add the vermicelli rice noodles and continue simmering until softened. And finally, stir in the herbs and green onions.

The finished soup in the pot.

And finished! Serve extra minced cilantro, basil, and green onions on the side, so the fam can top their bowls as they like. I also love chopped peanuts on this soup!

Can the soup be made ahead of time?

Yes! You can either prep/chop all of the ingredients in advance and store them in the refrigerator until you’re ready to cook.

Or, you can cook the full soup recipe, allow it to come to room temperature, and then stash in the fridge.

The noodles will absorb some of the yummy broth and the soup will be thicker than it was on the stove. But upon reheating, if it’s not brothy enough, you can add a bit more chicken stock or water to loosen everything up.

This recipe is actually a favorite leftover lunch meal!

Can the soup be frozen?

If your intent is to make a big batch and freeze it for later, then, yes — but leave out the rice noodles. When reheating the soup, prepare the noodles separately according to package directions and then add to the soup.

If you’re wanting to freeze leftovers that already contain the rice noodles, I would say … no. Rice noodles are fragile and can end up as a mushy mess by the time the soup thaws.

What do you serve with Thai Red Curry Noodle Soup?

This flavorful soup is really the center stage of the meal, but here are some ideas for sides that complement the Thai flavors beautifully:

Thai Red Curry Noodle Soup in a stone blue bowl with chopsticks.

I hope you’ll try this lovely Thai Red Curry Noodle Soup and enjoy the delightful Thai-inspired flavors!

Karen xo

More Thai-inspired Soups to Explore

Thai Red Curry Noodle Soup
Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Thai Red Curry Noodle Soup

A delightful and super flavorful Thai-inspire soup that’s easy and weeknight friendly.
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time30 minutes
Total Time45 minutes
Course: Soup
Cuisine: Thai
Keyword: coconut, noodle soup, red curry
Servings: 4
Author: Karen Gibson

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 small red bell pepper diced
  • 1 small onion diced
  • 3 tablespoons red curry paste
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger or ginger paste
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 14 ounce can coconut milk
  • 3 cups cooked chicken* shredded
  • 4 ounces packaged rice noodles**
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 2 green onions thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

Topping suggestions:

  • minced cilantro leaves
  • green onions sliced thinly on the bias
  • chopped peanuts

Instructions

  • Heat olive oil in a 4-quart stock pot or Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering.
  • Add onions and bell pepper and saute until softened, about 5 minutes.
  • Stir in the garlic, red curry paste and ginger and let cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  • Pour in the chicken broth and coconut milk, mixing well with the vegetables.
  • Bring to a light boil then reduce heat to a gentle simmer and let look cook for 10 minutes.
  • Stir in the fish sauce, brown sugar, chicken and rice noodles, and continue simmering until the noodles are tender, about 5 minutes (or per package directions).
  • Remove from heat; stir in the green onions, cilantro, basil and lime juice. Taste, and season with salt and pepper as needed.
  • Serve immediately with the toppings on the side.

Notes

Chicken – this recipe is the perfect fit for a rotisserie chicken. Remove and discard the skin, and remove the meat from the bones, shredding as you. Takes just minutes! You can also use leftover chicken (or turkey or even shrimp, for that matter).
Rice noodles – the rice noodles shown in the photos on the blog post are vermicelli rice noodles (super thin rice sticks). Really, any rice noodle will work well (wheat flour pasta might be a bit too “heavy”). 
If you have issues with long noodles in soup, here’s what I do: gently lay the dried noodles on the surface of the soup and let them soften for a minute or two. Then use kitchen scissors to cut them into spoon-sized lengths. Apologies to anyone who finds this blasphemous. I’m afraid that my chopstick skills are limited to big chunks of stuff, not slender noodles.
Nutritional information, if shown, is provided as a courtesy only, and is not to be taken as medical information or advice. The nutritional values of your preparation of this recipe are impacted by several factors, including, but not limited to, the ingredient brands you use, any substitutions or measurement changes you make, and measuring accuracy.
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