Taste Test: Should You Only Buy Thai Curry Sauce From the Asian Store Rather Than American Grocery Chains?

Does it matter where you buy curry sauce to jump-start your Thai coconut curry dish? Let’s compare the Thai green curry sauce from an Asian grocery store vs. an American grocery chain. Is one more “authentic” and tastier? Is it worth driving 80 miles for curry sauce? Learn the results in our curry sauce taste test.

Side-by-side comparison of 2 bowls of curry for taste testPin

Before moving to Boulder, Colorado, we used to shop at the Asian grocery store every week or two because it took 10 minutes to drive to the closest 99 Ranch.

These days, we go to the Asian grocery store once every 2 months because the good Pacific Ocean Market is 40 miles away in Denver (the Broomfield one doesn’t have good curry sauce). When I leave the Asian market, you’d think I was a Doomsday Prepper specializing in Chinese foods.

I hoarded Thai curry sauce because I was convinced that it tastes better from the Asian grocery store than the conventional American grocery chains. It’s more nuanced and complex than the stuff from Target and Safeway, of course.

Close up view of a bowl of curry for curry taste testPin

But then I discovered Trader Joe’s sells an amazing curry sauce. This threw into question all my assumptions. Naturally, I decided a taste test was in order! Could the TJ’s curry sauce be a game changer?

RELATEDRead the results of all Garlic Delight taste tests.

Difference Between Curry Sauces

I bought a package of Thai green curry sauce from the brand Aroy-D at my local Asian grocery store (Pacific Ocean Market in Denver) and a Thai green curry sauce from Trader Joe’s.

Side-by-side comparison of Trader Joe's and Aroy-D curry sauce for the curry taste testPin
Trader Joe’s Thai green curry sauce (left) and the Aroy-D Thai green curry sauce (right)

Both curry sauces are made in Thailand. A good sign so far. Their ingredients differ slightly, which gives us clues about how the curry dish may turn out. Here are the ingredients lists for each kind of curry.

Trader Joe’s Curry Sauce

  • Coconut milk
  • Water
  • Green curry paste
  • Sugar
  • Rice bran oil
  • Modified cornstarch
  • Basil leaf
  • Green chili
  • Salt

Aroy-D Curry Sauce

  • Coconut milk
  • Water
  • Green curry paste
  • Palm oil
  • Sugar
  • Fish sauce
    • Water
    • Anchovy extract
    • Salt
    • Sugar

Based on the ingredients, we can make the following conclusions:

  • The Trader Joe’s curry sauce is vegan whereas the Aroy-D version is not because of the fish sauce.
  • Aroy-D curry sauce is probably spicier than the Trader Joe’s curry sauce.
  • The Trader Joe’s addition of cornstarch will make the sauce thicker. Adding a thickening agent seems common among sauces sold at conventional American grocery stores. The Target curry sauces I buy tend to have guar gum and xanthan gum additives.

Taste Test: Which Curry Sauce Tastes Better?

To run the taste test, I made a simple Thai curry using tofu, onions, carrots, and broccoli. I avoided adding extra aromatics, coconut cream, and soy sauce/fish sauce because I wanted unadulterated curry sauce flavors. Plus, these curry sauces are ready-to-eat. They should already come with these extra ingredients (they are not curry pastes).

2 sets of ingredients for curry taste testPin

RELATED: For a simple weeknight dinner, learn how to make delicious Thai coconut curry at home that’s as tasty as your favorite Thai restaurant

I carefully weighed the ingredients and tried to use the same type of saucepan (after all, evaporation is a thing). I recruited Alex to be my blind taste tester.

Side-by-side comparison of 2 saucepans with curry for the curry taste testPin

The Final Results

You can barely tell the difference between the two curries by sight and smell. Here’s what we noticed:

  • Aroy-D curry sauce is wetter. This makes sense because Trader Joe’s curry sauce thickens due to the cornstarch.
  • Aroy-D curry sauce has small slices of galangal. They get lost in the mix of vegetables and tofu.
  • Overall, the two final curry dishes look almost identical.

What about the taste?

  • Aroy-D curry sauce tastes sweeter and is spicier.
  • Trader Joe’s curry sauce is thicker. There’s almost no sauce at the bottom of the bowl. Instead, the sauce is evenly coated over the vegetables and tofu.
  • The two curry sauces taste almost identical…but the Aroy-D is better.

We concluded that the Aroy-D curry sauce is tastier. Could it be from the fish sauce? But the difference in taste was tiny, and the Trader Joe’s curry tasted very good too.

RELATED: If you’re not short on time, check out the authentic Thai green curry recipe using curry paste and sweet potatoes

Side-by-side view of 2 bowls of curry for taste testPin

Alex and I agreed that the Aroy-D is worth stocking up on if we’re already at the Asian grocery store. But it’s not worth an 80-mile drive (round trip) when Trader Joe’s green curry sauce is plenty tasty and only a 10-minute bike ride away!

What do you think? Do you find curry sauce from the Asian grocery store more “authentic”? Or are you perfectly happy with what you get from your local grocery chain?

Anna looking down chopping vegetables
About Anna Rider

Hi! I'm Anna, a food writer who documents kitchen experiments on GarlicDelight.com with the help of my physicist and taste-testing husband, Alex. I have an insatiable appetite for noodles 🍜 and believe in "improv cooking".

Leave a Comment