Cooking authentic Thai food requires fresh and correct ingredients, and ideally you use ingredients like fresh tamarind, galangal, freshly squeezed lime and real Thai basil.
There are no substitute for the real thing but since in real-life not all Thai herbs, vegetables and spices will be available in your part of the world here are a guide of possible substitute ingredients that can help you create your favorite tasty Thai dishes anyway.
Green Papaya (For Som Tam/Green Papaya Salad)
- Cucumber, green apple, rutabaga or chopped long beans.
- Apple vinegar, rice vinegar or pineapple vinegar. Alternatively mix 5 parts tomato ketchup with 1 part vinegar.
Birds Eye Chilies (Small Spicy Thai Chilies)
- Habanero, local spicy chilies or chili powder.
Big Chilies (Big Mild Chilies)
- Serrano, jalapeno, local mild chilies or chili powder.
- Powdered galangal. As a last resort you can use ginger, it has a different flavor and smell but are close enough so it can be used in a pinch.
Kaffir Lime Leaves
- Kafir lime skin/zest, lime leaves or lime skin/zest.
- Lemon skin / Lemon zest
- Mix of Italian basil and mint
Holy basil leaves
- Italian or Greek basil leaves
- Sour green apples
- Powdered turmeric or powdered curcumin.
- Chives or green onions
- Chives or garlic chives
Coriander / Cilantro
- Mint leaves or basil leaves
Chinese Broccoli / Chinese Kale
- Regular broccoli, broccolini or kale
- Eggplant / aubergin
- Red or Spanish onions
- Lemon juice
- Oyster mushrooms, champignon mushrooms or local mushrooms.
Thai Pea Eggplants
- Garden peas
- Can usually be skipped.
Coconut Sugar / Palm Sugar
- Brown sugar or as a very last resort white sugar.
- Canned coconut milk or powdered coconut milk. As a last resort you can use cream, whole milk or condensed milk.
- Soy sauce or salt.
- Hoisin sauce or soy sauce with a bit of honey.
- Can simply be skipped when making Thai curries. (If you absolutely want a replacement you can use mashed up salted soy beans, anchovy paste or mashed up anchovies)
- Anchovy paste
- Spam marinaded in lime juice