Kroeung (Cambodian Marinade and Spice Paste) Recipe

Kroeung: Cambodian Marinade and Spice Paste

The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Total: 15 mins
Yield: 1 cup
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
467 Calories
3g Fat
112g Carbs
12g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 467
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 3g 3%
Saturated Fat 1g 5%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 1102mg 48%
Total Carbohydrate 112g 41%
Dietary Fiber 12g 42%
Total Sugars 12g
Protein 12g
Vitamin C 26mg 128%
Calcium 298mg 23%
Iron 37mg 204%
Potassium 2883mg 61%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Kroeung is the generic term for a wide array of spice pastes in Cambodia. Many Cambodian dishes are cooked with kroeung as the base.

Royal and Individual Kroeung

There are two categories of Kroeung: "Royal Kroeung" and "Individual Kroeung". The terms have nothing to do with social or economic class. Rather, they are descriptive of how the paste is used.

"Royal Kroeung" is a standard spice paste that can be used for a number of dishes. "Individual Kroeung" has few or more ingredients added to the paste to suit the specific dish for which it is going to be used.

Yellow, Red, and Green Kroeung

Kroeung is further labeled by color. Red Kroeung derives its color from red chilies or their dehydrated pods. Green Kroeung has lemongrass as the dominant ingredient. Yellow Kroeung gets its color from the amount of turmeric added.

This is a recipe for Yellow Royal Kroeung made the traditional way with a pestle and mortar to draw out the natural oils and flavors of each ingredient. If for convenience, you prefer the use of a blender or a food processor, you may need to add a couple of teaspoonfuls of water to help the motor along.

"This recipe is an absolute treat. While similar to some other Southeast Asian spice pastes, this one has its own unique combination of flavors. It can be used in many different ways. I like to marinate beef or chicken in this paste or use it as a base for rice noodles, adding coconut milk." –Renae Wilson

Kroeung Tester Image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 3 stalks lemongrass, thinly sliced (use only the bottom 3 inches of the stalk)

  • 1 ounce galangal or ginger, peeled and finely chopped

  • 4 makrut lime leaves, finely sliced with the hard center ribs removed

  • 8 cloves garlic, finely chopped

  • 2 shallots, finely chopped, or 1 small onion, finely chopped

  • 1 ounce turmeric, peeled and finely chopped

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Kroeung: Cambodian Marinade and Spice Paste ingredients

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

  2. In a mortar and pestle, start off with the toughest (most fibrous) ingredients like the lemongrass, the makrut lime leaves, and the galangal. Grind them with a circular motion to release the juices and oils. The texture that you are looking for is a paste. So, grind the ingredients to a pulp until the mixture forms a thick paste.

    grind the Kroeung: Cambodian Marinade and Spice Paste ingredients in a mortar and pestle

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

  3. When the first three ingredients have been sufficiently crushed, start adding the rest of the ingredients, one after the other, and grinding well after each addition.

    grinding in ingredients together in a mortar and pestle

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

  4. Alternatively you can use a food processor: If the motor has difficulty, add a teaspoonful or two of water to get it going. After the toughest ingredients have been crushed, the water combined with the herbs' natural juices and oils should be sufficient to grind the rest of the ingredients.

    Kroeung: Cambodian Marinade and Spice Paste in a mortar and pestle

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

  5. Transfer to a jar with a screw-type lid. To prevent the paste from drying out, pour a tablespoonful of oil on top. The kroeung will keep well in the fridge for about five days. 

    Kroeung: Cambodian Marinade and Spice Paste in a jar

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga


This recipe can also be made in a food processor, following the same instructions.