Nam Prik Pao: Thai Chili Sauce

Nam Prik Pao Chili Sauce


  • Total: 18 mins
  • Prep: 10 mins
  • Cook: 8 mins
  • Yield: 1 small jar (6 portions)

There are numerous versions of homemade nam prik pao chili sauce in Thailand; each cook makes it his or her own way. Most Asian food stores carry chili sauce, but homemade is always best.

Nam prik pao chili sauce makes an excellent accompaniment for soups such as tom yum kung. It's an absolute must with noodle dishes and nearly anything you'd like to spice up.


  • 1/4 cup canola (or coconut oil, plus a little more to finish; or light vegetable oil of your choice)
  • 4 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
  • 2 shallots (finely chopped)
  • 3 tablespoons dried whole or crushed red chilies (ground to a powder)
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon shrimp paste (or 1 extra tablespoon fish sauce)
  • 2 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 2-3 tablespoon palm (or brown sugar, or more to taste)
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon tamarind paste (available at Asian or Indian food stores)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon lime juice

Steps to Make It

  1. Heat oil in a small frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the chopped shallots and garlic, frying until they turn a very light golden brown and slightly crispy, 2 to 3 minutes.

  2. Remove garlic and shallots with a slotted spoon from the oil, and set in a bowl to cool. Leave remaining oil in the pan.

  3. Using a pestle & mortar or food processor/mini-chopper, combine the prepared chili with the shrimp paste, fish sauce, sugar, tamarind, lime, and water. Add the fried garlic and shallots.

  4. Pound or process altogether to form a thick paste. Return this paste to your frying pan, and stir it into the oil over low heat, gently simmering until you get a fairly even consistency. Adjust the consistency by adding a little more water if you find it too thick, or add more oil if you prefer a "shinier" sauce.

  5. Adjust the taste, adding more fish sauce if you'd like it saltier or more sugar if you'd like it sweeter.


  • Nam prik pao will keep for several months stored in a covered jar in your refrigerator.
  • Use it as an addition to Thai soups or added as a flavor booster to Thai stir-fries and curry sauces.
  • While traditionally the shallots and garlic are finely chopped by hand, you can also use a food processor for this task. Just be sure not to over-process, or you will end up with a mushy mess. What you want are individual-looking pieces of shallot and garlic.
  • If using whole dried chilies, simply place them in a coffee grinder (or food processor) and blitz until you get a powdery consistency.