Thai Massaman Curry Paste

Burnt-orange-colored Thai Massaman curry paste in a beige bowl

The Spruce Eats

Prep: 30 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Total: 30 mins
Servings: 4 serving
Yield: 1 cup
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
143 Calories
7g Fat
17g Carbs
5g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 143
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 7g 10%
Saturated Fat 3g 14%
Cholesterol 3mg 1%
Sodium 843mg 37%
Total Carbohydrate 17g 6%
Dietary Fiber 3g 9%
Total Sugars 4g
Protein 5g
Vitamin C 20mg 101%
Calcium 64mg 5%
Iron 4mg 20%
Potassium 437mg 9%
*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.)

Massaman curry hails from the south of Thailand and is different from other Thai curries because the spices have to be roasted beforehand, and it has ingredients not common to Thai cuisine, like cardamom, cinnamon, anise, and nutmeg. Massaman paste is a mashup of the best of Indian flavors and the best of Thai ingredients, and it packs a punch of fragrance, a mildly spicy kick, and the sweetness and tang of lemongrass and galangal. A little massaman goes a long way, and it's traditionally used in chicken curries, to keep in line with Muslim eating restrictions, but can be used on duck, goat, mutton, or venison with great results.

Massaman paste's origin came by way of the spices trade brought to Thailand, which when mixed with local ingredients like galangal, fish, and shrimp paste, brought forth this flavorful savory condiment. The name of the paste might come from "Mussulman," an archaic term to describe Muslims, who introduced many new spices to the area and cooked "Mussulman curries" with this type of paste as early as the 17th century. The term slowly transformed into what it is today and still describes this aromatic mixture of the best of two cultures.

This warm and flavorful curry paste is beautiful on chicken, beef, or lamb. To make a vegan and vegetarian version to use on tofu, seitan, or tempeh, simply skip the fish sauce and shrimp paste, adding a touch of soy sauce instead. Use the paste immediately or store it in the refrigerator for up to four weeks, or in the freezer in an ice cube tray for later use. Be aware that there are peanuts in the preparation, so be mindful of people with peanut allergies; use cashews instead.

"Be patient when processing the ingredients to make this curry paste. It's well worth it. Once the paste is made, you can freeze portions separately for future use. I used about 1/4 of my curry paste to make a chicken and vegetable curry. The taste was zesty, sweet, and sour, with just the right amount of heat." —Diana Andrews

Thai Massaman Curry Paste/Tester Image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 1/4 cup dry roasted unsalted peanuts

  • 2 medium shallots, sliced

  • 5 cloves garlic

  • 1 to 2 red chiles, or 1/2 to 1 teaspoon dried crushed chile

  • 1 thumb-sized piece galangal, or ginger, thinly sliced

  • 1 stalk lemongrass, minced, or 2 to 3 tablespoons prepared lemongrass

  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander

  • 1 teaspoon shrimp paste

  • 1 teaspoon palm sugar, or brown sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, preferably freshly ground

  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

  • 1 to 3 tablespoons coconut milk, for desired consistency

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for Thai massaman curry paste recipe gathered

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  2. Place the peanuts, shallots, garlic, chiles, galangal, lemongrass, fish sauce, ground cumin, coriander, shrimp paste, palm sugar, cumin seeds, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, cloves, and coconut milk in a food processor or blender and process until everything is well incorporated into a thick paste.

    Ingredients for Thai massaman curry paste added to food processor bowl

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  3. Store the curry paste in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid until ready to use.

    Smooth burnt-orange-colored Thai massaman curry paste in a glass jar with a clasp

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

How to Use Thai Massaman Curry Paste

Try this easy recipe on how to use Massaman paste:

  • Coat the meat of choice with the paste and brown it in vegetable oil. Cover it with full-fat coconut milk. Simmer until all is cooked to your liking. Garnish the dish with whole roasted peanuts, fresh coriander, and lime wedges. Serve with rice.

Massaman is usually mixed with coconut milk to make curries, but it can be used without as well:

  • Place​ the meat of choice in a bowl—vegetables, tofu, tempeh, or potatoes can also be used—and coat well with enough of the curry paste. Transfer to a baking tray and add 2 to 3 whole bay leaves. Cover with tin foil and bake in the oven at 350 F until cooked through.
  • To cook in a wok, coat the meat or vegetable with the paste, add vegetable oil to a hot wok, and cook until everything is done to your taste.
  • Garnish the dish with whole roasted peanuts, fresh coriander, and lime wedges. Serve with rice.