Traditional Thai Massaman Lamb Curry

Thai Massaman lamb curry recipe

The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 90 mins
Total: 100 mins
Servings: 4 to 6 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
690 Calories
41g Fat
48g Carbs
38g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 690
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 41g 52%
Saturated Fat 24g 120%
Cholesterol 106mg 35%
Sodium 807mg 35%
Total Carbohydrate 48g 17%
Dietary Fiber 7g 24%
Protein 38g
Calcium 192mg 15%
*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 lamb curry is a sumptuous dish that's rich in both flavor and nutrients. Here the curry sauce is made from scratch for the best flavor and freshness. The ingredients list may seem long, but it is quite easy to make—you don't even need a food processor. Just toss all sauce ingredients into the curry pot as you prepare them, and simmer together with the meat. Note that beef and chicken are often traditionally substituted for lamb, and both types of meat make for a delicious massaman curry. Also, note that bay leaves can be used in massaman curry rather than the harder-to-find makrut lime leaves.


  • 2 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 to 1 1/2 pounds lamb shoulder, cubed (chicken or beef can also be used)
  • 1/3 cup onion, diced
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 to 2 potatoes, cut into chunks
  • Optional: 1 whole star anise
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil
  • Curry Sauce:
  • 1 thumb-size piece ginger, grated
  • 4 to 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, tender white parts, minced (save tops for the stock)
  • 1 red chili, sliced (or 1/2 to 3/4 tsp. chili flakes or cayenne pepper)
  • 1/4 cup chopped unsalted cashews (plus a few more for garnish)
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon whole cumin seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamon
  • 1 teaspoon tamarind paste (or substitute 1 tablespoon lime juice)
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon shrimp paste (or 1 extra tablespoon fish sauce)
  • 2 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk (not lite)
  • Serving Suggestions: cooked Thai jasmine rice

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for Thai Massaman curry
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga
  2. Place stock in a large pot over high heat. Add the meat, onion, and bay leaves. If using fresh lemongrass, also add the upper leftover stalk pieces. Bring to a boil then reduce to low, until you get a nice simmer.

    Place stock in pot
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga
  3. Cover or partially cover with a lid and simmer 40 to 80 minutes, stirring occasionally, until meat is tender or near-tender (You can also choose to skip this step - see note below recipe).

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga
  4. Add all curry sauce ingredients, stirring with each addition. Also, add the potatoes and whole star anise (if using). Return to a boil, then continue simmering 30 more minutes or until potatoes are tender. Stir occasionally.

    Add curry
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga 
  5. Taste the curry, adding more fish sauce for increased flavor/saltiness, or more chili if you want it spicier. If too sour, add a little more sugar. If too salty or sweet for your taste, add a touch more tamarind or lime juice. If too spicy, add more coconut milk.

    Taste the curry
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga
  6. Transfer to a serving bowl, or plate up on individual plates or bowls. Top with a few more cashews and fresh basil. Serve with Thai jasmine rice.

    Transfer curry to bowl
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga
  7. Enjoy!


  • In this recipe, we have chosen to pre-boil the meat for more tenderness—it takes longer, the resulting taste is worth it. However, if you're in a hurry, you can easily cut back on this step (if simmering meat 30 minutes or less, leave off the lid or reduce stock to 2 cups).

Recipe Variations

Other vegetables that can be used in this curry include eggplant, green beans, and tomato.