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)
722 Calories
42g Fat
50g Carbs
38g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 722
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 42g 54%
Saturated Fat 23g 117%
Cholesterol 113mg 38%
Sodium 954mg 41%
Total Carbohydrate 50g 18%
Dietary Fiber 3g 11%
Total Sugars 5g
Protein 38g
Vitamin C 22mg 112%
Calcium 88mg 7%
Iron 8mg 47%
Potassium 1340mg 29%
*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 cubed lamb shoulder, chicken, or beef

  • 1/3 cup diced onion

  • 3 bay leaves

  • 1 to 2 medium potatoes, cut into chunks

  • 1 pod star anise, optional

  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil

Curry Sauce:

  • 1 (2-inch) piece ginger, grated

  • 4 to 5 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 stalk lemongrass, tender white parts, minced, tops reserved for the stock

  • 1 sliced red chile pepper, or 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon chile flakes or cayenne pepper

  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped unsalted cashews, 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 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar

  • 3/4 teaspoon shrimp paste, or 1 tablespoon fish sauce

  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce, more as needed

  • 1 (14-ounce) can full-fat coconut milk

  • Cooked jasmine rice, for serving

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 chile 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.