Homemade Thai Red Curry Paste

Thai curry recipe

​The Spruce / Cara Cormack

Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Total: 20 mins
Servings: 4 to 6 servings
Yield: 1 cup
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
83 Calories
2g Fat
16g Carbs
2g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 83
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 2g 3%
Saturated Fat 1g 7%
Cholesterol 2mg 1%
Sodium 686mg 30%
Total Carbohydrate 16g 6%
Dietary Fiber 2g 7%
Total Sugars 4g
Protein 2g
Vitamin C 23mg 113%
Calcium 52mg 4%
Iron 4mg 21%
Potassium 414mg 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.)

This Thai red curry paste is simple to make from scratch—you'll never buy packaged curry pastes again once you try this recipe. Homemade curry paste creates tastier dishes than store-bought pastes, and they're healthier, too. Red curry paste makes for excellent Thai curry, including curry chicken and ​seafood curries, ​beef curry, ​vegetarian curries, and fish curry. Or add a dollop of this red paste to flavor Thai soups, noodles, or other dishes.

Many of the ingredients are adjustable and have options for swaps. It's easy to adjust the spiciness of this curry paste by reducing or adding more fresh chile or chile sauce. If you're vegetarian or vegan, use soy sauce instead of fish sauce and golden mountain sauce in place of the shrimp paste.

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"The recipe is a delicious balanced blend of ingredients. I froze the curry paste in a silicone ice cube tray and got 3 large 3.3-ounce cubes. Another plus, there are many alternatives for the hard-to-find ingredients. It takes some time to get the ingredients together, chop, measure, and process, but it is well worth it!" —Diana Rattray

Homemade Thai Red Curry Paste Tester Image
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Ingredients

  • 1 shallot, chopped, or 1/4 cup purple onion

  • 1 stalk fresh lemongrass, minced, or 3 tablespoons prepared lemongrass paste

  • 1 to 2 red chilies, or 1/2 to 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or 2 to 3 teaspoons Thai chili sauce

  • 4 cloves garlic

  • 1 thumb-size piece galangal, or ginger, peeled and sliced

  • 2 tablespoons tomato ketchup

  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce, or 2 tablespoons soy sauce plus salt to taste

  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

  • 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons Latin chili powder, or 1 to 2 teaspoons Asian chili powder

  • 1 to 3 tablespoons coconut milk, for desired consistency

  • 1 teaspoon shrimp paste, or 1 tablespoon Thai golden mountain sauce

  • 1 teaspoon sugar

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 3/4 teaspoon ground coriander

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, or 1 cinnamon stick, optional

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for red curry paste
    ​The Spruce / Cara Cormack
  2. Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and process well to create a fragrant Thai red curry paste.

    Place ingredients in food processor
    ​The Spruce / Cara Cormack
  3. If too thick, add a little more coconut milk to help blend ingredients. Note that it will taste very strong at this point but will mellow when you add your curry ingredients plus the remaining coconut milk. It will also turn a stronger red color once it is cooked.

    Blend red Thai curry
    ​The Spruce / Cara Cormack
  4. Use immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week. The paste can also be frozen for up to six months.

    Thai red curry paste
    ​The Spruce / Cara Cormack

Tips

  • Use canned coconut milk, not the kind you find in the refrigerated section meant for cereal and coffee. Reserve the remaining coconut milk for cooking the curry.
  • If you prefer a curry sauce rather than a paste, add up to 1 can coconut milk and process in the food processor.
  • Since you can't always find Thai chili powder, feel free to use the chili powder from your local supermarket. Although Mexican in origin, it works wonderfully well for this and other Thai recipes, as the chiles are roasted first before being blended into a powder. If using Thai or Asian chili powder, be sure to reduce the amount to a teaspoon or two rather than tablespoons, or it will be far too spicy.

How to Use

  • To use immediately, fry the paste in a little oil to release the fragrance, about 1 minute. Add your choice of meat, tofu, wheat gluten, and/or vegetables.
  • Add enough coconut milk to reach the desired consistency. Simmer until the vegetables are cooked through. Serve with steamed rice.
  • When adding ingredients, these vegetables work well with red curry: tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, snow peas, cauliflower, and spinach.
  • When roasting a chicken or chicken pieces, rub some red curry paste under the skin.
  • Mix some red curry paste with mayonnaise for a tasty spread for burgers, sandwiches, or fish tacos.
  • Add some curry paste to your favorite meatloaf mixture.

How to Store and Freeze

  • If you have leftover homemade curry paste, refrigerate it in an airtight container for up to one week.
  • Freeze the curry paste in ice cube trays and then transfer the cubes to zip-close bags. Freeze for up to six months.

Can I use curry powder instead of red curry paste?

While curry powder and paste have many of the same flavorings, they do not produce the same results. When making a Thai red curry, fresh curry paste can't be beat for its strong, bright flavor. Store-bought curry paste is next best, followed by red curry powder. Red curry powder can be greatly improved by adding a few fresh ingredients, like garlic, ginger, and lemongrass. Other types of curry powder (like Thai yellow or Indian curry powder) will have very different ingredients and won't have the same taste as red curry paste.