Homemade Thai Red Curry Paste

Thai curry recipe

​The Spruce / Cara Cormack

Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Total: 20 mins
Servings: 12 servings
Yield: 1 cup
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
31 Calories
1g Fat
6g Carbs
1g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 12
Amount per serving
Calories 31
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 1g 1%
Saturated Fat 1g 4%
Cholesterol 1mg 0%
Sodium 225mg 10%
Total Carbohydrate 6g 2%
Dietary Fiber 1g 3%
Total Sugars 2g
Protein 1g
Vitamin C 11mg 55%
Calcium 19mg 1%
Iron 1mg 6%
Potassium 137mg 3%
*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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Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup shallot or purple onion

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

  • 1 to 2 red chiles, or 1/2 to 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or 2 to 3 teaspoons Thai chile sauce

  • 4 cloves garlic

  • 1 ounce 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, depending on how thick you want the paste

  • 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 white pepper

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon or add 1 cinnamon stick to your curry pot

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

How to Store and Freeze

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

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.

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.