Homemade Thai Red Curry Paste

Thai curry recipe

​The Spruce / Cara Cormack

  • Total: 20 mins
  • Prep: 20 mins
  • Cook: 0 mins
  • Servings: 4 servings

This Thai red curry paste is easy 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 chili or chili sauce. If you're vegetarian or vegan, use soy sauce instead of fish sauce and golden mountain sauce in place of the shrimp paste.

1:21

Click Play to See This Recipe Come Together

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 tablespoon fish sauce (or 2 tablespoons soy sauce, plus salt to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice (freshly squeezed)
  • 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons chili powder (Latin, 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 ground white pepper
  • Optional: 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 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 1 week. The paste can also be frozen for up to 6 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 chilies 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, spinach

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.