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How To Make Thai Red Curry Paste

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This homemade Thai red curry paste will get you amazing results!

I highly recommend making your own Thai red curry paste! There are some good red curry pastes available at supermarkets and online but you will notice the difference. This curry paste recipe can be used to make Thai red curry and used as a marinade. Really, the options are endless and the flavour is fantastic.

 

Thai red curry paste

You are going to love your next Thai red curry if you use this paste!

About Thai red curry paste…

Contrary to popular belief, red curry paste is not the hottest Thai curry paste. If you want the hottest curry out there, you’ll want to prepare this Thai green curry paste and use it in a green curry like this.

Red curries are still quite spicy though. You could follow this recipe exactly to try this recipe as I learned it or add more or fewer red chillies to taste.

Why pound your Thai red curry paste?

Many chefs believe that pounding the ingredients in a pestle and mortar will achieve the best flavour. I tend to agree. Pounding all those juices into a thick paste just plain gets it!

That said, I usually just blend the ingredients together. This can be done in about a minute instead of the 40 to 60 minutes it takes to pound the ingredients into a paste.

I do recommend trying both options though so you can see which your prefer.

Can this curry paste be frozen?

It sure can be! In fact Thai curry pastes freeze really well. When I take the time to blend up some curry pastes, I usually upscale the recipes. By doing this, you will have paste to use immediately and plenty that you can freeze for later.

Always defrost the curry pastes completely before using in your cooking.

This recipe makes a lot of paste. Is it all used in one curry?

Yes! There is a big difference between authentic Thai curry pastes and shop bought pastes.

You will notice that there are a lot of ingredients in this Thai red curry paste and they aren’t all spicy. These ingredients all bring more flavour to the curry and taste amazing together.

You would not want to add as much shop bought paste to a curry as you get from this recipe. Shop bought pastes tend to have a lot of salt in them and are usually heavy on chillies and low in the complimentary ingredients you get with this homemade red Thai paste.

Special ingredients for Thai red curry paste…

Following are a few ingredients you might not be familiar with;

  • Galangal: This is used a lot in Thai cooking. It looks a lot like ginger and many recipes call for ginger rather than galangal. The thing is, to make Thai pastes correctly, you need to use the mild, citrusy and piney flavoured galangal. If you must, you can substitute ginger as your paste will still taste good. But it won’t taste like a Thai red curry paste should. You can purchase galangal now at many supermarkets, online and at Thai shops.
  • Lime leaves: You will find kaffir lime leaves at many supermarkets, online and at Asian shops. They might also be labelled makrut lime leaves. These offer a delicious and subtle flavour of lime that’s not to be missed! The stems are woody, so cut them out before using in a paste or curry.
  • Shrimp paste: This ingredient can of course be left out for vegetarian curries. It offers a very strong, fishy flavour. On it’s own, it’s not very good but the magic happens when it is added to a paste like this Thai red curry paste. 
  • Dried red bird’s eye chillies: These play a big part in this curry paste recipe. Dried bird’s eye chillies are available at Asian shops and online. It’s best to soak them in water before blending or pounding to a paste. This rehydrates them and makes them easier to blend. 

Useful kitchen equipment…

You probably already have everything you need to start making this Thai yellow curry paste. Here are a few of the things I use in my kitchen regularly…

  • A good chef’s knife: There is a lot of slicing and chopping in the preparation of Thai dishes. One excellent quality knife is much better than a selection of useless knives. So find one you love using and that’s all you’ll need.
  • A heavy pestle and mortar: If you want to prepare your Thai yellow curry paste the traditional way, invest in a good pestle and mortar. Every paste needs to be made in a mortar at least once.
  • A good blender or food processor: This is how you will probably be preparing your Thai pastes most often. So having a good quality blender or food processor will come in handy.

Working ahead…

You can make this Thai red curry paste a couple of days before using it. Just place it covered in the fridge until ready to use. As mentioned above, the paste can also be frozen for later use.

 

Following are a few step by step photos for you…

Ingredients for Thai red curry paste.

It’s always a good idea to get all of your ingredients together before starting.

Making Thai red curry paste

Toast the whole spices until warm to the touch and fragrant but not yet smoking

Making thai red curry paste

Grind the whole spices in a pestle and mortar and then transfer to a bowl. Stir in the ground white pepper.

Pounding curry paste ingredients

Pound the ingredients into a paste. I usually add each ingredient separately.

Making Thai red curry paste

After 15 to 20 minutes, it should look like this.

Pounding curry paste

After 40 minutes it looks like this.

Thai red curry paste.

Add the spices and shrimp paste. The curry paste will darken when you do this.

Love Thai food? Try some of these delicious recipes!

Thai Green Curry
Thai Red Curry
Beef Massaman Curry
Chicken Satay and peanut sauce
Thai Drunken Noodles
Steamed Sea Bass with Garlic and Lime Sauce
Tom Yum Gai
Tom Kha Gai
Hot and Sour Prawn Soup

red curry paste

All ready!

Thai red curry paste

You will love having this on hand. One batch makes a curry for four people.

Yield: 1 cup

How To Make Thai Red Curry Paste

Thai Red curry paste
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 generous tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 generous tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1½ tsp white pepper
  • 12 cloves garlic – peeled and rougly chopped
  • 2 medium shallots – finely chopped
  • 1 thumb sized piece of galangal - thinly sliced
  • 2 fresh red chillies - thinly sliced
  • 1 stalk of lemongrass – tough outer part removed and thinly sliced
  • 12 red dry chillies soaked in water for 30 minutes and then cut into small pieces
  • 10 thick coriander stems – about 1 generous tablespoon
  • Zest of ½ lime
  • 1 tsp shrimp paste

Instructions

  1. Heat a frying pan over medium heat and toast the cumin and coriander seeds until fragrant and warm to the touch but not yet smoking. Transfer to a pestle and mortar to cool and then pound to a fine powder. Stir in the whit pepper. Pour into a bowl and set aside.
  2. Now place the rest of the ingredients up to and including the lime zest and pound for 15 to 20 minutes into a buttery paste. You could use a blender but the flavour won't be as intense.
  3. When you have a good paste, add the shrimp paste and ground spices and pound for another five minutes or so. This paste can be stored in the fridge for up to a week and it also freezes well.

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I hope you enjoy this authentic Thai red curry paste recipe. If you do try it, Please don’t be a stranger. Leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you. 

Sara Gaber

Thursday 13th of October 2022

For the galangal can I use dry or grounded ?

Dan Toombs

Friday 21st of October 2022

I have never used those but you could try if that is all you can get. You could also just use extra ginger instead as they have quite similar flavours. Thanks Dan

Staria

Wednesday 20th of April 2022

Hi Dan ,I'm about to make the curry paste ,any substitute for coriander stalks ?

Dan Toombs

Tuesday 26th of April 2022

Not really, just miss them out if you don't have any. Thanks Dan

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