Making authentic Thai Red Curry Paste from scratch is fast, easy, and can be made in under 30 minutes. Use a food processor, or for a more authentic approach try a mortar and pestle-both yield incredible flavors and aromas that will give your Thai dishes delicious flavor. Vegan-adaptable!
For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.
Trust me when I say making your own curry paste at home will change the way you experience Thai cuisine. It is worth the trip to the Asian market to get Thai ingredients to make an authentic red curry paste. Look for fresh or frozen ingredients for making the most authentic Thai curry paste.
Making your own Thai curry paste may sound intimidating, but truly, it’s not. It’s just a matter of finding the right ingredients and then putting them together. The paste lasts up to 10 days in the fridge and freezes for up to 3-4 months.
Ingredients in Red Curry Paste
- Dried Thai chiles or chile de Arbol or birds eye chili (see notes for fresh or frozen, or for making it extra bright red)
- coriander seeds
- cumin seeds
- white peppercorn- or sub-black peppercorn
- Lemongrass – read more about Lemongrass and how to use it in Thai cuisine.
- Galangal– Use fresh or frozen galangal- never use dried or powdered galangal. Also, do not substitute ginger for galangal. Read more about Galangal in Thai cooking here.
- Kaffir or Key lime zest- If you are unable to find fresh kaffir or key limes, use organic lime zest plus 2-3 Kaffir lime leaves. Read more about Kaffir limes and leaves and substitute.
- Cilantro roots or stems- Cilantro roots are rare in the US, but you may have some luck at your local farmer’s market. The next best option is the stems, use the largest and lowest part of the stems you can find.
- Shrimp paste. Shrimp Paste will elevate your red curry paste with the umami and authentic taste of curry pastes you’ll find in Thailand.
How to Make Thai Red Curry Paste
There are two ways to make Thai red curry paste and we will show you both ways!
- Use a food processor. Prepare all the ingredients then all you have to do is put everything together and blitz away until you have a smooth curry paste.
- Use Mortar and pestle. A traditional method is to pound the ingredients together in a mortar and pestle allowing the slow release of the oils from the herbs and spices, creating a very fragrant paste.
Let’s get started!
Using a Food Processor
Soak the dried red Thai chilis in water until soft. Drain, pat dry then cut chop into small pieces.
Toast the 3 spices, coriander, cumin and whole white peppercorn until fragrant. Let cool then grind into powder form.
Put everything into a small food processor, add a little water, and pulse until smooth paste forms. Done!
TIP: To make the paste extra bright red, without adding any more heat, add a little red bell pepper or Guajillo chilis.
Using a Mortar and Pestle
Using the mortar and pestle to pound the curry paste ingredients will intensify the flavors of your paste. The oils released from the pounding give your curry paste a more traditional taste and aroma you’ll find in many Thai kitchens.
Soak the dried red chilis in water until soft. Drain, pat dry then cut chop into small pieces. See the photo above.
Toast the 3 spices, coriander, cumin and whole white peppercorn until fragrant. Let cool then grind into powder. See the photo above.
Pound the chilis and salt together until smooth.
Add lemongrass and galangal, pound to paste.
Add garlic, shallot, and cilantro stems, and more pounding to paste. At this point, the paste is starting to get thick and the mortar getting more full. You can pound one ingredient at a time to help with the ease of pounding. It’s an arm workout for sure!
Add the ground-up spices and kaffir lime zest. Mix everything together until all the large chunks are small.
Add the shrimp paste last and mix it in really well with the paste. DONE! You did it!
- Adjust the number of chilis to fit your spice level. The more you use, the spicier your curry paste will be.
- Always remove the seeds from your dried chilis. The spices are stored in the seeds. Use kitchen gloves to protect your skin!
- You can use Thai long dried chilis, bird’s eye chilis, (VERY spicy!), or chili de arbol.
- For the red color, you can add 1-2 mild long chilis like California or Guajillo chilis. De-seed, soak, and chopped small before pounding.
- Pounds no more than 3 ingredients at a time to ensure your ingredients are well pounded before adding more ingredients.
- After pounding the chilis and salt together first, pound the fibrous ingredients first before adding the softer ones. Check out the steps below for how I would pound my chili paste in order of ingredients.
Can Thai Red Curry Paste be Made Vegan?
Yes. Red curry paste can absolutely be made vegan. Just omit the shrimp paste. Use vegan fish sauce, miso paste or vegemite instead of shrimp paste. Vegemite is a very popular vegan Australian paste.
Ways to Use Red Curry Paste
- Use in Thai curries with coconut milk
- Use in soups and stews
- Add to marinades
- Add to salad dressings!
- Mix with mayo for a tasty spread for sandwiches and wraps
I hope you enjoy this recipe! I truly love sharing what I know about making tasty Thai food and bringing a little bit of my Thai culture to your kitchen. Food is a such huge part of the Thai culture and we truly believe that sharing and eating food with others just makes life so much better. I hope this recipe brings great delight to your heart and home!
More Thai Recipes you May Enjoy
- Green curry paste
- Green curry noodle soup
- 20 easy Thai recipes
- Instant pot Thai curry chicken
- 30-minute Thai green curry
- Thai fish curry