Thai Massaman Curry Paste

Massaman curry
Peter Stuckings/Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images
  • 15 mins
  • Prep: 15 mins,
  • Cook: 0 mins
  • Yield: Approx. 1 cup
Ratings (21)

Massaman curry hails from the south of Thailand and is different from other Thai curries--you can easily detect an Indian influence, notably in the addition of Indian spices such as cardamom, cloves and nutmeg. At the same time, Massaman is also distinctly Thai and has been a traditional part of the cuisine for hundreds of years.

Use this warm and flavorful curry paste to create a wonderful chicken, beef or lamb Massaman curry - or even a delightful vegetarian curry by adding wheat gluten or tofu plus lots of vegetables. You can cook with it immediately or store in the refrigerator or freezer for later use.

This recipe calls for palm sugar, which is derived from the sap of the sugar palm tree. Similar to maple syrup, the sap is boiled down to create either rock-like chunks or a paste. You can find palm sugar in Asian markets and health food stores, but feel free to substitute brown sugar.

What You'll Need

  • 1/4 cup dry roasted peanuts, unsalted
  • 2 shallots, sliced
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 to 2 red chilies, or 1/2 to 1 tsp. dried crushed chili
  • 1 thumb-size piece galangal (or ginger), thinly sliced
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, minced, or 2 to 3 tbsp. frozen or bottled prepared lemongrass
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/2 tbsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. whole cumin seeds
  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg, preferably freshly ground 
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cardamon
  • 2 tbsp. fish sauce
  • 1 tsp. shrimp paste
  • 1 tsp. palm sugar or brown sugar
  • 1 to 3 tbsp. coconut milk, depending on how thick you prefer your paste (save remainder for when cooking your curry), or up to 1 can if making a sauce

How to Make It

  1. Place all paste ingredients in a food processor (or blender) and process well. To make a sauce rather than a paste, add up to 1 can coconut milk.

To Use Immediately

Place paste in a casserole or baking dish with your choice of chicken, beef, lamb, tofu/wheat gluten plus vegetables. Add 2 to 3 whole bay leaves if you have them (this is a common ingredient in Massaman curries). Stir well to combine, and cover and bake in the oven at 350 F, or simmer in a wok, until finished.

Garnish your Massaman curry with whole roasted peanuts and fresh coriander. Lime wedges can also be served if your curry is on the salty side. For a complete recipe, see Thai Massaman Curry.

To Store

Curry paste can be stored in a jar or other covered container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks; freeze thereafter. When ready to use, add coconut milk to make a sauce, then add your curry ingredients.