Thai Red Curry Paste

Thai Red Curry Paste
Thai Red Curry Paste - Homemade is Best!. D.Schmidt for About.com
  • 20 mins
  • Prep: 20 mins,
  • Cook: 0 mins
  • Yield: 1 Cup (4 portions)
Ratings (72)

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 curries, and they're much 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 paste to flavor Thai soups, noodles or other dishes. 

What You'll Need

  • 1 shallot (or 1/4 cup chopped purple onion)
  • 1 stalk fresh lemongrass (minced, or 3 tbsp. frozen prepared lemongrass; available at Asian stores)
  • 1 to 2 red chilies (or 1/2 to 1 tsp. cayenne pepper, or 2 to 3 tsp. Thai chili sauce)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 thumb-size piece galangal (or ginger, sliced)
  • 2 T​bsp. tomato ketchup (or good-tasting tomato puree)
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 3/4​ tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/4​ tsp. ground white pepper (available in most spice aisles)
  • 2 T​bsp. fish sauce (or for vegetarians 2 Tbsp. soy sauce, plus salt to taste)
  • 1 tsp. shrimp paste (or for vegetarians 1 Tbsp. Thai golden mountain sauce, both available at Asian stores)
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 1/2 to 2 Tbsp. chili powder (from the spice aisle, depending on how spicy you want it)
  • 1 to 3 Tbsp. thick coconut milk (depending how thick you want the paste; reserve remaining for cooking the curry)
  • 2 T​bsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
  • Optional: 1/4 tsp. cinnamon (or add 1 cinnamon stick to your curry pot)

How to Make It

  1. Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and process well to create a fragrant Thai red curry paste.
  2. 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. Also, it will turn a stronger red color once it is cooked, bringing out the red chili color.
  1. If you prefer a curry sauce rather than a paste, add up to 1 can coconut milk and process.

To Use Immediately

If ready to use the paste, you can cook this simple curry recipe. Or, if using chicken, try Easy Thai Red Curry Chicken.

  1. Fry the paste in a little oil to release the fragrance, about 1 minute. Add your choice of meat, tofu, wheat gluten or vegetables. Add remaining can of coconut milk to create the curry sauce. (If more sauce is desired, add some good-quality chicken or vegetable stock.) Some vegetables that work well with red curry include tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, snow peas, cauliflower and spinach.
  2. If using fresh lemongrass, add leftover pieces of lemongrass (upper part of the stalk) to the curry as you cook it - this will add more flavor. You can also add a cinnamon stick and 2 to 3 whole kaffir lime leaves or substitute 1 to 2 bay leaves.
  3. Before serving, always do a taste test. If not salty or flavorful enough, add more fish sauce or salt. If too salty, add another squeeze of lime juice. If too sour, add a little more sugar. If too spicy, add more coconut milk. If you've run out of coconut milk, add a little yogurt, sour cream or cream.
  4. Before serving, sprinkle over a handful of fresh coriander (cilantro) and basil. 

To Store Paste

Place in an airtight jar or tightly covered container in the refrigerator for up to 1 1/2 weeks; freeze thereafter.

About Chili Powder

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 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.