Thai Red Curry Paste: Recipe, Ingredients, Taste, Uses

Red curry paste is a quintessential part of several Thai dishes; a mixture of spices, herbs, and fish sauces used for flavoring. It’s something similar to chipotle paste. The most basic and simplest form of this curry paste consists of garlic, red chili peppers, lemongrass, shrimp paste, and sea salt.

This article explores the ingredients, recipe, flavor profile, and uses of this curry paste.

What is Thai Red Curry Paste?

The red Thai curry paste is a flavorful base used in several Thai dishes. This paste is traditionally made with mortar and pestle and remains moist throughout the process of preparation. The characteristic red color of this curry paste comes from dry red chilies such as prik chi fa or spur chili.

A traditional version of this blend meant for a dish may consist of up to 20 red chilies to give that red color and make it spicy. To reduce heat, some prefer to use fewer chilies and use a mixture of chili powder and tomato sauce for enhancing the color and deeper flavor.  Red curry paste (kreung gaeng phet daeng) is widely used in a range of dishes from soups to baked salmon. On the whole, red curry paste is more versatile and hotter than green curry paste.

What Is In It?

The main ingredients in a traditional Thai red curry paste usually include dried red chili peppers, garlic, galangal, shallots, makrut lime leaves, shrimp paste, coriander seeds, coriander roots, lemongrass, peppercorns, and salt. However, the ingredients in Thai curry paste vary from house to house as each family has a customized blend befitting to their taste preferences and type of dishes.

What Does Red Curry Paste Taste Like?

The red curry paste is rich and fiery for the chili peppers, but it won’t sear your mouth. The overall taste varies according to the ingredients used in it.  The taste of ginger (galangal) and garlic is dominant in this paste besides the heat of chilies. The aroma is exotically spicy and has the earthy smell of tomato. The spicy taste of this mixture springs from coriander, cumin, and peppercorns. Also, it has tangy acidic qualities resulting from makrut lime leaves and lemongrass but their tanginess is well balanced by salt.

Where To Buy And How To Store?

Conveniently, the red curry paste is a readily available spice mix to find at a typical American grocery. Usually, it comes packed in glass jars or cans of different measures and can be found in the Asian spice section. The top brands of curry paste available are Mae Ploy, Thai Kitchen, and Maesri. While buying, always look at the ingredient list and the type of preservatives used in it; avoid those containing food preservatives like potassium bromate, sodium nitrite, butylated hydroxyanisole, or their variations.

To store the red curry paste, transfer it to a clean screw-top jar, cover it with a layer of oil, and keep it in the fridge for up to 4 weeks. Freezing the curry paste in a sealable plastic bag can keep it fit for consumption for up to 3 months.

Homemade Thai Red Curry Paste Recipe

Thai red curry paste is easy to make and once you learn it you may never again buy packaged curry paste. The homemade curry paste gives you the freedom to decide the ratio of ingredients according to your recipe and use fresh ingredients that give maximum taste and aroma.

Most of the ingredients are adjustable and you may even use a substitute ingredient. Importantly, if you are vegan or vegetarian, you can use golden mountain sauce in place of shrimp paste or soy sauce as a swap for fish sauce.


  • 1 stalk of minced lemongrass or 3 tablespoons of lemongrass paste
  • 1 chopped shallot
  • 2 red chilies or 2 teaspoons of Thai chili sauce
  • 1 thumb-sized galangal (peeled and sliced)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons of chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons of coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon shrimp paste
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (optional)

Making Procedure

  • Place all the ingredients in a food grinder/processor and grind them into fine particles.
  • Add coconut milk to the mixture and blend the ingredients till they turn into a paste-like consistency. You can adjust the consistency or mellow the taste by adding more coconut milk to the paste.
  • Use the paste immediately after blending or store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator but it tastes best if used within a week.

How To Use Thai Red Curry Paste?

Frying the curry paste for a minute helps to release maximum fragrance and flavor. Fry the paste before adding it to vegetables, meat, tofu, noodles, soups, or other dishes.

If required, add a little more coconut milk to reach the desired consistency. Let the paste get simmered along with the vegetables or meat.

Red curry paste goes well with vegetables such as snow peas, cauliflower, eggplant, spinach, tomatoes, or zucchini to make a red curry.

For meat recipes, use this curry paste for marinating the meat; it goes the same with fish as well.

Use it as a tasty spread on sandwiches, bread toasts, burgers, or fish tacos by blending it with mayonnaise.

Lastly, red curry paste is a highly versatile ingredient that you can creatively try on several recipes of your choice.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, Thai red curry paste, a key component in Thai cuisine, is a spicy and flavorful mix traditionally made with dried red chilies, garlic, galangal, shallots, and other ingredients, offering a rich, fiery taste balanced with tangy and earthy notes.

Available in most grocery stores, it can be easily stored or made at home, allowing for customization of ingredients to suit personal tastes, including vegan alternatives.

This versatile paste enhances the flavor of a variety of dishes, from curries to marinades, and can be adjusted in intensity and consistency with coconut milk, making it a staple for those who enjoy vibrant and aromatic Thai cooking.

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