This easy Thai red curry paste recipe is everything you need for homemade curry in a hurry. Ready in minutes. Also great for adding zing to soups, stews and more.
We're making Thai red curry paste in the Chili Pepper Madness kitchen today, my friends, and smells wonderful in here. If you're a spicy food lover, you most likely love curry.
Curry is so often filled with so many wonderful ingredients and flavors, and it is often nice and spicy.
There are so many different ways to make curry, from red curry to yellow curry and green curry, not to mention different curries from around the world, particularly Indian and Thai curry.
While there are many components that go into a great curry, at a minimum you need a flavorful curry powder or a curry paste, which is what we're making today.
You can buy red curry paste from the grocery store, but homemade red curry paste is so much better than any store bought version. It is fresh and huge on flavor, and you can control what goes into it to fit your own palate preferences.
Curry paste is essential to Thai food and is the flavor for many different Thai recipes. So let's make our own!
This is definitely more of a Thai curry paste, though you can use it to make Indian-inspired curries and in other ways.
Let's talk about how to make Thai red curry paste, shall we?
Thai Red Curry Paste Ingredients
- Chili Peppers. Thai peppers are best, but you can use any to you choice – cayenne or red serrano are good substitutes. I prefer spicy peppers.
- Other Vegetables and Herbs. Shallot, garlic, galangal (ginger is an acceptable substitute), lemongrass, tomato paste, cilantro. I use many cloves of garlic for an extra garlic blast.
- Umami Elements. Fish sauce and shrimp paste.
- Seasonings. Chili powder, cumin, sugar, sea salt, black pepper, white pepper.
- Citrus. Lime juice is best, though lemon juice is good, too. Add some extra lime zest for more lime flavor.
How to Make Red Curry Paste - the Recipe Method
Process the Ingredients. First, add all of the ingredients to a blender or food processor. Be sure to use a large enough receptacle
Process until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. You may need to run it through the processor a few times.
Alternatively, you can grind down the solid ingredients and spices in a mortar and pestle, then slowly add in the liquid ingredients as you mix. Mix until a paste forms to your preferred consistency. This may take you quite a bit longer, but can be worth the effort.
Taste and Adjust. Taste and adjust to your personal tastes. Need more salt? More lime juice? A pinch of sugar? Adjust as needed.
Strain the Red Curry Paste. Strain out excess liquid for a thicker curry paste, if desired, or use as-is.
Boom! Easy enough, isn't it? Making Thai red curry paste is quick and easy, and now you're ready to make some spicy curry. Time to get cooking! Make some easy curry sauce!
This recipe makes you about 1 cup of finished red curry paste, unstrained. I usually don't strain it and use it as-is. You can see how thick mine turns out.
Recipe Tips & Notes
- Chili Peppers. The recipe calls for Thai chili peppers, though they may be difficult to find locally. If so, you have many other options. I used red serrano peppers that I grew in my garden this year, but you can also use cayenne peppers or red jalapeno peppers. Use any smaller red chili pepper to your heat level preference. You can use part of a sweet red bell pepper to make this as well, though it will make a no-heat version of the red curry paste.
- Dried Peppers. You can make red curry paste with dried red chilies as well. You can often find dried Thai peppers in Thai grocers, which are easier to ship and store. To make red curry paste with dried peppers, just rehydrate them in hot water until they are softened, then proceed with the recipe.
- Galangal. Use galangal for this recipe if you can find it, but if not, use fresh ginger. Galangal looks very much like ginger, though has a different flavor. Galangal is very citrusy, where ginger has a spicy pungency, with almost a sweet floral quality. Ginger is not meant to be a substitute for galangal, but it does help to round out the curry paste if you are unable to obtain galangal. Try making the recipe with both ginger and galangal to see how you like it.
- Other Ingredients. If you'd like an even stronger citrusy flavor, add lime juice or lime zest to the mix. Other popular ingredients include lime leaves, kaffir limes and cilantro. I've seen some curry pastes with soy sauce as an umami addition.
- Freezing Curry Paste. I like to make larger batches of red curry paste, then freeze it for using later on. It lasts much longer this way and does not lose quality or flavor. To freeze curry paste, spoon it into ice cube trays and freeze. Once frozen, remove the frozen cubes, transfer them to a freezer safe container or plastic bag, and seal. Keep frozen. When ready to use, grab one or two from the freezer and you're good to go. Use 1 cube as a tablespoon. I often use two or more for a great curry.
Cooking with Red Curry Paste
Red curry paste can be swirled into your simmering curry anytime to let the flavors bloom and develop. It works with any curry, from shrimp curry to chicken curry to sweet potato curry and more.
There are a couple of different ways to use red curry paste. One way is to add it to the pan after you've cooked down diced vegetables and proteins to let the curry paste coat everything. Fry it for about 1 minute in the pan to let the flavors bloom, then add liquids to form your curry sauce.
Or, simply swirl the curry paste into the curry once you've added your liquid. I mostly do this when cooking with coconut milk. Either way, let the red curry paste simmer in the pan or pot a good 20 minutes to 30 minutes to let the flavors develop a while for the best curry.
It's a huge flavor builder and key to many Thai dishes.
Try It With Some of These Curry Recipes
Aside from curries, you can also use red curry paste for making quick and easy stir fries, like chicken stir fry or shrimp stir fry. Swirl some into the pot to live up a soup or a stew. You really can use curry paste in so many ways.
Red Curry Paste Substitute
If you are unable to get all of the ingredients to make your own curry paste, you can use curry powder instead. Generally, use 1 teaspoon of curry powder for every tablespoon of curry paste in any given recipe. You can adjust to your flavor preferences from there.
That's it, my friends. I hope you enjoy my Thai red curry paste recipe. It's perfect for quick and easy weeknight meals of wonderful spicy curry to fill your belly. Let me know how you like it!
If you enjoy Thai cuisine, I recommend "Hot Thai Kitchen" cookbook by Pailin Chongchitnant. The subtitle of the cookbook is "Demystifying Thai Cuisine with Authentic Recipes to Make at Home". It is filled with great recipes and I have learned quite a bit about Thai ingredients and the structure of building Thai curries. Buy the Hot Thai Kitchen Cookbook today from Amazon (affiliate link, my friends!).
Try Some of My Other Popular Recipes
- Homemade Yellow Curry Paste
- Green Curry Paste
- Panang Curry Paste (Prik Gaeng Panang)
- Curry Pastes from Around the World
- Curry Hot Sauce
- Homemade Curry Powder
- Curry Recipes
- Nam Prik Pao (Thai Chili Paste)
- Thai Sweet Chili Sauce
Got any questions? Ask away! I’m happy to help. If you enjoy this recipe, I hope you’ll leave a comment with some STARS. Also, please share it on social media. Don’t forget to tag us at #ChiliPepperMadness. I’ll be sure to share! Thanks! — Mike H.
Homemade Red Curry Paste Recipe
- 4 small spicy red peppers. chopped Thai peppers are best, but you can use any to you choice – cayenne or red serrano are good substitutes
- 1 shallot chopped
- 4 cloves garlic chopped
- 1 tablespoon galangal chopped (or use ginger)
- 1 stalk lemongrass trimmed woody parts removed (or use 1 tablespoon lemongrass paste)
- 1 tablespoon fresh chopped cilantro
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon shrimp paste
- 1 tablespoon chili powder or more as desired for spicier
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon ground white pepper
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- Add all of the ingredients to a food processor or blender. Process until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed.
- Alternatively, you can grind down the solid ingredients and spices in a mortar and pestle, then slowly add in the liquid ingredients as you mix. Mix until a paste forms to your preferred consistency.
- Taste and adjust to your personal tastes. Need more salt? More lime juice? A pinch of sugar? Adjust as needed.
- Strain out excess liquid, if desired, or use as-is.
Heat Factor: Mild-Medium. You can easily up the heat level by using hotter chili peppers, or adding either spicy chili flakes or powders.