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5 from 7 votes

How to Make Vegetarian Nam Prik Pao (Thai Chili Paste)

A vegetarian version of the flavorful, spicy, sweet Thai Chili Paste called Nam Prik Pao. Makes an amazing stir-fry, but is great for dipping vegetables and crackers as well.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time40 mins
Total Time50 mins
Course: Condiment
Cuisine: Thai
Servings: 3 cups
Calories: 106kcal
Author: Jess Smith via Inquiring Chef


  • 20 dried New Mexico Chilis (see note)
  • 14 small / 4 oz / 113 g Shallots, peeled
  • 20 cloves / 2 oz / 57 g Garlic, peeled
  • 10 / 2 oz / 57 g dried Shiitake Mushrooms
  • 6 Tbsp Tamarind Paste (click here for everything you need to know about this)
  • 4 Tbsp / 1.8 oz / 50 g Brown Sugar (use the same weight of palm sugar if you can find it)
  • 4 Tbsp Soy Sauce (sub fish sauce if you eat fish; sub Tamari if gluten-free)
  • 1/2 cup Water, plus more if needed
  • 4 Tbsp Oil (any neutral-tasting oil will work)


  • Preheat oven to 400 F / 204 C degrees. Set a cooling rack over a baking sheet. (You can roast the ingredients on a greased baking sheet, but adding the cooling rack allows for air to circulate underneath and provides more even baking.)
  • Rinse the chilis under water to clean (no need to soak them). Use kitchen scissors to cut off and discard the stems. Shake out seeds to achieve your desired level of spice. (Note: If you leave all the seeds in, you will have a very spicy Nam Prik Pao, and if you remove nearly all the seeds it will barely be spicy at all. If you are hesitant about spice, remove as many seeds as you can the first time you make this. You can always set the seeds aside and add them back in during the final step.) Place the chilis on the prepared baking sheet.
  • Peel the shallots and garlic and place them on the baking sheet.
  • Place the baking sheet in the oven and roast until the chilis start to char and blacken in spots, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the chilis from the baking sheet and return the shallots and garlic to the oven. Continue roasting until tender and golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes more. (Note - keep a close eye on these as they roast and remove / turn them if they start to burn.)
  • While the shallots roast, rinse the dried shiitake mushrooms under tap water (no need to soak them).
  • In the bowl of a food processor combine the chilis, shallots, garlic, shiitakes, tamarind paste, brown sugar, soy sauce and water. Turn the machine on and blend until smooth, adding additional water to create a thick paste. Taste the paste and add additional sugar or soy sauce, if needed to reach your desired balance of sweet / salty.
  • Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add oil and then chili paste and cook, stirring frequently, until the paste becomes fragrant and turns dark, 6 to 8 minutes. Taste one last time and adjust, to taste. If you reserved some of the chili seeds, you can add them back in to increase the spice level.
  • Transfer to containers and refrigerate. Store in the refrigerator for up to 6 weeks.


Dried New Mexico Chilis are widely available in the United States and work great in this dish. They are usually about 6 inches / 15 cm in length and have a deep red color. You can certainly use any other dried chili, including dried Thai Chilis to make this, but make sure that they are large chilis of the dimensions above (not the small, super spicy Thai chilis often called "Bird's Eye chilis").


Calories: 106kcal | Carbohydrates: 11g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Sodium: 368mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 4g