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+ servings
red curry paste in a small mason jar
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5 from 1 vote

Thai Red Curry Paste

Thai red curry paste is a spicy, fragrant curry paste that includes dried red chilis, aromatics like lemongrass, galangal, and makrut lime peel. This is one of the easiest Thai Curry Paste varieties to make from scratch.
This makes about 1 cup of curry paste.
Want to adjust the servings in this recipe to make more or less? Just click on the number next to “servings” and you can easily scale the recipe.
Prep Time20 mins
Total Time20 mins
Course: Main Dish
Cuisine: Thai
Keyword: thai curry paste
Servings: 20
Calories: 6kcal
Author: Jess Smith via Inquiring Chef
Cost: $3.00


  • High Powered Blender or Food Processor


  • 8 large Dried Red Chili Peppers (preferably New Mexico or California dried peppers)
  • 1 teaspoon Shrimp Paste (see note)
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • ½ teaspoon White Peppercorns (sub pre-ground white pepper)
  • 2 tablespoon very thinly sliced Lemongrass
  • 1 tablespoon diced Galangal
  • ¼ cup Diced Shallots
  • 3 tablespoon thinly sliced Garlic
  • 1 teaspoon diced Cilantro Root (sub finely chopped cilantro stem if cilantro root is not available)


  • Use kitchen shears to chop chili peppers into large pieces (about 4 pieces per pepper). Shake the seeds out of the peppers (the more seeds you remove the less spicy the curry paste will be). Soak peppers in warm water for 10 minutes to soften.
  • While peppers soak, place shrimp paste on a small piece of foil and then fold the foil up to form a packet that completely encloses the shrimp paste.
  • Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Place shrimp paste packet onto heated skillet and toast for about 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until fragrant. Set aside.
  • Return to dried peppers and drain off as much water as possible.
  • If using white peppercorns, grind them to a fine powder in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. (You can skip this step if you are using pre-ground white pepper.)
  • If using a mortar and pestle:
    Combine soaked chili peppers and salt in a mortar and pestle and grind until smooth.
    Add lemongrass, galangal, shallots, garlic, and cilantro root. Grind again until smooth.
    Add shrimp paste and ground white peppercorn. Continue to grind / mix everything together until even.
    If using a blender or food processor:
    In a blender or food processor, combine soaked chili peppers, salt, ground white peppercorn, lemongrass, galangal, shallots, garlic, and cilantro root. Blend until the mixture forms a paste that still has a small amount of texture, pausing to scrape down the sides as needed. (Note: if the mixture does not blend easily, add water a bit at a time, as needed, to help it blend.)
  • Taste curry paste and season with some additional salt, if needed.
  • Curry paste can be stored in the refrigerator for about 1 week or frozen for up to a year.


Shrimp paste (typically labeled as “kapi” or “gapi”) can be found at an Asian / international grocery store. It is most often sold in a jar with a good amount of oil. It can sometimes be found in firm blocks that might need to be slightly hydrated before using. Jarred or tinned anchovies are the Western equivalent and could be used as a substitute to give the curry paste the same rich, seafood, umami flavors. To make Thai curries, the shrimp paste is always roasted before cooking to release its flavor. For simplicity, we wrap the paste in foil and just toast it in a skillet before using it. 
Want to make a vegan or vegetarian curry? Just skip the shrimp paste. 


Calories: 6kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 3mg | Sodium: 126mg | Potassium: 18mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 53IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 4mg | Iron: 1mg