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Thai Massaman Curry over rice in a blue bowl
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3.67 from 3 votes

Thai Massaman Curry Paste

Thai Massaman Curry Paste is a mild, flavorful curry paste that combines classic Thai flavors like dried chili peppers, lemongrass, and galangal with sweeter dried spices like cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom.
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: DIY Thai, Thai curry, thai curry paste
Servings: 20
Calories: 8kcal
Author: Jess Smith via Inquiring Chef
Cost: $4.00


  • Skillet
  • High Powered Blender or Food Processor
  • Mortar and Pestle or Spice Grinder


  • 8 large Dried Red Chili Peppers (preferably New Mexico or California dried peppers)
  • 1 tsp Shrimp Paste (see note)
  • 2 tsp Coriander Seeds
  • 1 tsp Cumin Seeds
  • ½ tsp White Peppercorns
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 2 Tbsp very thinly sliced Lemongrass
  • 1 Tbsp diced Galangal
  • ¼ cup diced Shallots
  • 3 Tbsp thinly sliced Garlic
  • 1 tsp diced Cilantro Root (sub finely chopped cilantro stem if cilantro root is not available)
  • 1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
  • ½ tsp Ground Cloves
  • ½ tsp Ground Cardamom


  • 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 skillet to medium-high heat and add coriander seeds, cumin seeds, and white peppercorns. Toast spices, stirring constantly, until fragrant, 4 to 5 minutes.
  • Grind coriander seeds, cumin seeds, and white peppercorn using a mortar and pestle or spice grinder until they form a fine powder. Set ground spices aside. (Note: if you don’t have a mortar and pestle or a dedicated spice grinder, you can also pulse the dried spices in the blender or food processor, but it may take up to 10 minutes of blending / pulsing until a fine powder forms.)
  • Return to dried peppers and drain off as much water as possible.
  • 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 dried spices. Continue to grind / mix everything together until even.
    If using a blender or food processor:
    In a blender or food processor, combine chili peppers, lemongrass, galangal, shallots, garlic, cilantro root, and shrimp paste. 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.)
    Add dried spices and salt and blend just until the spices are fully mixed in.
  • 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: 8kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 3mg | Sodium: 126mg | Potassium: 25mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 53IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 7mg | Iron: 1mg