This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy.
This easy Thai Red Curry Paste recipe takes only 10 minutes to make and is made with easy to find ingredients. It is SO MUCH better than store-bought Thai curry paste!
You guys! We're doing something super exciting/ kinda scary/ totally awesome here today. We are making our very own Thai Red Curry Paste. Oh ya, we are!
The good news –> Thai red curry paste is super easy to make and delicious.
The bad news –> There is none. Zip. Zero. This is a 100% good news party.
Here's your Thai red curry paste game plan:
- Put the easy to find in a regular grocery store ingredients into your food processor.
- Pluse, scrape the edges, and keep on pulsing till you make a paste.
- That's it!
Do you see how easy that was? Nothing to be intimidated by here, my friend.
I've been wanting to share this recipe with you for a while. There are a few Thai inspired recipes here on TEM and I always beg you to please use → this ← brand but definitely NOT → that ← brand. The problem is, “that” brand is the only one that is usually available in regular grocery stores. It's super spicy and totally flavorless and will ruin any Thai curry recipe.
I didn't want you to miss out on delicious Thai curries just because your store doesn't carry the good pastes. I've made this recipe using ingredients that can be found easily in any grocery store.
We need to do some red Thai curry paste ingredient debunking here. There is tons of information online about how to make curry paste and some of it is just plain ridiculous. There, I said it.
Seriously, some people are such sticklers that it drives me crazy! I know I'm going to offend some Thai curry snobs here, and I'm ok with that.
This curry paste is made with ingredients that are common in North American grocery stores. Because of that, we think of it as a Thai-inspired recipe. It will let you make Thai red curry paste without having to fly all the way to Thailand just to source the ingredients.
Debunking the myths about Thai red curry paste:
Myth #1 – You must use galangal.
If galangal is available and easy to find where you live, use it. If it's not, use ginger and don't worry about it. Galangal and ginger aren't exact matches – galangal is like a slightly spearmint-y cousin of ginger – but ginger can definitely take its place. I've experimented with both and the results are very similar.
Myth #2 – You must use kaffir lime.
Nope! Kaffir limes, with all of their warty-looking skin, do have a distinct flavor, but they're not THAT different. It would be like someone telling you not to make a recipe that called for a squeeze of lime juice because you only had a key lime on your counter. If your grocery store sells kaffir limes, go ahead and use them. If not, use the zest from a regular lime.
Myth #3 – You have to have fresh lemongrass.
Nope, you sure don't. You'll see fresh lemongrass in the pictures, but you can use lemongrass paste that you find in tubes in the chilled produce section. Here's one truth, though … you cannot use lemon as a substitute for lemongrass. Two totally different tastes.
Myth #4 – You must use shallots.
Who comes up with these hard and fast rules, anyway? Shallots are nothing but small, mild-flavored onions. So, if you can't find them, substitute onion. Look for white onion, red onion, or yellow onion, in that order of preference. If you are substituting onion, just use a little less.
Myth #4 – You must use a mortar and pestle.
If you've got all day to pretend you're a Thai grandmother then go for it. If you don't feel like smashing these spices until your arm threatens to fall off, feel free to use your food processor.
Myth #5: You must add fish paste.
Again, not 100% true. If you're vegan, vegetarian, or your grocery store doesn't carry it, you can always leave it out. I've left it out of this recipe and it is still super delicious. Truth: as pungent as fish paste smells, it does taste delicious when you add it to your curry. Fish sauce is usually much easier to find and can be added to your pot of simmering curry as you're cooking. Or not … it's totally up to you.
Now can you promise me you'll head to your kitchen and whip up a batch of super easy to make Thai red curry paste? 🙂
Use this Thai red curry in one of these recipes
- 10-40 dried red chili peppers (see notes)
- 1 ½ cups chopped shallots
- 2 4-inch pieces of ginger (peeled and chopped)
- 2 heads garlic (about 20 cloves) (skin/paper removed)
- ¼ cup chopped lemongrass (white parts only or lemongrass paste)
- ¼ cup cilantro stems
- ½ tablespoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- Zest from 1 lime
- Remove the stems from the chilis and remove the seeds and membranes from half. I find this is easiest to do under running water but be careful as it might cause you to start coughing. Soak the chilis in hot tap water.10-40 dried red chili peppers
- Place all the ingredients in your food processor and pulse to combine. Scrape the sides of the food processor and then keep on pulsing/ scraping until a paste forms.1 ½ cups chopped shallots, 2 4-inch pieces of ginger, 2 heads garlic (about 20 cloves), ¼ cup chopped lemongrass, ¼ cup cilantro stems, ½ tablespoon sea salt, 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns, Zest from 1 lime
- Store in your fridge for up to 1 week.
20 chilis = medium
30 chilis = hot
40 chilis = very hot I like 30 chilis, with half the seeds and membranes removed. Remember, the red color comes from the chilis. If you use fewer chili peppers the color of your curry paste will be different than what is shown in the pictures.
We have thoroughly tested this recipe for accuracy. However, individual results may vary. See our full recipe disclosure here.