Thai Red Curry Paste

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

It’s most authentic to prepare curry pastes with a mortar and pestle. Don’t be deterred. This pungent, aromatic curry paste can also be prepared in a mini–food processor. The result will be a smoother paste, but the flavors won’t suffer in the least. Use as a seasoning for any Thai curry using beef, pork, dark-meat chicken, or lamb.

NotesTips for Using Curry Sauces:

• Sauté meats (like cut-up chicken parts, beef, lamb, goat, or pork cut into 1-inch pieces) in a light-flavored oil over medium-high heat until well browned, then reduce the heat to medium-low and add the curry sauce. Simmer until the meat is tender.

• Pork, dark-meat chicken, lamb or goat shoulder, or shin meat works best for Caribbean-style curries, because the longer it takes to cook, the more flavorful the stew.

• Light-meat chicken, seafood, or pork tenderloin works best in Thai curries, because the sauce is already flavorful and doesn’t need to cook for very long.

• Lean meats, such as boneless chicken breast, pork tenderloin, pork loin, or beef sirloin (which I don’t recommend) require little simmering; remove the meat after browning, then add the sauce. Simmer the sauce for a few minutes, then add the meat and cook briefly to avoid overcooking.


Total Timeunder 30 minutes

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, lactose-free, soy free, tree nut free

Equipmentfood processor, mortar and pestle


Taste and Texturegarlicky, herby, hot & spicy, savory, spiced, tangy, umami

Type of DishCondiments, sauces


  • 20 small dried red hot chiles, seeded and chopped
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, tender inner bulb from the bottom 5 inches, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro (leaves, stems, and roots, if attached)
  • One 2-inch piece fresh galangal or ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 tablespoon shrimp paste
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves, finely chopped
  • Zest of 1 lime, removed in strips with a peeler
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  • 2 tablespoons peanut or other mild-flavored vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons water


  1. In a mortar using a pestle or in a food processor, combine all the ingredients except the oil and water and pound or process until coarsely pureed. Add the oil and pound or process until a fairly smooth paste forms. Add the water 1 tablespoon at a time if the paste is too dry to process. Will keep, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

2005 Grace Parisi


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