Do you like red curry flavors? I recently made Penang Beef Curry, a Thai dish that calls for boneless beef short ribs simmered in coconut milk and red curry paste. If you haven’t tried making homemade curry paste, I highly recommend giving it a go as the flavor of homemade curry paste is worlds apart from the bottled paste you find at the supermarket.

About Red Curry Paste

This is a picture of red chili peppers in a mortar and pestle.

Red chilies form the foundation of red curry paste.

Red curry paste may seem exotic, but this staple in Thai and Asian cooking is actually quite simple:

  1. Toast a few spices on the stovetop.
  2. Seed and soak dried chilies.
  3. Mix all the listed ingredients in a food processor or high-speed blender (like a Vitamix) to form a thick paste. Since a Vitamix will do the job so much faster and easier than the traditional method of grinding the spices using a mortar & pestle, this is my preferred method of preparing the curry paste.

You will only need a few tablespoons of red curry for most recipes, so I take the remaining paste and portion it out in an ice cube tray, freeze it and then un-mold the cubes into a Ziploc bag for use in other recipes.

Thai Red Curry Paste Recipe

This is a photo of red Thai chili peppers

Thai peppers are important for a delicious red curry paste!

Here’s a fantastic red curry paste recipe from Temple of Thai:

Dried Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds – roasted until brown
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds – roasted until brown
  • 3 pieces of mace – roasted until brown
  • 3 long mild green chili peppers, roasted until brown
  • 2 cardamom pods – roasted until brown
  • 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 12 big, red, dried chilies – seeds removed and soaked in water for at least 10 minutes and then finely chopped

Fresh Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons (10g) galangal root – skin removed, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons (10g) lemongrass – lower 1/3 only, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon (5g) kaffir lime peel – chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon (10g) coriander root – chopped
  • 3 Tablespoons (15g) shallots – chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons (10g) garlic – crushed
  • 1 teaspoon (5g) shrimp paste


Put the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, mace, long green peppers, cardamom pods and black peppercorns into a mortar and grind them into a powder using a pestle. Then add the rest of the ingredients and pound using a pestle for about 10 minutes until the paste is smooth. Or all the ingredients for the paste can also be put into a blender or food processor and liquidized. If the paste is too dry to liquidize then you may need to add a bit of water.

This recipe will make about 4-5 tablespoons (100-130g) of curry paste.

Chef’s Notes:

  1. You may not find galangal root at your local market, although it is more common at ethnic Asian markets. I used regular fresh ginger instead, which is a good substitute and will be close enough in taste for this recipe.
  2. Fresh lemongrass stalks are best and can be found easily in many supermarkets. You could also purchase lemongrass paste.
  3. Coriander root is another name for fresh cilantro. This is a good recipe to use the stems.
  4. As Wikipedia explains, “Cardamom has a strong, unique taste, with an intensely aromatic, resinous fragrance. Black cardamom has a distinctly more smokey, though not bitter, aroma, with a coolness some consider similar to mint. Green cardamom is one of the most expensive spices by weight, but little is needed to impart flavor. It is best stored in pod form because once the seeds are exposed or ground, they quickly lose their flavor. Grinding the pods and seeds together lowers both the quality and the price. For recipes requiring whole cardamom pods, a generally accepted equivalent is 10 pods equals 1½ teaspoons of ground cardamom. In Asia both types of cardamom are widely used in both sweet and savory dishes, particularly in the south. Both are frequent components in spice mixes, such as Indian and Nepali masalas and Thai curry pastes. Green cardamom is often used in traditional Indian sweets and in masala chai (spiced tea). Both are also often used as a garnish in basmati rice and other dishes.”
  5. Dried kaffir lime leaves can be found at an ethnic Asian market. Grated lime peel (from one fresh lime) is a fine substitute, too.
  6. If this is your first time using ‘shrimp paste,’ be aware that it will keep for many months in your refrigerator, so rest assured there will be other occasions to use this condiment. It is definitely an acquired taste; the distinctive flavor will give an authentic taste to your dishes.

Download and print the recipe here.

What’s your favorite type of Asian food? What recipes that call for red curry paste do you plan to try?

Mary Hathaway, Owner of Dinner Diva, has been a personal chef since 2002. She cooks regularly for clients who have special dietary needs, value healthy cooking by using organic products where possible and those who want healthy family meals but have no time to cook. Whether it’s a dinner for 4, a holiday party for 20, or a set of meals for the week, all of the recipes are customized to her client’s needs or lifestyle. Go to: for more info.

Photo Credit: heymrleejhathaway_m