Green Curry Paste

February 21, 2014
0 Ratings
  • Makes About 2 1/2 cups (enough to fill one brimming ice cube tray with a bit left over)
Author Notes

When I first met my husband, I was pretty green when it came to Thai food. Growing up in a small town in the South doesn't exactly foster culinary exploration. But when you marry someone with a fondness for curries, especially "Thai spicy" curries, you adapt.
We used to buy those little containers of curry paste that you can get at most Asian supermarkets, but they lack the fresh, complex flavor that a good curry should have. So we struck out on our own.
As it turns out, an excellent curry paste is easy to make. The hardest part is tracking down the ingredients. You can find most of these ingredients at any Asian supermarket. For particularly hard to find ingredients, I've included a reasonable substitution. The shrimp paste is an important element in authentic Thai curry paste--in spite of its aggressive fishy smell (prepare yourself), it adds a subtle note of umami that isn't at all overpowering in the finished paste. We highly recommend it, although if you are vegan or vegetarian, feel free to leave it out.
We like to make large batches of curry paste, pack the paste into ice cube trays, freeze, and then store the frozen cubes in zipper-top bags for ease of use. It keeps very well this way, and because the ice cubes thaw quickly, you can just throw them into the pan frozen.
Green chiles vary quite a bit in spiciness. Nibble one before making this to see how hot your chiles are. If you like very spicy curries, you may choose to leave all the seeds in. If you only want a moderately spicy curry, remove the seeds from half the chiles. For a mild curry, remove all the seeds. —petitbleu

What You'll Need
  • 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon white peppercorns
  • 8 ounces green Thai chiles (or serranos), partially seeded (see headnote) and chopped
  • 4 to 5 large shallots (about 3/4 pound), peeled and chopped
  • 3 ounces coriander root (or one bunch of cilantro, both leaves and stems)
  • 1/4 cup peeled and chopped galangal root (alternatively, you may use fresh ginger)
  • 3 tablespoons peeled and chopped fresh turmeric root (do not substitute ground turmeric)
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, tender bottom part only, chopped
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves (or the zest of 3 limes), chopped
  • 2 heads garlic, cloves peeled
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon shrimp paste (optional)
  1. Important note: Do not handle Thai chiles or large quantities of any hot pepper without wearing gloves. Seeding Thai chiles is not for the faint of heart--they are tiny and incredibly hot. This is why we recommend serranos as an alternative.
  2. Combine the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, and white peppercorns In a small, dry skillet over medium heat. Toast until fragrant and the white peppercorns are beginning to get a little color, about 3 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  3. Combine the cooled, toasted spices along with the remaining ingredients in a blender or food processor. If using a blender, put the lighter ingredients, like cilantro, in first and the heavier ingredients on top. As you purée the ingredients, the shallots and garlic will release a lot of moisture, but the mixture will still be fairly dry. With this in mind, be sure to use your blender's tamper to help blend the ingredients evenly. If using a food processor, scrape down the bowl regularly to ensure a smooth paste.
  4. Blend until homogenous and fairly smooth. If desired, pack the paste into ice cube trays and freeze. Pop out the frozen cubes and store in a zipper-top bag. You may store some of the fresh paste in a container in the refrigerator, but be sure to use it within two weeks.
  5. When you use the curry paste, start with one frozen cube (or about 2 tablespoons fresh paste) for a curry that will generously feed two people. This will make a moderately spicy, deeply flavorful curry. If you like very spicy curries, you may want to use up to two frozen cubes (or about 1/4 cup fresh paste). Start small and work your way up. To get the best flavor from your homemade curry paste, fry it in a couple tablespoons of coconut milk before adding other ingredients.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Bryan Mays
    Bryan Mays
  • JBoyce
  • petitbleu
  • Alexis
A southern girl with a globetrotting palate, I work alongside my husband John Becker to update and maintain the Joy of Cooking cookbook, website, and app. I love to bake, ferment, and preserve, and I spend an inordinate amount of time perusing farmers markets and daydreaming about chickens and goats.

5 Reviews

Alexis January 14, 2015
I just made this curry paste over the weekend but haven't turned it into curry yet. The recipe mentions frying it in a few tablespoons of coconut milk but doesn't give any further instructions on how to prepare the curry from the paste. Any help? I can wing it, I've made curry before, but I'd like to know how you do it. :)
Bryan M. October 4, 2014
My concern with the shrimp paste is that my SO has a shellfish allergy.......would anchovy paste be a good substitute?
JBoyce October 4, 2014
See my comment below.
Like any recipe, this is just a "guideline".
Leavr out the shrimp paste-no Thais would notice; add the anchovy paste- most Thais would ask what is this strange taste?
Whatever works for you is what matters!
petitbleu November 25, 2014
You can definitely omit the shrimp paste. It won't make a huge difference. It's traditional, but your curry paste will still be delicious without it.
JBoyce October 1, 2014
I do think we tend to over-complicate what is a simple process.
Grind or "blend" any chiles with salt and you get a fine paste.
Given the preservative properties of both salt and capsaicin, the active ingredient in all peppers, that combo will last almost forever, especially if it is refrigerated.
I just made a "chile paste" with just chiles (a variety from my garden and my CSA), a few small sweet peppers to sweeten it a bit, big chunks of Vietnamese Purple garlic, some cilantro and coriander seed from the garden, cumin seed from the spice cupboard and the juice of one small lime. I was personally chagrined to discover that I did not have the ginger root in the fridge that I thought was there, but no matter.
I now have flexibility. I can then, in the cooking of any particular dish, add ginger root and lemongrass to use this in Asian dishes; or more cilantro and cumin, maybe some epazote, to make it "Latino". I can even through in some "garam masala" and create a passable Indian curry!