Do you love the ever-popular Thai Tom Yum Soups? If so, you will love this authentic homemade Thai Tom Yum Paste recipe from scratch! All you need are the right ingredients, and you are on your way to making the most flavorful Thai paste!
When you are done making this easy paste from scratch, be sure to immediately use your paste to make delicious meals with some of the easy Tom Yum recipes.
You can make your own Nam Prik Pao, Thai roasted chili paste.
- What is Tom Yum Paste
- What is Tom Yum?
- Benefits of Making Your Own Paste
- Ingredients for Authentic Tom Yum Paste Recipe
- How to make authentic Tom Yum Paste
- Recipes with Tom Yum Paste
- Important Recipe Notes
- Variations on Tom Yam Thai Soup
- Helpful Kitchen Tools
- More homemade Thai pastes to try
- More Authentic Thai Recipes You'll Love
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Thai Tom Yum Paste Recipe
- Related Recipes
What is Tom Yum Paste
Thai Tom Yum paste is an aromatic paste typically used as a base for making Thai Tom Yum soups. The paste is made with aromatic Thai herbs, Thai spices, and tamarind and combined with sweet and sour seasonings to make a unique paste.
The paste contains ingredients like lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, chili peppers, and other seasonings that give it a tangy and spicy taste. A spoonful of this paste can add a burst of deliciousness to your cooking, whether you're making soup, stir-fries, or marinades.
What is Tom Yum?
Tom Yum is one of Thailand's pride and joy and arguably one of the best soups in the world! The sour, salty, lightly sweet, and tangy flavors are loaded into a herbaceous broth with highly aromatic and healing herbs and fragrant spices.
It is one of the classic recipes in Thai cuisine.
Benefits of Making Your Own Paste
- Fresh ingredients! You know what's in your paste! Use only fresh and natural ingredients to make a paste with minimal preservatives.
- Long-lasting. Tom Yum paste can be stored in the fridge for up to 7 days and in the freezer for up to 3 months.
- Highly fragranced from all the fresh herbs! The freshness, flavors, and fragrance are unmatched compared to the store-bought paste.
- There are two different methods of making this paste. It's a fast and easy recipe (using the food processor method). Or make a traditional version with even more zest to your paste!
- The perfect base for soups, stir-fries, and even as a dressing! Check below for delicious Tom Yum recipe ideas.
Ingredients for Authentic Tom Yum Paste Recipe
- Dried red chili peppers. Use Thai bird’s eye chilis, Piri Piri chilis, Thai long chilis (Prik Chee Fah), De Arbol, or dried Serrano chilis. Use as much or as little as your taste buds can handle the spiciness.
- Salt. Use to help break up the chilis into a paste. It also serves as a preservative to keep many Thai pastes in the fridge and freezer longer.
- Lemongrass. An important ingredient for making many Thai pastes, including this Tom Yum paste. Adds an aromatic citrus flavor to the paste.
- Galangal. Galangal is distinctive in flavors. Do not use fresh ginger as a substitute. They are not the same thing. Read this post about how to prepare galangal for cooking.
- Shallot. One of the main ingredients for making Tom Yum paste. Purple onion may be substituted if necessary. Read more about Thai herbs here.
- Garlic. Most Thai pastes have garlic. It's a must-have ingredient.
- Cilantro stems. Use fresh cilantro roots like the traditional Tom Yum Paste if available. Otherwise, use the largest lower parts of the cilantro stems as a substitute.
- Kaffir lime zest. From the kaffir lime peel. Substitute kaffir lime leaves with a ½ teaspoon of regular lime zest, as kaffir limes are extremely hard to find outside of Thailand.
- White peppercorn. Use whole peppercorns if possible. Toasting the seeds will help extra oils for added flavors and fragrance.
- Coriander seeds. Seeds are best because you can toast them first before grinding. Toasting the seeds helps add an extra layer of smokiness to the paste. Read more Thai spices here.
- Tamarind concentrate. If tamarind is unavailable, fresh lime juice has slightly less suggested amount of the tamarind paste.
- Shrimp paste. Do not skip the shrimp paste if you want the traditional authentic flavor. It adds the extra umami flavors that make the paste extra flavorful.
- Oil. Use avocado, vegetable, canola, grape seed, or coconut oil in the food processor to help turn the blades.
- Water. Use only the food processor to help turn the blades if the ingredients get too dry. Stock or coconut milk is not recommended as they will alter the flavors of the paste too much.
Check the recipe card at the bottom for specific measurements.
How to make authentic Tom Yum Paste
There are two methods to making the paste. The quick and easy version is in the food processor, and the more traditional method is pounding all the ingredients in a mortar and pestle.
Both methods are wonderful and yield great results.
1. Using a Food Processor (Easy Method!)
Step 1. Prepare the chilis. Remove the seeds using kitchen gloves. The heat from the seeds is potent and can burn your skin and cause discomfort for hours.
Soak the chilis in hot water for 10 minutes. 20 minutes in warm water. Or until the chilis are soft. Drain the water and pat dry the chilis.
Step 2. Toast the dry spices. Dry toasting the white peppercorns and coriander seeds. Once cooled, grind in a spice grinder into a powder form.
Step 3. Add all the ingredients into a food processor and blitz away until you get a fine paste. Pause a couple of times to scrape the edges of the food processor with a spatula.
Add more water as needed, but not too much.
Step 4. Remove and use immediately for cooking. Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week and 3 months in the freezer.
2. Using a Mortar and Pestle (Traditional Method)
Step 1. Prepare the chilis. Remove the seeds using kitchen gloves. Soak the chilis in hot water for 10 minutes or 20 minutes in warm water until the chilis are soft.
Using about one cup of warm water is all you need for soaking the chilis. Drain the water and pat dry the chilis.
Step 2. Toast the dry spices. On medium heat, dry toasting white peppercorn and coriander seeds until fragrant, 3-4 minutes.
Do not let the seeds get too browned, or they will release a bitter, unpleasant taste. Remove from the pan and let cool for 5 minutes.
Once cooled, grind in a spice grinder into powder form. Set aside until ready.
Step 3. Add the chilis and salt to a mortar and pound until a smooth paste forms. Be careful with the pepper pieces jumping at you, especially your eyes. See notes below for how to prevent this from happening.
Step 4. Add the lemongrass and galangal. These two ingredients are the toughest and most fibrous ones on the ingredient list. Pound these away until a smooth paste forms.
This step will be your hardest part about using the mortar and pestle.
The best part? It's downhill from here and goes by pretty quickly after these two.
Step 5. Add shallots and garlic. Pound away to a smooth paste. Are you getting your forearm workout yet? (;
Step 6. Add cilantro stems, kaffir zest or leaves, and the ground-up spices. Grind to paste.
Step 7. Add the tamarind paste and use the pestle to stir to blend the ingredients in the paste form together.
Step 8. And finally. The only thing left at this point is the shrimp paste! Add the shrimp paste last and grind together well with your pestle.
The shrimp paste is the softest ingredient on the list and should be the final item added to the mortar and pestle. It helps bind all the ingredients together into a smooth, soft paste.
That's it! You are done. Nice job!! (: You made a Homemade Tom Yum paste from scratch. Not so difficult, right? Now, let's make something delicious with this fragrant paste.
Recipes with Tom Yum Paste
- Tom Yum meatballs
- Tom yum broth using left-over turkey bones (or rotisserie chicken).
- Make roasted Kabocha squash seeds with Tom Yum paste.
- Tom Yum cocktail
- Tom Yum simple syrup
- Roasted Tom Yum mixed nuts
- Make Pad Tom Yum by adding the paste to your favorite stir-fry dish.
Important Recipe Notes
- Ground white peppercorn and coriander powder can be substituted for whole seeds. Use only half the powdered spices as specified in the recipe card. There's no need to toast the ground spices before making the paste.
- When using a mortar and pestle method, be careful that some hot ingredients might bounce out of the mortar. Use a kitchen towel to lightly wrap around the opening of the mortar for extra caution. Eyeglasses are helpful as a safety tool, too. (:
- Fresh red chilies can be used as a substitute, but be sure to remove the seeds to help reduce the spiciness. Use kitchen gloves to do this.
- A mini food chopper or processor is key to making the paste. The large ones are too big and will not chop ingredients well.
- Use a spice grinder if you have a small food processor. Make the paste in batches and combine it in a small bowl.
Variations on Tom Yam Thai Soup
There are a few variations of Tom Yum recipes out there. A clear broth version uses shrimp, vegetable, or chicken broth. There is also a creamy version using coconut milk or evaporated milk.
There are Tom Yum Goong (shrimp) or Tom Yum Pla recipes using different types of fish or seafood. Some Tom Yum soups have noodles, while most are served with jasmine rice, usually in small separate bowls. The possibilities of using Tom Yum paste in Tom Yum flavored dishes are endless.
Helpful Kitchen Tools
- A solid stone mortar and pestle with at least a 6-inch opening.
- A small food processor is best for making curry paste.
- Spice grinder, useful for grinding up whole spices into powder.
- Kitchen scissors, handy for cutting vegetables.
- Small glass jars for storing any leftovers
- Food labeling
More homemade Thai pastes to try
- The best authentic massaman curry paste
- Authentic Thai yellow curry paste
- Authentic green curry paste
- Authentic red curry paste
- Authentic Prik Khing curry paste
- Authentic Choo Chee curry paste
- Red curry paste
More Authentic Thai Recipes You'll Love
Frequently Asked Questions
Tom yum paste is typically made of aromatic fresh herbs and fragrant spices like dried red chilis, shallot, garlic, lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime zest, white pepper, and coriander seeds.
The paste is seasoned with tamarind paste, salt, and shrimp paste.
Tom Yum paste is a unique paste made specifically for Thai Tom Yum soups. Substitutions are difficult to replicate. The best suggestion is to add tamarind paste to a Thai red curry paste to get close, but it will not be the same.
If using red curry paste as a substitute, I highly recommend adding Nam Prik Pao, a Thai chili paste, to bring it closer to the flavor of a Tom Yum recipe you are making.
Yes! Tom yum paste is very healthy, especially when not using sugar. The herbs and spices used have high healing medicinal values that promote health and wellness.
Homemade pastes are healthier than store-bought pastes, but Tom yum paste is generally very healthy.
Yes. You absolutely can. Omit the shrimp paste, and you have a vegan and paste!
No. There shouldn't be any coconut milk in Tom Yum paste. However, you can make Tom Yum soup with your homemade Tom Yum paste and add coconut milk to make a creamy Tom Yum soup version.
Yes. Thai Tom Yum fried rice is very healthy because the Tom Yum paste used to season the rice is full of healthy herbs and spices.
Looking for other recipes like this? Try these:
These are my favorite Tom Yum-flavored drinks and snack to make!