Learn how to make easy and authentic Thai beef massaman curry today. The quick and easy version, using tender cuts beef rather than stewing beef, makes this recipe a perfect dinner you can put together in less than 30 minutes!
Elevate your beef massaman curry by making your own Massaman curry paste at home. Use this easy-to-follow recipe, the best Thai Massamaman curry paste. You'll notice the fresh flavors and aroma of your curry!
Massaman curry is typical with stew beef or tougher cuts of beef, cut into large pieces, then get cooked over the stovetop for a long time, hours until the beef is tender to pull apart by forks. My recipe is for a quick meal when you want tasty Thai food at home rather than heading out to your favorite Thai restaurant.
What is Massaman Curry?
Thai Massaman curry is a mild, creamy, and delicious flavor from the Massaman curry paste. Massaman curry is popular in Southern Thailand, where dishes have a lot of Muslim influence from Malaysian and Southern Indian cuisine.
Why you'll love this recipe
- This is the easy and quick version of Thai Massaman curry. Instead of taking hours to braise the beef, this version only takes 30 minutes!
- Perfect for a weeknight dinner!
- You can modify the protein. Use chicken drumets, thighs, duck, or turkey meat. Since the curry is of Muslim influence, pork is not typically used in Massaman curry.
- The flavors are rich and creamy, full of flavors from the aromatic spices!
- Massaman is a mild Thai curry. But you can mix it with chili peppers if you need heat in your curry! (;
How to make Massaman Curry
In traditional Gaeng massaman recipes, beef stew meat is used for cooking for a long cooking time. This recipe is the easier version and will use tender beef cuts for a quick, easy recipe. It's perfect for when you crave massaman curry but don't have a long time to wait for the braising process of the beef.
My recipe uses store-bought curry paste. Or make your own Massaman curry paste using this recipe.
- Beef. (top round steak, sirloin, or chuck), cut against the grain into 2-inch long pieces.) Short ribs work great, too, for this recipe.
- Thai Massaman curry paste. Use the Aroy-D, Mae Ploy, or Maesri brands for store-bought Massaman paste. These pastes can be found at your local Asian market. If using your massaman curry paste, use less fish sauce in your seasoning as it may not be as salty.
- Cinnamon sticks. Just one cinnamon stick is needed for this recipe. Ground cinnamon works. Cinnamon sticks are better.
- Star anise. Star-shaped looking spices are seeds of a specific type of Chinese evergreen tree.
- Cardamom pods. I used brown cardamom pods for this recipe. Green ones can be used as substitutes.
- Whole bay leaves. It adds a nice subtle flavor to the curry. It's ok if you skip this spice.
- Yukon gold potatoes. Use any white sweet potatoes for this recipe. Sweet potatoes work, too, but they will take longer to cook since they are thicker.
- Onion. Use white or sweet onion. Shallots could work, too, use 2 large whole shallots and slice them long and thin.
- Tamarind sauce. The tamarind sauce, also called tamarind paste, juice, or concentrate, adds a perfect balance of tangy sour taste to the curry. See notes on the substitute below.
- Coconut cream. This is what gives this massaman curry the delicious creamy sauce. Find these at your local Asian grocery store.
- Coconut milk. Use full-fat coconut milk for this recipe. If your coconut milk hardened at the top, use that as your coconut cream and save the rest of the coconut milk for adding to the pot later down the steps.
- Sugar. Use white, palm, or brown sugar to sweeten the curry.
- Fish sauce. Use fish sauce to season the curry. Soy sauce is not recommended for this recipe.
- Water or stock. Use as needed if the curry gets too dried out.
- Peanuts, coarsely ground unsalted peanuts.
- Oil. It just needs a little bit to cook the curry paste to help extract more flavors—no olive oil.
How to make Massaman Curry
Step 1. In a frying pan, dry roast the spices (cinnamon, cardamom, star anise) on low heat until fragrant. Toast anywhere from 2-4 minutes. Keep a close eye on the spices to not burn them.
Step 2. Heat a Dutch oven or a large pot until warm on medium heat. Add oil and the Massaman curry paste. Stir the oil, and the curry paste together to break up the clumps for 1 minute or less.
Step 3. Add the coconut cream and cook until the cream separates (when the cream looks oil). It takes about 2-3 minutes. Stir a couple of times, but keep a close watch on the paste to not let it burn. Once you see the bubbles forming, it's ready for the next step. You should have nice creamy light orange/yellow massaman curry sauce.
Step 4. Add beef and turn the heat down slightly. Cook for 5 minutes.
Step 5. Add the coconut milk, potatoes, and onion. Give it a good stir and cook for 10 minutes. Add a little water or more coconut milk if your curry looks dried up. Adjust your curry with more fish sauce, palm sugar, and tamarind if adding more water.
Step 6. Add the peanuts, the toasted spices, sugar, fish sauce, and water. Stir well. Also, check to see if the potatoes are tender with a fork. Cook for 5 more minutes.
Step 7. Add tamarind sauce, stir well together, and give it a taste to adjust as desired using fish sauce, sugar, and tamarind sauce. Add a small amount, stir, and sample until your taste buds are happy. Serve with your favorite white rice like jasmine or basmati! Enjoy this delicious Southern Thai curry!
Helpful kitchen notes and tips
- This Massaman curry recipe uses only four spices, cinnamon sticks, star anise, cardamom, and bay leaf. Dry toast them before use, and these fragrance spices will elevate your curry to the next level! These spices can be found at your local ethnic grocery stores or purchase them online.
- Make sure not to eat the chunks of spices while enjoying the curry. You can also remove them before serving.
- Yukon gold potatoes are best for this recipe. You can try two different things if you use other types of potatoes that are not as tender. Cut the potatoes into smaller sizes to help them cook quicker, or boil them for 5-6 minutes before adding the pieces to the curry.
- For the cut of beef, use top round steak and sirloin. The smaller the pieces are cut, the quicker the meat will get cooked.
- You can cook the beef a little bit longer if desired. The typical Massaman curries are cooked for a long while to let the meat simmer and soften. This is the faster version.
- Lime or lemon juice can be used as a substitute for tamarind sauce. but use less than the recipe calls for. Tamarind juice is not as sour as lemon or lime juice. Orange juice works well too.
- Ground spices work, too, but I haven't tested this recipe with them. You will need to use fewer ground spices than whole spices.
Helpful resources for your Thai cooking
- Galangal in Thai cooking
- Lemongrass in Thai cooking
- kaffir lime leaves in Thai cooking
- A guide to different types of Thai rice noodles
- 13 essential sauces in Thai cooking
More Thai curries you'll love
- Easy Thai Beef Panang Curry Recipe (Penang Neua)
- Easy Thai green curry with chicken and eggplants.
- Yellow curry. A mild curry that is quick to put together.
- Authentic Thai Red curry with chicken. One of the most well-known and popular Thai curries.
- Prik King curry with shrimp. A dry curry with shrimp and long green beans.
- Choo Chee curry with salmon. A creamy, rich curry with salmon
- Thai pineapple curry with chicken. A delicious curry with chicken pineapple.
FAQ about Thai Massaman curry
Many types of meat and protein are used in Thai curries depending on each person's dietary needs. Beef, chicken, pork, shrimp, fish, and tofu can be used in Thai curries, depending on which curry you make.
Thai Massaman curry typically uses heavy, starchy vegetables like potatoes, kabocha squash, or pumpkins with added meat, usually beef. Coconut milk and coconut cream make the curry very creamy and flavorful. The additional use of herbs and spices, in addition to the Massaman curry paste, gives the curry a rich flavor that is still mild enough for those new to curry dishes.
Massaman curry is a mildly spicy and sweet Thai curry dish. It originates from the South of Thailand, where Malaysian, Indian, and Muslim influences combine for a unique culture. The word “Massaman” derives from the word Muslim, thus giving the curry its well-known name. Though the curry originated from the South, it is also made and enjoyed throughout Thailand and worldwide!
There are countless curries in Thai cuisine. Massaman curry paste, used for making massaman curry, is a little different than the rest because it uses aromatic spices that most other curries do not include. Massaman curry is also one of the least spicy Thai curries.
Massaman curry paste is usually made from several spices that make the curry extra flavorful. Those spices are coriander seeds, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, chilis, cumin seeds, white or black peppercorns, shallots, garlic, galangal, lemongrass, and shrimp paste. Toasting the dry spices to extract the oil, then combining those with fresh herbs to make a thick fine paste, makes Massaman curry one of the most fragrant curry pastes in Thai cooking.
Massaman curry is typically eaten with cooked Jasmine rice. This beef massaman curry recipe uses gold potatoes, making it a hearty and rich meal.
Massaman curry has a rich, creamy taste from coconut milk with a perfect balance of sweet, salty, and lightly tangy flavors from tamarind sauce, sugar, and fish sauce. The Massaman curry sauce has warm and lightly spicy flavors from the toasted spices used in making the curry. The added peanuts add a layer of sweetness and creaminess to the curry.
Yes. In moderation. This beef massaman curry recipe is relatively healthy, depending on your definition of what healthy is. (: Thai cuisine is generally healthier than most Western food due to the added spices, herbs, vegetables, and minimal sugar. Massman Curry calls for coconut milk and sugar for the added creamy sweetness to balance the salty and spicy taste. Those ingredients are essential in Thai cooking, but it's never excessive. Everything in moderation is key!
More Thai Recipes You'll Love
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- Pad Prik Khing
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- Easy yellow curry with potato
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