Learn how to make the best authentic Thai Massaman curry paste recipe from scratch using two methods. Grab the ingredients, and experience the most fragrance and fresh homemade Massaman paste in less than 15 minutes!
For an easy Massaman beef recipe, try my popular Thai beef Massaman curry recipe. It's the faster, easier version of Massaman curry for a quick weeknight dinner. Also, try this authentic Chicken Massaman curry recipe with sweet potatoes. Both are full of flavors!
- What is Massaman curry paste?
- What is Thai Massaman curry?
- Ingredients for homemade curry paste
- How to make your own massaman curry paste
- Helpful kitchen tools for making Massaman paste
- Helpful kitchen notes and tips
- More homemade curry pastes to try
- More Thai curries you'll love
- Helpful resources for your Thai cooking
- FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
- The Best Authentic Thai Massaman Curry Paste Recipe
- More delicious Thai recipes
What is Massaman curry paste?
Massaman curry paste (พริกแกงมัสมั่น ) is a curry base for the popular Thai Massaman curry, a Southern Thai curry. Thai Massaman curries have a heavy influence on Middle Eastern and Indian curries with the use of dry spices. The paste is toasted dried fragrant spices mixed with fresh aromatic herbs like lemongrass, galangal, shallot, and garlic. All these ingredients are made into a paste that makes the curry flavorful and delicious.
What is Thai Massaman curry?
ThaiMassaman curry is a delicious recipe usually made with coconut milk, massaman curry paste, meat like beef or dark chicken meat, starchy vegetables like Kabocha or sweet potatoes, then seasoned with tamarind paste or lime juice and palm sugar and crushed peanuts for added crunched and creaminess. It's usually served with jasmine rice.
The massaman curry sauce is the one Thai dish with a sweet and mild flavor, unlike a few of the fiery burning hot feelings of most curries in Thai cuisine. It's a great curry to introduce newbies to Thai food.
Ingredients for homemade curry paste
You'll need these dry spices for making authentic Massaman curry paste. I recommend visiting your favorite Asian grocery store to grab these spices for making your paste. If using powdered spices instead of whole, use about ½ the amount called for in the recipe.
- Dried red chilies. Use these recommended chili peppers. The spicy ones are Thai bird’s eye chilis, Piri Piri chilis, Thai long chilis (Prik Chee Fah), De Arbol, or dried Serrano chilis. The less spicy ones are usually larger peppers like dried California/Anaheim chilis or Gualillo. This dried chilis set is a good combination of spicy and mild and is good to have around if you often make your curry pastes.
- White peppercorns are made from ripe black peppercorn berries. It has a unique peppery flavor with a strong aroma. It can add extra heat to food. Use sparingly if you don't like spicy food.
- Coriander seeds are easily found in the spice section of most Asian markets. Use the powder form if unable to find whole seeds.
- Cumin seeds. A citrusy and earthly spice. Cumin powder is acceptable to use. Use ½ the amount in the recipe.
- Cardamom pods. Use whole green cardamom pods, but brown is ok, too, if you have them.
- Ground Cinnamon. If you don't have ground cinnamon, crush a cinnamon stick in a mortar and pestle and use that.
- Ground nutmegs. A warm spice that adds a pleasant nutty and earthy flavor to the paste
- Cloves. Another warm spice that adds a sweet and lightly spicy taste. Use whole or ground.
These are the fresh aromatic ingredients for making Massaman paste. Most of these fresh ingredients can be found at the Asian store near you.
- Lemongrass. Use fresh lemongrass. Frozen and chopped lemongrass is fine too. Read more about Lemongrass and how to use it in Thai cuisine. Find
- Galangal. Use fresh or frozen galangal only for Thai curry paste recipes. Never use dried or powdered galangal. Also, never substitute fresh ginger for galangal. Read more about Galangal in Thai cooking here. Find galangal at your local Asian market in the produce or freezer section.
- Shallot. I don’t recommend substituting red onions for making curry pastes. You should easily find them in your local grocery stores.
- Garlic. Garlic is essential in making curry pastes. For best results, always use fresh garlic and never powder.
- Salt. Salt is essential in making curry pastes. It helps preserve and adds flavor to your paste. Use kosher or Himalayan fine-grain salt. Never use fish sauce for making curry pastes.
- Shrimp paste. Thai shrimp paste for making authentic curry paste. The smell is potent, but the paste will add a very deep umami taste to your curry paste.
How to make your own massaman curry paste
1. Using a food processor
I recommend using a food processor for your first time making homemade massaman curry paste. The next time you do it, try the mortar and pestle method. It's a great weekend project too.
Step 1. Remove the stems and seeds of the dried chilis. Soak in warm water for 15-20 minutes or until soft. Save the water for later in the food processor to help turn the blades.
Step 2. Toast the dry spices, cardamon, cloves, cumin, coriander seeds, and white peppercorn on medium heat until fragrant for 2-3 minutes. Keep a close eye on these, as they will burn easily. Using low heat with longer toasting time is fine, too, to prevent burning. Remove the toasted spice from a pan, and transfer to a plate. Let cool.
Step 3. Use a spice grinder or a small mortar and pestle to ground the toasted spices to a powder. This is important as some seeds may not get crushed in the food processor and leave large chunks for your paste. Not pleasant to bite into in curries. (:
Step 4. Drain the chilis and pat dry. Add the rest of the ingredients to the food processor, including the ground spices. Add 1 tablespoon of water to help move the blades.
Step 5. Pulverized all ingredients into a smooth paste. Add more water as necessary. Remove the fresh curry paste for use. Done! Note the fresh flavors of a homemade curry paste. (: Store unused paste in a glass jar, in the fridge for up to 14 days, and in the freezer for up to 4-6 months.
2. Using a mortar and pestle
You will need a solid stone mortar and pestle for this method. I recommend using one with a 6 inches mouth opening. When pounding, it's easier to start with the more fibrous and sturdy herbs and then move to softer ones towards the end.
Step 1. Remove the stems and seeds of the chilis, then soak all the chilis in warm water for 15-20 minutes or until soft.
Step 2. Toast the dry spices for 2-3 minutes. Once fragrant, remove from pan, transfer to a plate. Let cool.
Step 3. Drain and pat dry the soaked chiles. Cut into 1-inch pieces, and add into the mortar with the salt. Start pounding with a pestle until smooth.
Step 4. Add the chopped galangal and lemongrass, and keep pounding to make a paste.
Step 5. Add garlic and shallot and pound into a smooth paste.
Step 6. Add the toasted spices and pound well until well blended.
Step 7. Last, add the shrimp paste and use the pestle to pound and mix the paste well lightly. That's it. You are done! Nice job! (; Don't forget to give it a small taste and notice the fresh flavor!
Helpful kitchen tools for making Massaman paste
- A solid stone mortar and pestle with at least a 6-inch opening.
- Food processor
- Spice grinder
- Kitchen scissor
- Small glass jars for storing any leftovers
- Food labeling
Helpful kitchen notes and tips
- Adjust the spice level of your Massaman paste by reducing the chilis used. Smaller peppers will be spicier than large ones.
- Use kitchen gloves to remove the seeds of the chilis. The oils from the seeds can burn your skin. Very unpleasant!
- Soak the larger dried chilies longer for easier pounding. I also find that the longer they soak, the more vibrant red my paste is. Very satisfying and pretty!
- If short on time, microwave the chilis in a water bowl for 2-3 minutes.
- Always keep a close eye when roasting dry spices dry to prevent burning. The burnt spices will turn bitter and not useable.
- Freeze the leftover paste in small portions. Use ice cube trays and once frozen, remove and store in a glass jar or Ziploc bags for easy thawing and measurement for your recipes.
- Use red bell peppers without adding heat for a more vibrant color in your curry pastes.
- Add bay leaves for extra flavor—no need to toast the leaves. Only break them up into rough pieces.
- Use veggie mites instead of shrimp paste to make your vegan Massaman curry paste.
I like making my paste best when making curries. Having a good Massaman curry paste makes or breaks your curries. I also know making your own Thai curry pastes seem quite daunting, so if you don't have time to make the Massaman curry paste, these store-bought massaman curry paste brands are the ones I've used and recommend.
- Mae Ploy massaman curry paste. Mae Ploy paste is heavy on the salty side. Use less fish sauce when making your massaman curry. Mae Ploy is my go-to store-bought curry paste for making Massaman curry.
- Aroy-D brand. It tends to be on the saltier side. Adjust your salt when making your curry paste.
- Maesri brand. The Maesri massaman curry paste tends to be sweeter and tangy. Adjust the fish sauce and tamarind accordingly when making curries.
More homemade curry pastes to try
- Authentic Thai yellow curry paste
- Authentic green curry paste
- Authentic red curry paste
- Authentic Prik Khing curry paste
- Authentic Choo Chee curry paste
- Tom Yum curry paste
More Thai curries you'll love
- Salmon curry with choo chee curry creamy sauce
- Easy green curry with chicken and eggplants
- Red curry with Kabocha squash
- Thai authentic red curry
- Authentic Thai yellow curry with chicken
- Yellow curry with pork belly
- Prik khing with shrimp and green beans
Helpful resources for your Thai cooking
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Yes, you can! Massaman curry paste freezes well. Keep the paste in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 6 months for future use.
Massaman curry paste has the most dried spices used in the paste, more so than the other Thai curry pastes. Those spices are cardamon, cinnamon, nutmegs, cloves, coriander, cumin, and white peppercorns.
Beef is the most commonly used meat in Massaman curry. However, chicken thighs and drumsticks are also great for use in massaman curries. Add your favorite vegetables to make a vegetarian massaman curry.
More delicious Thai recipes
These are my favorite drinks to serve with Thai curries.