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The Best Authentic Thai Massaman Curry Paste Recipe


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! 



Dried spices

  • If using powder instead of whole spices, use about 1/2 the amount called for in the recipe. 
  • 2- 10 dried red chilies. As needed for spice level.
  • 3 tablespoons cumin seeds. A citrusy and earthly spice. Cumin powder is fine to use. Use 1/2 the amount in the recipe2 tablespoons coriander seeds 
  • 1 teaspoon whole white peppercorns is 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. 
  • 3 cardamom pods. 
  • 4 whole cloves. Another warm spice that adds a sweet and lightly spicy taste. Use whole or ground.  
  • 1 ground cinnamon. If you don't have ground cinnamon, crush a cinnamon stick in a mortar and pestle and use that.
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg. A warm spice that adds a pleasant nutty and earthy flavor to the past

Fresh/Raw ingredients


Using a food processor

  1. Remove the stems and seeds of the dried chilis. Soak in warm water for 15-20 minutes or until soft. Save the water to use later in the food processor to help turn the blades. 
  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.
  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. (:
  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.
  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. 

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.

  1. Remove the stems and seeds of the chilis, then soak all the chilis in warm water for 15-20 minutes or until soft.
  2. Toast the dry spices for 2-3 minutes. Once fragrant, remove from pan, transfer to a plate. Let cool.
  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.
  4. Add the chopped galangal and lemongrass, and keep pounding to make a paste.
  5. Add garlic and shallot and pound into a smooth paste. 
  6. Add the toasted spices and pound well until well blended.
  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! 


  • 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.  

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