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vegan Thai red curry

Authentic Thai Red Curry Paste Recipe

  • Author: Pailin Chongchitnant
  • Total Time: 25-40 mins depending on method
  • Yield: ⅔ cup, for 2 batches of 4-serving curry
  • Cuisine: Thai


  • ¾ ounce (20 g) mild dried red chilies, such as guajillo or puya, cut in ½-inch chunks 
  • ½ ounce (10 g) spicy dried red chilies, such as Thai or arbol chilies, cut in ½-inch chunks (see note 1)
  • ½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) white peppercorns 
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) coarse salt (see note 2)
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, bottom half only, thinly sliced 
  • 2 tablespoons (15 g) finely chopped galangal 
  • 4 cilantro roots, or 10 to 12 cilantro stems, chopped 
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) chopped makrut lime zest (see note 3) 
  • 6 cloves (30 g) garlic, chopped 
  • ½ cup (70 g) chopped shallots 
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) fermented shrimp paste, if vegan sub miso


  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml ) coriander seeds, toasted
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml ) cumin seeds, toasted


METHOD 1: The Easy Way

  1. Grind dry spices with a coffee grinder: Add the dried chilies, peppercorns and salt into the coffee grinder. If using coriander and cumin seeds, add them as well. Grind into a fine powder. *Allow chili dust to settle fully before opening the grinder, and don't put your face over it when you do to avoid inhaling chili dust!
  2. Use an immersion blender for the herbs: Place the lemongrass, galangal, cilantro roots, and makrut lime zest in a narrow container, such as a glass measuring cup. Top it off with the garlic, shallots, and shrimp paste. (It is easier to blend with the moist ingredients on top.)
  3. Use the immersion blender to blend everything until fine. You will need to lift and reposition the blender several times, stopping to scrape the bottom and bringing it to the top halfway through.
  4. Once the mixture is fine, add the ground chili mixture and blend to mix. 

METHOD 2: Mortar & Pestle

  1. Soak the dried chilies in water for at least 30 minutes, longer if possible, so they are softened. Drain and pat them dry as best you can. (Excess water will make it harder to pound.)
  2. Grind white peppercorns and any other dry spices into a powder. Remove and set aside. 
  3. Pound the chilies with the salt into a fine paste. Once it starts to look mashed, add the ground dry spices to help absorb the moisture, then continue to pound into a fine paste.
  4. Add the lemongrass, galangal, cilantro roots, and makrut lime zest and pound into a fine paste.
  5. Add the garlic and shallots and pound into a fine paste.
  6. Add the ground chili mixture and pound until well combined. Add the shrimp paste and pound to mix. 

*It took me 16 minutes of pounding for this amount of curry paste in a 3-cup mortar. Time will vary depending on your speed, strength, size of mortar, and amount of paste. 

Use right away, store in the fridge for up to 3 days, or divide into portions and freeze for up to a few months. 


  1. You can add as many of the spicy chilies as you like depending on how spicy you want the paste to be. The seeds can be left in for more heat or removed for less.
  2. Coarse salt will help break down chilies if you are hand-pounding. If using a grinder, use any salt.
  3. If you don’t have makrut lime zest, you can add 2-3 makrut lime leaves, torn into chunks, when making the curry. If you don't have the leaves, substitute regular lime zest in the curry paste.