Red, bold, and packed with heat, red curry gets its flavor and beautiful color from dried red chilis that are first soaked in water before everything is combined. Dried chilis provide a rich, almost smoky flavor that adds dimension to a spicy dish. Fortunately, the best part about creating your own paste is you can control the heat. Thai bird chilis are the most common in this paste, however we used dried Guajillo peppers as they are easy to find, versatile, and mild. Any red dried chili will work depending on your desired heat level and flavor. We chose our Infused Chili Lime Salt to season the red paste due to the citrus punch this salt adds to any dish.
We’ve provided instructions for the quick version and the slower method for this paste. Both yield delicious results.
Makes roughly 1 cup of paste
3-4 dried red chilis (see above note)
½ teaspoon whole coriander (or ground powder)
1 teaspoon cumin (or ground powder)
½ teaspoon whole peppercorns (or cracked or ground pepper)
3 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
¼ cup chopped shallot
1 stalk lemongrass, outer leaves removed and roughly chopped
1 inch ginger (can sub 1 tablespoon powder), peeled and roughly chopped
1 teaspoon lime zest
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
½ teaspoon Infused Chili Lime Salt (reduce to ¼ teaspoon if using soy or tamari)
1 tablespoon Bee Local Willamette Valley Honey (can sub brown sugar or coconut sugar)
2 teaspoons fish sauce (can sub shrimp paste, soy sauce or tamari), optional
2 tablespoons neutral oil such as grapeseed, avocado or a mild olive oil (or water)
Place dried chilis in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Allow to soak for at least 20 minutes before removing the stems and seed. Roughly chop and set aside.
If using, place coriander seeds, cumin seeds and peppercorns in a dry skillet over medium heat. Toast for about five minutes until they become fragrant, stirring often. Keep an eye out as they will burn quickly. Remove from heat and crush with a mortar and pestle until the spices have broken down into a coarse powder. Alternatively, you can place spices in a plastic bag and tap with a rolling pin or use a spice grinder. Skip this step if using powdered spices.
From here, you can continue using a mortar and pestle to combine all ingredients one by one into a smooth paste. If your mortar isn’t large enough, crush each ingredient separately and combine in a mixing bowl.
Begin by adding the chilis to the spices and mash until smooth. Add the garlic, shallots, ginger, lemongrass, lime zest and salt, pounding between each addition. Finally, add the lime juice, honey, fish sauce, and oil and stir to combine.
Or, place crushed spices and remaining ingredients in a food processor and blend until a smooth paste forms.
For both methods, adjust seasoning to taste and add oil or water by the teaspoon if the paste looks too dry.
Store pastes in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 10 days or spoon into ice cube tray and freeze. Once frozen, place the cubes in a freezer-safe container and store for up to 3 months. Cubes can be used directly from the freezer when cooking or thaw in the refrigerator the night before use.
How to use:
Use the homemade paste in any recipe that calls for Thai red curry paste by doubling the recipe amount or adjust amount to personal taste. Start small and add more as needed.
For a simple curry sauce heat a tablespoon of oil in a saucepan or wok over medium high heat. Add ¼ cup paste and stir until fragrant. Add 1 can coconut milk and ½ cup water and simmer for about 10 minutes. Adjust seasoning with a pinch of salt and pepper, if necessary. Serve over stir fried vegetables, meat, or tofu and rice.