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Today, I’m going to break down how to make Thai Yellow Curry Paste. Although making your own Thai Yellow Curry Paste from scratch seems intimidating, this recipe breaks it down into manageable steps. You’ll never have to buy store-bought curry paste again and the effort is well worth the rewards.Jump to Recipe
Creamy Comfort Food Goodness
Last week I mentioned I was craving some classic comfort foods. I think I’m over summer and impatiently anticipating fall and all the yummy smells that go with it.
I recently had Thai Yellow Curry with Chicken at a restaurant and realized how much of a comfort food it really is. The potatoes, onions, carrots, and chicken remind me of chicken pot pie but there is that wonderful creaminess that comes from the curry, coconut cream, and coconut milk. I love it.
Next week, I’ll share the actual meal, Thai Yellow Curry with Chicken. Making Thai Yellow Curry Paste from scratch is not hard but if it’s your first time attempting it, the last thing you want to do after you’re finished is to start cooking dinner. So make it and save it for next week.
Thai Yellow Curry Paste Ingredients
First, there are a couple of ingredients in this Thai Yellow Curry Paste recipe that may cause some people to scratch their heads in confusion.
Galangal is one of those ingredients. It looks like this…
To me, it smells sweeter than ginger and it is not as strong tasting. Unfortunately, sometimes my local Asian specialty market has it, and sometimes it doesn’t.
But luckily, the woman ringing me up looked at all my ingredients and said: “Someone’s making Thai food.” I instantly said yes but mentioned that I’m never able to find any galangal.
She said it is a little harder to get fresh but because of that, they sell frozen galangal. It’s tricky finding because I looked right past it at first, thinking it was frozen fish. But anyway, if you can’t find any fresh galangal (it was there this time), look in the freezer section and you might luck out.
Dried Thai Chilies
Dried Thai chilies are another one of those difficult ingredients. There are so many dried red chiles in Asian markets, so which ones are Thai? Does it matter? I actually don’t know.
The package I bought was from China but when I googled “dried Thai chiles,” it was one of the brands that showed up in the results, so I went with it.
I feel like a lot of people have heard of lemongrass but haven’t cooked with it. I’m definitely one of these people. I like to buy it already trimmed and packaged at the Asian specialty market.
Shrimp paste is another different ingredient. I bought this small little package.
I have to admit, it does not smell all that great. You might be tempted to say “yuck” and toss it in the trash, but as soon as you add it to the Thai Yellow Curry Paste mix, it starts coming together and the smell is greatly reduced. It is a thick, dark brown-grey color.
Use a mild curry powder mix you know you like. Each curry mix is a little different because every company has a different mix of spices they use. My favorite curry powder to use is Morton & Bassett Curry Powder (affiliate link).
Making the Thai Yellow Curry Paste
Poor 2 cups of boiling water into a bowl with the dried chiles. Let the chiles soak while you prepare all the other ingredients.
Roasting the Garlic and Shallots
Cut the tops off the garlic heads. Wrap the shallots and garlic in a foil package and add to a skillet over medium-high heat. Cook for 25 minutes, flipping once midway through.
Let the package sit for 10 minutes or until cool enough to handle.
Squeeze the garlic out of the husks and roughly chop them. Obviously, you don’t have to do this if you used pre-peeled garlic cloves. Peel the shallots and roughly chop them.
Timer Saver Tip: Buy Pre-Peeled Garlic
To save even MORE time, this recipe also works perfectly well if you buy peeled garlic cloves. I was hesitant to do this at first because pre-peeled garlic is not as fresh, has lost some flavors, and even has a different texture when you push it through a garlic press.
But because you use so much garlic and roast it as well, I wasn’t able to tell the difference. This is a huge time saver. My local Asian market sells peeled and packaged garlic in bulk.
Use 40 pre-peeled garlic cloves if you would prefer this time-saving method (there are about 10 garlic cloves in every head).
Roasting the Galangal and Ginger
Arrange the galangal and ginger in a single layer on a piece of foil and fold it in half, making a flat package. Cook until soft, around 6 minutes, flipping once.
Roast and Grind the Coriander Seeds
Heat the coriander seeds in a pan until they begin to crackle and pop (about 1 to 2 minutes). Let cool and then grind with a mortar and pestle.
Mixing Everything Together
Drain the chiles soaking in the bowl but reserve the soaking liquid. Place the chiles in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until they have been chopped into fairly small pieces.
Add the lemongrass and pulse until it has reached a shredded consistency.
Add the rest of these ingredients in order, pulsing between each: cilantro, galangal, ginger, garlic and shallots, and the shrimp paste.
At some point in this process, you might have to add a tablespoon of the reserved chile soaking liquid to make the mixture move.
Add the roasted and ground coriander, turmeric, curry powder, and salt and pulse until fully incorporated, pausing occasionally to scrape the sides.
If needed, add the reserved chile soaking liquid a tablespoon at a time until the mixture is relatively smooth and paste-like (about 2 to 3 tablespoons).
You’re done! Congratulations. Now go take a nap or something.
Why You Should Make Your Own Curry Paste
There are many benefits to making curry pastes from scratch:
- YOU have the control
- You can make it in bulk, freeze it into different portion sizes, and use it in your cooking
- Saves you time and money
- Elevates your cooking to the next level.
The first time I made curry paste it seemed to take forever. Now it’s not a hassle at all and I can make enough to last me a year. All in 30 minutes. And out of it, I get many amazing EASY meals and snacks:
- Thai Yellow Curry with Chicken
- Cheesy Thai Yellow Curry Tater Tot Bake
- Twice Baked Acorn Squash with Thai Yellow Curry and Chicken
- Thai Yellow Curry Popcorn
- Oven Roasted Pepitas with Curry
- Easy Chocolate Bark with Curry, Pepitas, and Coconut Flakes
- Crispy Curry Chicken Thighs with Garlic Ginger Rice
If you are totally sold as I am on the benefits of making your own curry paste, check out my post, Thai Green Curry with Chicken, which includes how to make Thai Green Curry Paste.
Thai Yellow Curry Paste
- 2 shallots unpeeled
- 4 heads of garlic, unpeeled with the tops cut off or you can use 40 pre-peeled garlic cloves
- 1 inch of galangal peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 inch of ginger peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 10 dried red Thai chiles
- 5 lemongrass stalks thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons cilantro roots or stems thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons shrimp paste
- 3 tablespoons ground turmeric
- 3 tablespoons curry powder
- 1.5 tablespoons kosher salt
- Poor 2 cups of boiling water into a bowl with the dried chiles. Let the chiles soak while you prepare all the other ingredients.
- Cut the tops off the garlic heads. Wrap the shallots and garlic in a foil package and add to a skillet over medium-high heat. Cook for 25 minutes, flipping once midway through.
- Let the package sit for 10 minutes or until cool enough to handle. Squeeze the garlic out of the husks and roughly chop them. Peel the shallots and roughly chop them.
- Arrange the galangal and ginger in a single layer on a piece of foil and fold it in half, making a flat package. Cook until soft, around 6 minutes, flipping once.
- Heat the coriander seeds in a pan until they begin to crackle and pop (about 1 to 2 minutes). Let cool and then grind with a mortar and pestle.
- Drain the chiles soaking in the bowl but reserve the soaking liquid.
- Place the chiles in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until they have been chopped into fairly small pieces.
- Add the lemongrass and pulse until they have reached a shredded consistency.
- Add the cilantro and pulse. Add the galangal and ginger and pulse until they are finely chopped and incorporated.
- Add the garlic and shallots and pulse until they are finely chopped and are fully incorporated.
- Add the shrimp paste and pulse until it is incorporated. You might have to add a tablespoon of the reserved chile soaking liquid to make the mixture move.
- Add the roasted and ground coriander, turmeric, curry powder, and salt and pulse until fully incorporated, pausing occasionally to scrap the sides. If needed, add the reserved chile soaking liquid a tablespoon at a time until the mixture is relatively smooth and paste-like (about 2 to 3 tablespoons).