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Thai Massaman Curry Paste Recipe

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This Thai massaman curry paste recipe is made with authentic Indian and Thai spices like lemongrass, star anise, and cinnamon. Here, you’ll learn how to make curry paste that is aromatic and quick and easy to prepare – perfect for any Southern Thai curry.

Thai Massaman curry paste in a clay cup surrounded by fresh herbs and spices.

After making your homemade Thai curry paste, you can use it in one of my authentic massaman curry recipes like Thai massaman chicken curry and gaeng massaman neua with beef.

You can make this recipe using either a mortar and pestle or a food processor. Be sure to make a large batch at once because you can freeze it for later! Also, try my recipes for Thai red curry paste, Thai green curry paste, and Thai panang curry paste.

What is massaman curry paste

Massaman curry paste is a rich blend of Thai and Indian spices, including lemongrass, cumin seeds, and cardamom. The paste is made with roasted ingredients and forms the baste for Thai massaman curry, a Southern Thai dish.

Homemade massaman curry paste

Why should you make homemade curry paste instead of opting for convenient store-bought?

Well, for starters, making Thai curries from scratch is a traditional practice that is both fun and rewarding. Hand-pounding herbs and spices with a mortar and pestle not only coaxes out the flavors but also turns cooking into a rewarding experience. Not to mention, the process of roasting and grinding spices for this paste fills your kitchen with a delightful aroma!

Close-up of crushed herbs and spices in a granite mortar.

Whenever I make food at home, I use fresh ingredients and that’s true for curry pastes too. This allows you to control the quality and spice levels. Although massaman curry paste should only be mildly spicy, with homemade paste, you can adjust the heat to your liking.

And why not make a big batch while you’re at it? Spend less than an hour making this, and you’ll have enough to last for months. Simply store the leftovers in the freezer, and you’re set anytime you crave authentic Thai food!

Crushed spices for massaman curry paste in a granite mortar.

Mortar and pestle vs food processor

Should you use a mortar and pestle or a food processor to make this recipe?

  • Mortar and pestle: Using a granite mortar and pestle is the best way to make Thai curry paste. This traditional tool helps you crush the ingredients finely and release their natural oils and aromas, which are crucial for that authentic Thai flavor.
  • Food processor: If you’re short on time, a food processor is a great alternative. The food processor blends everything quickly and creates a smoother curry paste, saving you time in the kitchen without sacrificing too much on taste.
A hand grinding a mix of fresh spices in a granite mortar and pestle.

And remember, there’s no shame in using a food processor. The curry paste vendor at the local street food market in our village uses one herself, since she has to make several large batches at a time.

Thai massaman curry

Before we get started, here’s a quick introduction to this unique curry paste, so you know more about the key massaman curry paste ingredients.

Massaman curry came to Thailand through Muslim traders from the India border. This is why the curry mixes Indian spices like star anise and cumin with Thai ingredients such as shrimp paste and lemongrass.

Close-up of authentic Thai massaman chicken curry with bite-sized pieces of potato and roasted peanuts in a clay dish on a white wooden background.

Many of the spices used in this easy massaman curry paste recipe are usually not found in Thai kitchens, like cardamom and cinnamon. These spices need to be roasted before being crushed into a paste, which is another unique aspect to the curry paste.

Ingredients

Ingredients can be sourced at Asian grocery stores and Asian markets.
The exact measurements are in the recipe card at the end of this post.


Thai massaman curry paste ingredients labeled: salt, shrimp paste, cumin, star anise, cinnamon, cardamon, coriander seeds, black peppercorns, lemongrass, shallots, garlic, galangal, and dry red spur chilies.
  • Dry red spur chilies – These chilies are sun-dried for a smoky flavor and need to be soaked in water to soften before crushing.
  • Lemongrass – A key ingredient in Thai cuisine, essential for its citrusy and aromatic qualities. Remove the tough outer layers and finely chop the tender part.
  • Galangal – Known for its sharp, citrus-like taste. Peel and chop it finely to blend smoothly into the paste.
  • Shrimp pasteShrimp paste is made by fermenting small shrimp with salt, adding a deep umami flavor to the curry paste with just a small amount.
  • Cardamom – Available in pods or powder, cardamom adds a sweet, aromatic touch to the paste.
  • Cumin – Cumin has a warm and slightly nutty flavor, which adds depth to the overall flavors.
  • Star anise – This spice adds a sweet and licorice-like flavor, common in many Asian dishes.
  • Cinnamon – Adds a sweet, woody aroma that enhances the overall fragrance of the curry.
  • Coriander seeds – These seeds offer a lemony citrus flavor when crushed, brightening the paste.
  • Black peppercorns – Provide a sharp, pungent kick, grounding the other spices with their heat.
  • Shallots – Add a mild, sweet onion flavor that forms the base of many Thai dishes.
  • Garlic
  • Salt

How to make massaman curry paste

Got a food processor? Just toss all those ingredients in and blend. For the mortar and pestle method, check out the steps below.

  1. Step 1: Slice dry red spur chilies and soak them in water for 10 minutes to ease the pounding.
    Overhead view of a small bowl containing dry red spur chilies soaking in water.

  2. Step 2: Place black peppercorns, coriander seeds, cinnamon, star anise, cumin, and cardamom in a pan. Roast for 30 seconds over medium heat.
    Close-up of roasted black peppercorns, coriander seeds, cinnamon, star anise, cumin, and cardamom in a wok.

  3. Pounded herbs and spices in granite mortar.

    Step 3: Combine the roasted spices with galangal, lemongrass, and salt. Pound these dry ingredients first—doing so helps to draw out the moisture from the other ingredients.

  4. Step 4: Add the remaining ingredients and continue to pound until you get a fine paste.Massaman curry paste in a mortar from an overhead perspective.

Kitchenware

  1. Cutting board and a sharp knife
  2. Measuring spoons and cups
  3. Small bowl (for soaking chilies)
  4. Thai mortar and pestle or food processor (A granite mortar and pestle is crucial for an authentic massaman Thai curry paste)
  5. Skillet (for roasting the spices)

Tips for making curry paste

  • Prep the ingredients before pounding. Lemongrass and other herbs and spices can be tough to pound, thin slices make for easier pounding.
  • Use a combination of movements. Combine up-and down movements with circular motions.
  • Hand over opening method. Place one hand over the opening of the mortar to keep the ingredients from spilling out during pounding.
  • Use a spoon. While pounding with one hand, use a wooden or plastic rice spoon to keep the ingredients that run up the edge centered.

Recipe notes and tips

  • Use massaman curry paste to make Thai Massaman curry: Simmer the paste with coconut milk in a pot. Add your chosen protein, such as chicken or beef, along with potatoes and onions, cooking until everything is tender. Season with Thai spices to enhance the flavors.
  • Taste-test: Experiment with different flavors and ingredients, or adjust the amount of chili peppers to your taste and optionally remove the seeds. Massaman is not a very spicy curry.
  • Yield: This recipe yields 8.5 oz of massaman curry paste, you can easily freeze the leftovers for later use.
  • Vegan massaman curry paste: Simply omit the shrimp paste used in this recipe.

Storage information

Refrigerator: You can keep curry paste fresh by storing it in an airtight container or a sealed plastic bag in your refrigerator, where it will stay good for up to one month.

Freezer: For longer storage, freeze the curry paste. It can last in the freezer for up to six months, although in my house, it rarely makes it that long since my hubby and I love our Thai curries! When freezing, consider portioning the paste into ice cube trays before freezing; once solid, transfer the cubes to a freezer bag for easy use in future recipes.

Frequently asked questions

Where to buy massaman curry paste?

Massaman curry paste can be purchased at Asian grocery stores, specialty food shops, and larger supermarkets with international sections. It’s also available online through various retailers and marketplaces that specialize in Asian ingredients.

What is in massaman curry paste?

Massaman curry paste combines Indian and Thai spices like lemongrass, galangal, coriander seeds, cardamom, cinnamon, and black peppercorns, often with shrimp paste for umami. Roasting some spices before pounding them into a paste enhances the flavors.

Authentic Thai curry recipes

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Thai Massaman Curry Paste Recipe

Thai Massaman curry paste in a clay cup surrounded by fresh herbs and spices.
Prepare this authentic Thai Massaman curry paste recipe with a mortar and pestle or a food processor, ideal for creating delicious Thai curries.
Praew
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Cuisine Thai
Course Ingredients
Serving Size 8

Ingredients

  • 30 g dry red spur chilies
  • 50 g lemongrass
  • 50 g shallots
  • 30 g garlic
  • 10 g galangal
  • 10 g shrimp paste
  • 5 g salt
  • 5 g cardamom
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 10 g cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 10 g star anise

Instructions

  • Slice dry red spur chilies and soak them in water for 10 minutes to ease the pounding.
  • Place black peppercorns, coriander seeds, cinnamon, star anise, cumin, and cardamom in a pan. Roast for 30 seconds over medium heat.
  • Combine the roasted spices with galangal, lemongrass, and salt. Pound these dry ingredients first—doing so helps to draw out the moisture from the other ingredients.
  • Add the remaining ingredients and continue to pound until you get a fine paste.

Notes

  • Use the nutrition card in this recipe as a guideline.
  • This recipe yields 8.5 oz of curry paste, you can store the leftovers for later use.
  • For a vegan curry paste, you can omit the shrimp paste.

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