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Nam Prik Kapi (Thai Shrimp Paste Chili Dip)

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Nam prik kapi is hands down THE BEST spicy Thai shrimp paste chili dip you’ll ever try. This 10-minute fragrant chili sauce is a unique condiment of Thai cuisine, blending spicy, tangy, and authentic Thai flavors. All you need is a granite mortar and pestle, and you’re set to level up fresh vegetables, eggs, and rice like a Thai cooking pro.

Close-up of nam prik kapi in a sauce cup. Fresh vegetables, chilies, egg, and mackerel are surrounding the chili dip.

What is nam prik kapi

Nam prik kapi is a traditional Thai chili dip made by pounding together ingredients like fermented shrimp paste, chilies, and garlic in a granite mortar and pestle. It’s salty, tangy, and sometimes subtly sweet, with added ingredients like lime juice, fish sauce, and palm sugar.

Thai food wouldn’t be what it is without its side dishes and spicy condiments, right? And nam prik kapi (น้ำพริกกะปิ) is one of my favorites.

From Thailand’s Northern mountain landscapes to the Sunny southern beaches, this spicy and tangy shrimp paste dip is loved all over Thailand. Loved by locals, but also by tourists, it’s one of the best condiments to enjoy with rice, fresh or steamed vegetables, Thai omelets, Thai mackerel, and more.

Top-down view of nam prik kapi in a sauce cup. Fresh vegetables, chilies, egg, and mackerel are surrounding the chili dip.

Nam prik – Thai chili dips

Nam prik is the term for a collection of Thailand’s spicy chili dips, with lots of delicious variations. For Thai people, it’s not just a side sauce; we use these chili sauces to turn every meal into a feast!

Each nam prik or (nam phrik) variation is a blend of traditional Thai ingredients like fresh and dried chilies, garlic, lime juice, pungent shrimp paste, and umami fish sauce.

Thai woman seated on a bamboo table, working with a granite mortar and pestle.

Traditionally, they’re prepared with a granite mortar and pestle, a staple in every Thai kitchen. These spicy dips are like a family legacy, with many Thai households having their own nam prik kapi recipe, passed down through the generations.

Thai shrimp paste chili dip in a wooden spoon hovering over a granite mortar and pestle.

Check out my collection of nam prik recipes:

What is fermented shrimp paste

Shrimp paste, a fermented condiment in Southeast Asian cuisine, is made of finely crushed shrimp or krill. They’re mixed with salt and left to ferment for several weeks to months. After that, they’re sun-dried for a few days to weeks, locking in that intense flavor.

It’s the key ingredient in this spicy relish, called ‘kapi’ in Thai

Shrimp paste has a salty flavor and an aroma that you won’t ever forget. Heads up: it can smell rather pungent if you’re not used to it. Once you get the hang of it, you can use just the right amount in your Thai dishes to make them go from good to amazing.

Kapi is the secret ingredient that makes our traditional curry pastes come to life with a rich, savory depth. It’s also commonly used in Southern Thai cooking.

Close-up of Thai shrimp paste chili dip in a wooden spoon hovering over a granite mortar and pestle.

What does nam prik kapi taste like

Thai nam prik kapi is one of my favorite Thai dips. It’s super versatile and so irresistible, with a salty kick from fish sauce and shrimp paste. Afterward, you should taste the tangy flavor from the lime juice. The sweetness of palm sugar is just very subtly present, it definitely shouldn’t be overwhelmingly sweet.

If you love a little spice, this dip is all about that spicy-sour flavor. You can adjust the chili pepper to match your heat level. You can also opt for mild chilies or remove the seeds.

Don’t forget the pea eggplant, they’re a crunchy addition and add some freshness. Find them at your local Asian grocery store.

Looking for more authentic Thai dipping sauces?

Ingredients

For the exact measurements, please scroll down to the recipe card at the end of this post.

Nam prik kapi ingredients displayed on a wooden table with a granite mortar and pestle; shrimp paste, pea eggplants, garlic, lime, fish sauce, palm sugar, and fresh chili peppers.
  • Shrimp paste – In Thai language, we say that this is ‘pa eek’, which translates to the key ingredient. Look for a high quality shrimp paste.
  • Palm sugar – This natural sweetener adds a rich sweet flavor with a subtle hint of caramel.
  • Fish sauce – Use high quality fish sauce for the best salty, umami-rich flavor. This traditional ingredients of Asian cuisine is made from fermented fish and salt.
  • Fresh chili peppers – Authentic Thai shrimp paste chili sauce is fiery. If you’re not into spicy food, feel free to use less chilies or remove the seeds.
  • Pea eggplants – Pea eggplants (turkey berry) are the secret charm of this dip, there’s simply no substitute. If you can’t find them, you can simply omit them. They add a nice color contrast and crunch.
  • Garlic Who doesn’t love garlic? It’s the pungent addition that levels up the flavor in pretty much any Thai dish.
  • Lime – Fresh lime juice is a non-negotiable. It adds a zesty / tangy flavor typical to Thai cuisine.

Short recipe video

Cooking instructions

Total Time: 15 minutes

  1. Crush garlic and chilies

    Crush garlic and chilies in a mortar and pestle to make a paste.

  2. Make the dipping sauce

    Instructions for how to make nam prik kapi in granite mortar.

    1. Add lime juice, fish sauce, shrimp paste, and palm sugar. Stir and mash with your pestle until sugar dissolves and all ingredients combine.

    2. Toss in pea eggplants and gently press them against the side of the mortar with your pestle to crack them open. Give it a final stir and you’re done! Serve immediately.

Kitchen tools

  • Granite mortar and pestle: For this nam prik kapi recipe, I suggest using a stone / granite mortar and pestle. This makes it easier to pound down the ingredients into a fine dipping sauce. Alternatively, you can use a food processor, but you’ll lose that authentic touch.
  • Measuring spoons and cups

Tips for the best Thai chili sauce

  • Use fresh ingredients and the right tools. I highly suggest making nam prik kapi with a granite mortar and pestle, and to use the freshest ingredients you can find.
  • Taste test. Before serving, make sure to do a taste-test. If it needs more salt, add more fish sauce. If it’s too spicy, try adding a bit more sugar.

How to eat Thai shrimp paste dip

Place your nam prik kapi in the center of a large serving tray, and arrange other food around it.

  • Thai mackerel: You can easily fry mackerel in a large non-stick wok pan, use a good amount of oil and fry each side for ±3 minutes or until golden brown. In Thailand, they sell these in packages of 3 and 5 at street food markets, they are immensely popular in Isan.
  • Vegetables: In Thailand, nam prik are typically combined with a bunch of raw or boiled veggies. My recommendations: boiled cabbage, bitter gourd, water morning glory and fresh, crunchy vegetables such as cucumber, broccoli, carrots, yard long beans / green beans, and Thai eggplants. You can pair this dip with any of your favorite veggies.
  • Eggs: A Thai-style omelet is often enjoyed with nam prik. Pair with a minced pork omelette or a Thai omelet acacia. Hard-boiled eggs can be served as well.
  • Rice: Serve with jasmine rice or sticky rice to mellow down the spiciness and strong taste.
Close-up of cooked mackerel in a pan.

The possibilities are endless. A large serving dish loaded with food, people gathered around it, enjoying from the same plate and engaging in conversation – to me, this is family time. Feel free to add other Thai street food dishes, no need to stick to vegetables or rice.

How to store

This condiment remains fresh in your refrigerator for up to 1 week. Seal your bowl or sauce cup thoroughly with plastic wrapper, or transfer to an airtight container. Afterward, you can choose to eat it cold, or let it cool down to room temperature.

Did you know

  • Nam prik kapi has been around for centuries, since the Ayutthaya era. In the older days, travelers would carry this spicy delights when they’re on the go. Even my grandmother still takes a bit of this dip with her, along with sticky rice, when she’s out to work in the rice fields.
  • Shrimp paste is packed with proteins and essential nutrients like vitamin B12. The chilies boost your metabolism, and ingredients like garlic offer immune-boosting properties. With each tasty dip, you’re not only getting a spice kick, but also a health kick!
  • Nam prik kapi translation in Thai to English: “nam prik” refers to Thai chili dips, and “kapi” is the term for shrimp paste in Thai.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ’s)

Is nam prik kapi spicy?

Nam prik is perfect for spice-lovers. If you’re not a fan of spicy food, you can totally adjust the spiciness by tweaking the number of chilies or removing the seeds.

Where can I buy shrimp paste?

You can find a high-quality shrimp paste at most Asian grocery stores. These days, you can also get them at larger supermarkets or online.

Is nam prik kapi gluten-free?

Nam prik kapi is naturally gluten-free. However, you should check the labeling of your fish sauce brand, as some brands might add a splash of non-gluten free ingredients.

More condiments you’ll love

  • Authentic nam prik ong This savory Northern Thai chili dip is made with ground pork and a blend of spices and flavoring ingredients.
  • Prik nam pla – A spicy, salty sauce that you can drizzle over anything.
  • Nam jim jaew – An easy, flavorful recipe with fresh herbs and spices to pair with grilled meat.
  • Thai green chili sauce – A spicy, sour sauce made with a handful of simple ingredients.

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5 from 1 vote

Nam Prik Kapi (Thai Shrimp Paste Chili Dip)

Prep Time 5 min Cook Time 10 min Total Time 15 mins
Servings: 2 Calories: 103

Description

This family recipe for nam prik kapi, a shrimp paste chili dip, calls for a granite mortar and pestle or a food processor for convenience.

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Crush garlic and chilies in a mortar and pestle to make a paste.

  2. Add lime juice, fish sauce, shrimp paste, and palm sugar. Stir and mash with your pestle until sugar dissolves and all ingredients combine.

  3. Toss in pea eggplants and gently press them against the side of the mortar with your pestle to crack them open. Give it a final stir and you're done! Serve immediately.

Tools you need

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Nutrition Facts

Servings 2


Amount Per Serving
Calories 103kcal
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 0.3g1%
Total Carbohydrate 24.4g9%
Dietary Fiber 2.8g12%
Sugars 14.9g
Protein 3.9g8%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily value may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Note

  • Use the nutrition card in this recipe as a guideline.
  • Serve with steamed rice or sticky rice, fresh or steamed vegetables, eggs, and mackerel.
  • Nam prik kapi remains fresh in your refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Keywords: nam prik kapi, nam prik kapi recipe, shrimp paste chili dip
About Author

Praew

I owned my own Thai restaurant and have years of experience in various other Thai restaurants. I've been whipping up classic Thai dishes by my mother's and grandma's side since I was just a little girl. Now I'm sharing my deep-rooted passion with my authentic Thai recipes on this food blog.

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