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Tom Yum Paste Recipe

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Tom yum paste recipe is your go-to for adding authentic Thai flavors to stir-fries and comforting soups. Traditional Thai spices and herbs like lemongrass and galangal are transformed into a sour, spicy condiment that beat’s any store-bought version. Ready in under 30 minutes with a food processor or mortar and pestle, do-able for any home cook.

Close-up of tom yum paste in a clay bowl.

You can use your paste in my recipe for tom yum talay, a spicy Thai seafood soup!

What is tom yum paste

Tom yum paste is a fragrant blend of herbs and spices like lemongrass and galangal. It’s the base for the famous tom yum soup, infusing dishes with its signature hot and sour flavors.

Tom yum soup paste recipe

Tom yum soup is an aromatic broth beloved for its iconic blend of spicy, sour, salty, and slightly sweet flavors. Made with kaffir lime leaves, chilies, and galangal, it’s a staple in Thai cuisine and a worldwide hit.

Thai tom yum soup paste next to tom yum soup in a cooking pot.

It’s easy to start from scratch with this fresh and fragrant homemade tom yam paste – it’s a little bit spicy, a tad sour, and totally delicious. This paste is full of all the iconic hot and sour flavors, and it’s also incredibly versatile.

With this recipe, you’ll whip up Thailand worthy dishes right in your own kitchen. Whether it’s spicing up a simple stir-fry or creating a quick tom yum fried rice, this chili paste is perfect.

It’s the right mix of traditional Thai spices and herbs like dried chilies, garlic, galangal, and lemongrass – infusing every dish it touches with a rich flavor.

Thai tom yum paste in clay bowl with galangal, kaffir lime leaves, and dried chilies.

Whenever you’re craving a quick fix of Thai flavors, simply whip up this homemade tom yum paste from scratch. You can even use it as a soup base or marinade for chicken, pork, or seafood.

Don’t miss out on my tom yum gai soup!

Why make this Thai condiment

Frequent visitors of this Thai food blog know that cooking from scratch is incredibly rewarding:

  • Experience a taste of authentic Thai cuisine: With a mortar and pestle, you release the ingredients their natural oil and aromas. It’s a day-to-day staple in my kitchen, and I love it when others are open to my culture.
  • Healthy tom yum seasoning: Store-bought tom yum sauce is full of preservatives. With this recipe, you get to control the ingredients, so there are no additives or other unnecessary unhealthy ingredients. Healthy and pure is what homemade Thai food is all about.
  • Quickly add flavors: Add tomyum paste to your dishes to instantly lift them with complex, bold flavors. It’s a simple way to add depth to your everyday meals.
  • Adjust the flavors: Make it spicier, add more of that iconic citrusy taste, squeeze in some more fresh lime juice, or add more fish sauce for umami. The best tom yum paste is homemade!

Authentic Thai cooking

A word about premade pastes in Thai households. Our cultural tradition is to make food from scratch, with the freshest ingredients – often plucked from our own garden or purchased at Asian food markets.

Thai tom yum paste with galangal, shallots, dried chilies, and kaffir lime leaves on a traditional setting.

I’ve yet to find a Thai person who uses premade paste for our beloved hot soup. Instead, we prefer to gather fresh herbs and spices and pound them when we’re about to cook up a delicious meal.

This cherished moment is a wonderful family time for us. In my family, our gatherings aren’t just about sharing meals, but also about cooking them with love and joy.

We often prepare pastes like green curry paste, red curry paste, massaman curry paste, and Thai chili paste (nam prik pao) in advance. However, for tom yum soup, we favor making it fresh from scratch.

Thai tom soup yum paste in a clay bowl surrounded by fresh herbs and spices.

Whenever I visit Bangkok, I can see a similar fast-paced lifestyle to what I’ve seen in Europe. I truly hope that our Thai tradition of making food from scratch doesn’t fade away in a world that’s switching to a such a modern lifestyle.

As for me, I’ll always cherish creating food from scratch.

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.


Ingredients for tom yum paste labeled: Large dried chilies, dried chilies, shallots, garlic, lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, fish sauce, palm sugar, tamarind paste, and salt.
  • Large dried chilies – Guajillo are dried red Mexican chilies used to add spiciness and flavor. You can use dried red Thai chilies or other types. Feel free to add more or less to suit your spice-level.
  • Dried chilies – Together with their large counterparts, these sun-dried peppers are providing the paste with heat and a smoky depth.
  • Shallots – Shallots contribute a subtle, yet essential, hint of sweetness to the paste. Their mild flavor complements the stronger spices beautifully.
  • Garlic – Garlic adds a fragrant, garlicky aroma that’s a staple in Thai cooking.
  • Kaffir lime leaves – Also known as makrut lime leaves, these fragrant leaves are aromatic and distinctly citrusy.
  • Lemongrass – A staple in Thai cuisine, lemongrass offers a refreshing, citrusy aroma. Its fresh flavor profile lifts the overall flavors.
  • Galangal – Galangal imparts a peppery and earthy flavor, distinct from ginger. It’s essential for its sharp, spicy notes.
  • Fish sauce – A key ingredient of Southeast Asian cuisine for adding a salty and umami flavor to dishes.
  • Palm sugar – Palm sugar is a natural sweetener that adds an extra caramel-like flavor.
  • Tamarind paste – I have recently experimented and updated this popular recipe and replaced fresh lime juice with tamarind paste. It adds more of that tangy-sour note that defines the tom yum flavor.
  • Salt – I have also added salt, which enhances the overall flavors.

Step-by-step instructions

This recipe can be made with a mortar and pestle or a food processor. Pound the dry ingredients first and then add the wet ingredients.

Soak dried chilies

Dried chilies soaked in clear bowl.

1. Soak chilies: First, soak dried red chilies in lukewarm water until soft, or 30 minutes. This softens them up, making them easier to blend or pound.

Mortar and pestle method

Thai tom yum paste crushed in stone mortar.

1. Pound herbs and spices: Use a stone mortar and pestle to pound the dry ingredients first: lemongrass, salt, galangal, and kaffir lime leaves. Pound into a fine paste. Then, add chilies, garlic, and shallots, pounding into a paste. Lastly, add fish sauce, palm sugar, and tamarind paste. Mix until the palm sugar is dissolved.

Frying tom yum paste in a wok pan.

2. Fry the paste: Heat a non-stick skillet, wok, or cooking pot over low-medium heat and add oil. Once the oil is hot, add the pounded mixture and fry until fragrant or 2 minutes. This process helps extend the storage time, plus it makes the paste more appealing.

Food processor method

Blended tom yum paste ingredients in food processor.

1. Blend ingredients: Transfer all your herbs and spices to a food processor. Simply blend until you achieve a fiery red paste.

Tom yum paste preparation in wok pan.

2. Fry your paste: Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the pounded mixture and fry for 2 minutes until fragrant.

Kitchen tools

  • A cutting board and sharp knife for chopping up the herbs and spices before crushing them. This speeds up the pounding time.
  • A granite mortar and pestle for pounding the spices.
  • A large wok or non-stick skillet for frying the paste.

How to serve

Tom yum paste is not only for soup, it’s a versatile ingredient that you can use in lots of dishes. It adds unique spicy and tangy flavors, here are some ideas:

  • Salad dressing: Mix it into your salad dressing for a fresh, Thai-inspired salad.
  • As a marinade: Simply coat your meats like chicken and pork with this paste before grilling or roasting them.
  • Toasted bread: Just spread it on toasted bread for a quick snack.
  • Dipping sauce: Use as a dip for fresh vegetables like yard long beans and Thai eggplants with Thai sticky rice.
  • For stir-fries: Noodles, vegetables, meat, this paste will make anything better.
  • In fried rice: Transform your fried rice into a flavorful dish by adding a small scoop.
  • Seafood: Enhance your grilled fish (pla pao) or shrimp.
  • Soups: Stir a spoonful into your soups to give them tangy and spicy flavors.

How to store

  • In the refrigerator: Place the paste in an airtight container or mason jar. It can be stored for up to 2 weeks in your fridge.
  • In the freezer: For longer storage, freeze the paste. Simply divide it into portions in small containers or portion it into ice cube trays. This keeps the paste fresh for up to 3 months.

Make ahead tips

  • Prepare in bulk: Make a larger batch of this recipe. This saves time, and you’ll always have a flavor-booster on hand.
  • Label: Always label your storage container with the date of preparation to track freshness.

Frequently asked questions

How to use tom yum paste?

Tom yum paste can be used in different ways. This aromatic blend of authentic Thai flavors can be used as the base of tom yum soup. Alternatively, you can add it to your meat- and vegetable stir-fries to add spicy and citrusy flavors. You can also use it as a marinade for seafood, chicken, or pork. Use it as a dipping sauce or spread it out on some toasted bread.

How do you store tom yum paste?

To keep tom yum paste fresh and tasty, store it in an airtight container or mason jar in your refrigerator. Store it correctly, and it will last you about 2 weeks. If you make a large batch at once, you can freeze the rest for later. Frozen paste lasts up to 3 months.

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Tom Yum Paste Recipe

Close-up of tom yum paste in a clay bowl.
This tom yum paste recipe can be used as a soup base, to make fried rice, or you can add it to anything that could use some authentic Thai flavor.
Praew
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Cuisine Thai
Course Ingredients
Serving Size 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 0.42 ounces large dried chilies see notes
  • 0.1 ounces dried chilies see notes
  • 1.05 ounce lemongrass chopped
  • 1.05 ounce galangal chopped
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves stems removed
  • 4 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1.8 ounce shallots chopped
  • 5 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 3 tablespoons palm sugar
  • 10 tablespoons oil neutral oil
  • 5 tablespoons tamarind paste
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Instructions

SOAK DRIED CHILIES

  • First, soak dried red chilies in lukewarm water until soft or 30 minutes. This softens them up, making them easier to blend or pound.

MORTAR AND PESTLE METHOD

  • Use a stone mortar and pestle to pound the dry ingredients first: lemongrass, salt, galangal, and kaffir lime leaves. Pound into a fine paste. Then, add chilies, garlic, and shallots, pounding into a paste. Lastly, add fish sauce, palm sugar, and tamarind paste. Mix until the palm sugar is dissolved.
  • Heat a non-stick skillet, wok, or cooking pot over low-medium heat and add oil. Once the oil is hot, add the pounded mixture and fry until fragrant or 2 minutes. This process helps extend the storage time, plus it makes the paste more appealing.

FOOD PROCESSOR METHOD

  • Transfer all your herbs and spices to a food processor. Simply blend until you achieve a fiery red paste.
  • Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the pounded mixture and fry for 2 minutes until fragrant.

Notes

  • Use the nutrition card in this recipe as a guideline.
  • Chilies: The large chilies add chili flavor and color. The smaller chilies are for heat. Feel free to adapt the amount of chilies to your taste.
  • You can make this paste with a mortar and pestle or food processor.
  • Use it to make tom yum soup, tom yum fried rice, spread it out on bread, or add it to your stir-fries.

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11 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I love making your seafood tom yum soup. The Tom Yum paste is so versatile. I use it in lots of things.. Delicious!

5 from 12 votes (10 ratings without comment)

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