Thai Yellow Curry Paste is full of bold, savory, and even spicy flavors. It’s so simple to prepare: just throw chiles, spices, and seasonings into a food processor with a bit of water. Use it to prepare mild curries or add warm, Asian flavors to meats and vegetables.
Thai cuisine is all about mixing sweet, savory, and spicy – especially spicy!
Thai yellow curry paste is no exception. It gets spice from red Tien Tsin chile peppers, salty and savory notes from a healthy amount of shrimp paste, and a wonderful amount of warm and earthy flavors from turmeric, cumin, and a couple of other seasonings.
To make things even easier, you can use my own curry powder blend that’s less expensive and more delicious than anything you’ll find in the store.
For a spicier blend, try out Thai Red Curry Paste instead. It packs more of a punch, but also has a lovely citrus flavor that helps to balance things out.
Ways to Use Yellow Curry Paste
A bit of Thai yellow curry paste will add some spice and warmth to almost any dish! While you’ll most commonly find it in curries, you can be creative with it in more ways than you’d expect,
Use it in a marinade to tenderize and flavor meats and seafood. Throw it into the pan along with meats and vegetables as they soften and cook to add some more heat. This is one of my favorite ways to use it, as the flavors in this condiment become especially more pronounced when fried in oil.
The warm seasonings in this blend really deepen various sauces and stews as well.
INGREDIENT NOTES AND SUBSTITUTIONS
- Tien Tsin Chile Peppers - Also known as Chinese Red Peppers or Tianjin peppers. If you don’t have an Asian market with these in stock, Chiles de Arbol are a fine substitute.
- Garlic - If substituting with garlic powder, use ¼ teaspoon per clove that you’re replacing.
- Lemongrass - This herb has a delicate lemony flavor and scent. A bit of lemon juice, zest, and mint can impart a similar flavor.
- Shallots - A subtler onion. White or yellow onion could be used instead.
- Ginger - Freshly peeled ginger is ideal. You could use ground ginger, which won’t leave as much of a flavor. Allspice or nutmeg also work for a similar warm, earthy flavor.
- Shrimp Paste - A fermented seafood condiment. Its flavor is hard to replace, but fish sauce gets pretty close.
- Curry Powder - A spicy and savory blend that contains turmeric, fenugreek, and pepper, among other seasonings.
- Coriander Seeds - A bit sweet and citrusy.
- Turmeric - The origin of the “yellow” in this recipe! It’s peppery and bitter, and impossible to replace in curries.
- Cumin - Wherever you see coriander, cumin is often close behind. It has a rich, warm, earthy flavor.
HOW TO MAKE YELLOW CURRY PASTE
- Soak the Peppers. Add the dried chiles to a bowl of hot water. Let them soak for a few minutes until soft.
- Trim the Lemongrass. While the chiles soak, trim the lemongrass. Remove the root end along with the tougher exterior leaves. Slice in half and add to a food processor.
- Add Everything Together. Remove the chiles from the water and drain. Add to the food processor with the lemongrass, and add all of the remaining ingredients as well.
- Puree. Pulse the processor in bursts, adding small amounts of water until all of the spices are combined and a thick paste is formed. You can adjust the thickness to your preference by adding a bit more (or less) water to the processor.
- Use or Store. Use right away in a recipe, or store for up to 5 days in your fridge or 2 months in the freezer.
What is yellow curry paste made of?
It’s a combination of rich, earthy spices and seasonings often found in curry. This includes turmeric, ginger, cumin, coriander, and curry powder. Some other notable ingredients are shrimp paste and dried red chiles for heat.
Is yellow curry paste very hot?
It’s mildly hot. Compared to red and green curries, it falls right in the center in terms of heat.
Generally, green is the most mild and red is the spiciest. Of course, it all depends on the individual recipe and the chiles used in preparation. You can always make your Thai yellow curry paste a bit spicier by adding more chiles! And vice versa – use less if you want a milder heat.
How should you store curry paste?
If you plan on using your yellow curry paste within 5 days, then you can store it in any airtight container and leave it in your refrigerator.
If freezing, I recommend dividing into a couple of ice trays and freezing into small cubes. Place the cubes in a plastic baggie, and leave in the freezer for up to 2 months. This method allows you to thaw only what you plan on using at any given time.
Thai Yellow Curry Paste
- 40 small dried red chiles (See Note 1)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 cloves garlic
- 2 lemongrass
- 3 shallots
- 6 inch fresh ginger peeled
- 1 ½ tablespoon shrimp paste
- 2 tablespoon curry powder
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- ¼ cup water
- Soften the chiles in a bowl with hot water for 3 minutes.
- Trim the root end and tough outer leaves off the lemongrass stalk. Use only the white part and a little of the green. Cut in half.
- Transfer the drained chiles, salt, garlic, lemongrass, shallots, ginger, shrimp paste, curry powder, spices to a food processor. Pulse to chop and add water. Purée until a thick paste. Use more water if you prefer a smoother, thinner texture.
- Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 5 days or freeze in cubes and store in a plastic bag for up to 2 months.
- I use Tien Tsin chile peppers, also known as Chinese Red Peppers or Tianjin peppers found in the Asian food section of your market or any Asian store OR substitute using Chiles de Arbol found in the Mexican food section of your local market.
- This makes 2 cups total. I use 4 tablespoons per recipe. Servings are 8 (32 tablespoons total)
*The information shown below is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist's advice.