Fresh, aromatic, and flavorful Thai Green Curry Paste is the base of delicious coconut curries and it enhances other dishes like fried rice, baked tofu, and salads.
I absolutely love the flavors of Thai cuisine. The freshness combined with spiciness, tanginess, and hint of sweetness makes for such complex and interesting flavors. Green curry paste is a classic blend of aromatics like shallots and garlic, fresh herbs like lemongrass, cilantro, and basil, and lots of green chilies. Sometimes fish paste is used, but not always. My fish-free, vegan paste is used as the base for coconut curries, but it can also be used in other ways. For example, you can slather some curry paste onto tofu before baking or mix a small amount into salad dressing to give an extra punch of flavor. Think of it like a Thai-style sofrito, the Latin all-purpose seasoning base.
Traditionally, Thai curry pastes are made by pounding the ingredients in a heavy granite mortar and pestle. It works but it’s time-consuming. The easiest method to make curry pastes are in a blender. If you have a high-powered blender you will get a beautifully smooth paste, but a normal blender or food processor will work, albeit with slightly chunkier results. You simply blend all of the ingredients together, then portion out the paste into little freezer bags for future use.
It stays just as green until you are ready to thaw and use for your recipes. I don’t add any salt to this paste since it’s a building block to other recipes and I want to be able to control how much the finished dish is seasoned. Some of the ingredients can be difficult to find so I’ve included substitutions whenever possible.
- 1½ cups roughly chopped shallots (or onions)
- 6-7 cloves of garlic
- ½ cup of roughly chopped ginger
- ½ cup chopped green chiles (jalapeño, serrano, etc.), some or all of the seeds removed
- 3 stalks lemongrass, finely chopped (or substitute 8-10 lemon verbena leaves)
- 8-10 kaffir lime leaves (or 1 teaspoon lime zest and ½ teaspoon lemon zest)
- ¾ cup thai basil leaves (or regular basil and ½ teaspoon ground fennel)
- 1½ cups cilantro leaves and stems, finely chopped
- 4 cilantro roots, washed very well (or ¼ cup more cilantro leaves/stems)
- 1 teaspoon lime zest
- 1 Tablespoon lime juice
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds or 1½ teaspoons ground cumin (toasted quickly in a small sauté pan - just until to smell it, ground cumin takes a shorter time)
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds or 1½ teaspoons ground coriander (toasted quickly in a small sauté pan - just until to smell it, ground cumin takes a shorter time)
- ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
- ¾ teaspoon white pepper (or black pepper)
- Add the shallots/onions, garlic, ginger, green chilies, chopped lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, basil, cilantro, cilantro roots, lime zest, lime juice, toasted cumin, toasted coriander, cardamom, and white pepper into your blender or food processor. Stop the blender and press down and move the ingredients if things aren't blending. Blend until it is as smooth as you can get it. Add just a little more lime juice if you need things to keep blending.
- Remove from blender and use immediately or portion into small zipper-top freezer bags for future use.
-If you can find galangal, fresh or frozen, use it! 2 Tablespoons chopped is a good amount. I've left it out of the recipe because it's hard to find and I've made it without it with great results. But if it's available, it makes the the curry even better.
-Some of the ingredients are difficult to find (I know because I used to search high and low for kaffir lime leaves until I just bought a tree so I can pick some leaves whenever I want!). The substitutions won't necessarily be authentic, but they do taste great and will make a delicious curry paste for all your Thai recipes.
-Cilantro roots are just the white roots you sometimes see still attached to bunches of cilantro. If you have access to them (you can often find cilantro with roots attached at farmer's markets), just cut from the top of where the stems arise and rinse the roots off very well before using.