This easy vegan massaman curry paste recipe combines traditional Thai curry paste ingredients with the Indian influence of ground spices for a delectable, oil-free paste that serves as the flavor base for fine curry dining.
If you're a fan of Thai food like veggie curry or tofu curry or prefer chickpea curry with more of an Indian tone, this vegan massaman curry recipe is the perfect fusion of flavors from South Thailand in one yummy recipe.
Table of Contents
Why You'll Love This Recipe
Accessible vegan ingredients. We skipped the shrimp paste and fish sauce, often used in curry pastes for a combination of shallots, miso paste, ginger, and garlic.
Easy substitutions. Whole spices can be substituted with the ground, making you more likely to get all the ingredients at your local grocery store.
Smooth flavor. The fusion of Thai flavors with a touch of Indian spices makes this curry paste a great middle alternative.
Meal prep favorite. Massaman curry paste freezes well, so you can make a double batch and have it ready for a quick weeknight meal.
Quality control. The effort of homemade massaman curry paste is the reward of full flavor, with everything you want and nothing you don’t.
Ingredients, Notes, and Substitutions
Dried chili peppers. Dried chili peppers have a more intense flavor. I used dried Thai red chilies, but you can also use bird's eye chilies. They are more petite but equally as hot, so stick with 5. You can also use crushed red chilies (1 – 2 tablespoons).
Lemongrass. Fresh lemongrass looks like a woody stalk with a greenish-yellow bulb. If you don't find fresh stalks, don't despair. Lemongrass is sometimes sold preprepared in little jars of lemongrass paste, which is a great option. Use 1 tablespoon.
Cardamom. Green cardamom seeds have a slightly sweet and herbal flavor. They are often used in Indian cuisine. Use 1 teaspoon of ground cardamom as a substitute.
Shallots. Mild and sweet shallots won’t overpower the curry paste. The best alternative is red onions.
White peppercorns. Use ¾ a teaspoon of ground white pepper or black peppercorns as a substitute.
Cinnamon. I like toasting a cinnamon stick because it brings out the flavor. Break it into a few pieces before adding it to the spice grinder. Use ground cinnamon if desired.
Miso paste. White Shiro miso paste is mellow, with a sweet umami flavor. Use whatever you have on hand.
Cilantro. Use the tender stems as well as the leaves. If you don't like the taste of cilantro, leave it out.
Please see the recipe card at the bottom of this post for the complete list of ingredients with measurements plus recipe instructions.
Step 1: Toast whole spices for 1-2 minutes.
Step 2: Transfer the spices to a spice grinder (or coffee grinder) and grind them into a fine powder.
Step 3: Add the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth. Use a food processor or blender if your spice grinder isn't large enough for all the ingredients.
How to Use Massaman Paste
Massaman curry paste is typically used to make massaman curry. This popular Thai dish features potatoes or sweet potatoes, veggies like green beans, and peanuts in a creamy curry sauce as a vegan version. However, it can flavor other dishes like soups, stir-fries, and marinades.
To create a delicious massaman curry sauce, use vegetable broth with lime juice, soy sauce, and maple syrup. Use 2-3 tablespoons of this smooth curry paste, like red curry paste in Thai curries. Use creamy coconut milk if desired or plant milk with a drop of coconut extract for a lower-fat version. For more alternatives, check out 19 substitutes for coconut milk.
Whether you aim for Indian cuisine or more Thai influence, one of the best ways to serve massaman curry is with crispy tofu. We’ve got a super easy recipe using firm or extra firm tofu. Air fry or bake it, and your curry will be a star on the table.
Serve Massaman curry over brown rice or flavorful jasmine rice for a complete meal with a southern Thai cuisine flare.
Storage and Freezing
Massaman curry paste can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a month. Alternatively, it can be frozen for up to six months. Freeze it in small portions or an ice cube tray and add it directly to curry sauces.
Frequently Asked Questions
Lemongrass has a distinctive flavor that is subtly lemony and woody. Suppose you cannot find fresh lemongrass stalks or jarred lemongrass. In that case, you may discover lemongrass powder, the best substitute for fresh lemongrass. An equal combination of lemon and lime zest or lime juice is the best option if no lemongrass product is available.
The key differences between massaman and green curry paste are their ingredients, flavor profiles, and spiciness levels. Massaman curry paste is milder and sweeter, while green curry paste is spicier and more intense. Massaman curry paste is made from a combination of dry spices with Indian roots, plus Thai-inspired fresh ingredients like lemongrass, ginger, garlic, and shallots. Green curry paste is made with green chilies, and kaffir limes with a spicy and savory flavor that is considered one of the spiciest Thai curries.
Many Massaman curries use peanuts in the curry paste or peanut butter to prepare the curry. We opted not to use peanuts in our recipe to avoid allergies and fat, but you can add peanuts as a garnish or in curry sauce.
Massaman curry paste has a mild and slightly sweet taste, making it suitable for those who prefer less spicy dishes. However, the level of spiciness may vary depending on the brand and recipe used.