Why You Should Always Have Curry Paste In Your Pantry

If you're inspired to whip up a comforting bowl of curry, curry paste is a crucial ingredient you'll need to deploy. But unless you're an old hand at it, you won't want to make it from scratch, as you'll need to have several ingredients on hand, including shrimp paste, lemongrass, galangal, and red Thai chili peppers. Plus, if you're trying to make different types of curry (Thai green curry and Amok curry, for example), you'll have to get your hands on various other ingredients that you may only use once.

The solution? Buy your curry paste at the grocery store. While it's true that homemade is often better than store-bought, many Thai chefs say that it's fine to purchase a pre-made curry paste. You'll save a ton of time by avoiding running around town looking for ingredients and skipping the part where you have to chop and blend them together. It's a potent sauce, so a single large jar should help make several dishes, and it will be a minute before you have to run back out for more.

How to use store-bought curry paste

Not only is curry paste an easy, efficient option for when you want to make curry in a hurry, but it's an incredibly versatile ingredient. Beyond the various types of Thai curries (red, green, and yellow, among others), you can drop a little paste in soups, stews, and even stir-fries. It also makes for a delicious marinade in dishes like slow cooker coconut curry chicken thighs, or a sauce component in recipes like Thai red curry chicken. Chicken isn't the only protein that this paste can benefit from, however — it also pairs beautifully with fish, mussels, and shrimp. You can even use it to whip up a sauce for pasta or veggies or create a spicy condiment by mixing it with mayo, coconut cream, ketchup, or plain yogurt.

While buying store-bought curry paste can lead to a plethora of delicious dishes, there are a few guidelines to keep in mind to make sure you nab a good one. Look for Thai brands like Maesri, and search for cans that don't have filler ingredients. If you're not sure where to start, pick up red curry paste, as it's a staple in a wide variety of Thai dishes like Panang curry and Gaeng Tai Pla, a southern Thai curry. Your best bet is to head to an Asian grocery store for the biggest selection — and once you find one, you'll be ready to whip up a ton of tasty meals.