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Thai Flavor Paste

Scott Phillips

Yield: Yields about 3/4-cup.

This extremely versatile flavoring paste is the essence of Thai cooking. The ritual of Thai food preparation invariably begins with pounding these ingredients, sometimes along with other herbs and spices, into a paste. Try it in Stir-Fried Chicken with Green Beans & Mushrooms.  You can use a mortar, a food processor, or a blender, but the paste made in a machine will be coarser. For a less-pungent paste, use 2 tsp. peppercorns and 1 tsp. coriander seeds.


  • 1 Tbs. coriander seeds
  • 2 Tbs. white peppercorns (preferably Thai)
  • 12 to 15 cloves garlic, minced (1/2 cup)
  • 1 tsp. coarse sea salt or kosher salt
  • 1 cup minced fresh cilantro stems, roots, or-both


  • Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add the coriander seeds and toast them, shaking the skillet, until the seeds are aromatic, about 3 minutes. Pour the seeds into a small bowl to cool. Repeat with the peppercorns. When cool, grind the coriander seeds and peppercorns separately in an electric spice grinder or a mortar and pestle.

To finish with a mortar and pestle:

  • Put the garlic and salt in a mortar (set a damp towel under the mortar to keep it from sliding) and pound straight up and down with the pestle until a paste forms. Use a spatula to scrape the garlic from the sides into the center of the mortar as often as necessary. Add the cilantro roots and stems and continue pounding to a fairly smooth paste. Add the ground spices and pound until incorporated. Transfer to a sealed jar and refrigerate.

To finish with a food processor or blender:

  • Pulse the garlic, salt, and cilantro roots and stems in the processor until finely minced, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the ground spices and process to a paste. Transfer to a sealed jar and refrigerate.

Make Ahead Tips

The paste can be made ahead and refrigerated for up to a month.


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