How to Make Authentic Nam Prik Pao (Thai Chili Paste)

What is nam prik pao?

Nam Prik Pao, also known as Thai chili paste, is a versatile and flavorful condiment commonly found on tables at restaurants across Thailand. This recipe yields a rich and aromatic chili paste that can be used as a condiment, dipping sauce, stir-fry seasoning, or added to soups and marinades.

Embracing Thai Culture Through Culinary Exploration

I lived in Bangkok for 4 years and spent most of this time working as the Marketing Director for Bodega Hostels. Before getting the opportunity to spearhead their marketing, I worked in Bodega Bangkok as a bartender and ‘party staff’, leading drinking games like Beer Pong and King’s Cup every night. It was during this period of my life that I spent time hanging out with the kitchen staff, learning things here and there – including how to make authentic nam prik pao.

How to Make Nam Prik Pao


  • 15 Thai chili peppers (adjust quantity based on desired spice level)
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 4 shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 4 tablespoons dried shrimp
  • 4 tablespoons tamarind paste
  • 3 tablespoons palm sugar or brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon shrimp paste (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons roasted peanuts, finely chopped (optional)


  1. Prepare the Ingredients: Remove the stems from the Thai chili peppers. If you prefer less heat, you can remove the seeds as well.
  2. In a mortar and pestle, grind the garlic, shallots, and dried shrimp into a coarse paste. Alternatively, you can use a food processor for this step.
  3. Roast the Chili Peppers: Heat a dry skillet over medium heat. Add the Thai chili peppers to the skillet and roast them for 2-3 minutes, or until they become fragrant and slightly charred. Be careful not to burn them.
  4. Make the Nam Prik Pao: In the same skillet, add the vegetable oil and heat it over medium heat.
  5. Add the ground garlic, shallots, and dried shrimp paste to the skillet. Stir-fry for 2-3 minutes until aromatic.
  6. Add the roasted Thai chili peppers to the skillet and continue to stir-fry for another 2 minutes.
  7. Grind the Ingredients: Transfer the mixture from the skillet into a mortar and pestle.
  8. Add the tamarind paste, palm sugar, fish sauce, and shrimp paste (if using) to the pestle.
  9. Mash the ingredients until you achieve a smooth paste-like consistency. If the mixture is too thick, you can add a little water to thin it out.
  10. Adjust the Seasoning: Taste the Nam Prik Pao and adjust the seasoning according to your preference. You can add more sugar for sweetness, more fish sauce for saltiness, or more chili peppers for extra heat.
  11. (Optional) Add Peanuts: If you like, you can add finely chopped roasted peanuts to the Nam Prik Pao for extra texture and flavor. Stir them in until well combined.

Final Thoughts

Incorporating Nam Prik Pao into your culinary repertoire is not just about experiencing the flavours of Thailand; it’s about expanding your culinary horizons and infusing your favourite Western dishes with a touch of exotic flair.

Whether you’re stirring it into a marinara sauce for a spicy kick, spreading it on sandwiches for a burst of flavour, or using it as a dipping sauce for fries or chicken tenders, Nam Prik Pao adds depth and complexity to any dish.

So, why not get creative in the kitchen and elevate your meals with this versatile and delicious Thai chili paste? Your taste buds will thank you for the adventure!

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