Chilli paste in oil – nam prik pao

Condiments and sauces RECIPES

Chilli paste in oil - nam prik pao

So good and so versatile – if you like Thai cooking you’ve probably got a jar of nam prik pao somewhere already.  It’s both a cooking ingredient and a condiment. It’s used in soups including tom yum, and you can add a small spoonful into all sorts of soups, stir fries and curries or stir it into a fried rice or noodle dish. Once you start using it, you’ll be adding this to everything … shepherd’s pie, cheese on toast, who knows?

I have just had a quick snack of some plain rice with a teaspoon of chilli paste stirred through it and that on its own tasted great. For a very quick lunch or supper it works even better with a fried egg on top.

Or instead of plain rice, a quick mushroom fried rice with chilli paste and an egg! Yum!

photo 1

This isn’t a true nam prik pao which is made from roasted chillies and takes hours and hours to make; its a much simpler chilli paste in oil.  It doesn’t have the subtlety and depth of flavour of a true roasted version, but it’s easy to make and certainly easy to use.

These quantities made half a small jar … but a little goes a long way! In a covered jar it will keep  in the fridge for a few months.


3-4 tbsp vegetable cooking oil

3-4 cloves garlic depending on size, chopped

2 shallots or 1/4 white onion, finely chopped

2 tbsp crushed dried red chillies

1 tbsp cayenne pepper or chilli powder

3 tbsp fish sauce (or 2 of fish sauce and one teaspoon of shrimp paste)

3 tbsp light brown sugar

juice of one lime

2 tbsp water

Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and then fry the onions and garlic until light brown and on the edge of going crispy. Remove the onions and garlic from the pan into a separate dish and turn the heat off but leave the oil in the pan.

Mix all the other ingredients together in a pestle and mortar.


Then add the onions and garlic, pounding together (but gently) to break down the garlic and onion as much as possible. It won’t combine perfectly and you will still have separate bits of onions, but it combines the flavours.


Put the frying pan back on a low heat and then add the chilli mixture. Simmer for 3-4 minutes and then taste – add more water if it is too thin, more oil if you want it more oily and taste it too for flavour.  I added another tablespoon of sugar and half a tablespoon of fish sauce at this stage. (My next jar, made since this post, I added just a splash of water and half a tablespoon of fish sauce – you really need to taste, taste and taste again!).


Simmer for a further 3-4 minutes until the paste is caramelised, dark and glossy-looking.


Cool enough to pour into a jar then cool completely before sealing and storing in the fridge.


Did you make this? And what did you then make with it? Let me know …

3 thoughts on “Chilli paste in oil – nam prik pao”

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