An essential ingredient to have on hand to add red colour, mild heat and a smokey flavour to Indian marinades, curries and soups.
Kashmiri red chillies are used extensively in Indian cuisine for curries, grilled meats and subzi (vegetable dishes). They are popular for imparting a red hue to a dish, their mild heat and slight fruity flavour.
A couple of teaspoons of this Red Chilli Paste adds a beautiful deep red colour and slight smokiness to dishes. It is very different from the bright red tandoori chicken found in some restaurants serving South Asian food – a result of cheap red food dye which fails to look or taste good.
(This paste is not to be confused with red curry paste which is a blend of several spices.)
A jar of this chilli paste will last a long time. To use it add a spoonful or two to a marinade, a pan along with other spices to cook lightly, stir it into a curry or soup.
Read more about Indian Spices
Why use a chilli paste?
Indian cooks prefer cooking with chilli paste as it allows the colour and flavours to mix more easily and cook with other ingredients, much the same way as using a ginger or garlic paste.
Recipes using red chilli paste
How to select the chillies
Kashmiri red chillies can be easily found in most supermarkets, Indian shops or health food stores.
Select those that are deep red in colour and not brown or faded as those are not as fresh.
Make chilli paste from scratch
- Use Kashmiri red chillies
- Dry roast them in a warm skillet for a few minutes till they release their aroma (take care not to let them burn).
- Remove the stems and cut the chillies open to remove the seeds (these seeds can be ground to make another, spicier chilli powder).
- Add the chillies to boiling water to rehydrate them – they will start to swell. Boil for around 10 minutes.
- Drain the water away, and transfer the chillies to a blender, (no need to add water as the chillies are now pulpy.)
- Grind the chillies to a smooth paste.
How to store it
Spoon the red chilli paste into an airtight container and cover with a thin layer of oil to store in the fridge. It will keep for around 2 months.
To freeze, spoon into an ice-tray then freeze. Transfer the frozen cubes to a ziploc bag to keep in the freezer for up to 9 months.
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Indian Red Chilli Paste
- 20 dried Kashmiri red chillies
- 2 cups water
- Remove the stems and seeds from the chillies and dry roast in a skillet on medium low heat for a couple of minutes till you can smell their aroma. Remove from the skillet and set aside.
- In a medium saucepan, bring the water to a boil and add the chillies.
- Boil for 10 minutes till the chillies have rehydrated.
- Remove the chillies and reserve ⅓ cup of the water for blending. Transfer the chillies to a blender and add 3 tablespoons of the water and blend to a smooth paste. You may need to add a little more water if the consistency is too thick. Scoop out the paste and store in a glass jar.
- Heat the chillies for a smokey flavour, taking care that they don’t overheat and burn.
- Pour the Red Chilli Paste in an airtight container and cover with a thin layer of oil to store in the fridge. It will keep for around 2 months.
- To freeze, pour in an ice-tray and freeze. Then transfer the frozen cubes to a ziploc bag to keep in the freezer for up to 9 months.