Making Shrimp Paste

The finished product has a pungent smell and reddish-orange in colour.

Lately I’ve been craving some Southeast Asian recipes such as laksa soup, Thai green curry, and tom yum soup.  However, every time I purchase premade sauces, my food tastes unsatisfying.  Either the broth is not flavorful enough or the dishes taste like Thai frozen dinners.  It lacks the strong aromas of Southeast Asian cooking.  Shrimp paste is a flavorful and essential ingredient in many Southeast Asian dishes.  It is a concentrated mixture of fermented shrimp and salt that is used to add depth and umami to various recipes.

While it can be easily purchased from stores, making your own shrimp paste from scratch can be a rewarding experience that allows you to customize the flavor to your liking.

Adding vegetable oil to the mixture for an easier mixing process.

  • 500 grams of shrimp peels
  • 1 tbsp of sea salt
  • 1 tbsp vegetable/olive oil
  • 1 fresh chilli pepper or chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp butter
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 2 tbsp chopped onions
  • 2 tsp chopped cilantro (optional)
  • 1 tsp chopped green onions (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon of rice flour (optional)
  1. Clean and peel the shrimp.  Use the shrimp peels and shrimp heads and add them to a skillet.
  2. Add butter, chilli flakes, pepper, cilantro, green onions, rice flour, sea salt to skillet with shrimp peels
  3. Spread the shrimp on a baking sheet or a clean towel, and pat them dry with another towel.
  4. Place the shrimp in a large bowl and sprinkle the sea salt over them.  Mix well to ensure that the salt is evenly distributed.
  5. Transfer it to a food processor or a mortar and pestle.  Add 1 tbsp of vegetable or olive oil to improve ease of processing.
  6. Grind the shrimp paste until it reaches a smooth and uniform texture.  If you want a firmer texture, you can add rice flour to the mixture.
  7. Store the shrimp paste in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one year.
Bonus Tips:
  • Make sure to use fresh shrimp, as stale shrimp can result in a sour taste and spoilage.
  • The fermentation time can vary depending on the temperature and humidity of your environment. It is best to check the shrimp paste regularly to ensure that it is fermenting properly.
  • If you don’t have a food processor or a mortar and pestle, you can also grind the shrimp paste using a cheese grater or a fine mesh sieve.
  • Use caution when handling the shrimp paste, as it has a very strong and pungent odor that can linger on your hands and clothes.

While some chefs will use fresh shrimp to create the paste, I prefer the scraps from other shrimp dishes as it really makes use of food waste in a delicious way.

Making your own shrimp paste from scratch is a simple and rewarding process that can elevate the flavor of your dishes.  My favorite part about making my own shrimp paste from scratch is that it helps me use all of the food scraps in the kitchen.  When I meal prep at home I’m in search of soup bases and sauces to help elevate the flavor of my Asian cooking and making shrimp paste from scratch has been so satisfying in that it uses up common kitchen ingredients.  With a few ingredients and some patience, you can create a flavorful and authentic condiment that is sure to impress.  Give it a try and enjoy the delicious taste of homemade shrimp paste!


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