Pantry staples: Thai cuisine

Excellent Thai food is a full-palate experience: salty, spicy, sour, sweet and bitter come together to create riotous flavor combinations. It’s an irresistible cooking challenge.

As satisfying as it will be to create your own Tom Yum Goong (spicy shrimp soup) or Sai Ua (herbed sausage) at home, the full flavors add up to quite a shopping list.

Too many errands can derail a cooking project, so to be sure your Saturday afternoon is spent in the kitchen and not running around town, stock your pantry with staples for your next Thai-themed dinner.

Keeping small amounts of the most basic pantry items on hand, especially spices, will help you create those indescribable flavors with a minimum of fuss.


  • Black peppercorns
  • Cardamom
  • Cinnamon
  • Chiles
    • Especially dried cayenne and Thai bird chiles
  • Cloves
  • Coriander
  • Cumin
  • Kaffir lime leaves.
    • Dried are most common but fresh are most flavorful. Substitute lime zest.
  • Nutmeg
  • Sesame seeds
  • Turmeric

Specialty items

  • Fish sauce
  • Rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • Kapi (shrimp paste)

Authentic shrimp paste is made from krill that ferments in the sun for three days, but try this recipe if you’d like to make your own version of this essential Thai ingredient.

Create homemade curry paste ahead of time, like this one, and you’ll be even closer to your weekend feast.