Thailand inspires so many travelers, and it’s easy to see why. This tropical country is nestled in the center of Southeast Asia. Despite its small size, Thailand has a bit of everything: rugged mountains, beautiful beaches, friendly locals, and of course, an amazing food culture.
Thai cuisine is known throughout the world for its bold combination of flavors. Thai food often combines sweet, spicy, and umami tastes together in one dish. Crunchy vegetables and creamy coconut milk often mingle with meats, rice, and noodles, allowing you to experience a variety of flavors and textures with every bite.
Creating delicious Thai food is easy with the right ingredients. Add these Thai staples to your pantry, and you’ll be able to unlock your wanderlust right from your kitchen.
Six Starter Thai Ingredients for Your Pantry
Coconut Palm Sugar
Coconut palm sugar has been gaining popularity in the West recently, but it’s been a staple in Southeast Asia for centuries. This natural sweetener is made from sap found in the coconut tree, not from coconuts themselves. This means coconut palm sugar’s smooth, caramel flavor does not taste like coconut. It can add a subtle sweetness to coffee and tea, or it can be used in place of white sugar in your favorite recipes. Because it’s unrefined and has a low glycemic index, it will also help you make your indulgences a little healthier. Shop Now.
Fish sauce, also known as nam pla in Thailand, is a savory kitchen essential that helps give Thai food its signature umami taste. This sauce is made from salted fish that’s fermented, giving it a vinegary, salty flavor that often has a touch of sweetness. In Thailand, it’s used both as a condiment and as an ingredient during cooking. Add fish sauce to soups or noodle dishes to give your food a twist that’s authentically Thai. Shop Now.
Red Chili Sauce
The sweet heat of red chili sauce is a perfect example of the bold flavor combinations that make Thai food so special. This all-purpose sauce is made from freshly-ground red chilis and a variety of spices. It’s a great substitute for an American-style hot sauce and can be used to spice up just about any dish. Use it as a dipping sauce for veggies or spring rolls, or combine it with other Thai ingredients like fish sauce and coconut palm sugar for a flavorful marinade. Shop Now.
Red Curry Paste
Red curry paste is a Thai staple that is known for its tangy, smoky flavor. It’s made of crushed red chilis, with other flavors like lemongrass and ginger included for a balanced taste. This paste is the main ingredient in red Thai curry, one of the most popular dishes in the country. Tourists and locals alike find comfort in the creamy, soup-like broth. With a good red curry paste, this dish is easy to recreate at home. Shop Now.
Creamy coconut milk will give your dishes a flavor that is quintessentially Thai. This “milk” is actually a dairy-free liquid made from grated coconut pulp. It has a deep coconut flavor and a rich texture that perfectly balances the spice in dishes like red Thai curry. Coconut milk also contains minerals like manganese, magnesium, and iron, and will give dishes a touch of indulgence without adding much sugar. Use it in curries and sauces for a touch of creaminess, or use it in desserts to add a depth of flavor beneath the sweetness. Shop Now.
Tamarind paste is made from the fruit of the tamarind tree, a common plant in Thailand. Even if you haven’t heard of tamarind paste before, you’ve most likely tasted it. This tangy, slightly sour sauce is what gives Pad Thai its unique flavor. With this paste in your pantry, you’ll be surprised how easy it is to recreate the deep umami flavor found in your favorite noodle dishes. Just be careful to only use a small amount of tamarind paste, as its flavor can be quite intense on its own. Try using it with coconut sugar for a more balanced, mild taste. Shop Now.
Next-Level Thai Pantry Building
As your cooking skills grow, you’ll want to expand your pantry to include other Thai favorites. Whole red chili peppers, soy sauce, and shrimp paste will allow you to create a variety of delicious Thai sauces after you master the basics. Staples like dried noodles and jasmine rice are great accompaniments and will allow you to turn your sauces and curries into complete meals. Shop Now.
Where to Buy
Finding the right ingredients for your Thai dishes can be challenging in a western grocery store. When shopping at Nomads Marketplace, you’ll be able to find all the ingredients for your international dishes in one place, with additional resources that make exploring new cuisines easy.
Nomads Marketplace is an online ethnic food market. Our site features affordable, high-quality ingredients, as well as recipes and resources that make using new flavors simple and fun. It’s the easiest way to discover the tastes of the world. Shop Thai Collection.