Fresh, intensely aromatic curry paste is easy to make at home. Use it in marinades, broths, and sauces.
Credit: Photo: Greg Dupree

Sure, it's easy to grab a jar of your favorite condiment from the shelf to get dinner started. But with a little planning, you can make your own homemade curry sauce to use in three distinctively different recipes this week. Start by whipping up your curry paste the night before and marinating your chicken for the next day. You'll use 5 tablespoons curry paste for two additional recipes and 1/3 cup curry paste for another use. Simmer cod fillets in curry paste for day two and mix with canned coconut milk and nut butter for a satay sauce for noodle bowls on day three.

Our case for making condiments from scratch usually boils down to flavor and sodium: Store-bought curry paste contains about 350mg per serving compared to 4mg in our fresh paste. Omitting salt in the paste lets you use it where it matters—directly on the chicken, instead of in a marinade that'll be discarded later. The shelf life is shorter (about two weeks in the fridge), but the big flavor and salt savings are worth it. Extend use by freezing in ice-cube trays for up to three months.

Starter Dish: Curried Grilled Chicken Thighs

Curry paste is a flavor powerhouse, full of roasted aromatics, earthy spices, fiery chiles, and more. Yellow curry powder is commonly used in green curry paste recipes, serving as the flavor backbone; it's convenient, too, providing lots of spices in a single handy ingredient. You can substitute 1 tablespoon lemongrass paste (found near the fresh herbs) for the fresh stalks; simply add right to the food processor instead of roasting.

Second Meal: Curry-Poached Cod with Snap Pea Slaw

While a lot of curry paste makes a fantastic marinade, just a little can make a light, fragrant poaching liquid for delicate cod fillets. A crunchy, colorful slaw makes this a refreshing summer main.

Third Meal: Thai Sweet Potato Noodle Bowls

Add fresh curry paste to canned coconut milk and nut butter, and you have an instant, wonderfully complex satay sauce. Use as a dip, in stir-fries, or drizzled on this gluten-free veggie bowl.