For a long time, I thought curry was a dish I couldn’t master at home. It’s so full-flavored at Indian restaurants, I assumed there was some kind of secret to its success! As it turns out, learning how to make curry at home is not only easy, it’s so easy to pull off that it’s become my go-to weeknight meal. It only requires one pot, and the prep is super minimal.
Check out our easy-to-follow steps to create restaurant-quality curry.
What Do You Put in a Curry?
You can make curry with meat, seafood, legumes or vegetables. While curry recipes can vary drastically, most are simmered in a heavily spiced sauce and served with a side of rice. Curries are wonderfully adaptable, and once you have your base sauce you can easily cater the dish to your tastes.
The real secret to curry success is using fresh spices. Please throw away that jar of curry powder you’ve had in the spice cabinet for ages! (Yes, spices do expire.) If it’s older than two years, it’s probably lost its luster.
Finally, there are many types of rice. We recommend serving your curry over an aromatic rice such as basmati or jasmine. Much of the enjoyment of curry is the delicious aromas, and using these types of rice is a great way to enjoy your meal even before you start to taste it.
Garam Masala or Curry Powder?
You have your choice when it comes to the spices used in curry. Garam masala is a warmer Indian spice blend that includes cinnamon, cloves and plenty of black pepper. Curry powder comes in many different forms, but it usually uses turmeric as its base. This spice belongs to the ginger family and adds a beautiful, golden yellow hue to the dish.
Feel free to experiment with these blends, and even use them both to create the perfect spice profile for your curry. No matter which you choose, we recommend planning ahead to give the spices time to blend. A rest of a few hours (or as long as overnight) does absolute wonders for saucy and spicy dishes like curry and chili.
How do You Make Curry Spicy?
Curries derive their spice from peppers–fresh, dried, blended in a paste or in powdered form–so adding extra chili peppers is an easy way to make your curry spicier. If you make your own copycat curry or garam masala spice blend, you can add extra cayenne pepper to the mix. When you’re using store-bought spices or curry pastes, the easiest way to add spice is to add fresh chilies like jalapeno, serrano, habanero or scotch bonnet.
How to Make Curry
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1-1/2 lbs meat, cut into bite-sized pieces (can use beef, pork, chicken, lamb, or goat)
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons finely grated ginger root
- 1/2 to 2 tablespoons of garam masala, yellow curry powder or a combo of both.
- 2 cups broth (vegetable, chicken, fish), plus more to thin the sauce if necessary
- 2 medium tomatoes, chopped, or 1 (15.5 ounces) can of diced tomatoes
- 1-2 dried chilies, or 1 fresh jalapeno or serrano chili, halved (optional)
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, coconut milk or full-fat Greek yogurt (optional)
- Cooked rice of your choice, for serving
- Minced fresh herbs, such as Thai basil, mint and cilantro (optional), for garnish
- Chopped nuts (optional), for garnish
- Fried shallots (optional), for garnish
A quick note about the ingredients: Curry is infinitely variable based on your tastes, so you’ll notice a lot of options in the ingredients list! Don’t let it overwhelm you. After you’ve made this recipe once, you’ll be ready to make it your own.
Taste of Home
Step 1: Brown the meat
Starting by searing the meat is a great way to build layers of flavor into your curries, but you’ll need to add it in batches to get a hard sear and prevent steaming. Heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Add the meat in batches, browning it on all sides, about 5 minutes. It doesn’t need to be cooked through—there will be plenty of time for that later! Then, remove it to a plate and set it aside while you brown the rest of the meat.
Taste of Home
Step 2: Sweat your onions and bloom the spices
Once the meat is finished browning, add the diced onion to the skillet and cook over medium-high heat until it has softened and starts to caramelize on the edges, about 5 minutes. There should be plenty of oil left in the pan, but you can add an extra glug of oil if you need.
Now the fun begins: add the garlic, ginger, and spices. Blooming the spices is a crucial step to creating a successful curry, as it releases essential flavor compounds. You only need about 30 seconds here; you don’t want the garlic to brown and become bitter. You know it’s done when the aroma in the room becomes completely intoxicating!
Pro Tip: For a sweeter, more mild curry, use 1-1/2 tablespoons of sweet yellow curry powder. You can make your curry bolder and more peppery by using 2 tablespoons of garam masala instead. Or, use a combination of the two!
Taste of Home
Step 3: Simmer away
Now that the spices have bloomed, it’s time to get saucy! Add the broth, tomatoes and chilies (if using). Bring the mixture to a simmer and let the flavors meld for about 5 minutes. If you’re using meat, add the browned meat back to the simmering sauce and turn the heat down to low. Cover the skillet and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, until the meat is cooked through and tender.
Pro Tip: If the sauce looks dry or it’s reducing too much, add 1/2 cup of extra broth. You could also remove the curry from the heat and whisk in 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, coconut milk or full-fat Greek yogurt to create an extra rich curry.
Step 4: Enjoy!
Once the curry is thick and saucy, it’s time to dig in! Remove the chilies and serve the sauce over rice. Top the curry with chopped fresh herbs to give the dish a fresh, herbaceous flavor. You can also add chopped nuts (like cashews or peanuts) or crispy fried shallots to add depth.
Pro Tip: If your curry tastes flat, check out some of the optional variations below to give it a tart finish or balance the flavors with garnish. You can always add a touch of salt or whisk in an acidic ingredient like vinegar or citrus juice. If it’s still missing something, adding a teaspoon or two of fish sauce or Worcestershire sauce can help add that savory note you are missing without overpowering the dish.
Curry is one of those dishes that’s easy to make your own! Once you’ve made our base recipe, customize it by using a few of these suggested variations.
- Veggies: Instead of using meat, swap in 6 cups of vegetables, chopped into bite-sized pieces. Our favorite combinations are cubed potatoes and frozen peas, cauliflower and carrots or green beans and eggplant, but feel free to have some fun with it! You can skip the browning step and add them after the initial 5-minute simmer (when you would be adding the browned meat back to the curry). Simmer until the veggies are tender when pierced with a fork but not mushy, from 5 to 15 minutes.
- Legumes: Adding legumes (like chickpeas, lentils or beans) is a fantastic way to add plant-based protein to your curry. If you’re using dried beans, you’ll want to cook them ahead of time, but canned beans that have been drained and rinsed work just fine here. Like the veggies, skip the browning step and add the beans after the 5-minute simmer. Cook them until they’re warmed through, about 5 minutes.
- Fish or shrimp: Give your curry a coastal flair by swapping in seafood! Cut 1-pound of firm white fish (like cod or snapper) into bite-sized pieces, or use peeled and deveined shrimp. Since they only need 3 to 5 minutes to cook through, you can add the seafood at the end of the cook time and simmer until it’s just cooked through.
- Caribbean style: Put a little twist on your curry by using half curry and half Jamaican Jerk seasoning. Instead of the jalapeno pepper, amp up the heat by using a habanero or scotch bonnet pepper. Be careful, though; these peppers are super spicy!
- Southeast Asian style: Indian and Bangladeshi curries use dried curry powders, but Thai, Vietnamese and Laotian curries use pastes instead. These curry pastes contain fresh vegetables, shrimp paste or fish sauce, hot chilies and aromatic ingredients like shallots, garlic, cilantro and basil. They have deep savory flavors (called umami) and a rich finish, especially when combined with coconut milk. You can find Southeast Asian curry pastes at many specialty stores, including mild Thai curry pastes. If the paste is too spicy for your liking, tame the heat by reducing or eliminating chilies from your base recipe.
- Give it a tart finish: For a truly authentic experience, add a tablespoon of tamarind paste (available online and at specialty markets). Or, mimic that flavor by adding acidity with a tablespoon of white vinegar, lemon or lime juice instead.
- Mix up the garnish: The best dishes have a delicate balance of flavors, which you can achieve by having some fun with the garnishes! Add minced cilantro, mint, green onions or citrus zest to bring the perfect finishing touch to your rich curry. Alternatively, you can add chopped nuts or fried shallots to add crunch and textural contrast to softer curries that contain lentils, eggplants and zucchini.
- Craving curry but short on time? Toss veggies like sweet potato wedges in a bit of oil and curry powder before roasting them. Or, add curry powder to your ketchup dunking sauce! You can also take a page from your local Irish pub and mix a bit of curry powder into your gravy to ladle over “chips.”
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