A steel pan filled with a chicken curry, and placed on a red placemat, surrounded by chilis.

How Do I Cook Indian Curry Recipes From Scratch?

I am from a place where we eat curry, breathe curry and sleep curry…in other words, we LOVE curry!  My dad makes the most delicious curries from scratch and I always assumed that cooking Indian food was really difficult – it sounded so complex when dad explained it! But after some experimenting in the kitchen, I learned that it’s actually not too hard to make your own curry at home.

So, I learned to cook lots of curries and we (my dad & I) enjoyed the process of mixing different pungent spices to bring out tons of flavor. Now, I experience the beauty of cooking like this on my own, in the customary progression of smack-your-lips taste and make-you-drool smell.

In this article I will teach you the basic information needed for Indian cooking, from choosing the right spices to choosing the right cookware. So get your spices and let’s get cooking!

There are a few basic steps to cooking Indian food

  • Preheat your oven or stovetop to the appropriate temperature
  • Add oil to your pan and heat until it is hot
  • Add your spices and allow them to fry in the oil for a minute or two
  • Add your vegetables, meat, or tofu and cook until they are done to your liking
  • Serve over rice or with Naan bread and enjoy!

(More details on how I cook Indian curry recipes from scratch at end of this article)

Best pots for Indian cooking

Punjabi Tava (Flat griddle)

A Punjabi Tava pot that is filled with a hot curry, toped with a chili and some coriander.

Punjabi Tava (Flat Griddle) is a popular cooking utensil in the Punjab region of India. It is used to cook a variety of dishes, such as roti (flatbread), paratha (stuffed flatbread), and puri (fried bread). A Punjabi Tava typically has a round shape and is made of cast iron or aluminum. It is usually placed on a stovetop and heated until it is very hot before cooking.

The Punjabi Tava is a large, flat, and round griddle that is used extensively in Indian cuisine The Tava can also be placed on a direct flame and heated until it is extremely hot. Once the tava is heated, oil or ghee (clarified butter) is added to the center of the pan and spread outwards in a circular motion. The food is then placed on the Tava and cooked until it is browned on both sides.

Curry pots (Karahi / Indian Wok)

A traditional Indian wok, also known as a Karahi that has been filled with Indian curry.

There are many different types of curry pots available on the market, but the two most common types are the Karahi and the Bhuna pan. Both of these pots are large and deep, which makes them perfect for cooking curries.

The Kadhai / Karahi (Indian Wok) has sloping sides, which makes it easy to stir the contents without spillage. The Bhuna pan is a large and deep frying pan that is perfect for cooking curries, stews and other dishes where you need to control the heat and cook over a high flame.

Clay pots for cooking

A glazed cooking clay pot filled with chicken curry, and stirred with a silver spoon.

Clay pots are another type of pot that is commonly used in Indian cooking and they are made from a variety of materials, but the most common type is made from fired clay. I learnt from personal experience, that you need to be cautious when working with clay pots and remember that you have to gradually increase the heat.

I put my clay pot on high heat straight off the bat and my clay pot shattered (with all my yummy curry inside, twas a sad day). Indian cooking is traditionally done in a clay pot so be sure to learn and understand how to use your clay pot.

Basic utensils for Indian kitchen

A basic Indian kitchen will have a few key pieces of equipment that will allow you to make all sorts of different curries. Here are the basics:

  • A good knife – This is essential for any kitchen, but especially important in an Indian kitchen where you’ll be doing a lot of chopping and mincing. A sharp knife will make the process much easier and quicker.
  • A cutting board – Again, this is an essential for any kitchen, but even more so in an Indian kitchen where you’ll be doing a lot of chopping. Choose a cutting board that is large enough to accommodate all the ingredients for your curry.
  • Heavy bottomed pan – This is necessary for making any type of curry, as it will allow the flavors to develop and meld together. Choose a pot or pan that is large enough to accommodate all the ingredients for your curry.
  • A spice grinder – A spice grinder will allow you to grind whole spices into a fine powder, which is necessary for many curries. If you don’t have a spice grinder, you can use a coffee grinder or even a mortar and pestle.
  • A strainer – Will be helpful if you want to strain out any whole spices or other ingredients that you don’t want in your final curry.
  • Wooden spoon – I mean how else are you going to mix those elixir of flavors together? But seriously, a wooden spoon is advisable to prevent scratches on expensive pots and pans.

These are the basic pieces of equipment that you will need to make curries. Of course, there are many other tools and gadgets (refer to the table above) that you can use to make your life easier, but these are the basics that you will need to get started.

Indian spices and their uses

Spices are an essential part of Indian cuisine. They are used to add flavor, color, and aroma to dishes. There are many different spices used in Indian cooking, and each has its own unique flavor and use. Here are some of the most common spices used in Indian cuisine:

Some more Indian spices and their uses

  • Ginger – Ginger has a warm, spicy flavor, zingy flavor add to curries and rice dishes.
  • Chaat masala – Chaat masala is a blend of spices that is used to flavor many different dishes. It typically contains black salt, cumin, coriander, ginger, and black pepper.
  • Paprika – Paprika has a sweet and mild flavor, is used to add color to dishes also added zingy sweetness.
  • Dried mango powder – Dried mango powder has a sweet and tangy flavor, goes well in curries and other savory dishes.
  • Asafoetida – Firstly, I cannot even pronounce that 🙂 Asafoetida has a pungent and earthly flavor (onion-garlic flavor), often used in curries.
  • Curry leaves – Curry leaves have a strong and fragrant flavor, wonderful scent as well as a flavor added to many different dishes.
  • Mustard seeds – Mustard seeds have a nutty and spicy flavor, used mostly in savory dishes.
  • Bay leaves – I love the sweet and woody flavor of bay leaves, and I will add it wherever I can.
  • Chili powder – Chili powder is a blend of dried chili peppers and spices, used to add heat/ flavor to dishes. Chili powder is usually made from a combination of ancho chili peppers, cumin, garlic, and oregano. Some chili powders also contain smoked paprika, salt, and sugar.

These are just some of the common spices used in Indian cooking and I suggest experimenting with different combinations to create your own unique flavor.

Reference article [1].

What herbs go well with Indian food?

There are a few herbs that go particularly well with Indian food and these include cilantro, mint, curry leaves, basil, and coriander [2].  Cilantro is a popular choice, as it can help to brighten up curries and other dishes, often used as a garnish.

Mint can also be a nice addition, especially if you’re looking for a cooling effect, and can be used to make a refreshing chutney or raita. Curry leaves are used to flavor curries and other savory dishes. Basil is often used to flavor rice dishes and coriander is used to garnish curries and other dishes.

Other herbs that can be used in Indian cooking include basil, thyme, and rosemary. As always, use your discretion when it comes to adding herbs to your dishes – you don’t want to overpower the other flavors.

A variety of herbs that are used when cooking Indian cuisine. All placed on a wooden table.

Which stove is best for Indian cooking?

The most common type is the gas stove, as they are easy to use and allow you to control the heat very well. Electric stoves are also a good option for Indian cooking, they take a bit longer to heat up, but they are very consistent. If you have the option, choose a stove that has multiple burners because this will allow you to cook multiple dishes at the same time.

Indian cooking often requires long cooking times and needs to maintain a consistent heat for long periods of time, be sure to consider that when choosing a stove.

Common mistakes while cooking Indian food

When it comes to cooking Indian food, there are a few common mistakes that people make. Here are some of the most common mistakes and how to avoid them.

  • Not using enough spices – One of the most common mistakes people make when cooking Indian food is not using enough spices. Indian food is supposed to be very flavorful and spicy. Do not be afraid to use generous portions of spice, you want people’s eyes to water but have the flavor so good they won’t stop eating (Of course, you can go milder if you are not a fan of swollen eyes and heat).
  • Not cooking the food for long enough – Another common mistake people make is not cooking the food for long enough. Indian dishes are usually cooked for a long time so that all the flavors can linger and meld together. Allow those spices to merge into a glorious mélange and send you taste buds into heaven with just one bite.
  • Not using fresh ingredients – Another common mistake people make is not using fresh ingredients. Indian food is all about using fresh, flavorful ingredients, use fresh spices, herbs, and vegetables in your dish for the full effect. However, if you are short on time then using dried spices and canned vegetables is not the end of the world.
  • Using too much oil – One of the worst things you can do when cooking Indian food is to use too much oil. Indian dishes are supposed to be cooked in very little oil therefore, make sure to use just enough oil to cook your dish.
  • Not using ghee – Ghee is an important ingredient in Indian cooking. It adds a lot of flavor and richness to the dish, use ghee in your dish if you want it to be truly authentic.

How do I count calories in Indian food?

When it comes to counting calories in Indian food, it is important to know that there are a lot of different variables. The type of ingredients used, the cooking method, and the serving size all play a role in the calorie count. Therefore, it is important to be aware of all of these factors when you are trying to count the calories in Indian food.

A stainless steel platter filled with a variety of Indian cuisine, served with a knife and fork, placed on a placemat.
  • Type of ingredients used – The type of ingredients used in a dish can have a big impact on the calorie count. For instance, dishes that are made with lots of oil and ghee will be higher in calories than those that are made with less oil.
  • Cooking method – The cooking method can also have an impact on the calorie count. For instance, dishes that are fried will be higher in calories than those that are cooked in less oil.
  • Serving size – The serving size of a dish can also impact the calorie count. A large serving of a high-calorie dish will obviously be higher in calories than a small serving of the same dish. Hence, it is important to be aware of all of these factors when you are trying to count the calories in Indian food.

Best cooking oil for Indian curry?

There are many types of oils that can be used for cooking Indian curry. However, some oils are better suited for certain types of curries than others.

For instance, ghee is a type of clarified butter that is often used in Indian cooking. It has a high smoke point which means that it can be heated to a high temperature without burning, which makes it ideal for cooking at high temperatures.

Other good options for cooking Indian curry include coconut oil and mustard oil [3]. Both of these oils have a high smoke point, which means they can be used for cooking at high temperatures without burning. If you are looking for oil that has a milder flavor, then you may want to try using vegetable oil.

This type of oil is typically light in flavor and has a relatively low smoke point. No matter what type of oil you choose, make sure to use it in moderation because too much oil can make your curry greasy and unhealthy.

Delicious Indian recipes for beginners

Indian chicken curry recipe

A pot of Indian chicken curry, ready to be served with white rice on a black table, with garlic and bay leaves on the side.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. x oil/ghee
  • 1 x large onion, sliced
  • 2 tsp x cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp x mustard seeds
  • 4-6 x garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tsp x grated ginger
  • 2 x bay leaves
  • 1 x cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp x turmeric powder
  • 2 tsp x ground coriander
  • 1 tsp x ground cumin
  • 1 tsp x red chili powder (or to taste)
  • 1 tbsp. x garum masala
  • 1 cup (250ml) x chicken broth
  • 1 can (15 oz.) x diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 tbsp. x tomato paste
  • 2-3 pounds x boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Fresh cilantro leaves for garnish

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil/ghee in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat
  2. Add the onion, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, garlic, ginger, bay leaves, cinnamon stick, and turmeric powder. Stir fry for 2 minutes until fragrant
  3. Add the coriander, cumin, garum masala and chili powder. Stir fry for 1 minute
  4. Pour in the chicken broth, diced tomatoes (with their juice), and tomato paste. Stir well and bring to a boil
  5. Add the chicken pieces and salt to taste. Simmer on low heat for 40 min until the chicken is cooked through
  6. Remove from heat and garnish with fresh cilantro leaves before serving.

Slow cooker Indian lamb curry recipe

Delicious lamb curry served on a white plate, with white rice, and naan bread in the background.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. x oil/ghee
  • 1 x large onion, sliced
  • 4-6 x garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tsp x grated ginger
  • 1 x bay leaf
  • 1 x cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp x turmeric powder
  • 2 tsp x ground coriander
  • 1 tsp x ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp x ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp x red chili powder (or to taste)
  • 1 tbsp. x garum masala
  • 2 cups (500ml) x lamb/beef broth
  • 1 can (15 oz.) x diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) tomato paste
  • 2-3 pounds x boneless lamb shoulder, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Fresh cilantro leaves for garnish

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil/ghee in your slow cooker. Add the onion, garlic, ginger, bay leaf, cinnamon stick, and turmeric powder. Stir fry for 2 minutes until fragrant
  2. Add the coriander, cumin, garum masala, and chili powder. Stir fry for 1 minute then pour in the chicken broth, diced tomatoes (with their juice), and tomato paste. Stir well
  3. Add the lamb pieces and salt to taste. Cover and cook on low heat for 3-4 hours until the lamb is cooked through and tender
  4. Remove from heat and garnish with fresh cilantro leaves before serving.

Clay pot Indian prawn curry recipe

A brown dish filled with a serving of prawn curry, dashed with some coriander.

Instructions

  • 2 tbsp. (30 ml) x olive oil
  • 1 x onion, sliced
  • 4-6 x garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tsp (10 ml) x grated ginger
  • 1 x bay leaf
  • 1 x cinnamon stick
  • 2 tsp (10 ml) x ground coriander
  • 1 tsp (5 ml) x ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) x ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp (5 ml) x red chili powder (or to taste)
  • 1 tbsp. (15 ml) x garum masala
  • 2 cups (500 ml) x chicken broth (or other broth of your choice)
  • 1 can (15 oz.) x diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) x tomato paste
  • 1-2 pounds (500g-1 kg) x peeled and deveined prawns
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Fresh coriander leaves for garnish

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil in your clay pot. Add the onion, garlic, ginger, bay leaf, and cinnamon stick. Stir fry for 2 minutes until fragrant
  2. Add the coriander, cumin, garum masala, and chili powder. Stir fry for 1 minute then pour in the chicken broth, diced tomatoes (with their juice), and tomato paste. Stir well
  3. Add the prawns and salt to taste. Cover and cook on low heat for 10-15 minutes until the prawns are cooked through
  4. Remove from heat and garnish with fresh coriander leaves before serving.

These curries are best served with Basmati rice or Naan bread or as a bunny chow 🙂

For more recipes using clay cooking pots, read: Best clay pot recipes

How to prepare jeera seed basmati rice

A brown bowl filled with freshly prepared jeera basmati rice with some onion rings, placed on a colorful table.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (250ml) x basmati rice, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tbsp. x oil/ghee
  • 1 tsp x cumin seeds
  • 2 cups (500ml) x water
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Optional extra: 1 x large onion (half the onion the finely chop long way)

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil/ghee in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds (if adding onion then add now) and fry until lightly toasted, about 1-2 minutes
  2. Add the rice and fry for 1-2 minutes until lightly toasted
  3. Pour in the water and salt to taste then bring to a boil over high heat
  4. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 10-12 minutes until the rice is cooked through
  5. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork. Serve immediately.

How to prepare Indian naan bread

Thick slices of naan bread prepared and placed in a brown ceramic bowl.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (250ml) x all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
  • 1 tsp x baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp x baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp x salt
  • 1 tbsp. x sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) x milk
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) x yogurt
  • 1 x egg, beaten
  • 2 tbsp. x butter, melted

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the milk, yogurt and egg. Pour into the flour mixture and stir until well combined
  3. Stir in the melted butter until the dough comes together then knead for 5 minutes
  4. Cover the dough with a damp towel and let rest for 30 minutes
  5. Divide the dough into 8 pieces
  6. On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece into a thin oval
  7. Heat a griddle or skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the Naan for 2-3 minutes per side until golden brown. Serve immediately.

How to make an Indian bunny chow

A half loaf of white bread used to make a bunny chow meal, filled with delicious curry and served on a white plate.

Ingredients

  • 1 loaf x cooled white bread
  • 1-2 cups (250-500 ml) of your favorite curry

Instructions

  1. Using a serrated knife, cut off the top quarter of the bread loaf then hollow out the inside, being careful not to tear through the bottom
  2. Fill the bread loaf with your curry of choice, then replace the top quarter
  3. There you have a bunny chow!

Final thoughts

So, how do I cook Indian curry recipes from scratch? Bit of a long answer, but there you go 🙂

Finally, if you have traveled and got a taste for authentic cuisine and you want to bring a little of that foreign magic home with you. Or if you’ve always wanted to travel to exotic places but the only exotic thing you can afford to see is a llama at the local zoo. Then you need to get your “adventure” on in the kitchen then give one of these Indian curry recipes from scratch a go.

They may take a little longer than opening a can or ordering out, but the end result is worth it. And if you make too much (it happens to the best of us), leftovers will keep in the fridge for a few days so you can enjoy them again later. Have you ever cooked an Indian curry dish? What was your experience like? Share your thoughts and tips in the comments below. ‘Curry’ on!

Oh – if you are using a clay pot to cook these Indian curry meals, then read this article to learn how to care for your clay pot after cooking.

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Charlene Gallant

Charlene is a lover of good food. She enjoys nothing more than cooking up a storm in the kitchen and sharing her favourite recipes with her readers. She also enjoys reading a good book.

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