Curry in a Hurry! Simple Curry Base Recipe (2024)

Do you love Indian style curries, but don’t make them at home because you think they take too much time? Or effort? Or skill? Do you make curries at home, only to find that they’re nothing like the ones you order at your favorite restaurant? I’m going to let you in on a little secret…something I do, sometimes, to help save time. Ready? Here it goes:

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It doesn’t look like much, I know. And, most traditional Indian cooks would not make so much gravy at one time…or freeze it. In fact, In India they don’t freeze much of anything (in my experience). But, luckily for you…and me…I’m not a traditional Indian cook.

The idea came to me while Piyush and I were dining out one night…I wanted to know how the restaurant could offer so many different curries, and have them on the table in so little time. So, I asked…and I was told that they use a base and then add things to it to make whatever was ordered. Genius!

I prefer my food to be homemade, healthy, flavorful and fast. There are some days that nothing sounds better to me than slaving over the hot stove, mixing spices and nurturing along a delicious, slow cooked curry. Those “some days” are not most days. Usually I’m busy or tired and I just don’t feel like cooking much. Now that Spring is here, my days off will mostly be spent tending to my gardens and re-staining my deck. So, I figured that if Indian restaurants can make a base gravy to make many different curries, fast, then why can’t a home-cook?

This is a really easy method, the curry is flavorful…but not spiced too heavily. After all, you want to use this simple gravy to make anything from Chicken Tikka Masala to Vegetable Korma. It can be used with veggies, chicken, and lamb (although I will say that if you choose to make a lamb dish…you really do have to cook it low and slow to get the best results. I, personally, would probably not use this curry base in that instance).

From start to finish you’ll have to invest about an hour and a half to two hours—-depending how long it takes you to cut 10 onions. I was lucky. No crying for this girl! I was done slicing them all in about 10 minutes—but, there have beencertainonions in my past that were really vicious and took a good 20 minutes (and many tears) to get through!

This recipe will yieldapproximately12 cups, you could add more water to increase the amount of gravy—just don’t water it down too much! Using my recipe, each cup of gravy is equal to a little less than 100 calories. Isn’t that exciting!? Depending on what curry you decide to make, one batch of curry gravy should make anywhere from 4 to 7 curries. Maybe even 8. Gnarly, huh?!

As I use the gravy, I’ll post recipes for different curries—a lot of them will be my versions of popular dishes served at some of my favorite restaurants. In fact, when I start cooking a dish, I keep my local restaurants take out menu near-by. I can work off their descriptions and tweak the dishes so that they taste similiar.

Last night I used it to make Chicken Jalfrezi—and it was awesome!!!

The Spice Mix:

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Some of my most-used spices: Green cardamom, Whole Cloves, Paprika, Mustard Seeds, Turmeric, Cumin Seeds, and Garam Masala

  • 1 tablespoon turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon coriander (seeds)
  • 1 tablespoon fenugreek seeds
  • 1 tablespoon paprika (this is not hot, it mostly just gives color)
  • 1 small 1″ piece ofcinnamon
  • 3 cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg (optional)
  • 2 green Cardamom pods- crushed
  • 1 large bayleaf

Mix all spices together in a bowl. Take a smell…they should smell a little pungent, but mostly good! The smell will change a lot once they’re added to the oil/ghee. Set your masala mix aside.


  • 10 onions- baseball sized- sliced pretty thin
  • 1 carrot – peeled and chopped (use 2 if you want!)
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 12 large cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 2 inch piece of fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes (I used Hunts brand canned tomatoes)
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 4 tbsp. ghee
  • salt/pepper to taste (I added a little salt, but left out pepper. I can add this to the individual curries I make)


  • Heat oil and ghee in a large pan, over medium high heat. Once it’s nice and hot, toss in your masala mix. Fry the spices-being careful nothing burns. Stir around a while until everything is nice and fragrant…and no longer raw. Add the ginger and garlic. Stir-fry for a minute or so, just until it lets off a nice smell. Add the onions. Mix everything together really well so that the onions are covered with the masala.

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The onions are covered with the masala mixture and are starting to reduce in size.

  • While the onions cook down, slice the red bell pepper and grate the carrot. Once the onions have gone soft andtranslucent(they will also shrink quite a lot), add the bell pepper and carrot.

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  • Cook the vegetables until they go soft (you could also toss in about a cup of shredded cabbage, if you want). Once the vegetables have softened properly, add the tomatoes and water to the mixture. Stir everything together, mixing well.

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  • Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about a half hour. Once it’s well cooked and all the flavors have had a little time to mingle, pull out your blender. Working in batches (I had to do three batches), blend the mixture into a smooth, creamy looking gravy.

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My beloved Vitamix. This thing is a curry-lovin’ girl’s best friend. It makes your dish look so velvety. (I forgot to take the photo with gravy actually in it)

The finished gravy will look something like this:

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please forgive the photo, I forgot to get one once I dumped it all back in the pan!

  • Pour all the gravy back into the pan and simmer for about 15 to 20 more minutes. You can taste the gravy—it’ll be a little bland will desperately need salt. Fear not! This under-seasoned gravy will go on to become many, many great curries!
  • Once you’ve let everything cool for a while, pour it into containers to freeze/use. You can keep it in your fridge for a few days, but any longer you should freeze it. It’ll keep really well, I promise!

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I used the base gravy last night, and made Chicken Jalfrezi. It was wonderful! Flavorful. Healthy. Fast! …It seriously took 15 minutes (ignoringthe time the chicken marinates) to make this:

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…As good as any Restaurant! Piyush gave it 2 thumbs up. (it should be a little less watery, but that’s my fault. I added the water. doh!)

The curry base was a huge success!!! If you love curries, but you’re too busy to make them at home…I hope you give this method a try!

Chicken Jalfrezi Recipe to come! It’s too good not to share!

Curry in a Hurry! Simple Curry Base Recipe (2024)
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