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Common Mistakes While Cooking Curry | 12 Things to Avoid

Common Mistakes While Cooking Curry | 12 Things to Avoid

We’ve all had nightmares in the kitchen. Hey, don’t feel so bad! We learn and improve by making mistakes, which happens to the best of us. You’ll want to avoid a few things when making a curry, and today I’m going to go through 12 common mistakes while cooking curry. Learn from my mistakes and get a perfect curry every time.

Curry Cooking Mistakes | Top 12 Errors to Avoid

Ok, guys, let’s get straight down to it. There are plenty of errors to be made while cooking curry. Here are the things that people most often get wrong.

1. Overcooking Garlic

This is a curry cooking mistake that you will make only once. Garlic cooks at a frighteningly quick pace. One minute it is in the pan, all white and sizzling. The next, it has turned into a dark brown chunk of powdery, bitter nastiness.

The maximum amount of time you want to cook garlic is no longer than about a minute, whether that is garlic paste or chopped cloves. You are looking for a pale yellow colour, and nothing brown.

2. Not Diluting Tomato Puree

If you have ever squeezed out a red worm of tomato puree direct into your curry pan, I need to ask you something.

Please stop it. Right. Now.

Authentic Indian chefs don’t use tomato puree ‘raw’. Instead, they mix it with water and cook it down until it loses that acidic edge.

Be like the pros. Dilute your puree. Here’s a great article on how to do it.

3. Boiling Instead of Frying

If you are cooking an authentic BIR takeaway curry, your aim should be to fry more than boil. By frying your curry, you increase something called the Maillard reaction. This is where sugars in the food and spices caramelise, giving you all of those tasty Indian flavours.

Not only does boiling take longer, but it produces substandard results. This sort of ties into the next mistake too.

4. Cooking on Too Low a Heat

I hate it when I see recipes saying cook on low heat for 30 minutes.

What? Really?

It’s nonsense. There is one setting you need to cook curry and one setting only.

Full blast. Full heat. Ideally, you want that pan smoking hot before you begin.

If I had to give anyone new to cooking curry one tip. This would be it. Get your pan nice and hot before you start cooking.

5. Under Seasoning

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking about spices here. I’m talking about two things that I guarantee you have at home.

Salt and pepper.

Under seasoned curry is bland. If your curry lacks that certain something, it could just need a little pinch of salt to elevate it to the next level. Give this one a try before you think that your curry is bland.

6. Using Old Spices

While curry spices don’t have a ‘use by date’, they decline in potency after a certain time. You’ll find that the more space is in the jar, the quicker they deteriorate.

If you’ve noticed that your curry isn’t tasting strong and you’ve followed an authentic curry recipe, it may be worth thinking about the last time you invested in some decent spices.

The simplest solution? Don’t worry if you’ve not got curry powder. I’ve got a fab guide here on how to make your own.

7. Adding Too Much Chilli

You can do a few things to curry that will have your dinner guests turning their noses up. Add too much chilli, and you might find that as much as everyone wants to try your curry, they simply can’t.

Too much heat will drown out any flavours, and remember, you can always add more chilli if it needs it, but you can’t take it out once it is in.

Want the good news?

I’ve got one or two tricks here if you do need to tone down a spicy curry.

8. Not Adding Enough Chilli

One of my pet hates is when I expect spicy, and instead, I get something super mild. There’s a name for under spiced curry.

It’s called baby food.

Over time you’ll learn what mild, medium and hot is, and you’ll be able to calibrate your curry spices accordingly. If you need a bit of help or are finding your curry cooler than a snowman’s toes, here’s a bit of advice to help pick up the heat.

9. Not Using Base Gravy

This is a big one.

You’ll read plenty of online recipes that have you adding tins of tomatoes, simmering them down, sauteing vegetables and adding splashes of water before ‘gently simmering’.

That’s not how you make a curry. It’s how you make a bolognaise.

The key to 99% of authentic takeaway style curry is in the use of base gravy.

Seriously. It makes life so much simpler. Add oil, spices, and meat and then finish it with base gravy. That’s how restaurants do it, and if you want to copy their success, you’ll need to copy their methods.

Check out my article on how to use base gravy to see how easy it is

10. Making the Sauce Too Thick

Curry sauce will thicken as soon as it leaves the pan. If you are cooking it for too long, you’ll notice it thickens up, and by the time it has come to serve it, you’ll be wondering where all the sauce has actually gone.

Serve your curry while the sauce seems just a little too loose. Trust me, it will turn out perfect.

If you need to make it thicker, some ways don’t rely on you over cooking it. Check these out.

11. Not Using Enough Oil

Look, I get that you might be being healthy. And there are ways you can achieve that, even with curry.


In most cases, use plenty of oil. As a minimum, I’d suggest at least a couple of tablespoons.  

12. Taking Too Long

Any recipe that has you simmering curry for 20 minutes has missed the point.

Let me ask you something.

Do you honestly believe that Indian takeaways only manage to knock out 3 curries an hour?

Good curry should take no longer than 10 minutes from start to finish. And that’s a maximum. I’d say 5 minutes is more realistic.

How do they do it so quickly?

Indian chefs have loads of ways to save time making curry. Using pre-cooked meat, having the base gravy simmering away and lots of other time saving ‘hacks’. You can learn more about them right here.

Curry Mistakes | Final Thoughts

The above list, while not exhaustive, demonstrates quite a few common mistakes while cooking curry. Avoid the above, find a great recipe and keep practising. You’ll find plenty to try on the CurrySpy homepage or use the search box to find your favourite curry.

Enjoy Making Curry Yourself?

Hey folks, thanks for reading this article. I hope you found it useful, and that you learned something new allowing you to make your curry extra special. Here are a few things that can really elevate your curry game to the next level. 

These are affiliate links, so if you use them I receive a small commission, but this won’t cost you any extra. In all honesty, I use very similar items myself, and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them to my friends.

A Complete Curry Kit: – Literally, everything you’ll need to make curry all in one place. Cookware, storage, utensils, even the spices! This is my dedicated guide to getting you up and running all for the price of few takeaways.

Curry pans: – You need one, and one only. A frying pan exactly like this is really easy to use, and is exactly the type that authentic Indian chefs use to make the type of curry that you’ll have in your local takeaway. You can see my full reviews of several pans right here…

Spice Storage: – Being organised is half the battle in making great curry. Spices can be notoriously hard to keep tidy. That’s why I tend to use a spice rack like this. You can arrange your spices by size, heat, or any way you choose. I’ve got a detailed review of several Indian spice racks in this guide.

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