How Hot is a Madras? | It’s a Fiery 8/10 for Sure!

OK, let's get this straight. I'm just going to come right out and say it. Madras is supposed to be a hot curry. Madras is one of the most popular dishes in the UK. It occupies a sort of middle ground. It isn't for people who want to eat a milder curry, nor is it for people who want ridiculously hot. It is hot enough for you to know that you've had a curry… How hot is Madras? Let's find out together

Stuck for Time? | Here's How Hot a Madras is.

Madras could definitely be described as a hot curry. On a scale of 1-10, where 10 is the hottest, a good madras will normally sit around the number 8. It contains a fair amount of chilli, not quite as much as vindaloo, but certainly a lot more than a korma.

If you want to learn more about Madras, read on.

What is a Madras Curry?

Have you ever had a Chicken Chennai? Probably not. However, this is now the name of the city from which this curry originates. Madras (or Chennai) is located in the south of India. Dishes from this region are famed for their use of hot spices laden with dark onions.

The Madras we eat in the UK bears only the slightest resemblance to the authentic dishes cooked on the Indian subcontinent and are thought to have been a modified version developed in the curry houses of the 1960s.

Madras is normally a deep red-brown curry. It is also quite oily. It is normally served with some sort of meat and works particularly well with lamb and beef. It tends to have a thick sauce.

What Ingredients Go into a Madras?

Each restaurant has its own version of what they consider a madras to be. Still, you'll generally find some common themes in most BIR recipes.

These include: -

  • A generous helping of butter, oil or ghee.
  • An onion based gravy
  • Meat
  • Garlic and ginger paste
  • Tomato
  • Chilli, both fresh and powdered
  • Cumin
  • Garam masala

The inclusion of both fresh and powdered chilli is what makes this dish hot. The combination of chilli powder and tomato paste is what gives it the reddish colour.

Which is Hotter? A Madras or a Jalfrezi?

Now this is a debate to have! According to some guides… (Who shall remain nameless), They claim that a Jalfrezi is hotter than a vindaloo…

Here's what I say to that…


But is it hotter than a madras? Well, if you check my guide to jalfrezi here and take a look at the ingredients, it's not as hot as a madras. It isn't far off, but Madras has always been the more traditionally hotter curry!

Is Madras Curry Very Hot?

Listen, let me put it this way….

If you are worried about it, then there's a good chance that you won't like it. Madras is spicy hot. People who can tolerate more than a moderate level of heat will be fine. But you want real-world info, don't you?

OK, here goes. Madras is definitely hotter than….

  • Chilli con Carne
  • Anything with Jalapenos
  • Siracha
  • Tabasco

Are you getting the picture? If you find any of the above too spicy… It isn't for you!

Madras normally contains at least one or two chillies and a spoonful of chilli powder. Let's take a good look at our friend the Scoville scale and see if we can give you an answer…

The chilli used in Indian cooking is normally the bird's eye chilli. This normally has a minimum heat rating of 50,000 on the Scoville scale. Jalapeno has an equivalent rating of around 2-8000. So by that measure, a madras is about 5 times hotter than a jalapeno!

That is pretty darn spicy!

What is Madras Like?

Provided you can deal with the heat, Madras is a really tasty curry. You'll find elements of tomatoes and onions run through the dish. It is a little bit tangy. The most traditional method uses sour elements such as tamarind to make it ever so slightly sharp.

A good madras will come with a layer of oil gently pooled on top. This fragrant spiced oil is really nice to dip into with freshly baked naan bread.

Other tastes are apparent in the dish. It contains cumin, which adds a slightly citrusy note along with a slightly earthy piquant flavour.  You can get a better idea of what cumin adds to a dish just here.

It contains a fair helping of garlic and ginger. Which, when cooked in a hot frying pan, caramelise slightly and turn ever so slightly bitter.

Madras also contains garam masala. This is unique to each chef but generally contains ground cloves, toasted and crushed coriander and other fragrant Indian spices.

Undercutting the entire dish is a chilli heat. It isn't subtle, and you will definitely be left sweating if you manage to finish a madras.

What is the Hottest Indian Curry?

The hottest? What? Are you insane!

OK, I'll tell you. The hottest Indian curry is traditionally a phaal. This uses heaps of chillies to bring a fiery heat that you've likely never witnessed before. Eat one of these, and you will be in deep trouble…

You had better read this article

How Hot is Madras? | Final Thoughts…

Listen, don't be fooled by talk of medium in any Indian menu. Either they are wrong, and you'll regret it, or they are right… In which case it isn't a madras. How hot is a madras?... Not that far behind a vindaloo, so if chilli isn't your thing. Choose something much milder.

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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