How to Make Curry Hotter? 9 Spicy Ways

Hey there heat lover! I guess you are into your spice, right? Well, you are in the right place! Do you want to know how to make curry hotter? Today I’m going to show you. There are a few ways you can add more heat to your curry, and I must warn you, most are not for the faint-hearted. Let’s pour ourselves a cool glass of milk before jumping right in!

Quick Answer How to Make Curry Hotter?

Generally, the main way you are going to make your curry hotter is to add chilli. There are many different ways in which you can do this. It is worth noting that some will make your curry hotter than others.

As a general rule of thumb, the more chilli you add to your curry dish, the hotter it will be. Want proof? Check out my article on vindaloo and take a look at how many chillies go into that fiery dish!

Let’s look at some of the best ways to make curry hotter.

How to Make Curry Hotter | 9 Quick and Easy Solutions

Fresh Chilli

This is by far one of the most readily available ways of making curry hotter. It is also a really simple solution.

You can use either red or green chillies. Don’t listen to anyone that tells you one is hotter than the other. The only thing that dictates chilly heat is the type of chilli. As a general rule, I find that birds-eye or finger chillies are the best for curry, and they don’t pack too much of a punch.

Just finely chop a chilli at a time and add it to your dish. This can be done during the cooking process or stirred in right at the end.

Oh, and here are a few important points to note when using fresh chillies to make curry hotter: -

  • The hottest part of most chillies is actually the seeds. If you want more chilli taste and less heat, scrape the seeds away before using them.
  • Wear gloves when chopping chillies, or make sure to wash your hands properly afterwards… You won’t want to be touching your eyes (or any other sensitive areas) with chilli oils on your hands. Ouch!
  • Do you never seem to have fresh chilli on hand when you need it? Here’s the good news. Buy a big bag and freeze them. They work just as well and are really easy to chop when frozen too!

Chilli Powder

Chilli powder is a really convenient alternative if you don’t want to be messing around chopping chillies.

Chilli powder keeps almost indefinitely and will add both taste and heat to your curry dishes.

As a general rule (and depending on the ‘heat’ of the chilli powder), half a teaspoon of chilli powder gives the same heat as adding one whole chilli.

Ensure it is thoroughly stirred in, or you might end up with a hot surprise waiting in your curry sauce!

Chilli Paste

Chilli paste is a lovely way to add heat to any curry dish. It also keeps for ages too. This is a great solution if you don’t want to freeze chillies or have a large quantity that is getting past its best.

Here’s how to make chilli paste: -

  • Take a blender and add 20-30 red or green chillies
  • Add three tablespoons of oil and a pinch of salt
  • Add to a good blender and blitz until you have a fine paste.
  • Store the chilli paste in an airtight jar in the fridge. It keeps for up to a month

Chilli Sauce

A nice bottle of chilli sauce or hot sauce is perfect for adding a little spice to your curry on the fly. Chilli sauce keeps for ages, too, making it a really convenient solution. I find a teaspoon of chilli sauce is equivalent to a full whole chilli, but this depends on the type of hot sauce you use. Here are some of the things I have used to make curry hotter in the past: -

Kashmiri Chilli Powder

Wait, you already said chilli powder?

Yes, I did, but this is different.

What if you want to add a little heat, but in a controllable way?

Try using Kashmiri powder in place of regular chilli.

Is Kashmiri powder hot?

Kashmiri chilli powder is mild yet will still give you a nice bit of heat

Cayenne Pepper

So you’ve checked your cupboard spice rack and have found you are all out of chilli powder?

Don’t worry, all is not lost. I’ve got a chilli alternative.

I’m talking about cayenne pepper. This is just as fiery as chilli powder and will add substantial heat to any dish.

Just add the same amount of cayenne as you would chilli powder and witness the fiery results!

Sambal Oelek

Sambal oelek is a kind of chilli paste that is normally used in east Asian cooking. But what works for a Thai curry will work just as well in an Indian curry dish!

Sambal oelek is a mixture of ground-up chilli peppers, vinegar and salt. The acidity adds a really nice sharpness to any curry dish, and I tend to use it all the time.

The good news? You don’t need to buy it, you can make your own. Here’s a quick and easy recipe for sambal oelek: -

Take around 500g of chilli peppers, a couple of tablespoons of rice vinegar, two garlic cloves and a tablespoon of salt and place in a blender. Blitz until smooth. Decant into an airtight jar. Enjoy chilli heat any day of the week!

Easy right?

Black Pepper

Black pepper can be a good alternative for those who want a little bit of heat without blowing their heads off.

This is a great way to make curry slightly hotter without overdoing it. I find a teaspoon or two added to any curry sauce will raise the heat level a little.

Leave out the Dairy!

If you’ve read my article on how to make curry milder, you’ll know that dairy works really well.

So, if you want your curry to be hotter, just leave it out! Some recipes call for yoghurt and cream, but this will tone the spice level way down. You can omit it completely or compensate by adding one of the spicy suggestions above.

Toast Your Spices

Here’s one that not many people know. When you cook and toast spices, you intensify the flavour. This is definitely true of chilli and chilli powder. By cooking them, you release all of the capsicum contained within.

Cook your chilli powder in a dry pan for around 1 – 2 minutes and either add the rest of the ingredients or toast a lot and store it for later use.

How to Add Chilli to Curry

When you add any ingredient to a dish, timing is everything.

It is no different with chilli.

Raw fresh chilli is a lot hotter than cooked chilli, so when you add it will have a direct bearing on how hot your curry is. If I am looking for more flavour with less heat, I tend to add the fresh chilli right at the start of the cooking process.

If I look for heaps of fire, I add chopped fresh chilli right at the end, almost like a garnish.

Conversely, when using powders, and as I said above, they get much more intense if you dry fry them. I tend to only add chilli powder with other liquid ingredients to avoid making a dish too hot.

It is also worth noting that chilli powder can taste a bit bitter (as well as hot), so it isn’t good to add it to a dish right at the end.  

Why is Chilli So Hot?

It all boils down (pun intended) to a compound called capsaicin. This compound stimulates the same receptors in your brain that intense heat does, producing that burning feeling.

The greater the concentration of capsaicin, the hotter a chilli is! That’s why different variants of chilli have different heat levels!

Oh, and you really do need to be careful. Eat too much chilli, and you could be facing the consequences for days afterwards… Got a bit of ring sting? Here’s the answer.

Making Curry Spicier | FAQ

Still not sure? It’s ok. Here are some common questions that always come up when people want to know how to make curry hotter…

How Do You Make Food Spicier?

In 9/10 cases, it is simply a case of adding chilli to bring up the heat level. As long as your addition contains an element of chilli, you should notice an increase in the heat.

The earlier you add chilli, the milder its effects as the heat from cooking can break down some of the capsaicin. So, if you want to make a dish spicy, add the chilli element closer to the end of the cooking process.

What is the Spice in Indian Food that Makes it Hot?

You’ll read all sorts saying things like ‘cumin’ and ‘garam’ masala.

This is completely incorrect.

While cumin does have a very slight spice to it, it isn’t hot. The same goes for garam masala. The only time this isn’t the case is if the garam masala powder spices include chilli powder.

The spice in Indian food that makes it hot is chilli. It really is that simple.

Can You Add More Chilli Powder After Cooking?

I mean, you could. But it probably would be a bad idea.


Chilli powder in its raw form is actually really bitter, and you’ll be able to taste this bitterness in your dish. A dish that is hot and bitter? No, thanks.

If you need to make your curry hotter, my advice would be to add a little more base gravy to your curry, add the chilli powder and continue to cook it for a few minutes more until the spice has a chance to dilute.

How to Make Curry Hotter | Final Thoughts…

The truth is that the best way to make curry hotter is to add chilli in one form or another. The most convenient method is to add chilli powder, closely followed by freshly chopped chilli. If you are looking for a way to spice up your curry, give one of my above suggestions a go. How did it turn out? Let me know in the comments!

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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