We all love a nice thick curry gravy. Get your quantities wrong, and you might end up with a watery curry! Luckily this isn't a disaster, provided you know how to make curry sauce thicker. I've assembled a handy guide to allow you to get your curry sauce to exactly the right consistency every time!
Let's dive right in!
How to Make Curry Sauce Thicker | 13 Ways to Thicken Curry Sauce
Before we begin, I want you to know that these techniques will all work to thicken your curry sauce.
With some of them, there is a slight risk…
Depending on what method you use, you might change the flavour of your Curry. The authentic Indian chefs I used to work with used to use method #1 only. But they were professionals whose restaurants reputation relied entirely on being consistent in taste and texture.
Anyway, with that out of the way, here are 13 ways how to make curry sauce thicker
#1 Simmer Your Curry to Make it Thick
If you've followed my guidance and have made a curry from scratch, you will have noticed something.
The longer you cook a curry, the thicker it gets.
The reason for this is evaporation. The liquid elements of your curry sauce turn into steam and float away (and make your house smell lovely). The solids are left behind in the pan. Less liquid plus more solids should equal a thicker curry sauce.
This is the simplest solution and is really effective.
So why not use it all the time?
Well, let's say you've made a King Prawn Pathia, and it's turned a little watery. From a taste point of view, you can't boil the life out of it… If you cook prawns for too long, they start to shrink and turn really rubbery.
If you notice early enough, then you can thicken your curry sauce before adding certain ingredients. But if you have only noticed just before serving, then you'll need another suggestion…
#2 How to Make Curry Sauce Thicker by Adding Flour and Fat
A roux is a really clever way to thicken a sauce.
Here's the traditional way to make a roux.
Heat a tablespoon of butter (or ghee) to a pan and heat over medium until it is melted. Then add a tablespoon of white flour. Stir until it makes a paste, and cook until it sizzles and smells a little 'biscuity'.
Once the paste reaches this stage, spoon it into your curry sauce and stir well. You should notice that the curry sauce thickens up all of a sudden.
If you can't be bothered with the faff of using yet another pan, there is an even easier way to make this concept work. Take a spoon full of cold butter in a cup and add a spoonful of white flour. Using a fork, mash the two together until you have a flour and butter paste. Shape it into a sausage in your hand and drop it into the middle of your curry saucepan. It should actually do a similar job to the technique described above.
#3 Add Cornflour
This is a great technique if you are wondering how to make curry sauce thicker.
Ever noticed how gravy powder tends to thicken up as you heat it? The reason for this is because they usually contain cornflour.
I wouldn't recommend just dumping a spoonful in your delicious madras sauce, however.
Unless you like lumpy Curry. (Yuck!)
Here's an easier way to make curry sauce thicker.
Take a cup and add 4 tablespoons of water. Then, a teaspoon at a time, add cornflour. You want it so that you've got a really loose cornflour paste at the bottom of the cup. It should stiffen when you stir it.
From there, use your fingers, take a pinch of cornflour paste out of the cup and drop it into your curry sauce as you cook it. You should find that this avoids the lumps and works really well to make curry sauce thicker.
The best bit, aside from being lump-free, is that corn flour is pretty neutral in flavor, so it won't change your dish's taste.
#4 How to Make Curry Sauce Thicker? Add Cooked Lentils
Have you ever had a dhansak curry? It is spicy, sweet and thick. The main reason it is thick is that the chefs use lentils alongside the regular curry base gravy.
This might take some planning ahead and isn't great if you are in a rush as the lentils take a while to cook and break down.
If you've made daal or have some leftover cooked lentils add a couple of tablespoons to your curry sauce to make it thicker.
#5 Using Rice to Thicken Curry
There are a couple of ways to use rice to make curry sauce thicker.
The first is the simplest. Just add around half a cup of uncooked rice to your curry sauce. Rice normally takes around 10 minutes to cook, so you'll be able to see the effect pretty quickly. This works for a couple of reasons.
The rice releases starches as it cooks. This goes a long way in how to make curry sauce thicker. Secondly, each grain of rice acts like a tiny sponge, soaking up excess moisture.
While this one works really well, it isn't always the best having grains of rice mixed in with your Curry.
So, let me offer an alternative.
I find that if you give half a cupful of rice a whizz in a blender, you end up with a sort of rice powder. A few spoonfuls of this will thicken your Curry up in no time. Because it is powdered, it has a larger surface area meaning it cooks quicker.
#6 Add Coconut Flour
You can achieve a similar effect to the above by using coconut flour. Coconut flour is full of starch and is also super absorbent.
Check out my article on Korma… That's a curry that is meant to be thick and creamy and uses a fair amount of coconut flour to ensure it is a perfect consistency.
#7 Adding Dairy to Your Curry
Double cream will make your Curry both milder and thicker. Certain curries can also benefit from a large dollop of yoghurt.
When it comes to using yoghurt, don't add it while your Curry is too hot, or you will find that it splits. There are a few ways to stop yoghurt curdling. My favourite is to add a pinch of baking powder.
#8 Use Less Liquid for Thicker Curry
Ok, this might be a little obvious, but if you constantly find that you are asking yourself how to make curry sauce thicker, there's a good chance that you might be adding too much liquid.
You can sometimes find that curry recipes that involve vegetables are slightly less thick. This is because vegetables release moisture as they cook. So you may need to adjust your quantities.
Adding too much base gravy generally isn't a problem, as this definitely boils down and thickens.
#9 Nut Butters
I'll be really honest with you here.
I haven't tried this technique, and I don't really fancy peanut butter curry, but you could give it a go.
After all, Korma recipes can use powdered almonds as a normal part of the recipe, so depending on the Curry, it shouldn't affect the dish's flavour too much!
One major downside of adding nut butter is that they tend to be really high in calories.
#10 Add Potatoes
We saw above that adding cornflour or rice to curry can cause it to thicken. This is because of the starch. Well, There's something else that is jam-packed full of starch… A potato!
Consider it the big version of rice! It is a massive sponge that will soak up and excess moisture and also release starch, which should thicken your Curry. If you cook a potato long enough, it will break down completely to give you a really thick curry sauce.
#11 Add Grated Onion
I like the idea of this one…
Onion is the key component of base gravy, and I can't see the harm in adding a little more. But that said, it might change the flavour of your dish and make it a little too strong.
Simply grate (or blend) one large onion and add it to the pan.
#12 Allow Your Curry to Cool
Most sauces thicken slightly when left to stand and cool. Curry is no exception. If you've ever put a curry in the fridge overnight, you'll probably notice that it is much thicker the next day.
This is because the proteins in your meat relax and soak up a lot of the excess moisture. The fats also begin to solidify slightly as they lower in temperature.
If your Curry is just slightly on the thin side, and you're wondering how to make your curry sauce thicker, let it stand off the heat for 10 minutes and see if things improve
#13 Gravy Powder
We've already mentioned that gravy powder contains cornflour, which is perfect for thickening sauces. After all, that's what gravy is, thick sauce!
If you haven't got cornflour, then you can use gravy at a push. Try and match the gravy powder to your curry flavour. So for beef, use beef gravy, and for chicken curries, use chicken gravy powder.
Ok, so it isn't the most authentic use of gravy (or making Curry), but it adds quite a pleasant savoury note to your now thick curry sauce!
How to Thicken Curry | FAQ
Here are a few questions I get asked all the time.
Why is My Curry So Watery?
Curry turns watery when you introduce too much liquid. This can happen for several reasons.
You might have added too much gravy
You might have added too much stock
If you use any liquid type vegetables such as tomatoes and courgettes, you may find that your Curry is a little looser.
Why Does Simmering Thicken Sauce?
Simmering boils away the liquid element of your sauce while letting the more solid elements remain.
Further to this, by simmering, you are adding sustained heat to your dish. If there are ingredients within that contain gluten, this will be released as the dish's heat increases. Gluten is a great thickening agent.
Do you Simmer with the Lid On or Off?
If you are simmering to make your sauce thicker, it is always best to do this with the lid off. This maximises the amount of steam, and therefore excess moisture, that can escape.
Further to this, you'll often find that curry sauce tends to develop a skin on the top and around the edges with the prolonged simmering. If you stir this skin in, you should find that it starts to thicken your sauce.
Does Curry Thicken in a Slow Cooker?
Yes and no.
Slow cookers normally add heat to a curry slowly and rely on the ingredients stewing in their own juices to cook.
You'll normally leave the lid on, so moisture tends not to escape.
That said, if you cook dishes with vegetables for a long period, such as potatoes, you'll find that they naturally break down into a thick sauce. If you're making a curry in a slow cooker and realise early on that there is too much liquid, adding some cubes of potato can ensure that your sauce isn't too thick.
Can You Use Plain Flour to Thicken Sauce?
You have to be careful just using flour to thicken a sauce. Generally, it tends to go one way…
That is, lumpy.
A better way to use flour is by combining it with butter or another fat and making a roux before adding it to your curry sauce. This way, you end up with fewer lumps and should find that you thicken up your curry sauce a little quicker.
Knowing how to make curry sauce thicker is a fine art, and the technique you choose will depend on a few things. How watery the Curry is, why your Curry is watery, and the recipe itself. You'll often find some curries thicken on their own naturally. Dhansak already has lentils added. It will thicken up with cooking, vindaloo often has potato added as part of the recipe, and Korma makes great use of coconut flour. Have I missed any off my list? Why not drop me a message, and I'll add it to my list!