What is the Hottest Curry? 11 Fiery Curries to Try (or Avoid)

Some people try and avoid it, while others actively seek it out. We are, of course, talking about hot and spicy curry. Regardless of which of the above you are, you will know which curry is the hottest. Today we are answering the question what is the hottest curry? We'll give you a detailed breakdown of the hottest things on the Indian menu, exactly how spicy they are, and even some tips on handling that heat!

What is the Hottest Curry? The Quick Answer

The spiciest curry you are likely to find on most menus is the phaal or Naga Curry. This curry has a deep red colour and is packed with different types of chilli. The vindaloo is also scorching hot. If 1 is mild and 10 is blistering hot, all these curries will sit at a solid 10.

Any curry that contains more than a couple of chillis will be on the warm side. If you are looking for hot curries, then look for dishes that contain copious amounts of either fresh or powdered chilli (or maybe even both).


Some curries are 'spicy', and then there are positively atomic curries.

Below you'll find a detailed guide of the hottest curries, in order, along with a detailed description of what is in them and how hot they are according to a well-defined scale.

Here's what you need to know…

How Spicy is 'Spicy' | The Scoville Scale Explained

We need to talk about how Indian restaurants classify 'hot'.

Now, I'm going to make you a little bet…

At some point, you've gone to an Indian, and they've put a little chilli symbol next to a few of the dishes.

Thing is…

Of course, this indicates that a curry is spicy. But how spicy is 'spicy'? Often there is not enough information to make a sensible choice (whether you are seeking the heat or trying to avoid it).

Here's why this guide comes in.

Below you'll find an at a glance table detailing the 11 hottest curries out there. In plain terms, I'll tell you how hot it is, but I'll also include an approximate Scoville rating.

Wait, what's a Scoville rating?

The Scoville scale is the standard measure of how hot a chilli is. It runs from zero, meaning extremely mild, into the millions, meaning ridiculously hot.

Here's what you need to know.

Anything above about 30,000 is going to be spicy.

And there is science involved. While the Scoville scale is an accurate measure of heat, what it, in fact, measures is the amount of Capsaicin. This hot compound burns your mouth and is found within each type of chilli.

And get this…

Provided you know how much and what type of chilli is in your food, you can accurately assess how hot a curry is.

Neat, right?

Check out the table below, find your curry and instantly know how hot it is likely to be.

The Hottest Curries in Order

Type of Curry

How Hot in Simple Terms

Heat (Out of 10)

Type of Chilli Normally Used

Scoville Rating


Widower Curry

Indelibly hot


Naga infinity chilli


Naga Curry



Naga chilli





Bird eye and naga


Bhut Jolokia

Insanely hot


Bhut Jolokia (also called ‘ghost pepper’



Extremely hot


Bird eye chilli and chilli powder

175,000 – 500,000


Extremely hot


Bird eye chilli and chilli powder

250,000 – 500,000


Very hot


Bird eye chilli and chilli powder


Garlic Chilli

Very hot


Bird eye chilli




8 - 9

Red chilli powder




7 - 8

Fresh red chilli





Fresh red chilli


Why Do People Eat Spicy Food? 8 Reasons Why…

If you are a bit heat averse, you may be wondering why anyone would even try a hot curry?

Well, my friends…

There is actually plenty of reasons why people enjoy eating spicy food. Here are 8 possible reasons why people might indulge in a fiery curry…

As a Dare

We've all been there. Curry is something that is normally enjoyed in company.

I've lost count of the number of times someone has ordered a hot curry due to a dare or been put up to it by friends.

The end result is normally never good. Most will be unable to finish the ordered dish.

So, my advice is this…

If you aren't a fan of hot and spicy food, don't do it. It's a waste of your money and time.


Again, this may be a familiar scenario to many of you.

When out for a curry with a gang of mates, there is often a reluctance to look 'weak'. When ordering a mild curry, there can often be a lot of ribbing about ordering' baby food'.

A good curry is often accompanied by quite a few drinks…

The two above scenarios can combine to lead someone to order a curry that is far too spicy, just to prove how 'brave' you truly are

Before leaving half of it and being red in the face and sweating profusely…

You have been warned.

They Genuinely Enjoy It

The truth is that there are people who enjoy a really spicy curry.


Well, there is actually a scientific reason.

Yes, chilli is hot, and yes, it does cause a little pain.


Some people actually enjoy this pain.

Wait, what?

Yessir. Here's why…

When you eat spicy food (such as a hot curry), you will experience a burning feeling. This is caused by a chemical compound in chilli called Capsaicin. This compound triggers receptors in the brain that are the same ones that react when you get a physical burn…

The brain doesn't like this…

So, it releases 'feel good' endorphins and dopamine.

This, for some, gives a feeling of pleasure and well-being. These endorphins can produce feelings that are similar to that felt by long-distance runners, i.e. a 'high'.

So, hot curry can give you a bit of a buzz. Who knew?

They are Used to It

The simple truth is that if you eat enough hot and spicy food, you can become acclimatized to it. Eat enough chilli, and your body will develop a tolerance.

Why does this happen?

Well, remember the pain receptors that we talked about above? When these are switched 'on and off' repeatedly, it takes a little more heat time to get them to fire.

The end result?

People who eat spicy food regularly aren't as susceptible to feeling the pain it causes.

Now, if that isn't a reason to start tucking into spicy curry today, I don't know what is…

Higher Pain Thresholds

"Pain" is a relative term, and everyone has their own tolerance level.

What might be unpleasant for some is only mild for others.


Yes indeed. In fact, a person's genetic makeup can make all the difference. Redheads, in particular, have been found to feel pain differently than other people, with certain types being felt more keenly and others less so.

So if you've got a ginger mate and he's ordering a phaal, now you know why.

Local Climates

Have you ever noticed that most spicy food originates from areas that have hotter weather?

Got you thinking now, haven't I?

Well, there is actually a very good reason for this.

If you want a clue why this is so, take a look at your mate Dave (we all have one) next time he orders a hot curry.

I'm going to bet 'Dave' turns a bit red and starts sweating.

And herein lies a clue.

The fine layer of perspiration on our skin evaporates and cools us down when we sweat. Food that makes you sweat is good for maintaining your body temperature in hot climates. This is why you'll find chilli features in loads of dishes in Asia.

Food Preservation

Adding heaps of chilli isn't all about taste.

Again, this relates to hot climates (where curry originates from).

Science has proven that chilli and its compounds can kill up to 75% of the bacteria found within food.

The bottom line?

No fridge and hot weather?

Stick some chilli in your dish, and the food will stay good for longer! That's why some curries are hot!

An Appetite Suppressant

If you have ever eaten a spicy dish, you may notice that you tend to struggle to finish it.

And this isn't always down to it being 'too hot'.

Chilli and other hot foods actually give feelings of satiety and 'fullness'. In fact, studies have shown that including chilli in food can act as a great addition to a calorie-controlled diet. Some of the benefits of chilli are as follows: -

  • Increased thermogenesis (the effort it takes for your body to 'burn' food)
  • Fat burning and reduction in adipose tissue
  • Increased energy expenditure

So, if you are looking for some health benefits, spicy curry might be the way to go!

Which Curries Are the Hottest? | 11 Fiery Suggestions and Descriptions

Right, let's get down to it.

There are plenty of very hot curries that will feature on most Indian menus. Here are the 'big names' and what you can expect in terms of heat.

1. Widower Curry

  • What it Looks Like: -
  • How Hot it is on a scale from 1 – 10: 10
  • Scoville heat: 6,000,000
  • Eat this if: You want to taste the hottest curry you've ever had… In your life

Now, I'll be the first to admit that I have never tried this curry. But the fact that it is called the 'widower' should give you a clue as to how lethal it is.

According to news reports, this might just be the hottest curry ever invented.


The staff wear a mask and goggles when they cook it, and you are made to sit away from other customers while you eat it.

The widower curry is the invention of the Bindi Indian restaurant in Lincolnshire, UK. Apparently, it is so hot that it causes people to hallucinate. The 20 or so naga infinity chillis included in the recipe have been known to cause mouth blisters and actual burns.

To be honest…

This is definitely one for the masochists. I don't know why anyone would try and eat this.

On further investigation, it turns out that the Bindi restaurant has closed down. That's bad as even if you live locally, you won't be able to try the widower curry.


We're called curryspy for a reason, so here is a widower curry recipe… Be sure to turn on your extract fan and open the windows when cooking.

2. Naga Curry

  • What it Looks Like: - A curry with a thick dark brown sauce
  • How Hot it is on a scale from 1 – 10: 10+
  • Scoville heat: 1,000,000+ 
  • Eat this if: You like the taste of scotch bonnet style chilli and hate your tastebuds!

Not every curry house will serve naga curry, but when they do, try this, and you'll know what spicy truly means!

For the unfamiliar…

Naga chillis are some of the hottest around. They aren't like your usual finger chillis and instead have a wide 'bell' shape, making them pretty similar to scotch bonnets. These chillis are normally used to make a paste that is potent and scorching hot.

While this will be a red hot curry, it is slightly different from some on my list. The reason is that naga chilli does have a certain flavour compared to, say, vindaloo or phaal. Oh, and you can certainly expect naga to be hotter than vindaloo! So eat with caution.

3. Phaal

  • What it Looks Like: - Dark red/brown with a thick sauce and plenty of freshly chopped chilli
  • How Hot it is on a scale from 1 – 10: 10+
  • Scoville heat: 1,000,000+ 
  • Eat this if: You are a masochist

I've included phaal first for a reason.

Trust me.

This is one that you will remember, potentially for days.

Phaal curry is made with heaps of fresh red chillis. This is supplemented by the further addition of powdered chilli, giving a hot and fiery taste.

Expect to taste nothing at all after your first mouthful. The amount of chilli in this dish will obliterate your taste buds. You'll be left with an extremely hot burning sensation.

Many restaurants will double-check to make sure you know what you are getting yourself into.

If you want to know how to make a phaal at home, I've got a great recipe right here.

4. Bhut Jolokia

  • What it Looks Like: -  A yellow-brown curry with a thick texture
  • How Hot it is on a scale from 1 – 10: 10
  • Scoville heat: 1,000,000+
  • Eat this if: You are bored of vindaloo and phaal but still want something extremely spicy

With bhut jolokia, looks can be deceiving. At first glance, it looks innocuous enough and, in fact, is similar in appearance to something similar to, say, Pathia. However, that's where the similarity ends.

Here's why.

Bhut jolokia, the name for the chilli used in the dish, has another name. It's called a 'ghost pepper' and is famed for being among the hottest in the world.

A curry featuring this chilli is therefore likely to be equally as hot, and this is exactly what bhut jolokia delivers.

While made in Indian curry houses, this curry is actually much closer to those you will get in the Caribbean. As with naga curry, it has strong undertones similar to scotch bonnets, except it is crazy hot.

I'd say enjoy.

Except, you won't.

5. Vindaloo

  • What it Looks Like: - Bright red with a smooth tomato-based sauce
  • How Hot it is on a scale from 1 – 10: 10
  • Scoville heat: 175,000 – 500,000 (depending on restaurant recipe)
  • Eat this if: Phaal isn't on the menu

If phaal was the lead singer in a band, vindaloo would be the lead guitarist. It isn't quite as atomically hot as phaal, but it isn't far off. You might find slightly less chilli used in vindaloo, but it is still one ridiculously fiery customer.

Again you'll find both fresh and powdered chilli. However, for those who are used to spice, you might be able to pick up a few notes of flavour before a tidal wave of chilli heat takes over. Vindaloo is normally hot and a little sour.

This comes from including lemon juice or vinegar, making your curry taste spicier.

Vindaloo is a classic in most British curry houses. While not everywhere will serve phaal, you will undoubtedly find this on the menu.

Eat with caution.

6. Sambar

  • What it Looks Like: - A pale yellow dish full of rich lentils and, of course, chilli
  • How Hot it is on a scale from 1 – 10: 8 – 9
  • Scoville Heat: 250,000 – 500,000 (depending on restaurant recipe)
  • Eat this if: You enjoy spice but want a classy curry

Sambar is a bit of an odd one. It won't always be the spiciest dish on the menu, but sometimes curry houses make it their flagship of hot curry selection.

Sambar is a little different. It is sort of a cross between milder dishes like Pathia, combined with the fiery heat of added chilli. The colour comes from including heaps of stewed lentils that break down to form a sort of orangey-yellow soup.

It's worth checking with your local restaurant as to whether this is one of the 'hot ones'.

You won't always find sambar on the menu, but if you want to try it, why not check out my sambar recipe right here.

7. Madras

  • What it Looks Like: - Dark red to orange with a thick sauce
  • How Hot it is on a scale from 1 – 10: 8 – 9
  • Scoville Heat: 300,000 (variable depending on restaurant and recipe)
  • Eat this if: You can't handle vindaloo but still enjoy lots of chilli heat.

Look, I'll be honest.

Madras is normally my go-to curry when I'm looking for heat. It sits right in the "goldilocks" zone when it comes to heat. Not too hot (for me), not too cool, just right.

 You'll still be able to pick up the flavours of the tomato and spices. However, this is all undercut by a substantial and very noticeable chilli heat.

In real terms…

We aren't talking a bit of a runny nose. We are talking, "Why can't I stop sweating, and can you pass the water" kind of heat. This is a big boy's curry with plenty of fire and spice.

Here's how you can make a madras easily at home.

8. Garlic Chilli

  • What it Looks Like: - A red sauce with heaps of freshly chopped chilli
  • How Hot it is on a scale from 1 – 10: 8
  • Scoville Heat: 150,000 – 300,000
  • Eat this if: You like the flavour of fresh chilli and, of course, garlic.

Garlic chilli curry does pretty much what it says on the tin. Unlike several other hot curry suggestions, this one features more fresh chilli than the powdered variety.

Garlic chilli curry comes in a rich tomato sauce, but a spicy surprise is contained within. It is perfectly normal for this curry to be packed with finely sliced chilli and heaps of wafer-thin slices of fried golden garlic. It's a little like jalfrezi, but instead of mild bell peppers, we replace them with their hotter little cousins.

It is normal for Indian chefs to use thin bird eye chillis. These little devils are fiery little numbers, and this one will have you asking for a glass of milk after the first spoonful.

9. Chettinad

  • What it Looks Like: - Dark brown with a thick and rich flavourful sauce
  • How Hot it is on a scale from 1 – 10: 8ish
  • Scoville Scale: 50,000 – 100,000
  • Eat this if: You like curry that mixes strong flavour and heat in equal measure.

Ah, Chettinad, it's one of my favourites! Some curries, such as vindaloo, phaal and naga, are all designed with one purpose in mind. To be crazy spicy.

With Chettinad, it's a little bit different. While it is certainly a hot curry, it isn't traditionally regarded as one of those you'd eat as a dare.

Oh no, Chettinad is properly classy.

Chettinad takes the bulk of its flavour by including heaps of fresh curry leaves. These are fried during the initial stages of cooking, making the oil and pan really fragrant. Rich onion curry gravy is added before the entire thing is finished with a pungent spice mix which includes…

Yes, you guessed it…

A substantial amount of powdered chilli.

Provided you can handle the heat, this is definitely one to order if you spot it on the menu. It's fiery but is also really tasty.

Give it a go! I'll show you how to make Chettinad at home here.

10. Jalfrezi

  • What it Looks Like: - Orange-brown with a thick sauce and plenty of vegetables
  • How Hot it is on a scale from 1 – 10: 7-8
  • Scoville Heat: 50,000
  • Eat this if: You like spicy stir fry.

Jalfrezi is a bit different from most other curries. The literal translation from Hindi is 'hot fry'. This relates to both the style in which it is cooked and its taste.

Jalfrezi doesn't have heaps of sauce; instead, it will have a semi thick gravy festooned with juicy chunks of meat and lots of chopped fresh peppers, all underscored by a strong undertone of spicy chilli.

Some people claim that jalfrezi is as hot as a vindaloo. While this might be the case in some curry houses, normally, it isn't quite as hot.

You can read more about jalfrezi curry here.

11. Karahi

  • What it Looks Like: - A bright orange curry with a loose and spicy sauce
  • How Hot it is on a scale from 1 – 10: 7- 8
  • Scoville scale: 30,000 – 50,000
  • Eat this if: You like hot food but still want to taste afterwards

Karahi (also called korai and Kadai) curry is the mildest on our list of the hottest curries.

To be honest, it isn't too fiery, but get it right, and it should leave you with a real sweat on by the time your finish your portion.

And finish your portion you will! This one is super tasty.

The heat level can easily be tailored. The recipe doesn't contain vast amounts of powdered chilli. However, it's the garnish that gives it some signature heat. Normally this is made of freshly chopped coriander and quite a few shredded, chopped chillies.

Hey, look…

If you don't like it, simply pick them out, and you've got a curry that's gone from blisteringly hot to medium!

The Hottest Curry | FAQ

What Makes Curry Hot?

Essentially, curry is made hot by the inclusion of a few ingredients. Namely, chilli peppers. The more chilli included the hotter the dish. This can be in the form of fresh chillis, dried chillis, chilli seeds, chilli extract, and chilli powder. Sometimes with hot curries, it can include all of the above.


If you are sensitive to spice, you may find other ingredients to make your curry a little spicy. These can include garam masala, cumin, and black pepper.

How Do I Cool Down a Hot Curry?

There are plenty of ways to manage the heat if you've gone and ordered a curry that is a little too spicy.

Suggestions to try include: -

  • Drinking milk and dairy
  • Avoiding carbonated drinks (they spread the heat)
  • Use other ingredients, such as rice and potatoes, to soak up the spice.

For a more comprehensive guide, why not check out my dedicated article on cooling down curry here.

Where Can I Find a Good Phaal Recipe?

There are two places where you might get a good phaal. The first is to check the menu of your local takeaway. It has become somewhat of an iconic hot curry dish, and many places cater for it.

No luck?

Well, you are already in the right place to find it. Here is a phaal recipe that you can make for yourself at home.

How Hot is Phaal Curry?

Phaal curry is ridiculously hot. The standard recipe will use two types of chillis. You get all of the fire from bird eye chillis, which is added to with naga peppers. As a result, a good phaal curry will easily exceed 1 million Scoville heat units.

Is Hot Curry Bad for You?

Ok, look, while it might feel like you are dying, eating hot food doesn't usually have any long-lasting effects that will be detrimental to your health. It may irritate your stomach, and you could feel it the next day. Still, worldwide, millions, if not billions of people eat plenty of spicy food, so you are actually in good company!

If you've overdone it and ordered something that has left you feeling a little off, don't worry. Just order a milder curry next time.

What is the Hottest Curry? | Final Thoughts

Suppose you want something that is unbelievably (and some might say indelibly) hot. In that case, naga, phaal and bhut jolokia are all worthy choices, closely followed by the famous vindaloo. If you love trying spicy (yet tasty) curries, you are in for a treat. Why not head over to my cooking curry guides and find out how you can make them yourself at home?

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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