So, you want to get into the wonderful world of curry but don't know where to start? Don't worry. We've all been there. There are literally hundreds of curries out there, and knowing which curry is best for beginners can be tricky. Today we will give you some great suggestions and offer some pro tips if you want to freestyle and pick something tasty on your own. Let's jump right in!
Best Curry for Beginners | The Quick Answer
The best curry for beginners will be mild, like butter or masala. These Indian dishes are packed with tasty flavours but are mild enough to avoid putting off a curry newcomer. These curries are creamy, rich, slightly savoury, and bursting with bright colours and tastes. They are also really filling!
There are a few common 'themes' that you will feature in most beginners' curries.
Let's show you a quick 'hit list' of things you need to look for in your first curry: -
- Big on flavour – Nobody wants a bland curry
- Milder curries – Go too spicy too soon, and you'll regret it
- Eye appeal – Dull, lifeless curry? No thanks!
- Saucy or Dry? – Most people prefer a saucy curry
- Filling – You want to get your money's worth on your first curry adventure!
- Curry with meat, or vegetarian/vegan? – It's entirely your choice. All are possible!
Want some great suggestions?
Check below for my hit list of the top curries for a beginner to try…
Beginners Curry | 8 Great Curries for Beginners
There are a few curries suited to a beginner than a nice korma.
You can think of this a little like Indian' comfort food'.
It's rich, creamy, and a bit sweet and we guarantee you won't be hungry after finishing a nice plate of Korma.
Korma is a slightly sweet, dairy-based curry with a few fragrant (yet non-spicy ingredients).
Such as: -
Note there is no chilli in a korma curry. As a result, you don't need to worry about scorching your tastebuds or having a bout of "Delhi belly" the next day.
Korma curry is a saucy dish, so it is great to pair with nice naan bread or a heap of white pilau rice.
And the best bit?
You can have whatever 'filling' you like with the sauce. Normally, Korma is served with chunks of juicy chicken; however, it also works with vegetables, lamb and beef.
Next on the list is tikka.
Tikka is one of the best curries for a beginner out there.
If you are looking for a bright curry dish, then few can compete.
Normally chicken tikka is bright red/orange. The colour comes from heaps of red-coloured spices (and often a little red dye. However, don't worry. It is still mild and benign when it comes to heat.
Within, you'll find: -
- Mild Kashmiri Chilli
- Garam Masala (giving it a real 'Indian curry' taste).
Tikka is another saucy one. It is traditionally served with chicken as the meat within the dish. However, it is perfectly feasible to have lamb, beef, paneer cheese or vegetables instead if you are looking for a meat-free alternative.
Tikka isn't normally as sweet as Korma, but it sometimes has a little sugary element. The taste is one of the tangy tomatoes with a savoury 'Indian' undertone.
Let's be honest.
Bhuna is not a curry for an absolute beginner, but if Korma or tikka are a little too 'tame' for your liking, a bhuna should fit the bill nicely.
Bhuna still sits at the 'medium' side of the scale, as it does contain a little chilli.
You have been warned.
Bhuna is a dark brown, oily dish with a really thick sauce. Whereas Korma and tikka may be a little sweet, bhuna is definitely one that could be classed as 'savoury'.
Bhuna contains the following: -
- Lots of oil
- Garlic and ginger
- A little tomato puree
- Curry powder
The predominant flavour in bhuna is one of onions and garlic. It isn't supposed to be a 'fiery' dish, so if you think you can handle the heat, give it a go!
Speaking of onions…
If onions are your thing, then dopiaza is an amazing curry to try as a curry beginner.
Within this dish, you'll find heaps of fried onions, juicy chunks of meat, and fragrant Indian spices, all lovingly brought together with a rich and thick onion base gravy.
As with bhuna, dopiaza contains a little chilli, which you could consider a mild-medium on the hotness scale.
Within, you'll find
- Garlic and ginger
- Loads of Onions
- Mild curry spices such as garam and cumin
- A little chilli
- A rich onion-based sauce
Dopiaza has a little more sauce than a bhuna, and it is also an oily curry. Bad if you are on a diet, good if you enjoy mopping around your plate with a fluffy roti.
Feeling like bhuna and dopiaza might be a little too high on the heat scale?
Don't worry. There are other tasty beginners' curries that are just as good.
Many new to curry opt for a nice 'butter' curry to make their debut.
This curry is ideal for beginners as it has zero heat and is all about mild flavours.
Take a guess what the base of this curry is made from?
If you said "butter", you'd be spot on!
It goes something like this…
Spices such as cloves, cardamom and cinnamon bark are fried in melted butter before garam and turmeric are added, giving some flavour and colour. After finishing a lashing of cream, the sauce is combined with chunks of juicy chicken to make a really rich and sumptuous dish!
Butter chicken is very similar to Korma, the main difference being that more butter is added and slightly less sweet.
Think you've never heard of methi?
Methi is the Hindi word for 'fenugreek', and while in western cooking, the seeds are normally used, in Indian cooking, it is all about the leaves.
Methi leaves are used in this recipe (fresh or dried) to impart a wonderful flavour.
Well, methi has a slightly sweet, almost maple-like quality, creating a well-rounded and fragrant curry dish that is perfect for beginners.
Methi curry isn't spicy, and any chilli you do find within will be kept to a relatively low level, so beginners can dig in without worrying about "ring sting".
What else is in methi curry?
You'll find the following flavours predominant: -
- A hint of chilli heat
- The sweet and slightly smoky taste of methi.
You might be worried about being hungry if you are a curry beginner.
With this dish, it just isn't going to happen.
Biryani is great for beginners for several reasons.
First, it is a rice-based dish that is super filling. Second, it can be tailored to your own personal tastes. Vegetable biryani is just as nice as its meat-based brethren. Finally, it is packed with tasty Indian flavours.
It is normally made by frying rice in oil along with fragrant Indian herbs and spices, like: -
Chunks of meat (or veg) are added, and then the dish is left to simmer for a while with stock or rich onion gravy added. Once the rice is tender, it's ready to go!
Mild, creamy and something a little less cliché than 'korma'?
We get you!
If you want a connoisseur's curry perfectly suited for a beginner, then saag is where it's at.
Essentially it is a creamy spinach-based curry.
And when we say 'spinach based', we really mean it! This dish's heaps of fresh spinach give it a bright green hue!
You won't find too many spices in saag either, so it's a good choice if you have a sensitive stomach. It normally includes: -
- Garam (really mild)
- Mix powder (cumin, coriander powder and turmeric)
- Garlic and ginger
Saag normally contains yoghurt, so if you are looking for a dairy-free curry, here are some other great suggestions.
Paneer is one of the best vegetarian beginners' curries.
Especially if you want to steer clear of meat.
Wait, what's paneer?
Paneer is a mild-tasting Indian cheese. You can consider it to be a little similar to halloumi. Because of its heat resistance, it makes the perfect meat-free filling for curry.
While 'paneer' curry exists in its own right, the good news is that paneer can be used with any curry sauce that would normally contain meat!
One excellent curry for beginners is paneer tikka masala. All the flavour of chicken tikka but the meat-free version.
Now that you've got a great handle on choosing a curry for the first time let's dig into a little more detail so you can try other delights on the menu…
Choosing Your First Curry | 8 Top Tips
Listen, you may think you appear like a curry 'veteran' if you order spicy food. But sitting with sweat pouring down your face and a full dish in front of you will mark you as a real curry beginner.
It's far better to enjoy your Indian meal than to regret your choice. And, if it is your first time having an Indian, a bad experience may put you off permanently.
Stick to the tried and tested 'beginner curries' until you know your way around what's hot and what's not.
Think 'Broad' Flavour Profiles
People who have never ordered Indian before get overwhelmed by the amount of choice (not to mention some funny-sounding ingredients).
The truth is that most curries you order will vary slightly from place to place.
Have a general picture of what flavours you'd like, and then try and find the closest fit. If you are struggling, there is a great guide here on what to order from an Indian.
We know what you are thinking.
Indian food is a bit of a culinary adventure, so don't be afraid to move away from the 'standard' beginner curries. As you'll have seen in our list above, plenty of dishes are far from normal yet perfectly suited for beginners.
Ask Before Ordering
Here's a top tip: if you are a real curry beginner and are still struggling.
Most Indian restaurants and takeaways want you to enjoy your food and will be happy to answer any questions about the dishes on their menu.
Think About Allergies
Here's a word of warning.
There are quite a few 'hidden' ingredients in Indian cooking. Within, you may find: -
If you have any food allergies or intolerances, be sure to check the ingredients before you order.
Saucy or Dry?
"Curry" is a catch-all term that can include dry and/or saucy dishes.
And let us tell you…
Not all dishes are the same.
As a beginner, it can be hard to know which comes with sauce and which doesn't. Generally, anything cooked in a tandoor will be dry. Most 'curries' will tend to be relatively saucy. Be sure to check first.
How Hungry Are You?
Some dishes are more filling than others, and while, as a beginner, you will enjoy a curry, you don't want to be over faced.
Think about how hungry you are before ordering. Any rice/carb-based dishes will be more filling.
When dining with friends, sharing naan bread and rice is common. Don't feel you need to order your sides per person.
Try The Curry Picker
Still can't decide?
Man, you are a tough crowd.
If you want to plug in a few preferences and see which curry is best for you, why not give the curryspy curry picker a go? There's loads of information on there, along with descriptions of tonnes of curry dishes, all of which would be perfect for a beginner.
Curry for Beginners | Frequently Asked Questions
There are some common things that people want to know when ordering a curry for the first time. Here are some common questions asked by curry novices.
What is the Best Curry to Try?
For a beginner, you'll want a mild yet flavour-packed curry. Butter chicken and Korma both satisfy these criteria. They are rich dishes, sit firmly in the 'mild' category, and are super tasty. Butter and Korma are saucy curries that pair well with most traditional Indian side dishes.
Which Curry is Not Too Spicy?
Korma, Tikka, Butter and Saag are all really mild curry dishes that will be perfect for a beginner. None of these curries predominantly feature chilli, so they are ideal for those who are just starting out or spice averse.
Other curry dishes which are 'medium' include bhuna, dopiaza, methi and rogan josh
Is Curry Healthy to Eat?
Curry is often made with lots of oil, fats and dairy. As a result, certain curries can be on the high side when it comes to counting calories. However, they also feature plenty of fresh meats and vegetables, so they aren't too bad (especially compared to, say, pizza).
What is a Good Mild Curry?
When it comes to a 'good' mild curry, the winner is a saag. It isn't as 'boring' as chicken tikka, is an authentic Indian dish, and, made with heaps of fresh spinach, is pretty good for you. Saag doesn't feature any chilli, so it is ideal if you want a mild beginner's curry.
Which Curries Should Beginners Avoid?
There are plenty of curries that a beginner should avoid. The main culprits include fiery numbers such as vindaloo, madras, phaal, and jalfrezi. These curries feature copious amounts of fiery chilli, which will spoil your evening.
Generally, any curry featuring chilli as one of its main ingredients is bound to be spicy. Often on curry house and takeaway menus, there will be a chilli 'icon' next to those dishes that are considered spicy or 'hot'.
Two chillis? Give it a wide berth!
Which Curry is Best For Beginners? | Final Thoughts…
So which curry is best for beginners? For a safe choice, go for a tasty korma or a traditional beginner's favourite, like chicken tikka. Both are super mild but have enough flavour, colour and taste to be anything other than boring. Ready to graduate to something a little spicier? Why not browse my site and see if you can find a few recipes to make at home?