Curry Powder: Ingredients, Types, Flavor, Uses, Benefits

Most of us are utterly confused about what exactly curry powder is. No two curry powders seem to be the same as there are several variations in color, flavor, brand, and regional adaptations. You’ll find them in yellow, red, or orange-red colors with a host of varying ingredients.

“Curry” is a generic term used by British colonists to describe a wide variety of Indian dishes with spicy masala. Interestingly, curry powder is not a staple ingredient in Indian cooking though it has a venerable place in Western spice racks.

What Is Curry Powder?

The traditional curry powder consists of a mixture of spices that take on a yellow hue. In the colonial era, curry powder was invented by British spice merchants to replicate the flavors of Indian curries.

The term “curry” refers to various types of Indian dishes made up of gravy or sauce with vegetables, fish, eggs, or meat. Surprisingly, there is no relationship between curry powder and curry. In fact, garam masala is the most often used spice blend in curries.

All spices included in curry powder are well-known for their health benefits and various uses in traditional remedies.  It not only adds sumptuous flavors to your dishes but also brings in several nutritional benefits. Curry powder is rich in anti-inflammatory compounds that help to reduce oxidative stress, improve blood sugar levels, and improve heart health. Other major potential benefits are improving brain health, giving a feeling of fullness, boosting digestive health, and producing antifungal and antibacterial effects.

Types of Curry Powder

The spotlight lies on curry powder with Indian spices but there are many other distinctive curry powders from around the globe. All of them are unique with dynamic flavors. The Jamaican curry powder, slightly sweet and less spicy, embraces additional spices like allspices and anise. Thai curry powder has a tangy effect because of the lemongrass and lemon leaves included in it. The Indian version of curry powder is garam masala which relies heavily on more pungent spices like cardamom, nutmeg, and cloves.  Madras curry powder is spicier in taste compared to traditional curry powder.  Besides many other lesser-known curry powders, two popular mixtures are yellow curry powder with more turmeric and red curry powder with a bulk of red chili powder.

RELATED: 5 Good Substitutes For Garam Masala

Ingredients In Curry Powder

Originally curry powder was created to represent a specific taste, but now there are several types of curry powders with different blends of spices. Therefore, now you’ll not find a standard recipe for curry powder.

However, the main ingredients in a curry powder are turmeric, cumin, pepper, and coriander. Other varying components in this spice mixture are red/black pepper, ginger, mustard, garlic, cardamom, clove, fenugreek, and bay leaf.  Contrary to the general assumption, curry powder doesn’t include curry leaf and is not even a substitute for it.

What does it taste like?

The flavors of curry powder include both savory and sweet elements. On the whole, it’s earthy, and warm with a bit of bitterness. Depending on the amount of pepper used, the powder can range from mild to spicy.

The earthy flavor of this spice blend comes from savory spices like cumin, bay leaf, and turmeric while cinnamon and clove make it bright and aromatic.

Uses Of Curry Powder In Cooking

Despite its low popularity in Indian cooking, it’s continued to be used to add a unique taste to a wide variety of dishes.

Are you wondering how to use curry powder in curries? This spice mix is best used as an all-purpose seasoning in dishes like pureed soups, roasted vegetables, egg salad, and even popcorn. It’s easily usable in any recipe to add a warm and earthy flavor. Works well for sauces, stews, soups, marinades, vegetables, eggs, and meat. Today, curry powder is put into several unconventional uses like favoring potato salads, hamburgers, hummus, scrambled eggs, and more. Notably, curry powder can even be used as a salt-free table spice for flavoring foods because of its vibrant taste.

Buying And Storage

Sachets and pet jars of curry powder are ubiquitously found in every supermarket. Besides the groceries, a host of online vendors selling out customized curry powder for every need.  Always gun for the freshly made curry powders as the old ones tend to lose their flavors within a few months. For a better and tastier option, try to make your own curry powder using a spice or coffee grinder.

Any powdered spice loses its flavor fast, especially if they aren’t stored well. Always store the curry powder in an air-tight container and keep it in a cool and dark place at room temperature. Well-preserved spices will stay good for up to 3 years. When you feel that the flavors have faded away and the aroma is weak, then it’s time to replace it. Refrigeration or freezing curry powder does not work that great.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to cook with curry powder?

The spice blend works best when mixed with a liquid-like broth, coconut milk, or yogurt before adding it to the dish. Also, you can marinate meat or vegetables with this powder before cooking. In saucy or gravy dishes, you may directly add this spice mixture while cooking the dish.

Is curry powder the same as garam masala?

They are two different spice mixtures with distinctive flavor profiles despite most of the ingredients being the same in both. Garam masala is slightly sweet and more pungent than curry powder.

What’s in curry powder?

A simple curry powder will have minimum ingredients like turmeric, cumin, coriander, and chili. A more complex and flavorful curry powder contains additional ingredients like fenugreek, bay leaf, cardamom, clove, ginger, garlic, black pepper, and mustard.

Is curry powder spicy?

The spiciness of curry powder depends on the amount of chili powder and black pepper included in it. In general, curry powder is moderately spicy.

How much curry powder to use?

A typical recipe for four servings can include 1 to 4 teaspoons of curry powder. If you aren’t sure, always start with less curry powder, and you may add more after taste-testing the dish while cooking.

Can I make curry paste with curry powder?

A typical curry paste is made with fresh ingredients such as garlic, ginger, lemon juice, shallots, green chilies, and vegetable oil. Curry paste has more intense flavors and herbaceous taste and is mostly used for marinating. Although curry paste and curry powder share some ingredients, their flavors are very different.

How long does homemade yellow curry powder keep?

When curry powder is made with perfectly dried new spices it can last up to 2 to 3 years. Always store it in an air-tight container and place it in a cool, dry place at room temperature.

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