A flavor packed, authentic, comforting and easy mutton curry recipe. This is a long-standing family recipe of mine that I’m sharing with you in all its glory! It’ll soon be your family favorite too. Deliciously tender meat, simmered in a coconut gravy, spiced with aromatic Sri Lankan curry spices.
Learn how to make the most flavorful and authentic mutton curry (or lamb curry), that’s perfect for special occasions!
I’ve shared a lot of meat curry recipes on my blog over the years, but I’m most surprised by how long it took me to share this one with you guys! Having grown up eating a lot of Sri Lankan and other South Asian food, mutton curry (or lamb curry) is easily my favorite meat curry.
Unfortunately, it was not a curry we got to eat often in that part of the world, mostly because it was harder to get our hands on lamb / mutton or goat (not to mention it was prohibitively expensive too). But a delicious mutton curry was always a special treat whenever we did make it (and eat it!).
Why I love this recipe
- This is a mutton curry with Indian and Sri Lankan (South Asian) flair. So you could easily switch up the curry powder spices to make it South Indian / Sri Lankan, or North Indian.
- Super versatile recipe, so you can make this curry with any type of red meat.
- Incredibly flavorful because it builds flavor at every step of the cooking process.
- Authentic recipe for a Sri Lankan mutton curry.
- Perfect for special occasions, but just as perfect for a comforting family meal too.
- This curry can be made ahead of time, so it’s perfect for freezing for later or for meal prepping.
Note: I use the terms lamb and mutton here interchangeably. This is because lamb and mutton both refer to lamb meat. The difference is in the age of the lamb. But for simplicity, I will use the terms interchangeably. However, in South Asia, goat meat is often referred to as mutton as well. So although what we call mutton curry in Sri Lanka is actually a goat curry, I’m using lamb meat here.
South Indian and Sri Lankan cuisines do share a lot of similarities. Due to the influence of the region of Tamil Nadu in South India, and its people, culture and food in general, Sri Lankan curries do carry a lot of similar flavors and spices.
This mutton curry can also have many variations by simply changing the spice blend that you use. A lamb curry with North Indian flavors will use garam masala. For a South Indian lamb curry, you can use Madras curry powder. For variations of a Sri Lankan lamb curry, you could use Jaffna curry powder (spicier curry powder), or the roasted curry powder recipe that I have shared previously and use for my chicken curry, beef curry, fish curry, shrimp curry etc.
Ingredients you will need for this mutton curry recipe
Mutton / lamb
If you’d like to read more about the difference between lamb and mutton, check out this article here. In short,
- Lamb is the meat from a sheep that is less than 1 year old.
- Mutton is the meat from a sheep that is between 1 – 3 years of age (yearling mutton = sheep that is 1 – 2 years).
In North America, the term lamb is widely used to refer to mutton as well, so it’s easier to find as lamb meat. I tend to use lamb more often, since it’s easier for me to find. When I used to live in New Zealand, I also used hogget (which is meat from a mature sheep). You can use bone-in mutton / lamb pieces OR boneless lamb for this recipe. I use a mix of both here, because bones add more flavor.
In Sri Lanka however, we make mutton curry with goat meat (which is more readily found in the Indian subcontinent). Terminology and misconceptions about these terms aside, this is one kick-ass meat curry!
I use my Sri Lankan curry powder for the spice mix for this curry. This curry powder is a perfect balance of spices consisting coriander powder, cumin powder, black pepper, cardamom and a few more spices.
However, I also add additional spices to this recipe to add more flavor. These include turmeric powder , kashmiri red chili powder (or cayenne pepper), turmeric, fennel, cumin, green cardamom, and curry leaves.
Other ingredients needed,
- Garlic (or garlic paste)
- Ginger (or ginger paste)
- Curry Leaves
- Screwpine leaves (Rampe) (substitute with bay leaves if you cannot find this)
- Coconut milk
I do like to add green chillies to my curry sometimes, but I left it out in this recipe because the spice is coming entirely from the red chili powder / cayenne pepper.
How to make the mutton curry
Prepare the meat
For boneless meat, the meat should be cut into 1 inch pieces. For bone-in meat, the pieces can be slightly bigger. If you buy bone-in lamb or goat meat, ask your butcher if they can cut it for you. In Sri Lanka, bone-in goat meat is sold already cut into pieces. I like to buy whole lamb roast when it’s on sale and then cut it into pieces for a curry.
Place the mutton pieces in a large bowl.
Make the marinade
Finely mince the garlic and ginger (or use ginger garlic paste). Add this to the mutton meat, along with salt, red chilli powder (or cayenne pepper), curry powder, and turmeric. Add about 2 tbsp of oil and mix well until all the meat is coated in the spice powders.
Let this sit for at least 30 minutes, or up to 24 hours in the fridge to marinate.
Make the Sri Lankan mutton curry
To get the most flavor out of the mutton curry, it’s crucial that the flavors are layered to get the most out of each ingredient. You can absolutely make a “dump it all and cook” type of curry, and it’ll still be delicious. But for a truly special and memorable mutton curry, it’s important to layer the spices and flavors.
The first step is to bloom the spices. Heat 1 – 2 tbsp of coconut oil (or vegetable oil) in a large pot, over medium heat. When the pot is hot, saute the onions until they soften.
To the softened onions, add all the curry spices, including the lemongrass, curry leaves, and rampe. Saute the spices for about 30 – 60 seconds until you can smell the spices. Do NOT let this burn, so be careful! If the heat is too high, the spices will burn quickly. This is where you can alter the spice blend to make an Indian lamb curry, or follow the recipe here to make a more South Indian or Sri Lankan style lamb curry.
When the spices have bloomed, add the marinated mutton / lamb and mix to stir all the spices with the lamb. Cook for a few minutes until the lamb is mixed well with the spices. Then place the lid on the pot and let the lamb cook, covered, for about 10 minutes on medium low or low heat (or a low flame).
After the first 10 minutes, add about 1.5 – 2 cups of water and cook the meat covered first. Keeping it covered prevents the water from evaporating, so that the meat stews properly and starts to tenderize. Next, cook the curry uncovered – this is so that the meat will continue to become tender, but as the excess liquid evaporates, the flavors of the mutton curry will concentrate and become more intense. Here you can increase the heat to a medium heat or medium high heat. You can add more liquid if you want more gravy, or let it cook longer uncovered if you want less gravy. Make sure that the curry is simmering the whole time so that the mutton becomes tender.
Finally, add the coconut milk and let it come to a simmer. The coconut milk makes the curry creamy, but also adds a lovely nutty flavor AND mellows out the heat imparted by the spices. You can also choose not to add coconut milk, if you prefer. I like to simmer the curry for a few minutes so that the coconut flavor has a chance to mingle with the rest of the flavors of the curry. If the coconut isn’t simmered for too long, then the coconut flavor may be a bit too overpowering, so keep that in mind.
The curry is now done! You can serve this immediately if you like, but I love to make my curry ahead of time and serve it a few hours later or the following day. The flavors in the curry develop further and it actually tastes even better after a few hours!
To make it look even fancier, add some chopped cilantro (coriander leaves) and stir it through the curry as well! It adds a lovely fresh flavor to the curry! This is optional though.
This curry will last in the fridge for up to 4 days without a problem. I do not recommend that you reheat this multiple times though. Instead, portion the lamb curry and only reheat the portion(s) that you’re going to eat right away.
You can also portion the curry and freeze it for up to 3 months. I love doing this. I like to make a large batch and then freeze some for later. This way, I always have extra Sri Lankan style or Indian style lamb curry in the freezer for when that craving invariably hits!
What to expect from this curry
This spicy lamb curry (mutton curry) has TONS of flavor! The tender mutton pieces are so delicious, but not too soft. You don’t want the meat to simply disintegrate in your mouth.
The coconut milk makes the curry very creamy and nutty. If you use yoghurt, you will have a lovely sour tang instead. I love the deep roasted spices of the curry after cooking with the meat. Plus this mutton curry has plenty of gravy (sauce) that makes it a perfect pairing with steamed basmati rice OR flat breads such as pol roti (coconut roti), roti canai, or naan! This mutton curry recipe is just perfect for a special occasion.
What makes this mutton curry truly authentic is the spice blend and my family recipe for cooking the meat. Most South Asian families will have their own way, with slight variations, and their own slightly varying spice blends for making this mutton curry. A key aspect of these dishes is how to coax out the most flavor from all the spices and how to layer the flavor profile in the curry, and that’s precisely what I’m sharing with you guys here!
Notes for a super versatile mutton curry recipe
This curry is made with lamb, but it can also be made with hogget (older sheep meat), or goat meat. In Sri Lanka, we use goat meat, but we use lamb or hogget in New Zealand since that’s easier to find. This recipe can also be made with beef if you prefer (I have previously shared a separate beef curry recipe however).
I’m making this mutton curry with a Sri Lankan curry powder. However, you can swap this curry powder for garam masala, and add some yoghurt instead of coconut milk for a more North Indian style lamb curry. Swap the curry powder for Madras curry powder for a more South Indian style curry.
The best place to buy South Asian curry powder is an Indian or Sri Lankan grocery store. If you’re going to buy curry powder from a superstore, please do try to purchase a well known brand for Indian food, rather than the supermarket brand. Most supermarket brand “curry powders” only include turmeric, garlic powder, onion powder, and maybe if you’re lucky… black pepper powder. These are, quite frankly, pretty awful.
Absolutely! But bear in mind that the flavor of the curry changes with the type of protein that is used. This is obviously true for any curry. You can use chickpeas, soy curls, soy meat, tofu, or even paneer as a substitute for lamb.
The longer you cook the meat, the more tender the meat becomes. If you reduce the cooking time, you will end up with meat that is chewy and tough. And the more lean the cut of meat, the longer you need to cook for tender results.
You can cut the meat into smaller pieces (1/2 inch or so), which can reduce the cooking time. You can use a slow cooker or a pressure cooker, but make sure not to overcook the meat. Nothing worse than mushy meat in a meat curry!
Authentic Mutton Curry Recipe
Mutton and marinade
- 1 kg mutton or lamb about 2.2 lbs. You can also use goat, hogget, or beef
- 5 cloves of garlic
- 2 inch piece of ginger
- 1 tsp fine sea salt a little more if using kosher salt
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper we like to use 2 tsp, but adjust the amount to suit your spice tolerance levels
- 2 tsp Sri Lankan curry powder see recipe notes below for substitutions
- ½ tsp turmeric powder
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil optional
- 2 tbsp coconut oil or vegetable oil
- ½ large onion diced (about 1 cup)
- ½ stalk lemongrass the bottom half
- 8 – 10 curry leaves dried or fresh
- ¼ tsp sea salt
- 4 inch rampe screw pine leaf, OR 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp ground fennel seeds
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- 4 – 5 green cardamom pods ground seeds
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper we like to use 2 tsp, but adjust to your taste
- 1 tbsp Sri Lankan curry powder
- 1 tsp white sugar
- 1 – 1.5 cups water
- 1 cup coconut milk
- Salt to taste
Marinate the meat
- Cut the mutton / lamb into small 1 inch pieces. You can also use bone-in meat, but have it cut or cubed by the butcher if possible for convenience.1 kg mutton or lamb
- Place all the meat in a large bowl.
- Finely mince the garlic and ginger, and add it to the meat.5 cloves of garlic, 2 inch piece of ginger
- Add the rest of the marinade ingredients into the meat and mix well until the meat is coated with the spices. Cover and let it sit for at least 30 minutes, or up to 24 hours in the fridge. I prefer to marinate the meat overnight in the fridge for maximum flavor.1 tsp fine sea salt, ½ tsp cayenne pepper, 2 tsp Sri Lankan curry powder, ½ tsp turmeric powder, 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- Heat a large pot over medium / medium high heat.
- Add the coconut oil, along with the onions. Let the onions heat up with the coconut oil, and saute until the onions soften and start to get a little color.2 tbsp coconut oil or vegetable oil, ½ large onion
- To the onions, add the salt, lemongrass, rampe and curry leaves, and saute for another minute.½ stalk lemongrass, 8 – 10 curry leaves, ¼ tsp sea salt, 4 inch rampe
- Next, add the spices – fennel, cumin, ground cardamom, cayenne pepper, and curry powder. Mix the spices so that it's all mixed well with the onions and oil. Saute for 30 – 60 seconds until the spices are fragrant. Do NOT let the spices burn.1 tsp ground fennel seeds, ½ tsp ground cumin, 4 – 5 green cardamom pods, 1 tsp cayenne pepper, 1 tbsp Sri Lankan curry powder
- Now add the marinated mutton pieces and sugar. Mix well to combine the meat with the sauteed spices.1 kg mutton or lamb, 1 tsp white sugar
- Place the lid over the pot and let the meat simmer, COVERED, for about 10 minutes. Reduce the heat if necessary. Stir the meat once or twice during this time to prevent the meat from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
- Next, add about 1 cup of water. Stir and let the meat cook, covered, for a further 20 – 30 minutes. Stir the curry occasionally to prevent the meat or curry from sticking to the bottom of the pot and burning.1 – 1.5 cups water
- Now simmer the curry uncovered, for another 20 minutes or so until the meat becomes tender. Make sure to replenish the curry with a little water if the curry becomes a little dry while simmering.
- Finally, stir in the coconut milk and let it simmer for about 10 minutes. You can add more water if you want more gravy. Taste and season with salt.1 cup coconut milk, Salt to taste
- Let the curry sit for at least 15 – 20 minutes before serving to let the flavors settle further.
Tips & Tricks
Notes on the curry powderThis is made with a Sri Lankan Curry powder, but you can make the following substitutions if you prefer,
- Garam masala + coconut milk
- Garam masala + yogurt (plain unsweetened)
- Madras curry powder + coconut milk
- You can also leave out the coconut milk if you like, but then the curry will be less creamy
“This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.”