The base for any delicious curry recipe is the curry powder. This Sri Lankan roasted curry powder is deeply aromatic and has very robust and complex flavors. The ingredient ratios are easy to remember (4:3:2:1 and 3:2:1), so go ahead and make a big batch and use it any way you like to make flavorful curry dishes!
Learn how to make AUTHENTIC Sri Lankan Curry Powder!
Everyone (or at least most people) has their go-to recipe, their go-to meal, the one that they love to make, the one that’s a breeze to make, the one that they use the word comfort to describe.
For me, that would be a curry. A Sri Lankan curry to be exact. I have lived most of my life outside of Sri Lanka, but my childhood is inextricably linked to everything that is Sri Lanka. Especially the food. Oh, the food! Nothing hits the spot for me quite like a Sri Lankan curry, and that doesn’t come as a surprise, considering the staggering amount of flavor one could coax out of a well-made curry. Everything else pales in comparison.
And at the heart of all that is the roasted curry powder.
I’ve never had a shortage of authentic Sri Lankan curry powder (including the store-bought variety), until we moved to where we live now. Since then I’ve taken matters into my own hands, and if you’d like to smell and taste the magnificent aromas and flavors of a straight-up, authentic Sri Lankan roasted curry powder, then you should truly make it yourself. It’s easy, the spices and flavors are more pronounced, and the aromas will make you swoon (quite literally – I do recommend that you crack open the window or door, or have some decent ventilation, because for someone not used to these aromas they can be both incredible and a little overwhelming).
And here’s why my roasted curry powder is different from any other recipe out there – the recipe is super easy to remember! The ratios are easy to remember – 4:3:2:1 and 3:2:1.
That’s 4:3:2:1 in tablespoons and 3:2:1 in teaspoons.
Coriander seeds are the main spice in Sri Lankan roasted curry powder. Another is black pepper (as opposed to chili powder). Black pepper is what gives this roasted curry powder its heat. However, most people also use a lot of chili powder when they make curries which obviously adds to the heat. So here are the ingredients and the ratios.
Tablespoons (15mL tablespoons)
2 Black Peppercorns and 2 Uncooked Rice
1 Black Mustard
Teaspoons (5 ml teaspoons)
2 Green Cardamom Seeds (seeds from the pods)
1 Fennel Seeds (heaped)
Some curry powders also include curry leaves, but I prefer to add them straight into the curry!
As you can see, a good curry isn’t all fire and brimstone – it’s got a lot of subtle, fragrant yet robust spices that add a lot of delicate and nuanced flavors.
This Sri Lankan roasted curry powder is first roasted till it’s nice and toasty, and then ground to a find powder. Dry roasting spices can transform an otherwise not especially exciting spice into something a lot more intense and complex with great depth of flavor. Such roasted curry powder is typically used in meaty dishes – where the meat can withstand that robust curry flavor. With more delicate meat like fish or seafood, you would use UNROASTED curry powder (which has a more delicate flavor), with the addition of a little more fennel and an acidic component like tamarind or lemon/lime.
With a curry powder this simple to make, you can easily make bigger batches too. And once made, you store it in an air-tight container in a cool, dry place.
Here I have used US tablespoons which measure 15 mL, but you can use the UK version of tablespoons too which are sometimes measured at 20 mL. This would lead to slightly different spice ratios, but that’s OK, because that’s the beauty of a curry powder – there’s no one magic ratio that has to be followed as a rule. Each person, each family can have their own version that suits their preferences better with a little more of this and a little less of that and so on. This is my Sri Lankan roasted curry powder and it’s the base for a lot of my favorite curries (like this Spicy Green Apple Curry). And it’ll soon be yours too! 🙂
Also note, that I used green cardamoms as seen in the photos. Black cardamom is much larger than green cardamoms and have a different taste. They are not interchangeable in this recipe.
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Sri Lankan Roasted Curry powder
- 4 tbsp coriander seeds
- 3 tbsp cumin seeds
- 2 tbsp black peppercorns
- 2 tbsp basmati rice
- 1 tbsp black mustard seeds
- 3 tsp whole cloves, large about 15 cloves (see notes)
- 2 tsp scant, cardamom seeds from green cardamom seeds from the pods
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- Place the rice on a dry non stick pan. Heat over medium heat until the rice starts to turn light brown.
- Add the rest of the spices and pan roast for a further 3 - 5 minutes until the spices start to brown, toast and become aromatic.
- Keep moving the pan to prevent the spices from burning. Also adjust the cook times according to your stove and pan, to avoid burning the spices. Or your curry powder will be bitter.
- Remove from the heat and let the spices cool down.
- Once the spices cool down - use a spice grinder (or a mortar and pestle) to grind the spice mix into a powder in batches and mix well. Store in an air tight container.
- Use as needed.
Tips & Tricks
Unroasted curry powderUnroasted curry powder is the same as this, but the spices are not toasted in the pan. They are simply placed in a spice grinder and pulsed until finely ground.
Notes about clovesThe ingredient ratio here is more of a guideline. If you don't like cloves, please feel free to leave them out or add less. The cloves I typically use are large, and I can only fit a few in 1 teaspoon. If your cloves are smaller in size, reduce the amount accordingly. The same goes for other spices as well.
Which spices are the most important?Coriander, cumin, black pepper, cardamom. Other ingredients can be left out if you don't have them, or reduced to your liking. You can also use yellow mustard instead of black/brown mustard, if that is all you have.
What is my curry powder is bitter?If you find the curry powder to be bitter, it's most likely because you toasted the spices for too long and burned them. It can also be bitter if your spices have gone rancid (especially mustard).
How long can I keep this?Ground spices don't retain their freshness as well as whole spices. This is why I prefer making batches of this when needed. Every time I make the curry powder, the longest it has lasted in my kitchen is 2 weeks before I need a new batch, but usually I make this once a week. I make a double batch because we make a lot of curries at home. I personally prefer making small batches every time to keep each batch fresh.
If you’re a fan of flavor-packed curries and Sri Lankan food, then you may love these recipes too!
- Sri Lankan Chicken Curry
- Sri Lankan Crab Curry
- Sri Lankan Shrimp Curry (Prawn Curry)
- Authentic Black Pork Curry
- Cashew Curry (VEGAN)
- Mango Curry (VEGAN)
- Sweet and Spicy Apple Curry (VEGAN)
- Curried Beef Roti (Beef Stuffed Godhamba Roti)