From other answers on this site I can see that people seem to agree that adding curry powder later or at the end will lead to a bitter, grainy and perhaps unpalatable product. I'm assuming this applies to chilli powder too since I've been adding at the end and have what seems bitter and grainy. Therefore I guess you should add it earlier on.

I would like to know, chemically speaking, why is this? Is it because the water level maybe low and water is required to bring out the powders flavors, is it because the powder dissolves more with time etc? I've been adding chilli powder at the end and not too happy with the results. I want to make sure I get it at the right time and understanding the chemistry of it helps you cook better and add it just at the right time.

  • 1
    Firstly, are you referring to chile (just ground up peppers) or chilli (ground up peppers plus other spices)? In either case nothing dissolves, unless you are talking about chilli, which may have salt added. The salt would dissolve, but not the peppers or spices.
    – moscafj
    Commented Nov 11, 2019 at 18:48
  • @moscafj I guess I'd like to know the answer to both chile and chilli. Commented Nov 12, 2019 at 2:40

1 Answer 1


Like you would describe colour or music, you add dark at the beginning & bright at the end.

Any type of deep curry or chilli flavour will improve over several hours in the pot, & even overnight, left to go cold then re-heated the next day.

The problem with that can be that you lose some of the 'brightness' off the top; some of the zing is missing.

So you add additional aromatics at the end.
Whether that's some garam masala in a curry, or some extra chilli powder [I favour New Mexico Red for warmth, or some chipotle or smoked paprika for aroma, or just a bit of generic cayenne if it's not quite punchy enough] to a chilli, the purpose is the same - to put back some 'highs' in the flavour palette.
If you need timings, add anything like this when you put your rice on - so you're about half an hour from serving.

Right at the very end you then add your brightest, most delicate flavours - a handful of coriander [US cilantro] or some flat leaf parsley, topped off with a squeeze of lime or lemon.

& there you have a symphony - all the colours of the rainbow.

If you're getting "bitter" or "grainy" you're adding the wrong thing, or trying to add "all flavours" right at the end, which isn't going to work.

  • Tetsujin I’m not sure you answered the question. Yes I am getting bitter and grainy because it’s going in right at the end but I am trying to understand why this happens and how it doesn’t happen earlier. You did refer to time cooked so are you saying the spices simply do not get enough time at the end But you could add at the very end and cook for another 30 minutes and it would be ok. Is that what you are saying? Thanks. Commented Nov 11, 2019 at 23:17
  • timing added...
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Nov 12, 2019 at 7:24
  • 1
    But what is happening in that time which makes the difference? The OP already knows the effect but wants to know why.
    – Spagirl
    Commented Nov 12, 2019 at 9:03
  • 1
    I'm not a chemist, I'm a cook. I really don't think the actual chemistry is even vaguely important to understanding how flavours develop over time.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Nov 12, 2019 at 9:06

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