A lot of curry recipes tell you to keep going until the oil separates, but for me this point never comes. I've tried putting more oil / butter in to start with, but no joy. I've also tried turning up the heat - same. Can anyone tell me where the oil comes from, and what causes it to be released?

[Edit following comment]

For example, I just made one as follows:

Coat 130g king prawns in a mixture of 1/2 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp chili powder, pinch salt and set aside

Fry half lg onion and a clove of garlic (chopped) in a generous amount of butter until onion translucent

Add 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp coriander and stir in

Add 80g tomato paste, 1/2 cup water and leave to simmer for 5 - 10 mins

Add prawns and simmer until cooked through

When the prawns were done, the sauce was at about the right consistency but there was no sign of the oil separating out. I'd had the frying pan at a temperature where it would stop bubbling if stirred.

I left it for another few minutes but the prawns were getting overdone and so was the rice I had on the other ring, so I called time on it.


  • Basically you need to reduce the water until there's pretty much only oil & solids left - but we need more detail of what your recipe is to give any more detail. – Tetsujin Dec 7 '19 at 14:30
  • Are you improving the recipe by adding secret ingredients? It's possible that something is acting as an emulsifier and binding the oil to the non-oil ingredients. (E.g. the way that a small amount of egg yolk allows oil and vinegar to mix and become mayonnaise.) – Ray Butterworth Dec 7 '19 at 14:46
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    I'd add to this that "generous" amounts of oil or butter in Indian cooking tends to be an awful lot. – GdD Dec 7 '19 at 17:45
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    I believe this is meant to occur in the early stages, when cooking the spices, onions, tomatoes, etc. From what I've seen it should happen before you add the meat - especially prawns. In recipes that include this direction, I don't see oil separating really, but it seems to pull away from the pan at that point, because (as Tetsujin says) the water is mostly gone, so oil, however little, is on the surface. – RalphMudhouse Dec 7 '19 at 19:16

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