When making Indian curries, I usually lightly fry the spices (cumin, coriander, turmeric, and kashmiri chili powder), as most recipes state that this is needed to get rid of the "raw" taste. Sometimes though, towards the end of cooking after I added salt, I want to make the dish more spicy. Is it OK to simply add chili powder? Two possible objections to this are

1) The chili powder won't lose its raw taste since its not fried.

2) The chili powder won't dissolve in the curry, as this takes more time.

Is any of these true? And if so, is there any other way to make the dish more spicy without continued cooking? How does adding chili powder compare to adding green chili paste? And is it possible to add other spices besides chili powder (for example to add cumin powder to get a stronger cumin taste)?

  • What exactly do you mean with "chilly powder"? The blend of spices/blends, cayenne powder, hot chili flakes, ...?
    – Mien
    Feb 19, 2014 at 23:34
  • I mean Kashmiri Chilli Powder, but the same question would apply to paprika, and not limited to Indian dishes
    – dan12345
    Feb 20, 2014 at 6:00
  • 1
    @dan12345 at the end of the cooking, we shall taste and eat...not add anything any longer... Spices found in South Asian Cuisine is best when it's cooked with food so the food absorbed the spices well. You wouldn't get the same flavours if you add them afterwards...
    – bonCodigo
    Feb 20, 2014 at 12:43
  • It's not Indian, but my go-to for adding heat to an already cooked dish is sambal instead of using dry spices.
    – Joe
    Feb 21, 2014 at 1:57

5 Answers 5


You probably can't fix the sauce, but the common ways to add heat/spice/flavor to a S. Asian dish after it's cooked are to mix in a tempering oil and to use spicy pickles. The former's easy -- heat up oil and spices in a pan until fragrant, then stir into the dish. You're cooking the spices at the temperature of the hot oil, which is much higher than the temperature a water-based sauce can attain. The latter's easy too -- buy some nice spicy lime pickle at the Indian grocery store!

  • Interesting, @Nav! In most of the United States, "gravy" refers to a thickened savory sauce made from roasted meat drippings, usually chicken or turkey. And "sauce" is a generic. (See Patterson's classic text, Sauces.) In some Italian-American areas, "gravy" refers to a slow-cooked tomato sauce served with pasta or meat. Language is funny. :)
    – Harlan
    Jan 23, 2021 at 17:36

Generally speaking, it is not a good idea to add red chilly powder at the end for a couple of reasons: 1) The trick of spices are they season and coat the vegetables or meat in the food. Usually once spices like coriander, turmeric, and red chilli powder are added, you want to cover you food and simmer for the required time or saute on high heat. Also, in the intial stages, the oil from the seasoning is still slightly coated on the veggies. The heat acts well on a mix of oil and spices to ensure even seasoning of your veggies.

2) If you have a liquid(y) gravy, adding red chilli powder in the end will result in floating and separation of the powder. Stirring will not help at this point and prolonged boiling or heating will over cook your veggies.

Some Indian spices are deliberately added in minor quantities towards end of the cooking: a) Garam Masala powder (b) Mango powder Garam masala's raw flavour is an intentional taste in Indian cooking. Raw Mango powder is pure tanginess and no sharp flavors. So there's no risk of uncooked spices with it.

The overarching principle is to cook your spices well in Indian cooking.


It is possible to adjust nearly any Indian dish at the end of the cooking process. If you only want to make it spicier then heat oil with fresh chili's (or chili powder) in a separate pan. Once fragrant you can incorporate into your dish.

The next level is to go beyond just chili's. You can heat oil and then add ginger/garlic paste in addition to a variety of spices (garam masala, cumin, coriander, etc) and then incorporate it into your dish once fragrant. This will massively elevate the flavor if it's lacking. This is an old Indian mom/grandma trick that is used regularly.


I'm very late to this…

… but yes, you can drop extra cayenne [or similar] any time before serving. That's how they do it at any BIR restaurant or take-away if you ask for 'hot' & that's how I do it at home if I need more 'punch'.

Cayenne adds almost no flavour, only heat. It takes very little time for the capsaicins to infuse, so long as you have a decent amount of oil/ghee in your sauce. A BIR would do it within seconds of serving it to you.


Green chilli to spice it up towards the end works really well. Put in a few and simmer for a few minutes...it doesn't seem to conflict with the other spices.

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