I'm trying to make a curry, and failing. I'm a decent amateur home-cook, but now that I'm exploring outside of my usual cuisines, I'm at a loss how to improve my preparation of this recipe. Either that, or the recipe might just be of questionable quality... which would also be good to know.

Following this recipe (automatic translation here), I end up with something that looks and smells very much like a curry, but it tastes very flat/bland, while still hot/spicy.

I'm not used to talking about flavour so forgive me for this poor attempt at describing the taste (any hints on how to learn that skill?). It's spicy, but only as an after-taste, mostly in the back of the throat. Most curries I've eaten in Indian restaurants had a real strong flavour right at the first impact, which mine is lacking. Adding questionable amounts of salt after serving helped a little bit, but felt like a cheap trick to mask the issue.


10 Answers 10


The recipe is easy on spices with (perceived) spiciness: No peppers, just the usual amount of ginger and only 2 cloves. On top of that, close to half a liter of coconut milk gets added, which will sweeten the curry, and dampen the (again: perceived) spiciness.

The main veggies are cauliflower, far from the most exciting taste in the world, and peas, which tend to have a sweet taste.

Also, the amount of veggies (close to a kilo) compared to the amount of the spices seem a tad on the small side.

Personal observation: I'd have to make it myself to see what (if anything) is missing, but as Chris mentions, some cumin (usually an equal or half part compared to the coriander) might help, as would nutmeg and/or mace, all of which (IMHO) go well with cauliflower.

I've found that good Indian recipes are hard to find on the internet (or I'm not very good at searching). They tend to be of the Ginger-Garlic-Coriander-Cumin-Cardamom-Blended-With-Tomato-Puree variety, which although definitely tasty, all merge in to the same taste. Maunika Gowardhan has nice authentic recipes, and the slightly dodgy looking India Curry too, together with lots of spice mixes and background information.

  • I could drop by in Utrecht to let you have a taste (half an hour by train), but I'll probably save your tastebuds that displeasure. Thanks for the advice, and the links! Do you have any recommendations on what to replace the coconut milk with, to keep fluidity without dampening the taste? Just use water, or something else?
    – kander
    Mar 1, 2016 at 7:23
  • @kander coconut milk can be good. You could use water and ground almonds, yoghurt or just water but a little less of it. All would be suitable but different.
    – Chris H
    Mar 1, 2016 at 7:39
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    @kander: What Chris says, but keep in mind that coconut milk in curries (massaman curries for instance) is also there for the taste, not just as a convenient sauce maker. If you're using canned coconut milk/cream: I personally prefer to squeeze coconut milk from grated coconut flesh (available frozen in toko's). It's a lot less greasy and fresher than it's canned counterpart. Mar 1, 2016 at 8:13
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    ...and I use dried coconut cream to give me control of the consistency. Just in case there weren't enough parameters! (+1 btw).
    – Chris H
    Mar 1, 2016 at 10:48

Were your dried spices new, or had they been sitting around in the back of the cupboard - ground spices can lose flavour over time.

In terms of tweaking the recipe here are my thoughts but it's a matter of taste: I'd also expect cumin. For the quantities of veg the recipe seems light on spices overall. I'd double them all except the cloves and add a (not too hot) chili to start with (assuming the paprika isn't hot). Some cardamon wouldn't go amiss as well.

Salt in curry recipes can vary wildly. I tend not to add any as such, but most of my "recipes" include tamarind paste or mango chutney which add a bit.

  • Thank you! I'll give it a shot in a couple of days. I'm looking suspiciously at the turmeric and ground coriander now; can't remember how long ago I've bought them which is probably not a good sign. Will replenish and see if that helps, and add a dose of cumin if during preparation it seems to be heading south again. Really appreciate the answer!
    – kander
    Feb 29, 2016 at 19:34
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    The Michelin starred chef Angela Hartnett was asked about old spices on a TV show and she said don't throw them out just add more
    – user23614
    Mar 1, 2016 at 10:17

The recipe basically shows how to assemble a curry powder for that "curry" flavor. What the recipe lacks, and may account for the general "blandness" that you can't put your finger on, is salt. Add a little salt, if there isn't any elsewhere in the recipe, and see if that perks up the flavor.

As noted in the question, with all the spices and no salt, one would expect it to have some heat, but to be a bit bland.


After taste that you are getting is cloves. To even out flavors add cloves and cinamon and fry them a little until spices release their aroma. Add them to the blend(tomato, onion & garlic paste). Fry the blend until oil is released. Add coconut milk and fried vegetables and salt, bring the gravy to a boil until oil comes on the top. Finish the dish with cilantro.


If the curry is bland, the most probable reason is the flavor infusing ingredients are added in lesser quantities than needed. The main ingredients should be things like ginger, garlic, tomatoes, chillies and various others. Adding coconut and coconut milk, although they give a nice, mild flavor and taste, do tend to suppress the spiciness of the dish.

Try adding more quantities of flavor adding ingredients to match the amount of coconut used and the end results are bound to be good. Generally Indian curries taste good when they are bit spicy, tangy and little salty.
All the best.


This recipe is missing both sugar and an acid (eg. vinegar, lime/lemon, amchur, tomato), so the taste (in a six-basic-tastes sense) beneath all the aroma is unbalanced - there is bitter from the spices, salty from the salt, fat from the coconut oil, but only a bit of sweet from the coconut products, very little umami since no tomatoes are used, hardly any acidity because neither tomatoes nor a stronger acid are used.


lightly fry the cauliflower in oil until it starts to turn colour then take out and place on a plate.

now, add your onions into the pan and fry until brown (not translucent but brown)

then carry on following the recipe.

The cauliflower and the onions are your flavour makers.. if you do not fry the cauliflower (or meat) you are in affect boiling it (no flavour). and if you are not browning the onions you are not releasing the sweetness from it.

try it, it will change it completely. nothing wrong with your spice mix as you say it smells good.


A decent curry has always lots of layers flavour and heat. Even the hottest curry should first of all have a savoury flavour with a build-up of heat, with no harshness or roughness. Or to put this another way, the best curries are multi-dimensional.

There are a number of ways of achieving this. Most curry restaurants in the UK use a totally different method to preparing curry in a commercial environment than used at home ("British Indian Restaurant" style versus "Home cooked”). The former consists of a fry-off in lots of oil of fresh garlic, ginger, fresh chillies, spices and tomato puree etc. followed by the pre-cooked meat. Once that has fried for a suitable length of time, a neutral base gravy is added, reduced, and more added as required. The curry is then topped with fresh coriander. This is a totally different method from "Home style" curries where everything is cooked together.

The benefits of using pre-cooked ingredients, apart from speed of assembly of the final dish in a takeaway environment, is that each component has a subtlety different flavour. The garlic and ginger paste for instance, will have had time to bloom and meld together, the meat will have absorbed a mildly spiced flavour, and the base gravy will add a totally different dimension depending on the ingredients used.

BIR style takes a lot of work in preparation, but the results really are second to none. The additional depth of flavours in comparison to a "Home style" curry are like chalk and cheese, provided the freshest spices etc. are used.

MrCK Madras: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=IeIWvFhbU1Y


There is a lot of coconut milk and not enough spices. Onions garlic and ginger are all the correct amounts. Try adding 1 tsp of cumin seeds and Garam masala each. Fry cumin seeds in the oil before adding onion and add Garam masala at the end. I think it would be fine like that but for tanginess you can add 1 tomato.

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    Welcome! We don't know what you mean by "last post"; not everyone sees the answers in the same order. Your answer might be clearer if you can just rewrite it as an independent answer to the question. I don't see any other answer suggesting the frying of the cumin seeds, so there's definitely something new to your answer. I'm just too unfamiliar myself to judge if that's a good idea.
    – MSalters
    Apr 10, 2020 at 0:07
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    Welcome! Seasoned Advice is a Q/A site, not a discussion forum. I have removed the parts that were addressing other answers, leaving a bare “try this” answer. To learn more about how the site works, I recommend the tour and the help center.
    – Stephie
    Apr 10, 2020 at 5:10

Here's something my boyfriend does - he uses the stalk of coriander and fries it along with the onions and ginger. Says it adds a flavor which nothing else can compete with. Although I scoured my chemistry textbooks for understanding the chemistry of food, his curries are always better than mine. He learnt it from an Indian room-mate. The trick with cooking is to cook and read to understand, while I just read and cook far less.

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