Typically, when making an Indian curry, I heat oil, add whole spices, then add and cook onions, add and cook ginger + garlic, add dry spices + tomatoes, and cook the meat in the sauce.

Am I doing this correctly or is there a different order to add the ingredients for maximum flavor and efficient cook time?

Here are the ingredient types I usually use:

  1. Oil
  2. Whole spices (cumin, fenugreek, etc.)
  3. Onion
  4. Ginger
  5. Garlic
  6. Dry powdered spices (turmeric, chili powder, etc.)
  7. Tomatoes
  8. Meat
  • 1
    Sounds like the way most north indian recipes suggest, so it's canonical enough :) Some staggering of the whole spices might be needed lest your mustard isn't popped but your cumin is already burnt... Commented Mar 6, 2017 at 10:25

3 Answers 3


there's aload of variations, by chefs preference, geographical origin etc etc

"no best way" (taste being subjective) but the fresher/tastier the ingredients the better.

chilli powder vs. fresh chillis is non comparible etc, as with ginger tumeric etc.

some curries are "stewed" for hours, others quick pan fried in minutes.

if i were you, in a pan/wok brown your whole spice ("roast") to bring out flavour, then set aside and grind / pulverize.

next brown onions in oil to prefrence, then add meat and browned spice / garlic (all "base ingredients").

then your garnish vegetables (tomato / onion / chilli (whatever)) towards the end of cooking (meat).

can't have a curry without fresh coriander! (big handfull right at the end) imho....

  • Given what you said in your first sentence, I would remove your last sentence. Coriander has a time and a place, and should not be used in all curries (or even most curries)
    – canardgras
    Commented Mar 7, 2017 at 9:25

Personal experiences having lived in SEAsia for a number of years. Whole Spices to be ground are first gently heated in a dry pan till they begin toe release aromas- avoid burning/charing. Then...

  1. Oil
  2. For Southern Indian styles add mustard seed until it pops,
  3. chilli whole or flaked
  4. Onion till translucent
  5. Chopped aromatics (ginger, garlic - or ginger garlic paste.
  6. Ground/powdered spices (To avoid burning curry and other ground/powdered spices).
  7. Meat, turn to coat with above (masala) simmer for a short time.
  8. Add whole, Curry leaves, bay leaves, star anise, cinnamon,)
  9. Cooking liquids (whether coconut milk, stock, water) and juicy ingredients (e.g. Tomato)simmer till meat is becoming tender.
  10. Adjust flavor with prepared garam masala powder
  11. Add in order of cooking time required e.g potato, squash, green beans, okra
  12. When meat tender vegetables cooked but not mushy - adjust liquid and add thickening as required (e.g. stock, water, coconut milk/cream, yogurt_
  13. Adjust acidity (tamarind, citrus, more yogurt) sweetness ( sugar, jaggery) salt,
  14. contuinue at low simmer till oils separate -(float to top)
  15. garnish and serve.

1. Oil
2.Whole spices
3/4.If you are using whole garlic/ginger if using paste onion will go first.
6.Dry spices

Adding tomato should be last because otherwise meat won't get tender due to acidity.

  • with meat whole spices are different though I prefer cinnamon,black pepper corns,cloves,bay leaf. Commented Mar 7, 2017 at 7:26

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