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Four Ways to Thicken Your Curry Sauce

I remember when I first started cooking, my curry sauce was always surrounded by little puddles of water, and no amount of simmering combined with vigorous stirring would thicken the sauce. It felt like it was taking a lifetime to reduce and in the meantime my vegetables would overcook, or my chicken would dry out. So there was no other alternative… I would have to pour out some of the water into the sink before I served it up for dinner and hope no one would notice. Oops!

I do however love cooking and I refused to be beaten by ‘the watery curry sauce’.  So after numerous lessons from my mum, ‘the experienced one’, and through experimentation of my own; I learnt that adding one key ingredient can be the difference between serving up a rich, luscious curry sauce or having a river running through your curry.

So here are four different methods you can use to help answer the question I am most frequently asked… ‘How can I thicken my curry sauce?’

thicker curry sauce image

1. Tomato puree/ paste

Ideal for tomato-based sauces so great for Indian and Italian cookery. Adding tomato puree is probably the most common method of thickening curry sauces. Simply add the tomato puree during the cooking process rather than adding it at the end. This will help to thicken your curry or pasta sauce from the beginning, speeding up the cooking time.

2. Cornflour

Ideal for Chinese sauces or Thai curries but can also be used for Indian curries. Add one tablespoon of cornflour to two or three tablespoons of cold water and stir. Pour the mixture into the sauce and allow to simmer until the sauce begins to thicken. Which doesn’t take very long.

3.  Yogurt

Ideal for Indian curries and can be used as a cream substitute (which is also thickens sauces). This is another common thickening agent used within Indian cookery. I like to use Greek style yogurt rather than natural yogurt because it’s thick, creamy and it doesn’t tend to curdle in the pan. I would still recommend adding a little at a time though and stirring just to be sure. Yogurt can be used alone or along with tomato puree depending on what the sauce base is.

4. Simmer down

Ideal for all curries and sauces, this is the traditional method I was trying for years, and failing miserably at! But it is still necessary even if you use one of the above key ingredients. Including them in the cooking process just ensures you won’t need to simmer your curry sauce for as long as you would without them.

Simply simmer your sauce on low heat (uncovered) until the sauce reduces. If you are cooking vegetables, try reducing the sauce first and then adding the vegetables. This will help you to avoid overcooking the vegetables maintaining valuable nutrients for the whole family.

So there you have it, my top four methods to achieving a fabulously rich curry sauce. Some of these methods may not be ‘authentic’ to some cuisines, but it gets the job done so I don’t tend to lose much sleep over it. Also, as mentioned, using a combination of these key methods will ensure you never see a runny curry again!

11 Comments Post a comment
  1. Ali #

    Lentils as used in dhansak dishes, if you cook them longer they will totally dissolve

  2. Dave #

    Plus Mashed potatoe

  3. Jason #

    If you have time, prepare extra veggies, brown them up and take out 2/3. Cook your sauce down, blend, bring the sauce up to a strong boil, this will thicken the sauce. Add your veggies back in.
    Cooked skinned potato blended into water is also a good thickener, starch like flour or cornflower.

  4. The Flexible Chef #

    You can also thicken things up a bit with desiccated coconut.

  5. phil #

    If you curry has lots of veg in it, take a couple of ladles full out and liquidise in a blender. Stir this back in and it should thicken the curry considerably.

  6. A variation of number 3: coconut milk. We often use it in SE Asia so this is the method I’m most familiar with 🙂 (I’ve never used cream because it’s far more expensive than this coconut milk). Although it doesn’t really thicken the curry that much, it still gives texture and extra sweet and savouriness to the curry.

  7. Great tips thank you for sharing! Having a bit of aversion to cornflour bases I found a good substitute is ground nuts (almond meal or ground cashews). You will need more quantity than flour but the resulting thickening is creamy and adds a lovely silky flavour to milder curries.

    I used ground cashews in this recipe (it was made up as a ‘joke’ article but the recipe tastes nice at any rate) – – thickens it up wonderfully 🙂


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