Indian restaurant madras curry is one of the great ones. It’s on every single restaurant menu for a reason. Delicious. Madras is a hot dish in most restaurants. Madras is named for a city in south India. It’s not called Madras in India though. The Brits named it when they brought it back to England.

This version isn’t so hot – medium spicy really. The nice thing about cooking it yourself is you control the heat. Want it blazing hot? Add more kashmiri chili powder or use one the hotter Indian chili powders. Want your kids to eat it? Roll the kashmiri chili back a bit.

It’s a pretty straightforward and follows the Indian restaurant technique exactly. Do yourself a favour and read that post first. There are pictures to help you understand.

Do your prep before you get started. Make your curry base and have some heated and ready to go. Pre-cook your meat. Measure out your ingredients. Put on some old clothes – the curry sputters.

Indian restaurant madras curry is a classic on every Indian menu.

This Indian restaurant madras curry is made with chicken. You can make it with lamb or beef just as easily. You can even make it with chickpeas for a vegetarian option.


5 from 1 vote
Indian restaurant madras curry is a classic on every Indian menu.
indian restaurant madras curry
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
10 mins
Total Time
25 mins

Indian restaurant madras curry is a classic. Vary the amount of chili powder to go from mild to wild. The classic madras does not include coconut milk so try it both ways to see what you like better. Do not cut back on the oil in this recipe. That makes the spice fry step nearly impossible. Seriously. It's a bad idea. 

Course: Main
Cuisine: Indian
Servings: 2
The spice mix
  • 1 tsp indian restaurant spice mix or curry powder - recipe link below
  • 2 tsp hot madras curry powder or use more indian restaurant mix powder if you don't have any madras curry powder
  • 1 tsp kashmiri chili powder or 1/4 tsp cayenne mixed with 3/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp kasoor methi - dried fenugreek leaves
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
The curry ingredients
  • 4 Tbsp oil
  • 2 inch piece of cassia bark or cinnamon stick
  • 2 Tbsp onions minced
  • 1 Tbsp garlic/ginger paste - recipe link below
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste with enough water to dilute to the consistency of pasatta
  • 15 oz curry base - recipe link below
  • 10-12 oz pre-cooked chicken or lamb
  • 1 Tbsp coconut milk powder in enough water to get to coconut milk consistency (optional)
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice - about 1/6 of a lemon
  1. Make the spice mix.
  2. Dilute the tomato paste with enough water to get to the consistency of passata.
  3. Dilute your coconut milk powder enough with water to get it to the consistency of coconut milk.
  4. Heat your frying pan (don't use non-stick) briefly over medium heat. Add the oil.
  5. When the oil starts to shimmer add the cinnamon stick. Toss is around the pan for about 15 seconds until bubbles start to form around it. It may crackle a bit.
  6. Add the onions and stir constantly until the edges of the onions start to brown. This takes about a minute.
  7. Next comes the garlic ginger paste. Add it into the pan and cook it, stirring constantly, until it stops sputtering.
  8. Turn down the heat and add the spice mix. This is the critical step. Stir it constantly for 30 seconds. If it starts to darken lift the pan off the heat. You want the spice mix to cook in the oil but not burn.
  9. Turn the heat up to medium high. This is important. The heat is what caramelizes the onion base and gives the curry it's Indian restaurant flavour. As you become more comfortable with this technique try pushing it. Add the diluted tomato paste and stir until bubbles form (the oil will likely separate). This takes around 30 seconds to one minute depending on the heat.
  10. Add 3 oz of curry base. Stir until bubbles form (little craters really), around 30 seconds. Think lively boil. Watch the edges of the pan. The curry can stick here. Sticking is OK. Just scrape it back into the base. Burning is bad.
  11. Now add 6 oz of curry base and stir briefly. Let it cook until the bubbles form again. This takes 1-2 minutes.
  12. Add the rest of the curry base and let cook until the bubbles form. Add the lemon and diluted coconut milk powder. Turn the heat down to low and add the pre-cooked lamb, beef or chicken.
  13. Let the curry simmer for about 5 minutes. If it gets too thick add a bit more curry base. Don't add water.
  14. Garnish with a bit of chopped fresh cilantro and serve.
Recipe Notes

The recipe for curry base is here.


The recipe for indian restaurant spice mix is here


The recipe for garlic ginger paste is here.


If you haven't read about Indian restaurant technique yet, do that before you start cooking.

Have all your ingredients prepped and ready to go.

If you are making multiple curries, have your curry base warming in a pot on the stove. If you are just making one, microwave it to warm it up right before you start cooking.

Indian restaurants pre-cook their meat so it's ready for service. This recipe assumes the same. To pre-cook chicken, simply simmer it with a bit of curry powder and salt in chicken stock for about 10-15 minutes - until it's barely cooked.

To pre-cook lamb or beef, do the same but plan for 1 to 1/2 hours for lamb and 2 hours or more for beef. You are making stew meat so you are braising until tender. You will need to keep an eye on the level of the stock. For beef use beef stock.


13 thoughts on “indian restaurant madras curry

  1. Honestly… I love my curry on fire!! Unfortunately, the hubbs does not. I seriously might have to divide my curry in two, just so that I can bring the heat in mine . . .

    Why is that you recommend not using a non-stick pan, out of curiosity???

    • Restaurant style curry relies on the caramelization of the curry base over high heat. A non-stick pan doesn’t let the base stick and caramelize properly. Also, you can’t divide the recipe. That doesn’t work. And you can’t make double either. You won’t get the caramelization to work. This is really one of those techniques that really has to be followed exactly for it to work. Not unlike baking in that respect.

      • Oh that’s brings up another question! Sometimes, you know my caramelization turns to stuck on burnt. 😛 Flavour nonetheless! but do you recommend I find a way to ‘deglaze’ that?

        • A bit stuck on is what you are going for. A little bit of sticking at the edge so you can scrape it up with your spoon. If you go too far though, just leave it in the pan. You don’t want the burnt taste in your curry.

  2. yay! I love your curry series! I didn’t realize that the tomato paste has to be watered down to pasatta consistency! I learn something new from you everyday 🙂 I can’t WAIT to use up my lamb with this! 😀

  3. I love a challenge and this restaurant curry series would be perfect! Thank you so much for all the helpful tips and straightforward instructions, will hopefully decrease my chances of failing 😉

  4. Hi, I would love to try this for a dinner party tomorrow night. Im cooking for 6 people, can I just triple the recipe? Thanks!

    • Megan, Indian restaurant style cooking does not scale very well. When you have too much curry base in the pan it doesn’t caramelize properly. What I do when I’m cooking for a crowd is make it once, transfer into a pot to keep warm and repeat as needed. So for 6 people you would make the curry three times and combine them to keep them warm. That will work and it’s good practice as well:-)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.