If you want to learn how to make Indian restaurant curries at home this is the place to start. Indian restaurant curry base or base gravy is the foundation of the whole thing. Get this figured out and you are on your way to making better  curries than you can buy.

Indian restaurants cook a whack of different curries to order. Ever wonder how they do it? For sure they don’t have 25 curries simmering away in the kitchen.

Nobody can run a restaurant like that. They have a secret. Indian restaurant curry base.

front view of Indian restaurant chicken jalfrezi with rice and aloo keema

Curry base is how Indian restaurants can cook to order

It’s cooked to order and it’s done using curry base. Curry base is at the heart of every Indian restaurant kitchen. Giant pots of it simmering away.

Once I heard about it I started asking waiters. I met kitchen staff. Talked about it with a chef or two. I was on the inside. Now you are too…

Never heard of curry base? Not surprising. For the longest time it was a closely guarded secret. Even now, Indian restaurant curry base recipes are carefully guarded secrets.

A hint of carrot – ooohhhh. A bit of cabbage – aaahhh. A green pepper – ssshhhh. But that’s how it’s done.

Indian restaurant curry base is at the heart of indian restaurant curry

It’s a bit ridiculous. In it’s simplest form it’s just a lot of boiled onions with some spices and oil. Seriously. Cook it up and it tastes like a weak curry onion soup. Nothing to it. Not particularly tasty.

Indian restaurant curry base is at the heart of indian restaurant curry

The magic is in the cooking technique

But when you layer the Indian restaurant technique on top it’s magic. Something wonderful happens to that insipid onion soup. It caramelizes. The Maillard reaction kicks in. The depth of flavour is – well it’s restaurant quality.

It’s not hard. It’s just a matter of rolling up your sleeves and getting it done. Chop some onions. Add some water and some seasoning and boil. Puree. Boil some more. Done.

You can get a quick lesson on cooking Indian restaurant curry here.

You use this base in recipes like Indian restaurant madras, lamb curry, jalfrezi or chicken tikka masala. Look around – there are lots of Indian restaurant curry recipes here.

indian restaurant curry base gravy in a white bowl from above.

One thing to note. Indian restaurant curries are big on oil. This recipe is about as low as you can go on the oil. Don’t use less. It just won’t work. Indian restaurant curry is a lot of things but low calorie it is not.

If you want to cook Indian restaurant style curries this the first step. The real deal.

Watch the video (there’s real audio)

Indian restaurant curry base is at the heart of indian restaurant curry
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indian restaurant curry base

Indian restaurant curry base is the foundation for restaurant style curry. It’s what makes Indian restaurant curry what it is.
Course side
Cuisine Indian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 15 minutes
Servings 12
Calories 70kcal


  • 8 large onions – about 2.5 lbs peeled weight
  • 6-8 cloves garlic peeled
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp ginger coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp cumin powder
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp coriander powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 12-15 fresh cilantro stalks with leaves – roots removed
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 12 cups boiling water
  • 15 oz can diced tomatoes – one small can


Step 1

  • Bring the water to a boil (a kettle works well for this).
  • Quarter the onions and then break them apart into petals (roughly – two or three petals per quarter)
  • Combine all ingredients except tomatoes, bring to a gentle boil and simmer, loosely covered, for one hour. Use a big pot!
  • Add tomatoes, stir and simmer an additional 20 minutes
  • Let cool slightly. Blend to smooth consistency. Make sure you remove the centre cap from the blender lid and cover the hole with a cloth or you will be cleaning the ceiling. Alternately you can use an immersion blender.

Step 2

  • Wipe out the pot and return pureed curry base and simmer until the oil separates out – this can take an hour or more. Stir the oil back into the base. At this point you can portion out the base into 2 cup portions and freeze if desired.


If you don’t want to wait an hour or more during step 2, you can safely stop after 30 minutes – it’s not the end of the world.
Don’t worry if you get a bit of “scum” on the surface. Just mix it back in.
This recipe makes enough for 10-12 curries (restaurant size portions)
Use within a week or freeze in 2 cup portions (one curries worth)


Serving: 12g | Calories: 70kcal | Carbohydrates: 12g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 2g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 360mg | Potassium: 260mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 185IU | Vitamin C: 11.9mg | Calcium: 57mg | Iron: 1.3mg

106 thoughts on “indian restaurant curry base

  1. Fantastic post. This will be going into my little recipe book. I would love to do more Indian style curries and I’m excited you have a selection for me to pick from. Do you have any suggestions on what spices to layer on top of this curry base?

    • Joyce – this is the first in a series of blogs on how to cook real Indian restaurant curry (well second I guess as I posted garlic ginger paste recently). In the coming weeks I will publish posts on spice mixes, techniques and some restaurant favourite curry recipes.

    • Made this yesterday. Used 2.5 lb onions which were rather large. The base has a bitter overpowering onion taste and I do not know whether it is just overgrown strong onion or what. Help

      • I can’t think of anything other than the onions. If you simmered the onions until they were mushy they should be quite mild in flavour. The curry base should taste like a quite mild curry flavoured onion soup. Certainly it should not be bitter at all. I’m sorry I can’t be more help. I’ve never had a hint of bitter and I make this recipe often.

        • Yes, a little sugar helps or even tomato sauce – other things too such as cinnamon, gara masala and even some frozen spinach and or peppers can be added.

      • You didn’t cook the onions for long enough. If you blend onions which are not completely cooked you will get this taste. Not much you can do to save just give it a bit longer next time and maybe smaller segments.

      • Make sure the onions are cooked slow enough to caramelize and get nice and soft even soggy. This makes it more sweet and less bitter. Also lower the amount of turmeric, cumin and coriander. These are bitter spices. Especially tumeric. I’d adjust these by 1/2 a teaspoon down. I find it’s always best to start at half a teaspoon personally and work my way up. You’ll know how to do it better once you notice which spice changes the flavour. It takes a lot of patience and experimentation to make curry I think. Everyone has their own. There isn’t a standard curry that tastes the same at everyone’s house. Start here and start with lower spices and experiment. You’ll find your own.

        • Not sure I entirely agree with this. The onions are simmered in a lot of water. There is no browning here. No caramelization. No significant Maillard reaction. And the amount of spice in this amount of curry base is extremely low. Background flavours really. This isn’t a recipe for a homestyle curry. This is a recipe for a restaurant style curry base. They are two very different things.

          That said, I do agree that taking the time to simmer the onions until they are truly soft is important.

  2. Great post! Thank you so much for taking the time to write this! I was wondering how long can the curry base sit in the freezer before use it? And if I can cut the recipe in half, since I don’t plan to make 12 curries within a week?

    • You are very welcome. Thank you for reading it. I think you could halve the recipe without any problem. In a freezer, I think it would probably last for a couple months although I never seem to manage to keep it around that long.

    • Yes, absolutely. I do that sometimes. Cut the initial cooking time to about 45 minutes but then simmer the pureed base as in the directions.

  3. Wow this is really good I made some last night to add to some chicken that I had previously cooked and it really brought it back to life. Thank you so much for this recipe.

    • I’m glad you liked it. If you have a chance, check out the Indian restaurant curry at home post and try your hand at a curry or two.

  4. Hi,
    I made the curry base was very good
    Can I dublie the recipes or triple it.
    And do u have nice recipe for chicken korma
    Looking forward to her from you

  5. First and foremost, thank you so much for enlightening us with this recipe!! I’m so excited to finally cook REAL Indian food at home! Those “homestyle” recipes taste nothing like what you get in a restaurant. However, when you’re boiling this curry base, is the pot covered or uncovered? Each time? I’m assuming uncovered, because you want it to concentrate, but that’s one of my little pet peeves with blog recipes, when details like this aren’t specified. Also, I’d like to put in a request for a saag curry recipe – saag’s my favorite, and I always order it at Indian restaurants, usually with lamb. 🙂 Thanks!

    • Thank you. I hope you try lots of recipes restaurant style. It’s fun once you figure it out. It’s uncovered but loosely covered would do as well. Concentrated isn’t so important here and it’s a simmer so you won’t reduce much in any case. I’m always careful to say covered or loosely covered when that’s what I mean. I will put a saag recipe on the list. I like it too!

    • Glad you found it. Took me years to figure out what I was searching for. Lots of curry recipes on the blog once you get your base made.

    • Mickey – I’m not from London but Plentiful Foods NW1 looks like a good candidate and the reviews are quite favourable.

  6. I am Indian and managed to replicate my mother’s food which for me is great but I wanted to take it to the next level. The curry base by itself tastes amazing which is funny, can’t wait to try a few recipes with it. I was wondering can I substitute fish/prawns for the meats? Thank you!

    • Jay – I think you will be happy! You can use fish or prawns but I would not pre-cook them. Just poach them in the curry. Add them when the recipe tells you to add the meat and simmer gently until done.

  7. I made this recently and we liked it so much now making bigger second batch to freeze. Used it for the base of South Indian garlic chilli chicken my husband said was almost as good as his favourite take away. Having the base made it easier to prepare curry in a short time. Great recipe thanks

    • Lyne, freezing it in curry size portions is a great idea. Do that and you are ready for a curry at a moments notice. That’s the beauty of this.

    • Hi, do you have the recipe for your south Indian garlic chilli? That’s my favourite curry but I don’t live anywhere near a curry house that makes it well. Thanks!

  8. I have worked my way through every curry over the past few months and i can honestly say me and my hubby have enjoyed every single one of them ..u are brilliant!! ..x

  9. Thank you! You explain well and I’ve tried some recipes and it works! Beautiful food and happy each time. Much appreciated 🙂

  10. Hi there love the recipe, i’m not too sure if i’ve done something wrong! I’ve ended up with 4 boxes for full of 2 cup portions.


    • Sam – are you saying you have ended up with a total of 8 cups of base. Sounds like too much water evaporated. Add water until you get to a soup like texture. You should have at least 8 portions. You don’t want your base too concentrated because it will make your curries too thick. If you’ve already frozen them you can dilute them when you thaw them out…

      • Hi, I love your curry recipes, the flavours are great.

        I disagree with how many portions you say it makes though. At the end you of the recipe you say we should have 10-12 portions of base, with 2 cups per portion, so 20-24 cups. Your main volume comes from 12 cups of water, 1 tin of tomatoes and 1 cup of oil, so say 15 cups after the onions are blended in before any boiling, making it impossible to end up with 16 cups, never mind 24. The 2 hours of simmering left me with 10 cups of base.


        • Steven, you had me scratching my head about this until I saw that I saw the mistake I made in the notes.

          All the recipes on this blog require 15 oz of curry base to make a portion. 10 cups of base is roughly 10 curries. The mistake I made was saying you can freeze in 2 cup portions and then saying that was one curry worth. It’s actually 2 curries worth. You can freeze it whatever size you want, of course. I just usually make 2 different curries for dinner so I like 2 cups.

          I have corrected it now. Thank you for the catch!

  11. Making this right now, and so excited to try making curries at home! Hubby & I LOVE curry, but we’re not anywhere near an Indian restaurant. It’s over an hour drive time, round trip. I have high hopes for this, looking through all the recipes there are to try.

    THANK YOU so very much for posting all of this. We’re ready to cook it all, plus some! :-D. I’ll go and look..I’ve forgotten if I’ve seen it, but if you don’t have a recipe for Malai Kofta, I’d love one.

    • Awesome. There is a pretty good list of curries up on glebekitchen and I’m adding more all the time. I don’t have one for malai kofta yet but I will add it to the list!

  12. 2 questions:

    1. Following on from the advice you gave lyne above (about diluting her curry base before she used it as you thought she has evaporated it down too much) could you therefore intentionally make the base with half the water to make it twice as concentrated and then use 1 cup per curry instead of 2. Purely to reduce the volume of space it would take up in my freezer…

    2. I know you said the 1 cup of oil is the minimum. What is the reason for that? Flavour, consistency,…? I am really trying to eat low fat (which is how I came to look for curry recipies from scratch rather than pre-made. Have you experimented with less oil? If so what were the results?

    • I have never tried making concentrated curry base. For sure if you do, you will need to dilute it back to the thin soupy consistency before you make the curry. When you are making restaurant style curry the high heat help is critical to the flavour (it’s maillard reaction I believe) and if you start with a concentrated base it will get way too thick.

      Indian restaurant style curry is high fat. Period. It’s in the base. It’s in the pan when you are cooking the final curry. There’s really no getting around it.

      There are quite a few homestyle curries on this blog. They are much lower fat but still not what I would call diet food. The lemon coriander chicken curry is pretty lean. So is the simple chicken curry. The lentil and chickpea curries aren’t bad either. Hope this helps.

  13. Best site I’ve found. Makes a change not to be baffled by Indian cooking methods any more. Thanks for your time and effort. Making the curry base tomorrow, looking forward to trying some of your recipes. Keep up the good work. Phil.

    • Thankyou for this romain , I have a friend who watched numerous utube vids to try to make a takeaway type curry – many attempts and messy kitchens later he was successful but your version is so simple and I love that you can make it “in bulk” I I cook like that a lot anyway so when I am short of time I can just pull one out of the freezer. I will be watching out for your other recipes, Thankyou

  14. Awesome sauce! This is dope. I just need to get someone to cut the onions for me because it makes me wet(my eyes). And then how do I make the actual dish with their base? It would be helpful to know.

    • First step is to read the primer on how to make Indian restaurant style curries. There’s a link in the text of this post. After that all the recipes that say “Indian restaurant” style on glebekitchen use this base. There are lots to choose from and more coming all the time.

  15. Hi all.could you please give me the know hòw to do a balti keema.i had an illness in my throat a while ago,unfortunately from then I have to have things super mild,haven’t had an indian in year’s .ive been reading all the posts,mouth watering..please help

    • I’m sorry to hear that. Hope you are on the mend. I’m afraid I don’t have a balti keema recipe on the blog yet. There is a keema matar recipe here. If you left the peas out it would make for a simple and not too spicy keema.

  16. This stuff is liquid gold. I used it with a few of the recipes on this site, and just finished a pork shoulder in the slow cooker with it and it came out great.

    • I haven’t tried that. I don’t have a slow cooker so I don’t know if the simmer would be high enough. I have done it in a pressure cooker. That’s marginally faster but not enough that I find it worth it to dig out the pressure cooker when I have a pot and a stove handy.

  17. Hi going to try your recipe on Tuesday can’t wait just wondering do I just throw in the cilantro or chop it up first?
    Thank you

    • Yes. Fresh coriander in the UK is cilantro here in Canada. Actually it goes by both names here to further confuse things…

    • I’ve tried it with ghee. You get a more buttery base. I find it blunts the flavour of the curries but if you are after a really buttery taste (say for a butter chicken) then it could work.

      • oops, just added ghee instead of oil thinking I was being clever! Well let’s see how it turns out. Did you really use 2.8 litres of water in your video? I have the exact same Le Creuset pan as you and it is relying on physics to keep it in there! – very excited at the thought of finding a genuine method of copying the restaurant style.

        • Ghee will just make the base and subsequent curries a little more subdued. I find using ghee adds richness but mutes the flavours of the spices. The Le Creuset I use for base is the 6.3 litre size and yes, I do use 2.8 litres of water. Happy currying!

  18. Hello, I hope you’re well.

    I have just made this & I’m not sure if the flavour is right. It’s not unpleasant but not sure if I’ve made a mistake. Please can you clear something up for me?

    Is it 1 AND a half tbsp or 1 x half tsp
    Is it 1 AND a half tsp or 1 x half tsp

    Many thanks 🙂

    • It’s 1 and 1 half tsp and 1 and 1/2 tsp. I wouldn’t worry too much about it though. The curry base is pretty bland by design. The real flavours come from the actual curry recipes it is used in. Anything labeled “restaurant style” on glebe kitchen is meant to be used with this curry base.

      Note the “nearly restaurant style” recipes are stand-alone and do not use this curry base.

      Good luck. I’m pretty sure you will be OK.

        • No harm I don’t think. Again, given that you are adding upwards of a Tbsp of spice per individual curry I don’t think that it’s going to make much of a difference. Just remember for next time. Maybe try making a restaurant style curry first and see what you think?

  19. Great recipe! I just wanted to ask can you used dry ground ginger powder or does it have to be fresh? And if you can use it, how much? Many thanks ?

    • Thanks! I’ve never tried this with dried ginger. I have no idea how it would turn out. Given that so many curry recipes include garlic ginger paste I would leave it out of the base before I tried it with dried.

      Is fresh ginger hard to come by where you are? I hope not because fresh made garlic ginger paste is a lot better than the stuff you buy in the jars…

      • No I can get it fine, it’s just because I have the dried stuff handy. Thank you so much for your reply. Also when you make the curry base, if you half the ingredients for it to make a smaller amount of curry base, should you reduce the cooking time at all or does this stay the same?
        Thanks again 🙂

        • The cooking time stays the same. But make lots. If you like making restaurant style curries you will use it up in no time.

  20. Hi Romain
    I made a half batch of the curry base which is in a bowl waiting to be divided into individual portions.
    I don’t know how much base is in the bowl and I don’t want to transfer it into a measuring jug to find out.
    Can you tell me how many grams of curry base is one portion?
    Have you a recipe for nann bread?

    • I don’t know exactly but as an approximation 15 fluid ounces is 443 ml. 1 ml of water is 1 gram so around 443 grams? Safest thing to do would be put a measuring jug on your scale. Tare it to zero and add 15 fluid ounces of base. Weigh that and you will know exactly. I don’t have any thawed curry base handy to try it myself.

      I am working on a foolproof chapati recipe. Once I have that naan is next.

  21. I notice that your recipe does not have any bell peppers. Over the years I think every Bir base gravy I have seen has included some green or red peppers, sometimes both. Is there a reason why you do not use peppers?


    • I just don’t like any of the so called “secret ingredients”. I use base gravy as I would onions when I devise recipes. I don’t want the taste of peppers or carrots or cabbage sneaking in and colouring the flavour. Plus different curries start to taste the same I find when the base has too dominant a flavour.

      • Totally makes sense. I see so many base gravy recipes, and have also tried several, that have other ingredients such as peppers, cabbage, carrots, condensed milk, coconut block, chilis etc. And you end up with a curry that just tastes like base gravy. I will try your base version soon, along with your curry recipes.


  22. Just made my second lot of this excellent curry base.
    One little tip for freezing is to pop the 2 cup portions into freezer bag, lay them flat then freeze. You can then store them like thin books in the freezer.

    Also to say that a few times I cheated (sorry) and used your great base, plus a portion of garlic / ginger paste (which I also freeze in ice cube trays BUT then (cause I was short of time) added a Pataks curry pot for two. Worked well but not as good as the original.

    • I don’t think that’s cheating. I would call that improvising. Freezer bag is a great idea. Thanks for sharing that tip!

    • Patak’s really isn’t the one you want if you cheat, Nazir’s is the one, I find Patak’s is quite bitter in comparison. Anyway, great site and info, I’ve worked in an Indian restarant and the advice is spot on. Adjust things to your own tastes, but most of all, enjoy it.

      • Thanks for the tip. Unfortunately for me Nazir’s isn’t available where I live. I will look for it online.

        Thank you as well for the kind words. It’s great to hear!

  23. Oh wow, this is a revelation! Tried it last weekend and it’s absolutely fabulous. It’s by far the closes curry I’ve ever made to those I’ve had at Indian restaurants. I’d given up on trying to replicate something similar until I saw this. This will be my go-to recipe for all future currys.

    Thnaks very much for posting it.

  24. Hi Romain- “til the oil seperates out”. I know what this is and can see when it happens but what’s the significance of this particular point? The dal I’ve just made used the exact same phrase . S

    • That is a very good question. I’m not sure I understand the food science behind this one I am afraid. I’ve seen people say that oil and water emulsify and the oil separates out after the water has evaporated. Obviously that’s not the case here and I’m pretty sure that’s not the case when you make a curry either.

      If it’s true that the water and oil have emulsified then my guess it reaches a temperature (or sits at a certain temperature long enough) that breaks the emulsion. At that point the oil separates out. That’s nothing more than an educated guess mind you. If you ever do get a definitive answer I would love to hear it.

  25. This recipe has served me very well, I absolutely love this blog! All of my friends now come to my house for an indian instead of ordering a takeaway.

      • Hi. The blurb above the recipe mentions cabbage and bell pepper, but they’re not in the actual recipe? How much of each should be used? Thanks.

        • I think I may not have been clear. I do not like or use these types of ingredients because they tend to colour the taste of the curry. The recipe is 100 percent correct as written. I use the posted recipe every time I make curry base.

  26. Romain- just wanted to say I’ve tried other online indian recipes out there that swear they are “restaurant level” but totally fall short. Always wondered what the secret was and by some magical alignment of the universe I found your website while falling down a totally unrelated web rabbit hole. Whipped up the base and used it in your madras curry recipe and wow. Your love for food really shows and your writing style is equally bombastic. I never reach out online but I wanted to let you know that you’ve given me the key to unlocking the flavors I’m always wondering about and, in that way, made me very happy. You seem like a cool dude.

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge and humor with the rest of us anonymous strangers. I know I’m not the only one who appreciates it.

    • Thanks for taking the time to reach out like this. Really appreciated. You made my day!

      The web is a really big place. I’m glad you found me.

  27. Question: I’ve recently started to dab in Indian cooking, and have found some amazing recipes (here and elsewhere), but I don’t always want to prep lots of base curry. I’ve heard that this is the “shortcut,” but how do I make 15oz of “base curry” when not wanting to use the short cut?

    For example, if I wanted to make your Madras recipe without using premade curry base, is there a method for doing so?

  28. I used your curry base for a prawn bhuna recipe at the weekend. Amazing – went down a storm. Thanks for taking the time to create such a detailed set of recipes!

  29. I’m just about to make a 2nd batch! I bottle (‘can’ for the US) the base as never have freezer space. Perfect with your Indian Spice mix as a base for many different curries. Thanks so much!

  30. Hi romain,

    Had this bookmarked for an age. Due to the lockdown now have time to make it!! Mine is very bland which I would expect it to be , some taste but not a great deal , nice all the same. It is very thin , like a soup , and it’s orange , unlike the bright yellow in the picture. I wondered if it was supposed to be thin , like watery?

  31. Hi
    Not sure if you’ll see this on time – then again, given Lockdown. At Step 2 of the Base Stage, when you say, “simmer until the oil separates” I thought you meant to skim it but you mean to stir it into the existing pot?
    Thank you from Scotland,

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