Indian restaurant madras curry is one of the great ones. Madras curry is on every single restaurant menu for a reason. It’s absolutely delicious.

It’s on the hotter end of the scale. A spicy curry. It can even be a really spicy curry. Some restaurants go a little overboard I find. I like blazing hot madras curry. But not everybody does.

So this version isn’t so hot – medium spicy really. That’s the nice thing about cooking it yourself.  You control the heat.

Like 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 up to you.

This is how they do it in restaurants

This madras curry is done in the restaurant style. Like you get when you eat out. Pretty much exactly. It’s all about the prep. Cooking it takes 10 minutes. 

Restaurants don’t have big pots of curry sitting around hoping somebody will come and order it. They cook to order. 

It’s totally different from home style cooking. Homestyle is about low and long braises. Restaurant style is about speed and efficiency. But with lots of flavour.

Chicken madras in an Indian copper bowl from above.

Curry base is the secret

Curry base is a game changer. It’s the way they do it. The foundation of Indian restaurant style cooking. Amazing stuff.

Indian curries generally rely on caramelized onions. That’s what makes them what they are. You need to get that into your dish. And curry base is how restaurants do it. For madras curry. For pretty much all curries.

There’s not much to curry base. It’s basically a whole lot of boiled onions with some flavouring. Tastes like a weak onion curry soup. Bland.

You’d never guess that something so bland can become so good. That’s where the technique comes in.

Bowl of chicken madras curry with rice and lentils from above.

High heat and enough oil makes Indian restaurant madras curry work

The key to making this work is heat. High heat. At the right time. When the curry base hits the pan you want it caramelize. Fast. 

It’s a balancing act. The oil can’t be too hot when you bloom the spices. They will burn. Medium heat. Garlic ginger paste goes in next. Tomato after that. 

Once you have some wet ingredients in your pan your spices are safe. That’s when you crank it. High heat. 

Curry base goes in a bit at a time. You don’t want to cool your pan down too much. Maybe half a ladle at first. Then a full ladle. Then the rest. Somehow it works if you do that.

Read the Indian restaurant curry technique guide

There’s a post that covers the technique and the ingredients you need here. Do yourself a favour. Read it. It will help you understand what you are trying to do.

The recipe below does cover madras curry accurately. If you’ve made a few curries in this style you should have no problem. But if you are just getting started read the guide. It makes things so much easier.

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. Have everything at hand. Put on some old clothes – making restaurant curries is messy stuff.

Watch the video

Chicken madras doesn’t have to be chicken

Indian restaurant madras chicken curry. Just like they make it in restaurants. But at home.

Almost all the restaurant style curries on glebekitchen can be made how you like. This is a chicken madras. But you can make it with lamb or beef just as easily. You can even make it with chickpeas or masoor dal for a vegetarian option.

Chicken madras is my favourite but lamb is a close second. And a madras curried dal is third. That’s me. You can do what you want. Make this your madras curry. Whatever you want. Just make it. 

Madras curry is a spicy dish that’s sure to please. At the top of my list. If you are a fan this is for you. If you haven’t tried it before now is the time.

Chicken madras, masoor dal and rice serving bowls from above.
Bowl of chicken madras with rice from the front.
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indian restaurant madras curry

Indian restaurant madras curry is a classic dish on the menu of just about every Indian restaurant out there. Now it can be on your menu too.
Course Main
Cuisine Indian
Keyword madras curry, restaurant curry
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 2
Calories 526kcal
Author glebe kitchen


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


  • Make the spice mix.
  • Dilute the tomato paste with enough water to get to the consistency of passata.
  • Dilute your coconut milk powder enough with water to get it to the consistency of coconut milk.
  • Heat your frying pan (don’t use non-stick) briefly over medium heat. Add the oil.
  • 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.
  • Add the onions and stir constantly until the edges of the onions start to brown. This takes about a minute.
  • Next comes the garlic ginger paste. Add it into the pan and cook it, stirring constantly, until it stops sputtering.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Now add 6 oz of curry base and stir briefly. Let it cook until the bubbles form again. This takes 1-2 minutes.
  • 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.
  • Let the curry simmer for about 5 minutes. If it gets too thick add a bit more curry base. Don’t add water.
  • Garnish with a bit of chopped fresh cilantro and serve.


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.


Serving: 2servings | Calories: 526kcal | Carbohydrates: 14g | Protein: 31g | Fat: 37g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 90mg | Sodium: 1025mg | Potassium: 792mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 565IU | Vitamin C: 5.2mg | Calcium: 27mg | Iron: 1.9mg

73 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.

    • This is an outstanding recipe ! I’ve cooked a lot of Indian dishes, and if you read this properly and do everything they say your outcome will be truly beautiful!!

    • I have always struggled to get that restaurant style sauce , your base is a revelation ! I have done butter chicken and Sag aloo twice now with amazing results. Lamb Madras next as I like it a bit fiery ! Thanks for sharing with us

  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:-)

    • I’m so glad you picked on of my recipes for a special event!

      It’s a funny thing with me. I’m not a big fan of pork in curries. Love it everywhere else but for some reason it doesn’t work in curries for me. If I was to try it, I would use pork shoulder and braise it (pre-cook) until tender as I would lamb. Probably take somewhere around an hour or so depending on how big the pieces are.

    • Yes. If you use prawns you can either pre-cook them perfectly like in this Singapore noodle recipe or toss them in raw at the same time that you would have added pre-cooked meat and just cook them until done. You need to be fast from stove to table if you cook them in the sauce though. Prawns go from perfect to rubbery fast.

  5. I have just made and eaten a madras using this recipe to the letter. It was absolutely outstanding, cannot praise it highly enough. I’ve eaten curry the length and breadth of the U.K and at 51, I honestly thought I might never recreate the “Restaurant taste”, at home. I cannot thank you enough, delighted beyond all my expectations. If I walked into an Indian Restaurant in the West End of Glasgow and was served a Madras as good as this, I’d recommend it to all my friends.

    • I am so happy I was able to help you find your way to this style of cooking. The challenge now is that all your friends will want your Indian cooking rather than going to their local favourite. You have the power:-)

    • Of course you can ask:-)

      This technique relies on what is called the Maillard reaction and to a lesser extent caramelization of onions to give the curry its flavour. Basically heat plus sugars plus amino acids react to generate a whole lot of flavour compounds. Some sticking seems to intensify the flavours and that sticking doesn’t happen with a teflon coated pan. Think of making a homestyle curry. The first step is almost always to deeply brown the onions. It’s the same basic idea although much, much faster when cooking restaurant style.

      Another example of this effect happens when you pan fry a steak. You’ll never get the steak to brown like you do in an uncoated pan. That brown stuff on the steak is Maillard.

      It will still be curry if you use non-stick. Just possibly not as good as it might have been. I might still make this if I only had non-stick but I wouldn’t expect it to turn out as intended. Maybe think about getting a cheap aluminium pan at a restaurant supply store when you have a chance?

    • If you need to thicken the sauce my guess is that you didn’t push the boil/fry of the curry base hard enough when you cooked the curry. Please watch the video for an idea of how hard it needs to boil.

      If you’ve made a curry and it’s too thin then yes, simmer the sauce to reduce but be careful not to overcook the protein.

  6. This may be the single best source for authentic indian curry on the internet. Great job, now I have a reason to buy a kitchen scale!

  7. Just made this curry.
    Amazing and I thought quite easy, time consuming but fairly straightforward.
    Cannot thank you enough

  8. Brilliant !!! I have bought dozens of cook books trying to replicate my local restaurant curry without success but if you follow this recipe exactly to the page it is actually better. I prefer a whole large 2” fresh red chilli wafer thinly sliced added in at the same time with the spice mix, as too much chilli powder to get a hot madras is bitter and doesn’t digest well, but great recipe thank you for posting 🥂👌

  9. Hi Romain,

    Excellent collection of recipes here. I recently did the dhansak and loved it. One quick question: why use tomato paste and dilute to passata consistency rather than just use passata? Same question regarding coconut powder instead of coconut milk.

    Many thanks!

    • Thank you for saying so!

      It’s a matter of portion and convenience really. Tomato paste keeps for a long time in the fridge and takes up little room. Opening a jar of passata is a bit of a commit for a couple tablespoons. Same goes for coconut milk. I do use coconut milk sometimes when I have it around.

  10. I’ve tried so hard, so many times to make an authentic ‘Indian’ curry and failed. I read everything you wrote, followed your instructions to the letter and…. OMG!!!!!! What an absolute triumph. My cup sizes of water were a bit big initially when making the curry base but once I adjusted that? Best curry I have EVER tasted. My wife just stood there open mouthed in amazement when she tasted it. I loved all the preparation, how everything came together and the authenticity of the taste was exact. I felt compelled to let you know and offer my heartfelt thanks, I am truly grateful. Kind regards, Stephen Ward. (Wales, UK)

    • I’m delighted to hear that! Now you know all the techniques you are unstoppable. I can’t wait to hear how your future curries turn out.

  11. Hey Romain, Have been watching your videos and cooking tips on how to cook a madras for a couple of weeks now in an attempt to get organised and ready to cook this for the wife Saturday night. Whilst the wheels almost came off a couple of times the final result was fantastic. Thank You.. However, during the critical stage of frying the spice mix before adding the tomatoes I have at least half of the ingredients in my pan as you did and when I did add the tomatoes again there was still very little in the pan. Although once I started to add the base everything fell into place thankfully!!!! Any ideas WHY !! Oh and I ended up with an unused box of Amchur powder where have I conjured this up from as I don’t see it in your curry base or madras recipes.. Thanks again..

    • That’s awesome to hear. Yes, the wheels do tend to come off when you are starting out but a bit of practice and you’ll be a master in no time!

      Maybe a bit more water in the tomato paste to give yourself a little margin of error? And don’t worry – there are quite a few recipes that use amchoor (spell it like that in the search bar) on the blog and more coming as I love the stuff!

      • Hey Romain, Decided to try the Chicken Vindaloo recipe as this has always been my wifes favourite. Boy oh Boy am I in the good book now, she loved it, says she hasn’t eaten a curry like that in many a year. Many Thanks. Also got to use up my spare box of Amchoor powder making the chicken Biryani which was very tasty but a little dry. Many Thanks again

  12. Have just made a restaurant chicken madras. Absolutely delicious could not believe I’d ever get to make a curry like that at home,

    • I usually go for roughly two to three times the volume of the tomato paste in added water. I have never actually measured the exact amount of water I am afraid.

      It isn’t super critical. It’s your safety blanket. You will use it to put the brakes on the spices frying so as long as it’s wet it will do the job. The water will get driven off as you fry the tomato paste before you add the curry base. There’s a lot of evaporation going on in Indian restaurant curry cooking…

  13. Simply excellent! I have been using the enforced idleness of the pandemic to lift my Indian cooking skills and Romain’s recipe’s have been my friend & mentor. I have done 6 or 7 dishes restaurant style and the madras is definitely one of the best (the other family fave is the restaurant Korma). Follow the instructions – especially cranking up the heat when adding the base – and you will have a madras better than you get from most restaurants 🙂

    In various iterations I have tried adding some more fenugreek leaves as I love that underlying taste. Also tried adding curry leaves. A few green chillies. A little more kashmiri chilly powder. A little garam masala at the end of cooking. Increasing the cinnamon a bit (I don’t like the taste of cinnamon but it sits underneath the medley of tastes beautifully in this recipe). What absolutely nailed it for me was increasing cinnamon and Kashmiri chilli, adding curry leaves and 2 green chillis. Stunning.

    But if you don’t want to play with the tastes, just follow the recipe & you will get a truly exceptional madras! Keep up the great work Romain!

    • Peter – I absolutely love how you are taking these recipes and making them your own! Your madras is starting to sound a lot like a Ceylon recipe I have on my list to post.

  14. Another superb recipe…thank you Romain. I’m going to try a Korma next. If you are reading Glebe Kitchen recipes and drooling over the photos I can attest that it really is possible to make a fantastic curry that looks just like the photos! Thank you again Romain.

  15. Hi. I’m excited to try this recipe. It looks like you are using shallot at the beginning of the video, though you say onion. Is this the case? With the curry base, what type of onion do you prefer?

    • I switch between onion and shallot pretty regularly for onions that go into the curry itself. My local Indian grocer stocks the little red Indian onions. If I don’t have those handy I tend to use shallots as a substitute. Failing that I use white onions. For dishes like a jalfrezi or dopiaza where the onion pieces are quite large I usually go with white or red onions as it’s hard to get big pieces otherwise.

      For curry base I use a plain brown skinned yellow onion. Nothing fancy there.

  16. Hi Romaine, thank you so much for the lovely recipes you have posted on here, so far i have made the bombay aloo, the Palak Paneer and the Tikka masala and the dhansak, I had never ordered it at a restaurant but my boyfriend loved it! He said it was as good as any Dhansak he had before at a curry house! So now i have taken his title of t he house hold curry master, my next mission is Madras. I am servicing the CTM but want to do a beef version of this Madras. Im wanting the meat to be really tender but unsure how to cook this without it affecting the curry when i add it. Any ideas? Many thanks for all the cooking inspo, especially in this covid crisis! 🙂

    • You are very welcome and I’m delighted you are enjoying the recipes.

      For beef I would simply follow your regular stewing technique. I like to braise my beef in a Dutch oven in a 325F oven until tender.

  17. Romain,

    I am compelled to write you a thank you note. I just cooked the best curry I’ve made in over twenty years of trying. I followed your recipe, and also made my own Garlic/Ginger paste for the first time (who knew it was so easy?).

    The result looked, smelled and tasted like a restaurant served Madras. You inspired me to get into my local Indian store to hunt out some of the less common ingredients, put in more effort, and get better results.

    Another benefit is that now I have the curry base I can create another in under 15 minutes!

    I’m grateful for the research you did and your willingness to share it 😎 Thank you so much!

  18. Total game changer finding your recipes on here. I always wondered why my curries didn’t taste like they do when I go out for a meal. Now they are pretty much there. It’s the curry gravy!!!
    Can’t wait to try some more of your recipes. My chicken Naga was fantastic! Thanks

  19. I have recently begun watching all the great info and videos you post, and am
    thrilled to begin my journey into Indian style dishes. But, I found myself watching the indian restaurant curry base post where it said “watch the video here” there was no such video. Also forgive my ignorance, but when you say the curry base is the foundation, I am confused as a few of the recipes do not mention adding the curry base, what am I missing?

    • I’m not sure where you found the broken link? If you can point me to it I will fix it ASAP!

      There are 4 distinct types of curries and associated techniques on glebekitchen.

      Traditional or homestyle – There is no curry base involved. This is Indian home cooking

      Restaurant style – This is where the curry base gets used. This style will get you curries you would eat in restaurants.

      Nearly restaurant style – This is a hybrid approach I came up with. It relies on microwave onions to get you similar results to when you cook restaurant style. It works well. It’s for people who either don’t want to make curry base or are simply out of it.

      Hotel style – This is a new approach I’ve been working on. Similar to restaurant style but with more depth of flavour. Think the very best Indian restaurants.

      Hope this helps clear things up.

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