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The Perfect Curry Base Sauce Recipe

Updated on December 16, 2013

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4.3 stars from 7 ratings of Curry Base Sauce

So, who likes curry?

Or, should I re-phrase the question to who loves curry? The majority of people who like eating curry love its taste, and of that majority there is a hardcore subset of people who absolutely love the stuff. They would eat curry seven days a week given the chance. However that’s not something I’m going to advocate here for obvious reasons.

I’d have to include myself in the hardcore subset of curry lovers. I’ve loved eating curries ever since I was coerced into going for a meal to the local tandoori restaurant with a group of friends. I ordered Chicken Madras served with Mushroom Pilau Rice. After tasting my first forkful I was hooked on curry, the rest my friends is history.

The word curry itself is usually used as an umbrella term referring to a large variety of dishes, originating from south-east Asia, made with a particular spice mixture that gives that familiar curry taste. When I talk about curry I am referring to the British Indian restaurant variety as opposed to any particular recipe or dish from a specific part of the world. British Indian recipe (BIR) curries tend to be made with a ‘wet’ sauce that is characterised by its pungent and spicy aroma. A well made BIR curry should have a range of hot, tangy and spicy flavours but the overall flavour should be a well balanced taste sensation on the palette. BIR curries tend to be created for the UK tandoori restaurant clientèle and are not necessarily created from authentic south-east Asian recipes.

I won’t go any further into the history or variety of curry as that is a vast subject in itself. This is a recipe page and you don’t need to know the history of curry in order to cook one. I won’t profess to be an expert on south-east Asian cuisine, or even an aficionado of cookery, but I will say that I am a lover of curry. What we're going to cook here is a curry base sauce. I must stress here that this is not a finished curry - it is merely the base sauce that will enable us to cook a delicious curry dish (in my next hub I'll show you how). This recipe is the culmination of a few years of trial and error and is also made up of parts of other recipes. However, if you’re trying to create a BIR curry then I think this is a good place to start. So, let us begin.

The Base Sauce

There are two parts to this base sauce, the main base sauce itself, and a separate onion/garlic paste. I’ll list each part separately.


  • 1 kg Red Onions
  • 2 inch piece rectangle of fresh root ginger, chopped
  • 10 Cloves of fresh garlic
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Sugar
  • 4 Tomatoes, Medium size
  • 1 teaspoon Turmeric powder
  • Half teaspoon Cinnamon powder
  • 1 teaspoon Paprika powder
  • 1 tablespoon Tomato puree
  • 1 teaspoon Tomato ketchup
  • Cooking oil Sunflower or vegetable

1 - Peel and roughly slice all the red onions. Place all into a good size pan or wok and fry gently (do not brown) in two tablespoons of oil, for 10 minutes.

Roughly chop the red onions

Onions frying gently

Chopped garlic & ginger

2 - While the onions are cooking peel and chop 5 cloves of garlic. Peel and chop the ginger. After the onions have been cooking for 10 minutes, place the chopped garlic and sliced ginger into the pan with the onions and add the salt.

Scotch Bonnet Chillies

OPTIONAL INGREDIENT - I prefer my curries to be hot, so I also add two chopped Scotch Bonnet chillies (be careful, these are hot hot hot). If this is your first try of this recipe, or if you do not like your curries to be too hot then you can omit these fiery little devils.

Water added to the pan

Now add warm water to the pan so that it just covers the ingredients and bring to the boil. Simmer this for 30 minutes with no lid.


3 - Whilst that is simmering chop up the tomatoes and place in a saucepan with 3 tablespoons of oil. Add the sugar, turmeric, cinnamon, paprika, tomato puree and ketchup. Lightly simmer this for 10 minutes or until the other pan is done.

Tomatoes and spices simmering

4 - Once both pans are cooked, FINELY BLEND each separately. I usually blend the contents of the onion pan first, and then return the blended mixture to the same pan. Then blend the contents of the other saucepan containing the tomatoes etc. Add this to the large pan containing the blended onion. Stir this mixture until it is fully combined then simmer for 20 minutes on a gentle heat. The combined gravy should thicken very slightly during cooking but you can add a little water if it becomes too dry.

Sauce combined and simmering

Its ready

After simmering gently for 20 minutes your sauce should have  the consistency of a thick gravy.
After simmering gently for 20 minutes your sauce should have the consistency of a thick gravy.

Onion & Garlic Paste

While this is simmering you can now begin the onion garlic paste.


  • 2 medium size white onions, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 3 tablespoons of vegetable or sunflower oil
  • Pinch of cumin powder
  • Pinch of cinnamon powder

Chopped onions and garlic

Place raw, chopped onion and garlic into a blender. Add a little water (about halfway up the ingredients. Blend this until it is WELL smoothed.

Heat the oil in a pan on a medium heat and add the blended mixture. Very GENTLY fry and reduce the mixture down until it thickens. Add the cumin and cinnamon and stir until combined. Continue cooking gently for another 5 minutes. Do not burn during cooking or the flavour will be ruined.

Almost There

When both pans are fully cooked you can then decant the main base sauce equally into four containers. Do the same for the onion garlic paste by dividing it into four smaller containers. You now have enough base sauce to make eight portions of curry. Each container combination (base sauce and onion/garlic paste) should be enough to make two portions of curry. What you don’t use immediately can be stored in the fridge for 4 days or stored in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Give It A Try and Tell Me What You Think

It is important to remember that the base sauce you have just cooked is not yet a curry sauce, it still needs to be cooked with spices etc. I’d be very keen for readers to try cooking this recipe and let me know what you think and how you got on. I’ll be very glad to answer any questions you may have about making this curry base sauce, and also very receptive to any suggestions on alternative ingredients, or how you think it can be improved.

Coming Next

Chicken Madras
Chicken Madras

Coming Up Next Time...

In my next hub I’ll be using this base sauce to make a chicken madras curry and giving a recipe and full instructions so that you can also make it yourself. Keep a look out for it and happy cooking.


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    • jgwhite66 profile image

      John Goodwin White 3 years ago from Scotland

      Hi Stephen, thanks for your comments. I've found that the recipe doesn't give the exact taste of restaurant curries but it's not far off and well worth making if you like a good curry. I'll put the Mushroom Pilau recipe up soon.

    • profile image

      stephen farmer 3 years ago

      I have to say I've been trying to get my curries to taste like something you buy in a restaurant for years I knew something was missing now I've tried your recipe for madras including the base sauce there's no going back excellent next batch I make I will put the scotch bonnet chillies in. thanks pal Stevie ps already passed your recipes on to friends

    • jgwhite66 profile image

      John Goodwin White 3 years ago from Scotland

      Hi Beverley, hope you like the curry base recipe, its just a base so the two Scotch Bonnet chillies are spread over 8 portions of served curry, so hopefully they don't add too much heat. I'll hopefully be able to add the recipe for the finished curry soon.

    • BeverlyHicksBurch profile image

      Beverly Hicks Burch 3 years ago from Southeastern United States

      You weren't kidding when you said you like it HOT! 2 Scotch Bonnet peppers! Wow!

      I love curry, but I have to take it on the mild side because of and autoimmune disorder I have that leaves my mouth with very little protective defenses.

      I married a native New Mexican so I've this Southern gal has learned to cook with chiles and take a certain amount of heat. He made me a breakfast enchilada with some Hatch green chiles he had roasted.

      I'll try this without the Scotch Bonnets :)


    • torrilynn profile image

      torrilynn 3 years ago

      I've only tried curry once and it was on fries when I was in Wisconsin and I found it to be absolutely amazing. thanks for the recipe. voted up useful and pinned.

    • WriterJanis profile image

      Janis 3 years ago from California

      What great photos and instructions.

    • jgwhite66 profile image

      John Goodwin White 3 years ago from Scotland

      Not sure about related, but one of my son's name is Stewart James White. This is becoming spooky, lol.

    • profile image

      Ghaelach 3 years ago

      Being a Brit it's only natural that I love curry and anything to do with curry. This looks good and you have given a super step by step guide.

      I'd just like to say thanks for sharing.

      From JSWhite to JGWhite.

      Are we related.

      LOL Ghaelach

      James Stuart White.

    • jgwhite66 profile image

      John Goodwin White 3 years ago from Scotland

      Thanks, Kukata, and good luck!

    • Kukata Kali profile image

      Kukata Kali 3 years ago

      I am doing this! Thank you...great hub! It's easy to read, funny, and useful. I'll be sure to come back and vote on the flavor :) Voted up~

      I also "pinned it".

    • jgwhite66 profile image

      John Goodwin White 3 years ago from Scotland

      Give it a try Vacation Trip. I may be biased but it's delicious when used as the base of a well spiced curry.

    • Vacation Trip profile image

      Susan 3 years ago from India

      Wow... Amazing recipe and you step by step photos are awesome. Thanks for sharing. Voted up.