Unfortunately I have had lot of encounters with bland curries and have now figured out key reasons how this happens and how to fix it.
There is nothing worse than a bland curry. This is because you have gone through the effort of making one and there was no fruit for all the hard work you put in.
Not only will these tips will help you identify and fix the problems but also help you stop them from recurring.
- Reasons why the curries turn out to be bland
- How to fix bland curry?
- Pay extra attention to your spices –
- Cook the curry base well
- Make sure you add spices at the right time
- Be very careful when adding water
- Add more spices esp. garam masala and let it simmer for 5-10 more mins
- Make sure you add a little bit more salt to the dish.
- Make more curry base and add it to your curry
- Add some cilantro at the end
- Add yogurt or lemon juice
Reasons why the curries turn out to be bland
Spices used are really old
Spices tend to lose their flavor, aroma and punch over time. We have a complete blog post on how to store the spices to keep them fresh longer and also on how long they are good for.
So if the spices used are more than an year old there is a high chance they have lost most of their potency and its better to discard them and buy new ones.
Not enough use of aromatics
Aromatics are the ingredients that add the texture, flavor and aroma to any dish. The main aromatics used in Indian curry are –
These 4 aromatics form the base for 90% Indian curries and make sure you use plenty of these or whatever the recipe calls for.
If these are not used in the right proportion the curry will be lacking in flavors for sure and will turn out to be bland
Aromatics are not cooked the right way
Just using the aromatics listed above will not solve the problem of blandness as these aromatics need to be cooked well in hot oil along with spices. This cooking in hot oil is very important and should not be skipped at all.
This step ensures that the aromatics release all their flavour and aroma. It also allows the flavors of the aromatics to infuse well with the spices and form a delicious well balanced curry base.
Adding too much water
Water dilutes the flavors of the spices as well as other ingredients used in the curry. Make sure you add less water than needed and then check the consistency before adding more. This is wisdom I got from mum that its easier to add more later than adding excess and taking it out. Its obvious but I guess not that obvious because I was doing this a lot and ending up with bland watery curries.
If you end with water curries like me you can find more details here on possible causes and how to fix them.
Not following step by step approach
Indian curries are very different from soups which are the closest form cooking to curry in the western world. However, even though curry and soup both are liquid in their base the cooking method for both of them is completely different.
When making soup you can add all the ingredients together and let them simmer for some time and your soup is ready.
If you do the same dump and go approach with curries it will result in bland, watery, gloopy rather than curry.
This is the reason why it’s very important to cook the aromatics together in hot oil first with spices until they are very well cooked and infused with the spices flavor.
This aromatics mushy mix cooked in hot oil and spices forms the base of all the curries and add flavors to it. So it’s very important that this step is not missed.
Adding spices the right way and at the right time-
The spices should be added in the hot oil as you are cooking the aromatics listed above. There are some spices that release more flavors if used a certain way –
- Ajwain is usually crushed in between the hands before being added as this makes them release more flavor.
- When adding chilis make sure you slice and add them if you want more heat to your curry.
- Turmeric should be added in the hot oil so that its cooked well. If added at the end it remains uncooked and gives a medicinal flavor to the curry.
- Garam Masala should be added at the end as the spices are already roasted in it and they need not be cooked in the curry. It is added at the end for additional flavor and aroma. For more details on this you can refer to this post.
Buying spices from wrong place
Spices add lot of flavor and punch to any dish. If you have bought your spices from International supermarket chains there are high chances that they do not have the exact authentic taste and are overpriced.
When trying to buy Indian spices then always buy from your local Indian store or if buying online then buy an Indian spice brand.
How to fix bland curry?
Pay extra attention to your spices –
Make sure that your spices are fresh, authentic and you are using the right amount for your curry quantity.
Spices are powerhouses of flavor, take care of them. You can also choose to roast and grind your spices at home to get all the flavors out. However, I am not able to do it all the time and its not mandatory.
Cook the curry base well
Make sure that you cook the curry masala i.e. the onion, tomato, ginger and garlic really well in hot oil. This mushy mix will be packed with all the flavors released by your aromatics and spices. It will give all the flavor to the curry. The curry base needs to be cooked well until the oil separates.
Make sure you add spices at the right time
Spice like turmeric, coriander and cumin should be added while cooking the curry base initially. Garam Masala should be added at the end after the curry has been cooked.
Be very careful when adding water
Always add less water than what is needed to your curry. Let the water mix in and simmer for 10-15 seconds. This gives you an idea of the thickness of your curry before you go ahead and add in more.
If you have made the curry already and its bland then you can fix it by following these steps:-
Add more spices esp. garam masala and let it simmer for 5-10 more mins
Garam masala is always added at the end and gives a delicious earthy flavor to the dish. If you feel that the curry is lacking flavors, adding some garam masala will help.
Make sure you add a little bit more salt to the dish.
Sometimes less salt can make the food bland even if the spice proportions are right. Salt is known to enhance flavors, colors and texture of any dish.
Make more curry base and add it to your curry
In a separate pan cook all the aromatics of the curry base mentioned above and add spices as well. Cook these well together and when done add them into the bland curry that you have taken off the gas. Once added mix the curry base well in the curry and simmer it for 5-10 mins on stove top. The flavor of your curry should have been enhanced by the masala that you just cooked and added.
Add some cilantro at the end
After the cooking is done you can add some cilantro to the curry to give it extra flavor as well as colors. Do not add cilantro while you are cooking as it wilts in high heat.
Add yogurt or lemon juice
If you are looking for a tangy flavor in your dish you can add some lemon juice or yogurt at the end as well. This will make the curry tangy and make it more flavorful.
Which one of these do you think was the reason for your curry being bland and how did you fix it? Do let me know in the comments below.