While Indian curries are known for their spiciness and heat, there are some curries that are mild like the Makhani curries. These curries have sweetness to them.
There can be occasions we end up with curry that is too sweet for our taste(esp. when expecting company!).
This has happened to me a few times and luckily I have been able to rescue the dish each time.
Based on my experiences over time with rescuing these oversweet curries, I will share in this post some common reasons as to why your curry turned out sweet. So that you know what to avoid the next time.
Also, if your curry is already made then worry not, all hope is not lost. We will also share ways in which you can rescue sweet curry.
- Reasons why the curries are turning out sweet:-
- 1. Caramelizing the onions
- 2. Use the right kind of onions
- 3. Using too much onions
- 4. Use unsweetened cream
- 5. Nut butter or powders
- 6. Coconut milk
- 7. Make a note of the tomatoes/pastes used
- 8. Adding too much sugar
- 9. Using too much naturally sweet vegetables
- 10. Check ingredients of your yogurt
- 11. Check your curry paste
- 12. Using dry fruits in the gravy
- 13. Taste as you go
- How to fix a curry that is too sweet?
- Related Posts
Reasons why the curries are turning out sweet:-
1. Caramelizing the onions
Onions are part of almost every curry base and are usually the first thing we add to the hot oil for cooking.
When we add these onions to hot oil , they start sweating and loosing their moisture.
As they loose moisture the texture of onions changes and they start becoming translucent.
When cooking the onions for a curry base, you only need to cook them until they become translucent. We need to cook the onions well but do not overcook them.
If we cook them for too long then a chemical reaction called pyrolysis happens in the cooking heat. The starch present in onions breaks down into smaller sugar compounds. This caramelization process makes the onions brown in texture and sweet to taste.
These caramelized onions taste sweet and since they form the base of our curry, they will make the entire curry taste sweet.
Next time you cook the curry, make sure that you only cook the onions until they turn translucent and not caramelized.
2. Use the right kind of onions
Curry turns out best when using red onions to cook it with. The white and yellow onions have different taste and pungency levels. The type of onions used can also affect the taste of your curry.
So if you have a choice then use the red ones. The red onions are easily available in Indian stores. Until I moved out of India, I had never seen the white or yellow onions.
If for some reason you are not able to find the pink onions then white ones should be your next preference and the last choice should be the yellow onions. If the onions are not cooked the right way it can mess up the curry flavors and sometimes it can also make the curry bitter.
3. Using too much onions
While more onions means more curry, if we use too many then they can overpower other flavors and make the curry too sweet. The general rule of thumb is that if you are cooking for 2 people then use 1 cup chopped onion.
Sometimes people overdo the onion and use too much of it, resulting in a sweet curry base.
The curry base is a combination of aromatics like onion, tomato, garlic and ginger. When cooked in hot oil, these aromatics release their flavors and form the curry base together.
If one of the aromatics is not cooked well then it can mess up the entire curry flavors.
4. Use unsweetened cream
Many times to give curry a smooth and creamy texture and a rich taste we add cream to it.
When the cream is added to the curry it needs to added 1 or 2 tablespoons, if cooking for 2 people. You should taste as you go because its always easier to fix if you add less in the beginning.
Make sure that the cream that you add is unsweetened. The sweetness of cream can overpower all the other flavors and make the curry sweet.
Once you have added the cream it is really hard to take it out of the curry. Make sure you check the ingredients and also add it in moderation.
5. Nut butter or powders
Many times to give curries a creamy consistency we add to them nut butters or even nut powder of nuts like cashew.
Cashew nuts are inherently sweet already so make sure the powder or butter that you add is not sweetened and also do not add too much as it can make the curry sweet.
There are other nut butter as well that can make the curry sweet like peanut butter etc. but they are not used as much as the cashew butters.
6. Coconut milk
If the curry you are making has coconut milk in it then make sure that it’s unsweetened.
Coconut milk is made from the delicious coconut meat and thus have a natural sweetness and richness to it. This sweetness and richness comes from the coconut flesh itself and the coconut oil present in the fruit.
Most coconut milk tends to be on the sweeter side and needs to be used with caution.
Always add what the recipe calls for, eyeballing it can make the curry too sweet at times.
7. Make a note of the tomatoes/pastes used
Tomatoes make the curry tangy and not sweet but sometimes people tend to replace tomato paste with ketchup. While tomato pastes have no sugar present in them, ketchup contains a lot of sugar.
Always use chopped tomatoes or tomato paste and not ketchup. They cannot be used in place of each other.
I and my friend both are guilty of using ketchup when in a pinch and it made the entire curry sweet. Curries tend to use lot of tomatoes and when cooking for large groups there have been times I found myself short on tomatoes.
I am guilty of using ketchup in crunch but make sure you use it in moderation and taste it as you go. Too much ketchup can ruin curry beyond repair.
8. Adding too much sugar
Some curries like the makhani sauce do need sugar to be added to them. However, be very cautious when adding it. Always add little and then taste as you go.
It’s always better to add less and then add more as you go. If you add too much in one go then it’s much harder to fix it then.
Sugar should always be added at the end, incrementally so you can control the sweetness and add more if needed.
9. Using too much naturally sweet vegetables
Vegetables like pumpkin, carrot, sweet potato, peas, beetroot are naturally sweet.
When added to curries they impart their flavors to the curry base and make it sweet.
When these naturally sweet vegetables are added to the curry in large quantities then they will make the curry sweet.
You cannot avoid the sweetness in this case, the only way you can fix it is not using the sweet vegetables or to use them n smaller quantities.
10. Check ingredients of your yogurt
Lots of curries have yogurt as one of its ingredients.
When using store bought yogurt make sure that it does not have any sugar in it.
Sweetened yogurts are very common and can easily be the cause behind the curry turning out to be sweet.
11. Check your curry paste
If you are making the curry using the curry paste then again check if it has any sweet ingredients in it like honey, maple syrup or sugar.
While it is unlikely, because curry pastes should be spicy but sometimes the curry paste for Makhani gravies do tend to have sweetness to them.
All these can easily hijack the flavors of other ingredients resulting in a sweet curry base.
12. Using dry fruits in the gravy
There are some Indian curries that have dry fruits as part of their ingredients.
Dry fruits like raisins, apricots, figs and dates have natural sweetness to them and can make the curry turn out sweet.
If your curry is already sweet then you can either skip these dry fruits or use them in moderation.
13. Taste as you go
Before adding any key ingredient to your dish make sure that you already know its flavor profile and add the ingredient in moderation.
It is always better and easier to add more than to remove excess.
So err on the side of caution and make sure you know the flavors and check them as you go while cooking the curry.
How to fix a curry that is too sweet?
If your curry is already sweet and you are looking for ways to rescue it then here are some tried and tested ones that worked for me-
1. Add salt
You can balance the sweetness of the curry with the salt. I have done it multiple times because salt enhances the savory flavors of a dish and makes them come out. So it will make spices more prominent for our palates.
Adding salt is the most common and easiest way to fix a curry that is too sweet. However, when adding salt always make sure to taste as you go and add very little at a time.
Adding too much salt will definitely ruin the dish and make it unrectifiable.
2. Adding some sour taste to it like lime, tamarind
The sour tasting ingredients add another dimension of flavors to the dish and mute down the sweet flavors that have been overpowering it so far.
The tangy taste of lime or tamarind will give the curry a sweet and sour taste rather than it being a flat note sweet dish.
If you think that tangy flavors will go well with your curry then you can use lime or tamarind as well to add the sourness to it.
3. Add some more chili
Like the sour flavor mentioned in the earlier point, similarly adding chili will also make the curry’s flavor range more versatile.
When you add more chili then it will stop the sweetness from overpowering our palates and will add to it the spiciness that chili has.
The capsaicin present in chili will balance out the sweetness and add more depth to the flavors of your curry.
4. Add spices like garam masala
Spices like garam masala do not need to be cooked and thus are added at the very end when a dish has been cooked.
Adding garam masala will make the curry spicy and eliminate the one note sweetness present in the curry.
You can add other spices as well as per your taste but they need to be cooked.
So if you choose to add any other spice except the garam masala then please make sure you cook the curry for some more time.
Also, little bit masala goes a long way so taste as you go and always start small.
5. Add yogurt
Yogurt has a distinct flavor to it and you can add it to your dish to stop the sweetness from overpowering it.
However, please note that yogurt does not go well with all the curries.
You can mix it in a small batch and then if you like the taste then go for it and add it to the whole lot.
Make sure that the yogurt you add is whisked, unsweetened and at room temperature as it can curdle when added to hot curry.
6. Increase the quantity
You can add more ingredients to the curry without adding any more sugar to it.
It will reduce the sweetness in the flavors and make it more palatable.
Add more spices, salt etc. and these will not only make the curry more flavorful but will also make the sweetness less noticeable.
7. Remove/ reduce naturally sweet vegetables
Naturally sweet vegetables like sweet potato, carrot, pumpkin tend to make the curry taste sweeter.
If you have used these vegetables in the curry and if they can be separated from the curry then do it.
Removing these naturally sweet vegetables should also help with reducing the sweetness.
8. Add some hot sauce
If there is a hot sauce flavor you like, it can be used to rescue the curry.
However, always add it to a little bit of curry as a test and see if you like the flavors.
Usually the hot sauce will reduce the sweetness you were tasting in the curry. If you like what tastes in your sample test then go ahead and add it to the whole serving.
9. Check if there are any sweet dry fruits in it
Sometimes curries have sweet dry fruits in them like raisins, apricots. These make the curry sweet and can ruin its flavor profile in excess. To fix this you can try to remove these dry fruits and see if it makes the curries less sweet.
These are some of the tips I have consistently used in my kitchen to avoid and save sweet curries.
My favorite and most common one solution is to add more salt, it never disappoints and always balances out the sweet flavor. However, the only catch is that I have to add little and taste as I go.
Do let me know which one of these tips helped you fix your sweet curry and what do you think made your curry too sweet?