Curry sauce is the foundation for many Thai and Indian dishes, but homemade curry sauces are often thin and watery unlike those in restaurants that are very thick and creamy.
Sometimes, the ingredients in curry sauces do thicken the sauce naturally as the curry cooks, but mostly home cooks wait forever and nothing seems to happen – the curry is cooked, but the sauce is watery.
Often the vegetables and liquid ingredients are the cause, but these are needed for the recipe, and so what can you do. At other times waiting until the sauce reduces its volume by extending the cooking time, leaves many of the ingredients overcooked and mushy.
The good news is that there are many ways to thicken a curry sauce, but it is vital that the method chosen does not ruin the flavour of the dish or cause the sauce to stick to the pan and burn. Many of the thickening agents such as cornflour do not work with certain dishes, especially when not prepared properly.
This article provides a range of options for thickening Thai and Indian curry dishes for you to try to match the recipe that you are cooking.
Simple Rendering to Remove Liquid
Ensure the curry is allowed to simmer and cook for the time stated in the recipe before adjusting the sauce to thicken it. Curry sauces take time to thicken and can often can appear watery and runny until the very last stage of the cooking. One trick is to delay adding potatoes, beans and other ingredients until the sauce with meat has rendered down and has started to thicken slightly. Otherwise allowing extra time for the sauce to thicken may overcook these ingredients.
Blending Some of the Curry Ingredients
Remove a cup or more of the curry sauce, meat, potatoes and other vegetables, and place them in a blender or food processor. Blend the mixture until it is smooth. Then add the blended mixture back into the pot with the curry. This will thicken the sauce without the need to add flour and other ingredients that may ruin the taste. However this won’t work with extremely thin sauces, which will require a thickening agent.
Using Yogurt or Coconut Cream
Add three tablespoons of yogurt or 1/2 cup of thick coconut cream to the curry sauce and simmer it gently while stirring for several minutes. As many curries already contain one or both of these ingredients, this process should not affect the flavor in most recipes.
Using Nuts Blended to a Paste
Blend a handful or a cup of raw almonds or raw unsalted cashews in a food processor until a smooth paste is formed. Mix the nut paste into the curry sauce and this will thicken it. You can also mix in one or two tablespoons of smooth peanut butter into the sauce to thicken it. This method will change the flavour of the sauce, which may or may not suit the recipe and final taste that you are after.
Using Flour and Oil
Add about 2 tablespoons of oil and flour to a small skillet and gently cook the mixture while stirring over low heat until the color changes to light brown. Add about a cup of the curry sauce to the mixture and mix or whisk vigorously until combined. This is similar to the process of using flour and water to thicken a white sauce or gravy. Stir the mixture into the rest of the curry and mix until the curry thickens.
Using Arrowroot or Cornflour
Add 2 teaspoon of arrowroot (or cornflour) for each cup of liquid in the curry to a cup. Add some water to the cup and make a paste, dissolving the arrowroot. Add about 1/2 cup of curry paste to the cup and stir to dissolve, then pour the mixture into the curry. Increase the heat setting for the curry to medium-high and stir constantly until the sauce thickens, then reduce the heat. This should be done just before serving the curry as the thick sauce tends to stick to the pot and may burn. Arrowroot is more stable than corn starch or flour and has a more neutral taste.
Using Flour and Melted Butter
Make a paste by adding 2 tablespoons of flour and 2 tablespoons of melted butter or oil for each cup of curry sauce in a small saucepan. Cook until the mixture just starts to turn brown and the flour has cooked. Pour in 1 cup of the original curry sauce and stir well. Pour this mixture to the curry sauce, increase the heat while stirring and simmer for about 3 to 5 minutes, until the sauce thickens.