Is Curry Spicy?

Last updated on April 22nd, 2023 at 08:21 am

If you love food that captivates the taste buds and seeks a new food experience, perhaps you should try out the curry spice.

This complex and flavorful dish traces its origin to the Indian subcontinent, where it has been a staple in Indian cuisine. Colonizers and traders introduced curry into the Western world in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Today, curry is enjoyed worldwide in endless forms. This popular Indian dish is made with meat and vegetables and served over rice.

But is curry spicy?

The spiciness of curry varies depending on various factors, including regional variations and the ingredients used.  

Want to know more?

This post delves into the spiciness of curry and some of the factors influencing its heat level. We also explore the various curry types and offer tips for consuming this Indian dish.

What is curry?

Curry is a dish of vegetables, meat, or both seasoned with chilies, aromatics, and spices. The seasonings are layered and properly added in the right order. The term “curry” comes from the Tamil word “Kari,” meaning sauce.

In Thailand, curry means paste consisting of pressed aromatic chilies, coriander root, garlic, lemongrass, and ginger, among other ingredients.

There are multiple ways to make curry depending on your region and preference.

Is curry spicy?

There’s no straightforward answer to this question. Curry can be spicy. But whether or not it’s spicy depends on the specific recipe and individual taste preferences.

Some curries are mild and only have a hint of spice. Others are quite spicy and contain ingredients like hot sauce or chili peppers.

Moreover, you may have a different tolerance for spice than the person beside you. So curry might be spicy to you but not to the other person.

What is curry powder?

There’s a difference between curry and curry powder. We already know what curry is, so let’s define curry powder.

Curry powder is a spice blend commonly used in South Asian cuisine, especially in Indian and Pakistan dishes. Typically, it comprises a mixture of spices, including cumin, coriander, turmeric, and ginger—other ingredients vary based on the recipe and the user’s needs.

Often, curry powder adds flavor and spice to dishes such as stews, curries, sauces, and soups. It can also season meats, vegetables, and rice or be used as a rub for roasted or grilled foods.

While you may use curry powder to make curry dishes, the blend is one of the many ingredients for a traditional curry recipe. So, curry powder is only universal across some curry dishes.

The various types of curry powder include;

  • Madras curry powder:This is a blend of spices used in South Indian cooking. Madras curry powder contains cumin, coriander, fenugreek, mustard seeds, and turmeric. Other ingredients include ginger, chili powder, and garlic.
  • Indian Garam masala:This spice blend is common in Northern Indian and Pakistani cuisine. Garam masala contains cardamom, cinnamon, clove, coriander, black pepper, and cumin.
  • Japanese curry powder:This is used to make Japanese-style curry dishes. It contains spices like clove and cinnamon.

Types of curries

Want to taste some curry?

There are different types originating from various regions across the world. Each has a different taste or heat level, depending on the recipe.

Here are some of the most common types of curry available;

Indian curry

Indian curries are known for their rich blend of flavors and spices that create a complex and nuanced taste profile.

Moreover, Indian curries are categorized into multiple varieties depending on the different regions of India they are made from.

Butter chicken is among the most popular Indian curries. This creamy, tomato-based curry is made with tender chicken pieces marinated in spices and yogurt. Other common Indian curries include chicken tikka masala and vindaloo.

Additionally, Indian vegetable curries can be made with vegetables, chickpeas, and lentils, among other ingredients. They include chana masala (made with white chickpeas, tomatoes, onions, herbs, and spices) and saag paneer (made with spinach and other leafy greens and paneer.)

Indian curries are typically served with naan bread or rice.

Thai curry

Thai curries originate from Thailand and are known for their rich and complex flavors. They are made from fresh herbs and spices, including galangal, lemongrass, and kaffir lime leaves.

There are various types of Thai curries named after their color;

  • Red curries: Made with red chili pepper, giving the curry a distinctive color and heat. Other ingredients and spices include coconut milk, beef or chicken, coriander, and ginger.
  • Green curry: Made with green chili peppers, the curry is vibrant green. Other ingredients include chicken or seafood, coconut milk, and garlic.
  • Yellow curry: Made with yellow chili peppers, typically milder than green or red chilies. Other main ingredients and spices include chicken/beef, coconut milk, turmeric, and curry powder.

Thai curries are often served with noodles or rice. Sometimes, they are garnished with fresh herbs like cilantro or basil.

African curry

African curries vary widely based on region and are generally known for their bold and complex flavors. Ingredients like coconut milk, peanut butter, and spices like cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves.

How to make curry less spicy?

So, you’ve just prepared your scrumptious curry and tasted it only to realize it’s too spicy. Don’t throw away the dish just yet. We have some tips to help you lessen the heat in the dish.

  • Add coconut milk or coconut cream: If you have a coconut-based curry, add some cream or coconut milk to bring down the heat. You can use coconut oil to make your curry vegan, provided there is a coconut flavor.
  • Add sour cream or yogurt: A spoonful of soured cream or yogurt works magic on Indian-style curries and chilies. You can add milk to the curry or chili base if the spiciness is unbearable. Once you’ve added the base, simmer it gently, but don’t boil.
  • Use lemon, vinegar, or lime: A squeeze of lemon or a splash of vinegar is enough to balance out the spiciness in your curry dish. For coconut-based curries, try adding a pinch of salt to balance out the flavor and minimize the heat.

Is curry spicy? Final Thoughts

Curry can be spicy or mild—the heat level depends on the ingredients and individual preference. There are various curries from different parts of the world, including India, Pakistani, Thailand, and Japan.

However, there’s a difference between curry and curry powder. Curry is a dish, while curry powder is a spice blend.

Want to be sure whether or not curry is spicy. Try the different types of curries and measure their heat spiciness based on your heat tolerance.

FAQs on Curry

Is curry usually spicy?

Not all curries are spicy. The level of heat in curry depends on the ingredients used and the preferences of the person making the dish. Some curries are made with mild spices like coriander and cumin, while others are made with hotter spices like curry powder and chili peppers.
For instance, Indian and Thai curries are known for being spicy, while Japanese curries tend to be milder.

Why is curry spicy?

Curry contains spicy ingredients like chili, curry powder, and cayenne pepper, which makes it spicy. These ingredients contain heat from compounds known as capsaicinoids that stimulate nerve endings in the mouth and produce a burning sensation.

What does curry taste like?

You can’t exactly tell the taste of curry because it varies depending on the ingredients, the recipe used, and the region or cuisine it comes from. But generally, the blend of spices may create a complex and rich flavor profile. Moreover, the main flavors in curry include a combination of sweet, savory, and sometimes spicy notes.