What Is Curry Powder?

This turmeric-based spice blend gives aromatic depth to everything it touches.

If you're confused about what exactly curry powder is, you're not alone. There are countless variations in flavor, brand, and color— no two curry powders seem to be the same. The orange-hued spice is used in a host of dishes, from deviled eggs to dry rubs to roasted sweet potatoes. Curry, a blanket term adopted by British colonists to describe a vast range of Indian flavors and dishes, actually refers to a saucy meat and vegetable meal, often tomato or coconut-based. And while curry powder isn't used in traditional Indian cooking, it's made an indelible mark on Western palates and spice cabinets.

What's In Curry Powder?

Curry powders usually consist of turmeric, cumin, ginger, and black pepper. Some blends also incorporate garlic and cinnamon. What all curry powders share is a sweet warmth and pleasant pungency that adds a toasty depth to everything it touches.

Types of Curry Powder

Although Indian-inspired curry powder gets most of the spotlight, there are many different curry powders from around the globe — all with their own uniquely dynamic flavors. Thai curry powder adds lemongrass and lime leaves for an intensely tangy effect, while Caribbean blends have a sweeter base and embrace spices like anise and allspice. Garam masala is a South Indian spice mixture that is similar to curry powder, but uses more pungent spices like nutmeg, black cardamom, and cloves.

Common Indian herbs and spice ingriedients for preparation of Indian Cuisine in wooden trays on an old rough teak board table.
enviromantic / Getty Images

How to Make Curry Powder

Utilize spices you already have on hand to create your own signature curry powder. Blend based on your own preferences — more pepper for heat, ginger for warmth, coriander for vibrance, and cumin and mustard powder for an earthen edge. Here are a few recipes you may want to start with for reference:

How to Use Curry Powder

Keep this spice on hand for anything from sheet pan veggie roasts to pan-fried salmon. Curry powder gives soups, stews, potatoes, and seafood new life. Here are a few recipes to inspire you to incorporate curry powder into your weeknight routine:

Pan-Fried Salmon in Curry Cream Sauce
France C

Pan-Fried Salmon in Curry Cream Sauce

"Loved this recipe!" says home cook Betmid. "The sauce was awesome. Very easy and charged with flavor."

tight shot yellow roasted cauliflower on foiled sheet pan
Chef Mo

Easy Sheet Pan Roasted Cauliflower with Curry

"I loved this dish, and I didn't think that I even liked cauliflower," says reviewer Angela B. "The curry with the lemon was perfect. I served it alongside chicken tikka masala and rice."

Instant Pot® Spicy Beef Curry Stew
France C

Instant Pot® Spicy Beef Curry Stew

Curry powder's warmth deepens the flavor of this comfortingly delicious beef stew. Fresh ginger, fire-roasted tomatoes, and Yukon golds create a perfect sauce to spoon over tender meat.

How to Store Curry Powder

Your new spice blend should last 3-4 years if stored in a cool, dark place with no direct sunlight and a tight-fitting lid. You can test the potency of older curry powder by rubbing a small amount between your fingers — the aroma will be strong if it's still good for cooking.

Where to Buy Curry Powder

Available at nearly all grocers, curry powder is an inexpensive way to add rich flavor to your routine. Regionally specific blends are available in Indian grocery stores and via online retailers.

Buy it: McCormick Organic Gourmet Hot Madras Curry Powder ($5.98; amazon.com)

Buy it: Good & Gather Organic Curry Powder ($1.99; target.com)

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