Curries have been in our culture for much longer than we know of and it is for a good reason, versatility! Rice, tortillas, noodles, ramen, pasta, naan, they go with almost everything and you can change it depending on your mood. I was never inclined naturally towards cooking but sometimes, I thought I would give it a shot and the Indian in me would always lean towards a warm comforting curry, only for it to end up in puddles of water that ruined not only the entire dish but also the vibe in general. But turns out thickening curry is not as difficult or impossible as we assume it to be.
The best ways to thicken curry to retain its taste and consistency is by gentle simmering or either by adding coconut milk, tomato puree, yogurt, mashed potatoes, flour or heavy cream in small amounts until we get the desired result. It might change the taste slightly but it will definitely be something we can enjoy just as much as the original one.
3 Common Mistakes that Result in Watery Curry
- Adding too much water: While the cooking curry is a fairly simple process as opposed to other complicated dishes, adding too much water at the very beginning is one of the most common mistakes we make that might result in a runny base which will eventually result in a watery curry. Since the goal is to have perfect consistency, it is always a good idea to start small when it comes to adding water and build up gradually from there.
- Cooking too fast or in a hurry: This is another way that might lead to adding ingredients in the wrong measurements which will also lead to watery curry. It is better to take some time off and start slow so that you get the perfect base that is half done.
- Incorrect ingredient substitutions: The other major reason for curries to become runny are incorrect ingredient substitutions. Using alternate ingredients (like regular coconut milk in place of full-fat coconut milk) will cause a variance in the combination and might alter the thickness and taste of the curry.
What is the ideal thickness for a perfect curry?
As tastes differ and people prefer different things, the ideal thickness of curry for its maximum taste is similar to a soup’s thickness, which means it should not be too thick or too runny. When the herbs and spices are blended well along with vegetables that are added this perfect thickness can be achieved, provided you turn off the gas at the right time.
While adding ingredients like yogurt or any other dairy products including heavy cream, it is better to keep a close watch on the thickness as dairy tends to thicken the curry way too much if not given proper attention, thereby ruining the very purpose of adding it.
How long should you simmer curry?
Though it depends on the quantity of added ingredients, simmering the sauce for an extended period. Ideally, 15 to 30 minutes should be good enough for it to gain the right consistency. However, always make sure that you simmer with the lid open which will help in water evaporation and also prevent burning.
To mix oils with curries, usually during warming up spices or sauces for approximately ten to fifteen minutes, they are separated from the oil in your cooking vessel. If there are bubbles appearing around your sauce/curry or oil, it is likely because of a thin layer on top. That is the appropriate time to turn off the gas as your curry will be completely cooked. (Source)
8 tips to thicken watery curries
1. Gentle Simmering
Boiling the curry down at a slow simmer is one of the first things to try before looking for anything else as the water evaporates while it is boiling in low flame (to avoid burning, overcooking or drying the sauce if cooked in high flame) which might result in your desired consistency.
2. Coconut Milk
If you are cooking an Asian meal, like Thai or Indian curries, adding coconut would be an absolute delight because it not only helps in thickening the curry but also adds that earthy Asian flavour to the meal which is all the better! A cup of fresh coconut milk, preferably full fat as it is thicker than the usual ones depending on the quantity should do the trick. But if you are not a fan of the nutty taste in the dishes, avoid using coconut milk and opt for other alternatives instead.
3. Tomato Puree
If the base of the curry consists of tomatoes, then adding tomato puree to thicken it is a great idea. Puree the tomatoes and add them to the curry and stir it well to help it combine well with other ingredients. It is important to note that adding it at the beginning before all other ingredients will help in avoiding the raw taste of tomatoes.
If you are a fan of the tangy taste, yogurt would be your option! The rich and creamy consistency of yogurt will thicken the curry perfectly by also adding that much-needed tanginess that elevates all other flavours and brings all of it together. A full-fat Greek yogurt works best, but make sure to get the unsweetened variant as regular ones will add sweetness to the curry thanks to all the added sugars in it.
Adding mashed potatoes has been a go-to trick to thicken dishes for ages and it is also known to fix too salty dishes as well. It also gives the curry a much-needed depth in flavour if that is lacking and also dim the spices and blend it together. If there are potatoes in your curry, try mashing the ones in it and add if needed. Adding mashed potatoes is a great idea if you want any or all of the above-taken care of by a single magic ingredient.
Corn flour and all-purpose flour are used as thickening agents in most Asian dishes, especially Chinese and Thai. It works well for other curries too. All you have to do is add a tablespoon of cornstarch or all-purpose flour and water in a 1:2 ratio and mix it well until the flour dissolves in the water. Then add it into the curry and stir it on low flame until it starts to thicken, which will take about 3-5 minutes preferably at the end of the cooking process.
7. Heavy cream
Heavy cream masks the spiciness of dishes and also adds that much-needed thickness if that is missing and it also does a great job with curries as well. Adding half cup of heavy cream or above based on the quantity will thicken the curry to your desired consistency. It is very important to note that adding heavy cream will reduce the spiciness by masking it to an extent. If your goal is a spicy curry, it is better to skip adding heavy cream. And also make sure of any lactose-intolerant people if you are serving others.
8. Nuts/Nut butter
Nuts or nut butter can be tricky as they alter the flavour but if you prefer earthy tones to your dishes, this is an amazing option to consider. Peanut butter is added to most Thai dishes to give it a hint of earthiness. If you prefer nuts over nut butter, the option to experiment will increase as you can now consider adding almonds, cashews, pecan, or pista to your curry.
There are many other ways to thicken curries in order to get it to a perfect consistency but the above-mentioned ones work great if you desire a change in flavour along with thickening your curry. While it is very important to get the base right at the start, there are instances that might lead to inconsistency which can be easily fixed. Please feel free to comment down below on what methods you think worked best for you or if there are any other methods to do so. Happy curry cooking!