There’s something so comforting and delicious about a flavorful, rich curry sauce. But what should you do if you end up with a watery curry sauce?
How do you thicken curry sauce? There are a few things you can try, including letting it simmer on the stove, or making a simple roux. You can also add starch, lentils or mashed potatoes, ground nuts, cream, yogurt, coconut milk, butter, or tomato paste.
Since there are so many different methods, we’ve got a lot to talk about. Read on to find out which method is best for your recipe!
1. Reduce The Curry Sauce
This method of letting your curry sauce reduce uncovered on the stove is perhaps the simplest one on the list, but it can be time-consuming depending on how thin the original sauce is and how thick you want it to get.
Basically, all you’ll need to do is set your burner to a low-medium heat and let time do the work. This method is great because it intensifies the flavor of the sauce and doesn’t require adding anything that may change the flavor profile that you’ve built.
The texture will vary depending on how long you let it simmer, so keep an eye on it to make sure it isn’t overcooking.
Follow the steps below to properly reduce your curry sauce.
- Bring your curry sauce to a boil, covered, over high heat.
- Once bubbling, remove the lid from your pot and reduce the heat to low-medium.
- Let the sauce reduce for 20-60 minutes (depending on how thick you want it), stirring it regularly.
- Once your curry sauce has reached your desired thickness, turn off the heat and serve.
2. Make A Simple Roux With Flour
While roux might be most commonly associated with gumbo, you can use the same process to thicken your curry sauce. Typically, you will want to do this before you make the sauce, so incorporating it into the cooking method is a good idea.
If you have already made your sauce and found that it isn’t thick enough, then you might want to use one of the simpler methods below to thicken it post-cooking since it can take a while to make a really good roux, but it can add another delicious layer of flavor to your curry.
Though not necessarily a typical curry ingredient, if you have the patience, it can take your sauce to a whole other level.
Here’s how to make a roux:
- Heat a heavy bottom skillet (frying pan) or cast iron skillet on the stove over medium heat.
- Add 3/4 of a cup of oil (we like to use butter, but you can use lard or cooking oil) to the skillet and let it melt and warm up.
- Once the oil is heated, add 1 cup of flour to the skillet, whisking or stirring constantly until they are fully combined.
- Continue to cook the oil and flour mixture over a low to medium heat until it begins to turn a dark brown. You don’t want to burn your roux mixture, but you want it to be a nice rich, dark brown. The darker it becomes, the deeper the flavor.
- Remove your roux from the stove and slowly stir it into your curry sauce.
- Allow the mixture to simmer for a few minutes to thicken, then serve.
Notes: Both curry and roux tend to taste better the next day when all the flavors have melded together, so if possible, you will want to make your curry the day before you serve it. Or make enough leftovers to enjoy the next day.
3. Adding Corn, Tapioca, Potato, or Arrowroot Starch
This method is another one of my favorites because most folks have at least one of these starches or flours in their pantries.
You don’t need much of any of them to thicken your sauce and it doesn’t dilute or change the flavor too much. However, you might want to add an extra pinch of salt just to balance it out.
The consistency you will get from a curry sauce thickened with one of these starches/flours is going to be similar to gravy. It will be thick and have a creamy feeling, without the addition of butter or cream.
How to thicken your curry sauce with one of these starches:
- Measure out 1 tablespoon of tapioca, corn, arrowroot, or potato starch and place it in a small bowl.
- Whisk in either a 1/4 cup of water or a 1/4 cup of the curry sauce to make a slurry. Double check that there are no lumps left in the mix.
- Slowly pour the slurry mix into your curry sauce and whisk it in.
- Turn the heat to medium high and bring your sauce to a boil.
- Once bubbling, reduce the heat and let simmer a couple of minutes before serving.
- Add a pinch of salt and enjoy your sauce!
4. Add Lentils To Your Curry Sauce
We love lentils, and they are a traditional ingredient in many types of curries. The best one to use to thicken curry sauce is a red lentil because it breaks down quickly and gives a thick texture to the sauce, without holding its form, so picky eaters won’t notice that it’s even there.
Using lentils works best if you’re trying to thicken an Indian style curry sauce and less so if you are making a Thai curry sauce.
Adding the lentils can dilute the flavor a little, so you might want to add a little extra spice and salt to balance it out.
As a bonus, lentils are a great source of protein, so adding them to your sauce can up the protein content and nutrient density.
Follow these directions to thicken your curry sauce with red lentils:
- If you’ve made your sauce and found it’s not thick enough, measure out 1 tablespoon of red lentils per cup of sauce.
- Stir the lentils into your sauce and turn the heat up to a boil.
- Once boiled, you can reduce your heat to low-medium and let it simmer for 20 minutes or so until the lentils are broken down.
- If you want them broken down further for a creamy sauce, you can use an immersion blender to blend the sauce.
- Season with a little extra salt and enjoy.
5. Add Mashed Potatoes
Potatoes are one of my favorite foods because they are so versatile. There’s a potato dish for every occasion.
And this occasion is thickening. Thanks to their natural starch content, potatoes can add a nice creamy texture to a curry sauce.
Mashed potatoes are great to add if you find that your sauce is thin, but a little too intense in flavor or too salty since they will mellow out the sauce quite a bit. The texture will be creamy and thick, but not too heavy.
How to thicken curry sauce with mashed potatoes:
- Cook and mash 1 medium sized potato per quart of curry sauce. The more potato you add, the thicker the sauce will be, but the more diluted the flavor will become.
- Heat your curry sauce over medium on the stove top.
- Stir the mashed potato into your curry sauce and let it simmer for a few minutes.
- Taste your sauce and add more salt or seasoning to your preference.
- Serve and enjoy.
6. Add Ground Nuts Or Nut Butter
Adding ground nuts, such as peanuts, cashews, macadamias, or almonds, is an amazing way to not only thicken your curry sauce, but to add another layer of flavor to the mix.
Peanuts and cashews are used in many different varieties or curry sauces such as Massaman or butter chicken.
By grinding and adding these nuts to your curry sauce, you will get a thicker sauce that also has a bit more texture to it, since the nuts are unlikely to completely break down.
You will get a bit of crunch or a little bit of a coarser texture depending on how much you grind the nuts.
If you don’t want to have any crunchy or coarse bits in your curry sauce, you can also use nut butter instead of ground nuts. I love adding peanut or almond butter to my curries for a nutty, rich flavor and creamy texture.
How to thicken your curry sauce with ground nuts:
- Measure out a 1/4 cup of cashews, almonds, macadamias, or peanuts for every 2 cups of curry sauce.
- Place the nuts in a coffee or spice grinder and buzz until all the big chunks have been broken down.
- Put your curry sauce on the stove over medium heat and stir in the ground nuts until fully combined.
- Turn up the heat to bring to a gentle boil, then reduce and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Season with a pinch of salt and serve.
How to thicken your curry sauce with a nut butter:
- Place the curry sauce on the stove over medium heat so it is gently simmering.
- Stir in 1 tablespoon of nut butter for every 3-4 cups of curry sauce. The more nut butter you add, the thicker the nutty flavor will be and the thicker your sauce will become.
- Let the curry sauce and nut butter simmer for 5-10 minutes.
- Taste and adjust your seasonings, then serve and enjoy.
7. Add Butter, Yogurt, Cream, Or Coconut Milk
I am a huge fan of creamy curry sauces and one of the best ways to get that creamy texture is by adding cream, coconut milk, or butter. Depending on which one you choose, there will be a slightly different flavor profile.
Adding a high-fat, super rich dairy cream is going to be rather mild, since it doesn’t have much flavor itself. It will dilute the intensity of your curry sauce, so it’s a good choice if it’s a little too spicy for your liking. It adds an amazing creamy texture.
If you choose to use butter to thicken your sauce, then it might add more saltiness (if you use salted butter) and a really rich and creamy texture. It won’t dilute the sauce too much since you don’t need to use a ton of it to thicken the curry sauce.
Yogurt is another common and delicious way to thicken your curry sauce. I recommend using a thick Greek yogurt or high fat yogurt to get the creamy texture you are after and so it won’t split when added to the pan. It is going to mellow the flavor a bit, but add a nice tanginess to your curry sauce.
Finally, coconut milk is going to add a little bit of sweetness and a mild coconut flavor, which complements many type of curry. We love using coconut milk for curry so much we even made a list of the best coconut milk for curry for you to check out.
Again, this flavor will dilute the intensity of the curry spices, so it makes a great choice if you want to mellow out the sauce while balancing it with a bit of sweetness.
How to thicken curry sauce with butter:
- Once your sauce has simmered and cooked down, take the sauce off of the heat.
- Stir in one tablespoon of butter at a time until melted. Continue adding butter until you get the texture and flavor you want.
- Serve your sauce.
How to thicken curry sauce with yogurt:
- While your sauce is simmering gently on the stove, stir in one tablespoon of yogurt at a time to prevent it from curdling.
- Continue adding yogurt until you achieve the consistency and flavor that you’re looking for.
- Remove your sauce from the heat and enjoy.
How to thicken curry sauce with cream:
- Once your sauce has been brought to a gentle boil and the heat has been reduced to a simmer, slowly pour in a 1/4 cup of cream at a time, mixing completely.
- Continue adding your cream until you reach the texture and thickeness that you’re looking for.
- Let the sauce simmer for a few minutes, then serve and enjoy.
How to thicken curry sauce with full-fat coconut milk:
- Allow your sauce to come to a boil and then reduce your heat to a simmer.
- Pour in a 1/4 cup of coconut milk (take a look at our list for the best coconut milk for curry) at a time, whisking it into the sauce.
- Continue adding coconut milk until you get the thickness and creaminess that you’re after.
- Let the curry sauec simmer for several minutes, season with some salt, and serve.
8. Add Tomato Paste
Tomato paste is an awesome thickening agent to use in many types of curry. You can add it during the cooking process, which makes it super simple to use.
It adds a creamy texture, without adding any fat. It also adds a rich tomato flavor that can complement many types of curries.
It doesn’t dilute the base flavor of the curry too much, but it definitely gives the sauce a layer of tomato flavor, which is something to consider before you choose this option.
How to thicken your curry sauce with tomato paste:
- Once you have added your other ingredients (depending on your recipe) and are ready to bring your sauce to a boil or simmer, stir in the tomato paste.
- Let the curry sauce simmer for several minutes for the flavors to meld.
- Serve and enjoy.
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