It’s a well known fact that the hardest part of making curry powder at home is digging the various whole spices out of whatever wacky spice storage solution you’ve got working. Especially when said spice storage solution involves a shoulder-deep cabinet with only one shelf, a door that will stay open only if propped on a wooden spoon, and is packed to the gills with pantry staples. But, once you bite the bullet and drag the Maldon salt, matcha, peppermint tea, dried tomatoes, fancy Long Island sea salt, Rancho Gordo popcorn, and ludicrously expensive wild rice out of the way, making homemade curry powder is a snap: as easy as dump-and-sitr gets, and as a bonus your kitchen smells like the best Indian restaurant all day long.
One thing you do need in order to make curry powder from whole spices is a spice grinder: I use an old Krups coffee grinder that has since been relegated to “spice grinder” status. It doesn’t offer up a particularly fine or consistent grind, but it does the job well enough. You could use a mortar & pestle if you don’t have a grinder, or even use the tried-and-true wine bottle-as-rolling pin method. Or, in a pinch, you could make curry powder entirely with ground spices, but they don’t toast as well and are never as fresh as their whole seed counterparts: it’s worth it to sort out some way to grind whole spices, even if you have to drink vaguely curry-flavored coffee for a week or so.
Another thing you need are the spices themselves: trying to make any quantity of curry powder from those pricey little jars at the supermarket is an exercise in frustration. Expensive frustration. Unless your supermarket has a high volume turnover of spices, or a bulk spice section (I know Whole Foods is good for this), you’re much better off, in terms of flavor and cost, going with a dedicated spice merchant like Penzey’s or World Spice. I’ve used both and I like both; I do find that World Spice’s ground offerings tend to be fresher, but Penzey’s can often have a better selection of the more esoteric spices. There is also Mountain Rose Herbs, which has a crazy selection of herbs & spices, but I find that the shipping can take quite a while to get to me in New York. Any of these is a good option and I’m sure there are others out there (if you have a favorite, please do shout it out in the comments: I always love to hear great new sources for spices).
Commercial curry powders almost always contain salt, making it more difficult to control the salt content of your dish at home, and are often heavy on the cheaper ingredients: I generally find them to be overly sweet and a bit flat. It’s silly, really, if you love curry, not to make your own: if you’re anything like me, once you make your own, you’ll never go back to store bought. Which, I admit, can be a problem in and of itself: don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Many thanks to my all-things-spice soul sista, hungry tigress, who posted the original curry powder recipe, from which mine is (slightly) adapted.
- 4 tbsp whole coriander seed
- 2 tbsp whole cumin seed
- 4 tsp whole peppercorns
- 4 tsp whole brown mustard seed
- 2 tsp whole fenugreek seed
- ½ tsp whole nigella seed
- 12 whole cloves
- 2 – 4 dried Arbol chiles, roughly chopped
- 1 heaped tbsp ground turmeric
- ½ tsp ground cayenne
- Add whole spices to a cast iron skillet over medium-low heat. Shaking the skillet occasionally, toast the spices until very fragrant and beginning to pop, about 3 – 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add ground spices and stir well. Allow to sit in the skillet until completely cool, then grind thoroughly in a spice grinder (or dedicated coffee grinder).
Yields about 1 scant cup.
- Homemade curry is an individual as you are, and changes with the seasons and/or your whim. Sometimes I add fennel seed, cinnamon bark, cardamom pods, ground ginger. Sometimes I run out of (or am too lazy to search in the Dread Food Cabinet) whole spices and whip it together with ground coriander, cumin, mustard powder, cloves. Experimentation is practically required for you to find your favorite curry powder. Make small batches (cut this one in half, or quarters) until you find your perfect ratio.
- My version is medium-mild spice level; adjust the amount of chile peppers or cayenne to your palate, or eliminate the chile peppers and replace cayenne with sweet paprika for a truly mild version.
In an airtight container, ideally protected from light & heat, for about 3 months.