What? Madras is not an authentic Indian curry

Madras is another example of a curry that is unknown in Indian. It gets its name from the city of Madras (now Chennai) in the South of Indian, but it was name used by the British from when they arrived in 1604, to describe all dishes in the region around the city. In his 1903 book “Curries and How to Prepare Them” by Joseph Edmunds, he optimised the ignorance of the British about the subtleties of  Indian cuisine stating that “in India there are at least three separate classes of curry, the Bengal, the Madras and the Bombay.” and that Madras was simply just a spicy sauce for meat, made from a spoonful of curry powder, some onions and tomatoes which he described as “the high old curry made perfect.“Since there is no authentic version of Madras curry, most modern versions of the dish have been developed in British Indian Restaurants, but it is generally a medium hot, spicy curry with a dark red sauce, usually made from tomatoes. My version of Madras curry is developed by building on my BIR curry base sauce and adding typical Madras flavours. The result is as close to an Indian Restaurant style Madras curry that you can make at home. You could try beef or shrimp as an alternative to chicken.

Madras Curry

Madras Curry

British Indian Restaurant Style Madras Curry

Total time: 40 mins


  • 4 medium chicken breasts, chopped into bite sized pieces and pre-cooked
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 or 3 fresh chilli peppers (e.g serrano)
  • 300ml (10 fl oz) of crushed tomatoes (e.g passata)
  • a small handful of fresh coriander (cilantro) chopped as a garnish
  • 1 tbsp of fresh ginger purée
  • 1tbsp of garlic purée
  • 3 tbsp of vegetable oil
  • 500ml (1 pint) of BIR base gravy
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 2 tbsp of hot chilli powder
  • 1 tbsp of paprika
  • 1 tbsp of ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp of ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp of fenugreek (methi) leaves
  • 1 tbsp of garam masala
  • 1 tsp of ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp of whole cumin seeds
Madras spices

Madras spices

If the chicken is not cooked, quickly fry it in a large skillet in a little oil over medium heat for about 8mins. In a seperate pan, gently heat the curry base sauce. In a skillet or frying pan, add the oil and gently fry the onions, until translucent. Add the garlic, ginger, peppers and the spices and gently cook for a minute or so to release the aromatics. Add the base sauce and the tomatoes and cook on medium for about 20 mins. Add the chicken and heat for about 5mins. Season with salt to taste. Serve over rice or naan bread.

Essential Kitchen Supplies


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    • Giles @anyone4seconds on June 30, 2012 at 3:25 pm
    • Reply

    Thanks for sharing a great recipe – one I have bookmarked to make 🙂

    • Julie Mclaughlin on August 6, 2012 at 2:06 pm
    • Reply

    2 tablespoons of chilli powder must be a mistake it would blow your head off surely?

    1. 2 tbsp of chilli powder for a Madras isn’t that much. However you can reduce (or increase) the amount to taste

        • BrewerMB on March 15, 2021 at 2:40 pm
        • Reply

        Hi, I’m with Julie, do you mean teaspoon fulls?

    • Farzin on November 26, 2015 at 5:14 pm
    • Reply


    I was wondering if its possible for you to post a video showing the steps on how to cook the madras.

    Possibly one for the gravy as well.

    It would be greatly appreciated!

    Thank you

    • Dave Westy on December 4, 2017 at 2:13 pm
    • Reply

    The first time I followed the gravy/madras recipe here, I discovered 2 much-needed adjustments were vital.

    1) Halve the salt in the gravy.
    2) Substitute ‘tbsp’ for ‘tsp’ with the spices in stage two.

    Having thrown out the salty frozen gravy from attempt one and restocked, and teaspooned my way to Madras #2, I can say that 5 British expats in Ukraine have just told me they have had the best British Indian Restaurant curry they’ve ever had.

    Thanks for the project!


    1. Having made this many times, I know the measurements are correct, but I’m glad you managed to make it to suit your own tastes

    • Kirsty on February 13, 2018 at 8:35 am
    • Reply

    Hi do I chop and deseed the chillis or put them in whole?

    1. Depends on how hot you want the final curry to be and what kind of chillies you use, but since Madras tends to be on the hotter side, chop them a little and throw them in seeds and all

    • Abs on June 6, 2018 at 11:48 am
    • Reply

    Hi, I just wanted to say how great the curry base is. The depth of the dish madras was incredible.
    Could you use this to make a tarka daal?

    1. Thanks. Glad to hear you liked it. I’ve never used the curry base to make tarka daal, but I’ll certainly experiment with it next time I make it.

    • Rick on July 9, 2018 at 3:15 am
    • Reply

    Hi Stuart – thanks for the recipe. I understand that we all have differences in our tastes, but having made the Madras over the weekend, I too, thought that the 2 tablespoons of hot chilli powder in the Madras would be overpowering. I used one tablespoon of hot chilli powder and even that proved too much for me. I think what I’ll do next time is make the Madras to the above recipe and add the chilli powder at the end – a bit at a time to taste requirements. I thought the colour and consistency of the curry was excellent.
    It is still very different in taste to what we get here in Australia though.

    1. Rick,
      Sometimes recipes can be quite hard because chilli powder is such a generic term, that there can be huge differences in heat, so certainly for a Madras which is at the hotter end of the BIR curry scale, you should experiment until you find the heat that your prefer.
      Also I see you are in Australia and I know that an Australian tablespoon is 20ml whereas other tablespoons throughout the world are 14ml.
      Having lived around the world I have noticed that there is a huge range in flavour in Indian Restaurants and I think there are really 3 types. Authentic Indian, BIR (British Indian Restaurant) and BIR copies. To be honest BIR copies are never the same as BIR and this recipe is a from tasting a lot of Madras curries in the UK.
      Hopefully you can experiment a bit and try to get closer to what you are used to.

    • Michael H-J on December 31, 2018 at 10:41 am
    • Reply

    We had this last night and can say that it is the best I have ever made.
    All other recipes I’ve followed have been lacking in different areas.
    Measurements are spot on and the heat wasn’t that intense. I hadn’t chopped the chilies as I was sharing with the wife who isn’t quite as extreme as myself. Even my son got involved once he saw the dishes.
    Thank you very much!!

    • JonS on February 12, 2019 at 9:36 am
    • Reply


    I’d like to make this with beef as suggested, which will take a lot longer to tenderise. Is it OK to use a slow cooker for several hours to finish this dish?


    1. Depends on the cut of beef. If you use fillet, rib eye, or a tender cut then it will take the same length of time as chicken. For tougher cuts, then you’d need to cook for a couple of hours.

    • Pete on May 3, 2019 at 8:21 pm
    • Reply

    I made this a while ago and it was absolutely excellent. I frozen packages of the gravy and plan on making it for friends tomorrow. I can’t remember how many the recipe is for and I can’t spot this info anywhere. If anyone could let me know if the stated ingredients are for two or four people that would be great?! I don’t want to get my amounts wrong!! Thanks.

    1. Hi Pete,
      A pint of the BIR gravy base should be enough for 4 to 6 people

    • Nigel on November 8, 2019 at 2:22 pm
    • Reply

    I made the BIR sauce a few weeks ago and have it in the freezer.
    A few days ago I made the Madras recipe with very good quality stewing beef.
    I did everything as Stuart stated apart from the Fenugreek which I was unable to get.

    The results have been outstanding!!
    I used Two tablespoons of fresh Chili Powder as well as two of our home grown fresh chillies and my wife and I didn’t think it was overly hot.
    I will make a Chicken Madras next, but I will add the Fenugreek this time as I think it will result in an even better Madras.
    Thanks very much Stuart, I’ve been trying to make a real BIR curry for many years, but have always been disappointed with my efforts until now.

    • Ralph on December 14, 2019 at 12:34 pm
    • Reply


    Is this for 4 people and if so could I just half everything for 2?

    Many Thanks


    1. Yes and the recipe can easily be halved or doubled as needed.

    • Jim on December 11, 2020 at 1:30 am
    • Reply

    Great gravy base thanks much quicker than original and gives same taste , I add two tbl spoons of gravy and 1tsp oil to a pan and add cubed chicken and place lid on pan cook for 10-15 mins on medium heat for very succulent and tasty chicken. Looks like it will burn but it cooks in the juices and spices. I delivered for a few takeaways and watched with interest when not busy.

    • richard lionheart on April 12, 2021 at 3:11 pm
    • Reply

    Vindaloo is also a non-authentic curry – it was developed from pork (an unclean meat most Indians wont eat) and a ridiculously hot sauce, to show the British of the Raj were ‘better’ than the Indians and could eat hotter curries.. In the same category, by the way is Chop Suey, which basically a way of feeding American soldiers leftover cooked food and pretending it was an authentic Chinese dish.

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