Curry is an all-time favorite for spicy food lovers, because traditional curries from Thailand, Japan, India, and other countries often pack a powerful spicy punch. But recipes that you find online sometimes fall short of spicy expectations — so how can you adapt your favorite curry recipe to be even spicier? Here are a few different ways:
Add more of the same ingredients
Most curries get their spice from two primary ingredients: chili powder and/or fresh chili peppers. Adding more of the same spice-containing ingredients is a safe way to turn up the heat without introducing new flavors that might not match the flavor profile of the curry you’re cooking.
For example, if your dish calls for 1 tsp of chili powder, double it and use 2 tsp of chili powder while keeping the other ingredients the same.
Or, if your recipe calls for one fresh chili pepper, increase the quantity and use two of the same type of pepper.
Flavor it with your favorite hot sauce
I’m definitely guilty of ramping up my favorite Thai curry recipe by squeezing in a few tablespoons of Sriracha. You’ll want to beware that adding hot sauce may alter the taste of your recipe and that not all hot sauces will pair well with the other flavors that you’re using. However, adding hot sauce or chili paste is a great way to increase the spiciness of your recipe.
Add fresh chilis
If your curry recipe only calls for dried chilis or chili powder, adding fresh peppers is a great way to increase the level of spiciness. Look up a variety of recipes for the type of curry you want to make to see what chilis are commonly used in that dish. For example, Indian, and Thai cuisines usually use different types of chilis. Using Thai chili in an Indian curry might alter the flavor negatively.
Use a spicier pepper
Some recipes specify the exact type of pepper that you should use while others will simply say “green chili”. The benefit of using general guidance like “green chili” is that it makes the recipe more accessible to people who don’t have the same availability of produce, plus it’s easier to customize to your own taste.
In the United States, the grocery stores local to me typically have two types of green chilis: serranos and jalapeños. So, by using serrano chilis instead of jalapeños, I am able to make the dish spicier without significantly altering the ingredients or quantities. If you want a BIG kick you can swap out the recommended peppers for something spicier, like habaneros, ghost peppers, or scorpion peppers.
Again, deviating from the recipe may make it less authentic, or alter the flavor of the dish, so be aware that the end result may not be exactly the same as the expected result.
How to make curry less spicy
On the flip side, sometimes you might want to make a curry recipe less spicy because you are cooking for children or someone who is sensitive to spice, or you’ve followed one of our tips already and found that you overdid it.
There are a few ways to make your curry less spicy, whether you’re just starting the recipe or already completed it. If you haven’t yet made the recipe and you’re looking for ways to tone it down, all of these tips work in reverse. Instead of using fresh chili peppers, opt for a little bit of ground chili. Or, if your recipe calls for a very hot pepper like a Guntur pepper (a popular Indian chili pepper), you might instead use cayenne pepper or guajillo, which are milder. You can also halve the called-for spicy ingredients, like using 1/2 tsp of chili powder instead of 1 tsp to make your curry recipe milder.
Finally, if you’ve already cooked your curry but found that the final result is too spicy, there are a few things you can do to salvage it. You can try simply eating a smaller proportion of your curry and more rice or bread to help mitigate the spice. Depending on the type of curry you’re making, you might be able to mix in plain yogurt or sour cream. This may alter the taste and consistency of your curry, but it can significantly tune down the heat. You can also try adding more base ingredients to your curry to dilute it, like tomatoes and onions.