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Base Curry Gravy Recipe from The Curry Guy Cookbook

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Base gravy for curry house curries

This base gravy gets amazing results!

Curry gravy is an essential part of preparing curries at the best curry houses!

If you have followed my blog for a while, you will probably know that I have a few base curry gravy (or sauce) recipes on this site. The one that most people know, from my cookbook ‘The Curry Guy’, is this one. 

This base curry gravy works really well and I use it often. The thing is, there are so many different ways to make base curry gravy. They are all quite similar though. 

The curry gravy recipe you will find below is a down scaled version of the base curry sauce that features in ‘The Curry Guy’. It is the recipe I use most often and also teach at my curry classes.

What exactly is a base curry gravy?

The base curry gravy is essentially just an onion stock with a few other veggies and spices thrown in.

Popular curry houses prepare upwards of one hundred plus curries every night. The base sauce/gravy is used so that they can cook and plate each of their curries, from mild to spicy quickly.

If you visit the kitchen of any busy curry house or Indian takeaway, you are certain to find a big pot of base gravy cooking away on the stove to use as needed.

The base gravy is a convenient and economical way of preparing curries fast rather than having to make different base masalas for each curry.

Is the base curry gravy used at authentic Indian restaurants?

Not usually though I have see it used at a few.

Most authentic Indian restaurants will have their chefs cook up the curries, creating each individually. This is fantastic but it’s also why more authentic restaurants can be quite a lot more expensive. Cooking that way takes more time and you see it on your bill at the end of the evening.

Why would I want to make a base curry sauce/gravy?

If you enjoy the most popular curries served at UK curry houses, you need to make this. The base sauce is what gives curry house style curries their unique flavour and texture. Without it, your chicken tikka masala might still be good but it won’t be like what you get at your favourite curry house restaurant.

The base curry gravy is the secret behind the curry house curries. With it you can cook everything from the mildest korma to the spiciest phal in minutes.

Adding oil to pan

Start by pouring in the oil.

Adding the onions to make base curry gravy

Adding the most important ingredient, onions.

Add the remaining veggies

Top with the remaining veggies.

Adding salt

Add the salt and give it all a good stir.

simmering the gravy

Top with water, almost to the top of the pan, cover and simmer for 45 minutes.

Adding spices

After 45 minutes, add the spices. The liquid will have reduce some.

Making base curry gravy

Stir in the garlic and ginger and then top up with water again. Simmer for 30 minutes.

base gravy after further 30 minutes simmer

After 30 minutes, the sauce will look like this.

Blending sauce

Blend the sauce until smooth.

base curry gravy

It needs to be really smooth with not lumps.

Finishing the base gravy by adding water

Add water to the top. You will have 3 litres of base gravy to use in your curries.

Here are a few popular curries you can make with the base sauce.

Chicken Tikka Masala
Chicken Korma
Chicken Madras
Chicken Dhansak
Lamb Rogan Josh
Lamb Vindaloo
Chicken Chilli Garlic
Chicken Patia
Lamb Bhuna

Yield: 3 liters

Curry Gravy Recipe from The Curry Guy Cookbook

Base gravy for curry house curries
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes


  • 900 (2 lbs) (about 7) Spanish onions, roughly chopped
  • 250 (1 cup) rapeseed oil*
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 110g (1/4 lb) carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 60g (2 1/8 oz) cabbage, roughly chopped
  • 85g (3 oz) red pepper (bell pepper), deseeded and diced
  • 85g (3 oz) green pepper (bell pepper), deseeded and diced
  • 200g (1 cup) about 4 chopped tomatoes
  • 5 tbsp garlic and ginger paste (see page 00)
  • 1 ½ tbsp garam masala (see page 00)
  • 1 ½ tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 ½ tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 ½ tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp ground fenugreek (optional)
  • 1/2 tbsp ground turmeric


  1. Place the onions in a 3-litre (3 US quart) stockpot over medium heat and add the salt and oil.  Give it a good
    stir and then add the remaining vegetable and just enough water to cover.
  2. You will be simmering this for some time so do not fill the pan to the rim. The water level should be about 5cm (2 inches) from the top.
  3. Bring to a simmer and then reduce the heat to low and simmer gently, covered for about 45 minutes.  
  4. After 45 minutes, your vegetables will be much softer and the liquid will have reduced some. Add the remaining ingredients and top up with water so that the water level is again about 5cm (2 inches) from the top. Take this as a
    guide. If you don’t need to add water at this time, you don’t need to.
  5. Continue simmering for another 30 minutes. When the oil rises to the top and your veggies good and soft, you’re ready to blend. Carefully skim the seasoned oil off the top for use in your curries or just leave it in the sauce
    if you like.
  6. Using a hand-held blender, blend for about 4 minutes until the sauce is super smooth, with no chunks and not at all grainy. This step can be done in batches in a blender. If you have a good blender, you might not need to blend
    as long to achieve that smooth consistency.
  7. At this stage, the blended sauce might be quite thick. Add water until the sauce is about the same consistency as full fat milk or single cream. Sometimes I need to pour the sauce into a larger bowl to do this.
  8. Use immediately or store in the fridge for up to 3 days or freeze in small portions of between 500ml (2 cups) or 750ml (3 cups) for use later. The sauce can be frozen for up to three months.

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Tuesday 19th of September 2023

I made this but i fried the onion in the oil. I now see it doesn't say to do that, but then, whats the point of all the oil? Your other base recipe (which looks the same only smaller measurements) does say to fry the onions - so is this a mistake or is boiling it all sufficient? The base sauce was indeed excellentand I will be making batches for future curries.

Dan Toombs

Wednesday 20th of September 2023

You can save the oil to use in other curries as it has a lot of flavour. Boiling the onions works fine but for that extra bit of flavour you can fry them off first. Thanks Dan


Monday 29th of May 2023

Hi Dan thanks for this amazing recipe for base sauce I have made it once before & used it successfully in a couple of your curry recipes. Was wondering whether it could be done in the instant pot & if so do you have any instructions & timings please? I have an 8 quart ip duo.

Thanks Mike

Dan Toombs

Tuesday 30th of May 2023

I wrote this post a few years ago and it needs updating a bit but should give you a good idea. Thanks very much Dan


Monday 28th of November 2022

I've made this a couple of times in my 9 in 1 Ninja now, pressure cooking for 15 mins then 10 mins. After making, I've made your Chasni and Korma, even your onion chutney. Everything has been absolutely brilliant, and freezes well. Thank you.


Saturday 25th of February 2023

@Dan Toombs, Hi Dan, just done your base sauce recipe, was a bit disappointed at first as it didn’t simmer down so the taste wasn’t great but when it did, wow!! Thank you so much ☺️

Dan Toombs

Wednesday 30th of November 2022

That is fantastic! Thanks very much for letting me know. Dan


Monday 10th of October 2022

I know it won't be the same but (I have a back problem so I can't stand for long) do you think I could make this by just putting everything in a 6ltr slow cooker and cook on low for a few hours, and then blend.


Friday 3rd of February 2023

@Maggie, I'm so glad you asked this question as I had never thought to do it this way but I definitely will give it a go, you're a genius! Thank you :-). Hope your back improves soon.

Dan Toombs

Thursday 13th of October 2022

Yes you could definitely do that. Thanks Dan

Dr R.A.Plimer

Wednesday 25th of August 2021

Great tips for curries - unfortunately I am heavily allergic to rapeseed oil so other oils can be used…?

Dan Toombs

Thursday 26th of August 2021

Just use any other cooking oil of your choice. Thanks Dan

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