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Indian Hotel Style Curry Gravy

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With this Indian hotel style curry gravy, you can make so many delicious curries.

Those of you who have been following my blog for a while or have cooked from my cookbooks will know about the British curry house style base sauce. It’s used to prepare all of the curry house favourites. This hotel style curry base gravy is used in a similar way but it’s actually a curry sauce in its own right. With this easy tomato and onion based gravy, you can prepare so many delicious and authentic curries quickly and easily. Read on to see how to make it and discover how you can use it. 

Indian Hotel style curry gravy, blended and unblended versions

Blended and unblended versions of this tasty and very useful curry gravy.

What is hotel style curry gravy?

At busy hotel restaurants around India, the chefs prepare several different gravies such as this hotel style curry gravy. This is done so that the chefs don’t need to prepare a new base gravy for every curry ordered.

The hotel style curry gravies are made in large batches so that they have them to hand when needed. 

Each hotel style gravy like this tomato and onion gravy are actually curries in their own right. You can simply add meat, seafood, paneer or vegetables to them and you’ve got yourself a curry. More often, however, these gravies are used together. You can mix two or three of them together to come up with the curry you want.

How do you used this gravy?

Let’s say you want to prepare a chicken chengezi curry or a lamb keema shimla mirch. Both of these curries start with a base of onions and tomatoes just like this hotel style curry gravy does.

Although the exact measurements of each ingredient may not be the same, the base masalas in each are pretty similar. So in a busy restaurant kitchen, the chefs simply use a big scoop of this gravy to produce them. You can of course adjust the flavour by following the recipes so that your chicken chengezi or lamb shimla mirch tastes as they should. 

Can you work ahead?

This is batch cooking! So working ahead is the whole idea behind it. You can make this hotel style curry gravy and then place it in the fridge if using in about three days or freeze it.

I usually freeze it in portions of about 250ml (1 cup) which will easily serve one person but you should freeze it in batches that are convenient for you.

Step by step photos

Ingredients for Indian hotel style curry gravy

Get all of your ingredients together before starting. It’s easier that way.

Infusing the flavour of the whole spices into the oil.

Heat the oil over a medium high heat. Then add the whole spices and let them infuse into the oil for about 40 seconds.

Adding the chopped onions to the pot.

Stir in the chopped onions and salt and fry for about 15 minutes or until golden brown in colour.

Adding garlic and ginger paste and the chillies to the pan.

Add the garlic and ginger paste along with the chillies to the fried onions and stir them in to combine.

Adding the ground spices to the onion mixture.

Now add the ground spices and stir them in too.

Adding a little water to the pot.

Stir in about 70ml (1/4 cup) water so that the spices don’t burn.

Adding the chopped tomatoes to the pot and bringing to a simmer.

Stir in the chopped tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Cover and continue simmering for about 20 minutes.

Adding the chopped coriander and kassori methi to the pot.

Uncover the pot and add the chopped coriander (cilantro) and dried fenugreek leaves. Season with salt to taste if needed.

Blending the hotel style curry gravy.

Your hotel style curry gravy is now ready. If you’d like a smoother sauce, let it cools and blend it. The colour will change to a lighter red.

Blended and unblended versions of the hotel curry base gravy.

The blended sauce is great in curries where you want a smooth base.


Yield: 8 cups

Hotel Style Indian Curry Gravy

Indian Hotel style curry gravy, blended and unblended versions
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour


  • 70ml (1/4 cup) rapeseed (canola) oil
  • 3 green cardamom pods, smashed
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 x 5cm (2 inch) cinnamon stick
  • 2 Indian bay leaves (cassia leaves)
  • 1kg (2 lbs) onions, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp garlic and ginger paste
  • 3 green chillies, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 tbsp ground coriander
  • 2 tbsp Kashmiri chilli powder (more or less to taste)
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1kg (2 lbs) chopped tomatoes, tinned (canned) are fine
  • 5 tbsp coriander (cilantro), roughly chopped
  • 2 tsp kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves
  • More salt, if needed and to taste


  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. When visibly hot, stir in the whole spices and let them infuse their flavour into the oil for about 40 seconds. Stir in the chopped onions and salt and fry for about 15 minutes or until they are soft and turning a deep golden brown in colour. The salt will help release moisture from the onions and cook them faster.
  2. Stir in the garlic and ginger paste and then the chopped chillies. Then add the ground cumin, ground coriander, chilli powder and turmeric. Stir the spices into the onion mixture along with about 70ml (1/4 cup) water so that the spices don’t burn.
  3. Add the chopped tomatoes and bring it all to a simmer. Cover the pan and simmer for about 10 minutes. When you lift the lid, the oil will have separated and floated to the top. Stir this back in and add the chopped coriander (cilantro) and the kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves) by rubbing them between you fingers.
  4. Take the pan off the heat and allow to cool. If you prefer a smoother sauce, blend it until smooth or just leave it as it is.
  5. Season with more salt, if needed to taste. Then use immediately or store the gravy in the fridge for up to 3 days or freeze it in 250ml (1 cup) portions.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 46Total Fat: 3gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 446mgCarbohydrates: 5gFiber: 2gSugar: 1gProtein: 1g

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I hope you enjoy using this hotel style curry gravy. If you do try it, please leave a comment. I’d love to hear what you made with it. 


Sunday 30th of July 2023

Thanks for this fantastic recipe- my curries have never been all that when cooked in one go. Love this method and definitely worth the hassle when freezing batches.

Quick question- when you say garlic smashed in skins do you remove the skins before blending? I assume you do but could be missing a trick.

I also add a little Sriracha to my base sauce as I find it adds depth.

Dan Toombs

Friday 11th of August 2023

it isn’t absolutely necessary to remove the garlic skins as they are edible but it’s up to you. Nice touch with the Sriacha. Thanks Dan


Tuesday 21st of June 2022

Thanks for the recipes i now have some great cooking to do

Caroline Toombs

Monday 4th of July 2022

Excellent, enjoy cooking! Thanks Dan

David Artus

Saturday 6th of March 2021

Loving the lite curry book, Bhajis are a winner! Question about what portion size to freeze. Recipes seem to call for about 300 ml of base sauce. Instructions say to add water or stock to creite a runny sauce, about consistency of single cream. Is that 300 ml the amount before or after then addition of water? Do I freeze in 300 ml portions or in some lesser amount?

Dan Toombs

Sunday 7th of March 2021

300 ml called for by the recipe would be 300 ml of diluted base sauce. I would suggest freezing it in 300 ml portions. Thanks Dan


Wednesday 28th of February 2018

I have made this many times now and find that adding a half reason of ground green cardamom lifts it massively... however when basing Korma with this, it's too much... luckily I don't eat korma.

Great work mate.

Dan Toombs

Thursday 1st of March 2018

Than you Gary.



Monday 3rd of April 2017

Hi from the USA! Thanks for sharing your curry base, total life saver as I hate buying bottled sauces. Saves money and time! I felt it was a little bland so I added a serrano pepper, cilantro, and a little parsley. Other than that, your spice blend ratio is wonderful! Thanks again from a rookie cook!

Dan Toombs

Saturday 8th of April 2017

Hi Lauren

Thank you. You did the right thing by adding chillies and herbs. It is meant to be bland so that it can be used as a base for everything from the mildest chicken korma to the hottest vindaloo. Take a look at this link and you will see a few of the curries that it can be used in.

Thanks, Dan

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