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Sri Lankan Meat Curry Powder

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Make your own Sri Lankan meat curry powder. What a difference!

Most curry recipes in Sri Lanka call for curry powder. Unroasted curry powders are often used for vegetable and seafood curries. These spice blends are the easiest to make.

Light and dark roasted curry powder is used more for meats. Lightly roasted spice blends are popular in India and Sri Lanka but this dark roasted version is special. It’s one of the ingredients that give Sri Lankan meat curries their amazing flavour.

If you have ever tried a good Sri Lankan black curry such as black pork curry, this is the dark roasted spice blend you need to produce it. 

Dark roasted curry powder

Dark roasting spices takes time and patience.

What’s so special about dark roasted curry powder?

This curry powder will give you a deeper flavour that is too strong for delicate seafood and vegetable dishes but meat curries stand up to it fine.

It’s a must for dark meat curries but it’s not easy to make correctly. You can purchase Sri Lankan dark roasted curry powder online and at specialty shops but if you make your own, you will notice the delicious difference.

By the way, the toasted rice in the recipe not only adds a delicious flavour but also is used as a thickener for curry sauces. It is optional. 

So let’s look at how it’s done…

This recipe seems to break all the rules.

When I learned to make garam masala for the first time, I was instructed to ensure the spices only roasted until warm to the touch and fragrant but not yet smoking.

If your spices begin to smoke, then they’re burning and your spice blend will end up tasting bitter. 

So when I learned to make Sri Lankan dark roasted curry powder, it seemed to break all the rules. At least it did at first.

You need to roast the spices until they turn a chocolatey brown. They look burnt but they aren’t. 

How not to burn your spices…

That’s easy! Roast the spices separately over a low heat. 

This is very important. Each of the spices have different smoking points so you don’t want to dark roast them together or some will burn while others remain not roasted enough. 

Coriander seeds, for example will take between 6 minutes and 10 minutes to dark roast depending on your pan and cooking heat. Fenugreek seeds, on the other hand will become deep brown in about a minute. 

As a general rule of thumb, keep a hand on the pan! Remove it often from the heat and shake the spices around. Watch the spices to ensure they aren’t smoking and if they are, pick the pan back up and shake. 

Some step by step photos…

Ingredients for Sri Lankan curry powder

Make things easier on yourself and get all your ingredients ready before starting.

coriander seeds roasting

Roast each of the spices individually. They have different smoking points. In the pan are the coriander seeds.

Dark and lightly roasted coriander seeds.

In this photo I show lightly roasted coriander seeds and the dark roasted look you are going for in this recipe.

Roasting chillies

To roast the chillies, cook them over a low heat until they are only lightly blackened.

A word about the chillies and heat…

This is a spicy roasted curry powder so I use quite a lot of chillies.

If you don’t like really spicy food, leave them out or reduce the amount used. You can always add more chilli powder to the curry later. 

Roasted spices

In the photo you see all of the ingredients roasted. Check out the brown colour of the rice.

Spices ready to be ground

Grind the spices to a powder first.

Chillies ready to grind

Then add the chillies and grind them into the blend.

Sri Lankan curry powder

The finished curry powder can be kept for up to three months in an air-tight container in a cool location. You can grind to a finer powder if you prefer.

Yield: 12 tablespoons

Sri Lankan Dark Roasted Curry Powder

Sri Lankan curry powder
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes


  • 3 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 4 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1 tbsp basmati rice (optional)
  • 20 dried red chillies, or to taste (optional)
  • 2 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 10 cloves
  • 2 x 2.5cm (1 inch) cinnamon sticks
  • Seeds from 8 green cardamom pods


  1. Over a low heat, roast the cumin seeds until they are beginning to turn a delicious looking chocolate brown. Be careful as you don’t want to burn the spices through! Just toast the exterior and be sure to keep stirring and shaking the pan often so that they toast without burning.
  2. Transfer to a plate to cool. Repeat by toasting the coriander seeds, fennel seeds and fenugreek seeds separately until they turn a deep brown.
  3. Now toast the rice (if using) until lightly browned and transfer to the plate to cool. If using red chillies, toast them also until fragrant and darkened but not black. Allow to cool.
  4. Place the remaining ingredient in the pan and toast until fragrant and warm to the touch. This really should be done separately but I usually cheat. Don’t let them smoke!
  5. Allow to cool with the other spices. Once cooled, grind to a fine powder with a pestle and mortar or spice grinder. This curry powder can be kept in an air-tight container in a cool location for up to 2 months.

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