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Sri Lankan Beef Curry

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This Sri Lankan beef curry is so easy to make and delicious too!

My wife and I learned to make this Sri Lankan beef curry at a little restaurant called Inspire in Habarana, Sri Lanka.

It was so good and luckily, the owners offered not only to give us the recipe but to let us make it at the restaurant.

You can see the video below in the recipe. If you like a good beef curry, this authentic Sri Lankan beef curry is one you have to try. 

Sri Lankan Beef Curry

You need to try this. Really easy and tastes amazing!

Simple but the flavours just work!

There aren’t many ingredients in this Sri Lankan beef curry. This is simple food at its best, relying on the freshness and quality of ingredients more than a crazy amount of ingredients. 


We found this to be the case at most places we ate in Sri Lanka. 

As we were in Sri Lanka, real Sri Lankan cinnamon was used. This isn’t always easy to come by but you can get it online and it’s worth doing. The cinnamon breaks up easily and flavoured the dish so much better than cinnamon cassia which is much easier to find in the west. Use that if you must though. 

Which cut of beef?

You should use stewing steak for this as it’s cheaper and has a lot of flavour. The problem with stewing beef is that it takes longer to cook and become tender.

If you are in a rush, you could use a more expensive cut like sirloin or rib-eye but I really do recommend planning and using the cheap stuff. 

Step by step photos…

Ingredients for Sri Lankan beef curry

It’s always a good idea to get your ingredients together before you start cooking.

Adding dry spices and salt to beef

Start by adding the ground ingredients and salt to the beef.

Beef covered in spices.

Be sure to mix it all in thoroughly with your hands. Break up the cinnamon stick and add it at this stage too. 

Frying garlic

Melt the coconut oil over a medium high heat and then add the garlic. Fry until fragrant and be careful not to burn it.

Coconut Oil…

All over Sri Lanka, coconut oil is the oil of choice for cooking. 

You could use another cooking oil but coconut oil imparts delicious flavour. It is a must if you want that authentic Sri Lankan beef curry flavour. 

Adding sauce ingredients

Add the curry and pandan leaves, onion and leeks. Fry for about 5 minutes and then stir in the fenugreek seeds.

About those fenugreek seeds…

One thing we learned while in Sri Lanka is that on top of adding a good flavour, fenugreek seeds are used as a sauce thickener.

This was totally new to me. It just doesn’t seem possible but as they cook, the actually thicken the sauce. 

Adding beef to pot

Add the beef and stir well to combine.

Adding water to pot

Add just enough water to cover and add more water as needed until the beef is tender.

Finished Sri Lankan beef curry

I like this curry with a thick sauce. You could make it saucier by not cooking the liquid down as much.

If you like this Sri Lankan beef curry, try some of these Sri Lankan favourites too…

Butternut Squash Curry
Black pork curry
Black chicken curry
Crab curry
3 Meat Curry
Eggplant (Aubergine) curry
Green Bean Curry

Yield: 4

Sri Lankan Beef Curry

Sri Lankan Beef Curry
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes


  • 900g (2 lbs) stewing beef, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 2 generous tsp ground cumin
  • 1 generous tbsp Kashmiri chilli powder or another of choice
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 x 5cm ( 2 inch) real cinnamon stick, broken up.*
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced (approx. 2 generous tbsp)
  • 5cm (2 inches) leek, thinly sliced
  • 15 fresh or frozen curry leaves
  • ¼ red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp fenugreek seeds


  1. Place the beef in a mixing bowl and add the cumin, chilli powder, black pepper, salt and broken up piece of real cinnamon.*
  2. Mix well with your hands so that the meat is equally coated and then pour in 250ml (1 cup) of water. Stir it all up and set aside to marinate for a few minutes or even overnight. The longer the better.
  3. When ready to cook the curry, heat the oil over medium high heat and stir in the garlic. Stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds and then add the sliced leek, curry leaves, red onion and fenugreek seeds. If using cassia instead of real cinnamon, it can be added to the oil at this stage too.
  4. Fry this veggie mixture for about 5 minutes to soften and flavour the oil and then pour in the marinated beef.
  5. Brown the beef in the oil for a couple of minutes and then pour in just enough water to cover. Place the lid on the pot and simmer over a medium heat for about 40 minutes or until the beef is good and tender. Don’t rush this! It’s ready when it’s ready. If needed, you can always add a drop more water if the sauce is drying up.
  6. Serve with white basmati rice or red matta rice.


*If using cassia instead of real cinnamon, add it to the oil with the other fried ingredients.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 295Total Fat: 8gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 3mgSodium: 644mgCarbohydrates: 5gFiber: 2gSugar: 1gProtein: 2g

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Monday 6th of November 2023

Another great recipe that we enjoyed. Thanks! For a different approach, I would imagine simmering the beef in coconut milk (instead of water) would be really good. Have you ever prepared it this way?

Dan Toombs

Monday 6th of November 2023

I haven’t ever tried it that way but it sounds like it would be delicious. Thanks Dan

Alan Smith

Saturday 28th of October 2023

My other half doesn’t eat red meat. If I used chicken does it make a big difference to the overall taste?

Dan Toombs

Wednesday 1st of November 2023

You could definitely make this with chicken. Thanks Dan

Dave Everall

Thursday 27th of April 2023

In the printed recipe you advise to marinate the beef in the spices with added water but in the photos and video no water is added to the dry spices. Do I add water at this step and if so, is all the marinade liquid poured in when the beef is added at the frying stage?

Dan Toombs

Thursday 4th of May 2023

Yes add a little bit of water to enable the meat to get coated by the spices. Add all of the marinade liquid when you cook the beef for extra flavour. Thanks Dan

Grant Schiller

Saturday 14th of January 2023

In the accompanying pictures, there is pandan leaf added to the curry. This is not shown in the ingredient list. Does it make a difference and how much pandan leaf would be added.

Dan Toombs

Sunday 15th of January 2023

The pandan leaves are optional as I realise they are hard to find. Just add a few pandan leaves cut thinly if you can get hold of them. Thanks Dan

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