When is the ideal time to add spices/herbs to Indian curry when cooking on a stove?

Joined Aug 24, 2018
I have a question for you guys. I've been experimenting with an assortment of Indian foods, and over the last 3 months. I have access to a lot of fresh herbs, but many recipes call for dried ones. My question is if that changes the order of the process. Here's what I'm doing, please tell me if I should order this differently.

Frying pan with tall edges on medium heat. 1 tbsp of butter in.
Cinnamon sticks, fennel, coarsely crushed cloves and bay leaves in first. Heat is always low enough to never burn the Bay Leaves, I leave it until it starts to release aroma.

1/3- 1/2 Chopped valdalla onion in with three crushed cloves of garlic in the pan. Salt in. Freshly grated Tumeric root and finely chopped Ginger in at this time too. Good pinch of mustard seed and crushed black pepper also. If I add the garlic and ginger at the very beginning it usually burns (I think maybe because the moisture of the onions isn't protecting it?)

When onions start to turn translucent, I've been adding powdered cardamom, corse coriander, cumin, and another tbsp of butter. I don't have a good sense of measurement for this stuff at all, I usually just shake the container into the pan until it smells like something worth eating...if I could get some advice here, that'd be awesome.

When this stuff has a moment to settle I usually add chopped chicken, but I'm not sure if I should brown the chicken before adding this stuff or if it makes any difference.

After the chicken is browned then I usually add a half to two thirds can of tomato sauce and mix with a half cup of heavy creme and 1/4 and about 3 oz of Siggis tart nasty unsweetened Yogurt. And then I usually throw in 3-4 more tbsp of butter, turn heat to low, cover and let it simmer for 15 minutes. Add chopped parsley, and then let simmer for another 4-5 min.

My main question is if the order of the putting this together makes any sense to someone who knows what they're doing. Its not as fragrant or as slap-you-in-the-face bold restaurant dish. Was just wondering if I could do anything different or better.

Thanks SOOOOO much for any input you guys might have.


Staff member
Joined Mar 29, 2002
Most recipes use one of two techniques.
Toast dry whole spices in a dry skillet, then grind. This then merges with the other technique below.

Then bloom ground spices in hot oil to maximize flavor. Usually followed by chopped onion, ginger and garlic.

Often also a late addition usually of some form of garam masala and citrus.

I see a similarity with how Paul Prudomme used his dried spice mixes in his recipes. He'd add his blend at multiple points during cooking. As these cook, they develop different flavors over the different cooking times. He was interested in the whole range the spice could deliver from long cooking to short cooking.
Joined Sep 26, 2017
I find that just frying the spices in oil is enough. Prior toasting is redundant.

I also find that adding more spices later in the cooking process sometimes gives the curry graininess, depending on what you add.
Joined Jan 8, 2010
It does depend a bit on what curry you are making.
What I see for most Indian curries is that the spices are just fried in oil. A variety of other curries only dry roast the spices and then grind them and add at a later stage.

Sometimes spices are added at different times during the cooking process as they will impart different flavours at different times. You can compare that with onions: you can caramelise them and they taste sweet, you can add them at the end and they are crispy and sharp (garlic behaves differently).

Fresh herbs should mainly be added towards the end

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