Indian cuisine is definitely in the top ten most popular ethnic cuisines in America, and this ranking is likely to go up the closer you live to urban areas. That said, most folks who enjoy Indian food tend to do so in restaurants or with takeout. But did you know that many Indian dishes such as this Indian Beef Curry and Chicken Tikka Masala can be prepared easily at home with less exotic ingredients than you might expect?
Indian cuisine 101
To begin, it’s nice to remember that India is a massive country with 29 states and 7 union territories. The country has many, many different unique diets and cuisines based on climate, culture, ethnic groups, religion, and lifestyle. For example, Northern India is known for rich curries, thick sauces, and spice-forward dishes made in clay ovens like tandoori chicken. Southern Indian cuisine includes more coconut milk, herbs like lemongrass and curry leaves, and thinner sauces. And that’s just two examples.
At their base, many popular Indian dishes are vegetables, rice, or legume-based and sometimes include lamb, poultry, seafood, yogurt, and or simple Indian cheeses. Often slow-cooked in a savory sauce, the intimidation factor typically comes from the array of spices involved. And while the Indian spice trade played a significant role in world history, the inclusion of Indian spices in your kitchen does not need to be complicated. Let’s demystify things a bit…
Which spices are commonly used in Indian cooking?
Garam masala – Though it may sound intimidating, garam masala basically means a blend of spices that usually includes things like cumin, coriander, peppercorns, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, and cloves. When made from scratch garam masala will vary in flavor from kitchen to kitchen. If you’re new to Indian cooking, garam masala will be one of your new spice rack essentials.
Cardamom – A versatile spice with a warm, sweet flavor.
Cumin – Popular in both Indian and Mexican cuisine, these little seeds pack a pungent, distinctive flavor.
Cinnamon – This eastern spice is anything from exotic in our modern western world, but in Indian dishes, it tends to be used in meaty savory dishes more than desserts.
Coriander – These dried berries have a citrusy aromatic flavor that tastes nothing like its leaves, known as cilantro in the US and coriander leaves in Europe.
Fennel – An oblong little seed with a warm, sweet distinctly licorice flavor.
Fenugreek – A bitter seed with an aroma similar to celery. As an aside, fenugreek can help lactating mothers produce more milk!
Turmeric – Made from a dried root, this bright yellow spice has a mild, earthy flavor and gives curry powder its hallmark color.
Chili peppers – Like it hot? One of the fun things about Indian cuisine is that you get to choose your own adventure when it comes to heat.
Is curry powder Indian?
Curry powder is a blend of powdered spices that is usually deep yellow in color from the presence of turmeric and usually mild flavors like fenugreek, cumin, and coriander. Unlike garam masala (which is sweeter and more pungent), curry powder is not a staple of Indian cooking. While it’s not traditionally Indian, you can certainly enjoy curry powder for Indian-inspired curries, soups, roasted vegetables, meats, or really any dish that pleases you.
Making our Indian beef curry
Our warming Indian beef curry comes together with garam masala, coconut milk, fresh ginger, and the finishing fresh cilantro and mint for a bright freshness. We use beef as the protein here, and find it perfect for this hearty dish. As many (but certainly not all) people of India are Hindu, this dish might be more traditionally made with lamb, so feel free to substitute if you wish.
We usually get our beef from Butcher Box, a monthly meat box subscription that sources only the highest quality pasture-raised meat, poultry, and sustainable fish. Butcher Box always has some great deals, (like ground beef or bacon for life!). If you don’t already use them, check out Butcher Box here.
While the presence of kale in this Indian dish is definitely influenced by the modern western kale-craze of late, we love it here to balance out the rich meat and savory sauce.
Meal planning with our Indian beef curry
Us #realplanners love a recipe you can throw in the slow cooker, walk away for hours, and come back to a house scented with delicious aromas and a pot filled with a delicious dinner. We aim to make at least one slow cooker meal per week.
Indian beef curry can also be frozen, so consider making a double batch if your slow cooker allows. A larger portion may require a bit more cook time, so just made sure to slow cook until the meat is nice and tender. Allow the amount you’d like to freeze to cool completely. Label freezer bags with “Indian Beef Curry” and the date, and fill the bags, leaving a bit of space for expansion, and then removing excess air before sealing. Freeze the bags of curry on their sides. Once solid though, you can store them upright for better organization. When ready to eat again, thaw completely then heat slowly over medium heat, stirring constantly until nice and hot.
This Indian beef curry is great served over steamed white rice, or if you prefer a lighter meal, spoon it over riced cauliflower. Inspired to try your hand at more complex Indian dishes? You’re going to love this vegetarian Saag Panner, spiced stewed spinach with cubes of homestyle cheese.
Indian Beef Curry
- 5.0 stars
- 6h 30m
- 2 lb beef stew meat
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 inch ginger
- 2 onions
- 4 tbsp. olive oil, or fat of choice
- 2 tbsp. garam masala
- 1 tsp. dried turmeric
- 2 tsp. coarse sea salt
- 1 c coconut milk
- 1/2 c mint
- 3/4 c cilantro
- 2 c finely chopped kale
- Strip kale from the stems, discard stems, and finely chop the leaves.
- Allow meat to come to room temperature while you chop/grate the garlic, ginger, and onions.
- In a large sauté pan, taking care not to crowd, brown the beef in hot fat on all sides, and transfer to slow cooker.
- Sauté the onions for 5-10 minutes until they begin to soften.
- Add the garam masala, turmeric, garlic, ginger and salt.
- Sauté for another 2-3 minutes until flavors begin to mingle.
- Stir in the coconut milk and combine well.
- Add onion/spice/coconut milk mixture (including fat) into the slow cooker.
- Stir to completely coat the meat.
- Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours, or until meat is very tender.
- 30 minutes before the dish is finished cooking, chop cilantro and mint; stir in herbs and kale.
- Serve and enjoy!