Spice – Which spice gives brown colour to Indian curry


Many of the premixed curry pastes and curry dishes I have eaten have a brownish / reddish colour to them.

I have a nice collection of spices that I cook with, but my curries seem to always look and taste quite similar. Most of these are a yellowy colour, dominated by turmeric.

Thinking of butter chicken and also a goat masala that is available at a local restaurant; what dominant coloured spice am I missing that would give my curries a red or brown colour?

I am assuming that these would introduce me to some new flavours that I can mix and match with.

Note: I already have paprika.

Best Answer

I've seen a lot of different curry recipes with varying levels of authenticity, but the most common ingredients I see in curries that might impart that colour are:

  • Garam masala (brown)
  • Chili powder (red)
  • Cumin (brown)
  • Paprika (red)
  • Tandoori powder (usually a mix of masala, cumin, ground red pepper, fenugreek, and others - very red)
  • Saffron (red)

Still, it's all kind of a moot point, because, in Indian restaurants the most common source of red is actually red food colouring. Don't kid yourself; Indian restaurants use plenty of "artificial" ingredients - they also usually use food colouring in the saffron rice, which is how they get those few vibrant red grains to mix in with the yellowish rice.