South Indian coconut curry

South Indian coconut curry

coconut curry served

This has been a long long winter as far as Greek island winters go. Last year was our first winter on the island and we couldn’t believe what these guys here call winter. The weather was stunning most of the time with a few ferocious storms thrown in for good measure, but you don’t mind a few storms when you can get some tan in the middle of January! I remember it very well as both Duncan and I were racing in a local 10 km race and it was almost 20° C.

This year was very different. We’ve had so many storms that I’ve lost count and they were all very angry, each one angrier than the last. The most recent one lasted two days and had wind gusts reaching 50 miles per hour. It felt like the house was going to blow down. We bolted all the doors and windows and didn’t leave the house for two days eating lots of curry to warm up.

This South Indian coconut curry is my favourite kind of curry. A lingering chilli kick is contrasted by soothing coconut that runs throughout the dish. It uses quite a few spices to achieve its complex flavour, but don’t panic, you probably have most of them at the back of your cupboard.

I made a handy diagram for you (below) showing all the spices you need at a glance. They’ll transform any humble dish into an addictive one. If you are missing any of the spices, go and get them. If I managed to get them here, on a tiny Greek island in the middle of Aegean then I’m sure they sell them somewhere where you live too. In terms of vegetables, I used my two favourites – chickpeas and aubergine, but I’m sure that other veg should work equally well.

My recipe is based on this great recipe for Southern Indian Chana Masala . Both Duncan and myself fell in love with these flavours and I wanted to share my discovery with you.

spices you need

pestle and mortar spices

cooking aubergine

coconut curry portion

30 min
30 min
30 min
30 min


  • 1 inch / 2.5 cm cinnamon bark
  • ½ tbsp fennel seeds
  • ½ tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 3-5 dry chillies (depends on your preference and type of chilli)
  • 2 cloves
  • 3 green cardamon pods
  • 5 black peppercorns
  • ½ cup desiccated coconut


  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • ½ tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 large tomato, skinned and diced
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 aubergine, cut into slices and then quarters
  • ¾ cup full fat coconut milk
  • 1 cup / 160 g cooked chickpeas (½ cup dry)
  • 1 level tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • chopped coriander, to serve
  1. Heat up a dry pan or skillet. Put all the paste spices in and gently dry roast them until fragrant. Remove from heat, set aside.
  2. In the same pan, gently roast grated coconut until it turns golden – be sure to stir it often as it burns quickly.
  3. In a pestle and mortar* (or a spice grinder if you have one) pound all the curry paste spices until you get a powder. Add in roasted coconut and pound some more. Add ½ cup / 120 ml water to make it into a paste. Set aside.

making spice paste

  1. Heat up 2 tbsp of oil in a pan and gently fry mustard seeds until they start crackling.
  2. Add in finely diced onion and fry until translucent.
  3. Add in grated ginger and pressed garlic and fry them off gently stirring the whole time. Fry until raw garlic smell goes away.
  4. Add finely chopped tomato, turmeric, bay leaf and fry for a few minutes until the tomato flesh disintegrates.
  5. Add in curry paste, fry it gently until the oil starts leaving the sides of the paste.
  6. Add in 1 cup / 240 ml water and aubergine pieces. Put the lid on, cook aubergine in the curry broth until it is soft (about 10 mins).
  7. Add in coconut milk and cooked chickpeas to warm them through. Season with salt and lime juice. Let the sauce simmer gently so that it thickens a bit.
  8. Serve with cooked rice and/or some vegan naan bread.

This recipe is based on a recipe for South Indian Chana Masala from this fabulous blog

*If you don’t have a spice grinder, an old-fashioned pestle and mortar works very well too. One obvious difference is that with a spice grinder your paste will be finer. If you use pestle and mortar there will be a few stubborn bits that will be too hard to turn into power (bits of tough chilli skins and cardamon skins). Simply discard them before adding in roasted coconut and water.

10 g
25 g
15 g
8 g
31 g
*per serving
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4 reviews, 12 comments
Made this dish in the morning and let it sit over the day - a very tasty curry. We made your naan breads to go with this and they were outstanding. Thanks
    Thank you, Pauline. I am really pleased to hear that this curry went down so well. x Ania
i loved it, made a few adjustments for my household, but overall it tastes great. love hat the coconut flavor is still there
    Thanks Layla, glad you enjoyed it! x Ania
This curry was SO good! Got woken up this morning gby loud construction noise outdoors and suddenly found myself making this at 6am for dinner later tonight! Now I am tired but very happy! . I used a bit more tomato than the recipe called for (mostly because I had them!) but it’s so delicious!
    Thank you, Brigid! I'm so happy to hear that you enjoyed it. And I empathise with you re: construction noise! Our neighbours across the road are having their roof re-done and they builders seem to get out of their way to make as much noise as humanly possible. Hang in there, this too shall pass as they say ;) x Ania
Lisa P:
This curry looks so great! I think I'll make it for dinner tonight! Thanks so much for the recipe!
    My pleasure and I hope you'll enjoy it! x Ania
Nicole Rossetti le Strange:
This looks smashing - thank you for sharing!
BTW, I tried to sign up for your newsletters but your system keeps telling me that my email address is not valid!
    Thanks Nicole, glad you like the recipe!
    Thanks for letting us know about the newsletter sign-up, we are fixing this. Meanwhile, we have added you manually and you should have an email about it in your inbox.
Looks like dinner tonight! Can wait to try!
    Thanks Michael, do let us know if you liked it!
Harriet Emily:
This looks absolutely delicious! That spice combination sounds amazing - and nothing beats aubergine in a curry! Mmm. I will definitely have to try making this :)
    Thanks Harriet! I made it for some friends last weekend and they 'licked' (with naan) their bowls clean so that's a good sign, I guess.
curries are so delcious! Just the spice blend adds so much depth. Thanks for a great recipe!
    Thanks, Chrysta. I agree, absolutely, curries are the best and so nourishing.
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