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Jan 18, 2013 03:37 PM

What Makes Indian Curries Sweet?

I have only just started cooking at home and have had great success following (typically to a "t") highly-rated reviews on both recipe websites and food blogs online. That said, I have much yet to learn regarding experimentation or making a recipe "your own".

I recently made Butter Chicken per this recipe a few days ago:

I was quite pleased by the results, but I was wondering what one would recommend to make this dish sweeter (as if it wasn't rich enough already)? I thought about using brown sugar, palm sugar, or jaggery (if I can get it), but I'm not sure if I'm heading in the right flavor profile direction or what amount would be most appropriate. I'm honestly not all too concerned about authenticity at the time being.

Your help would be greatly appreciated, thank you!

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  1. While this is likely not very authentic, my partner puts in 1 tablespoon of white sugar and 1 tablespoon of honey in his butter chicken which seems to round out the sweetness without being sickly.

    1. If you cook the onions longer and slowly in the first step they will be sweeter. Coconut makes a sweeter curry than cream.

      aT of palm sugar will make it considerably sweeter, as would some cinnamon.

      3 Replies
      1. re: magiesmom

        +1 on the onions. Cooking them over a low heat until they're brown but not burnt brown releases the sugars in the onions as they this takes longer than you would think though! My partner adds the sugar and honey as he likes his butter chicken quite sweet. I don't generally like sweet things but I don't find his method too overpowering.

          1. re: magiesmom

            +1 on the coconut milk. You could also add a small amount of coconut cream, but I'd be careful you don't end up with something that is too sweet.

          2. rinkatink,

            Let me introduce myself.
            I am a self learned Master Spice man cooking for the last 45 years.
            I checked the recipe you followed. It is an excuse of a recipe probebly written by a non Indian/Pak person.

            Butter chicken is a very Royal dish which has a very subtle flavour.

            If you are happy with the result of what you cooked, then it is ok with me.
            To make the gravy sweeter, add couple of pinched of plain sugar per person.
            If you have about four members, add half a tsp of sugar in the gravy.

            . I would share some recipes here in days to come.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Nichiro

              I am lookin forward to your sharing of the recipes.

              1. re: Nichiro

                Hi, Nichiro:

                I don't have any doubts about its lack of authenticity. As I mentioned, at the time, that was not a priority of mine as a novice chef. I've actually had the pleasure of visiting India for a month and know fully well the great disparity between what recipes can be found online/locally in the states versus eating in the homeland.

                That said, I look forward to your recipes.

                1. re: rinkatink

                  Vegan fest Austin is round the corner and I am cooking up sauces for them during Lasty week March.. April is inauguration of our manufacturing plant. I would definately steal some moments and post my recipe for Butter chicken and also Chikan Tikka .

                  . I would be happy to share my experiences and recipes in days to come.


              2. "Indian Curries" are not usually sweet.

                1. Hmmm....Indian curry spans a wide range of regional styles. In general, when I think of sweet, I think of gujarati food. However, other Indian regions produce sweet curries. I've never had a sweet butter chicken dish

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Kalivs

                    Interesting! The butter chicken you get here in NZ is generally quite sweet, and the same goes for those I've tried in Australia also. I'm no expert on Indian food whatsoever and I haven't travelled much but the addition of sugar and honey mentioned up-post by me seems to replicate somewhat what we get over here in restaurants. Personally, when I'm cooking Indian-style curries for myself I don't add any sugar but rely on slow caramelisation of the onions for that hint of sweetness which helps in balancing the taste.

                    1. re: Kalivs

                      I was originally going to say definitively "Indian food isn't sweet!" but then I realized Gujarati food does include a fair amount of sugar or jaggery.

                      The butter chicken recipe you posted stands out to me, in particular, because the chicken was marinated and roasted first, which would be a more familiar method to me. If you marinate the chicken first with tamarind, yogurt, jaggery and your masala and then roast it before making your sauce, you will end up with a product that is noticeably sweeter.