Many of us have cooked a curry to end up with a dish that lacked deep flavors and tasted overwhelmingly of tomato. There are a few key steps to making a delicious, restaurant-quality curry. If you’re wondering how to fix too much tomato in a curry then I’ve got you covered in this article.
To reduce tomato flavor in curry, use a quality curry sauce recipe that uses more onion, garlic, and ginger than tomato to add depth of flavor. Tomatoes also need to be cooked over a long period (45 minutes+) to mellow and reduce their acidic taste.
Making a homemade curry from scratch can be a hit-and-miss affair if you’re not using the right recipe and can leave you with a tomatoey-tasting stew with spices rather than a fragrant Indian dish.
To get the right flavor out of your curry, try to use as authentic a recipe as possible and make sure to use the right ingredients. While some of the quick curries may seem easy, you could be left with a disappointing dish – luckily, I have some tips to help you fix a curry that tastes too tomatoey.
Why Is My Curry Too Tomatoey?
One of the biggest mistakes is simply adding too much tomato in relation to other ingredients.
Many authentic curry recipes use a surprisingly small amount of tomatoes. A whole can of chopped tomatoes will likely swamp a recipe if they overwhelm the other base ingredients.
Key base ingredients are onion, garlic, and ginger which add flavor and substance to the sauce. These base ingredients can be chopped up for a more rustic curry or blended to make a smooth sauce. This smooth base sauce is often used in restaurants to quickly make the large number of curries on the menu instead of making a pot of each curry. Check out this base sauce recipe.
For the best taste, you should use a reputable recipe and not one that has been made for quick cooking. Many quick curry recipes use cooking shortcuts that ruin the curry flavor or use ingredients in incorrect amounts – try my tips for avoiding a bland curry and give it some real depth.
A good curry is unfortunately not a quickly cooked dish. Tomatoes need a long time cooking at a low heat to reduce the acidic taste and mellow into a supporting note rather than overwhelming the curry. Onions need time to caramelize.
The first things you need to do for a tasty curry are:
- Begin by using a good curry recipe, find an authentic and reliable one. Check out the book “The Curry Guy” on Amazon – a favorite curry book of mine for home cooking.
- Reduce the number of chopped tomatoes. Rather than adding a whole can of tomatoes, opt for less or use tomato puree.
- Brown enough onion, garlic, ginger, and spices to add flavor.
- Cook curries for long enough and don’t try to speed up the process.
- Don’t try neutralizing tomatoes in curries and sauces by adding a lot of sugar. Excess sugar doesn’t reduce the tomato taste and instead adds too much unnecessary sweetness.
- See further steps on cooking curry below.
How To Fix A Tomatoey Curry Now
Try cooking the sauce for longer to mellow the tomato, adding some sugar if it’s sour, or adding some caramelized onions to add depth.
Can it be saved? The answer is maybe – simply adding more spices at the end won’t help much (I’ve tried). The depth of taste needed to be built up from the start. But you will be able to improve it a bit.
To save your curry, you’ll need to look at what ingredients you have on hand. Also consider how much time you have before you serve your meal, as some of these fixes may need additional cooking time.
Fix a Tomatoey Curry by Cooking it Longer
Often all you need is more time to cook down the tomatoes. They start with a punchy tangy flavor which will mellow and sweeten the longer they are cooked. A bit like a good bolognese sauce that needs a long time simmering.
Any dish where the tomatoes are cooked for less than fifteen minutes tends to have a distinctly acidic tomato taste. By cooking a curry for forty-five minutes, you give more time for the sour taste to disperse. Just make sure any other ingredients won’t be overcooked – like lean meat.
By cooking even longer (for 1-2 hours), you further reduce the tomatoes, and the tartness will become less noticeable. While doing this, it’s an excellent time to prepare some additional caramelized onions and spices slowly cooked into a fragrant paste.
Fix a Tomatoey Curry by Adding Caramelised Onions
While your curry is slowly simmering away, you can chop up another onion and caramelize it with some butter or ghee over low heat. As onions cook down to a soft, golden-brown color, they also increase in sweetness.
To caramelize onions properly, they need to be cooked over low heat for about 30 minutes and stirred occasionally. This slow cooking ensures they don’t burn – burnt onions make any dish taste burnt and unappetizing – and that their natural sweetness comes out.
When they’ve cooked down, add the caramelized onions to your curry. They will naturally counteract the tomatoes’ acidity and add more depth and richness.
Fix a Tomatoey Curry with Sugar
The last method of reducing the acidity and tartness of too much tomato in a sauce is to try and neutralize it either by adding baking soda or sugar. While neither of these methods will fix an overly tomatoey curry, it might help bring some of the tartness down.
The problem here is that adding too much sugar can wreck the subtle balance of flavors in your curry and leave it tasting too sweet.
The addition of baking soda or bicarbonate of soda neutralizes the acid and is harmless. It will fizz and leave the dish less acidic. Try adding half a teaspoon at a time.
If you decide to use sugar, only add a ¼ teaspoon of sugar at a time, and taste carefully to ensure that you are improving the flavor before adding more.
How To Make Better Curries In The Future
To make better curries in the future, ensure you start with a great recipe. They usually follow these similar steps:
- Brown onions in lots of oil until dark brown to start the depth of flavor
- Add minced garlic and ginger and fry until aromatic
- Use fresh spices that haven’t lost their flavor
- Add any tomatoes early to give them long enough to cook
- Consider making a base sauce that is full of flavor, not just tomatoes
Accept that cooking a good curry will take time. Have patience and enjoy the process. Read my guide for avoiding a bland curry.
Use traditional curry spices generously, and don’t rely on premade curry powder for taste. Spices will add depth and flavor to your dish. Follow your recipe, and don’t go overboard by adding every spice you can think of. Let the different tastes work together as they are meant to.
Commonly used spices are cumin, turmeric, ground coriander, garam masala, chili powder, and paprika. Cook your spices down in oil or ghee to create a rich paste. This method helps release all the flavor.
Ensure you cook with enough ginger, pureed garlic, and onion, and caramelize them over low heat, as these provide much of the rich, fragrant taste of a good curry. Cooking them longer creates a deeper, richer flavor.
Use less tomato than you think. Most authentic Indian curry recipes use less tomato than their bad imitations. If it turns out too thin then check my post on why your curry is so thin and how to fix it.
Hopefully, now you know how to reduce tomato flavor in curry. It’s all about building the other layers of flavor and giving it time.
If you’re trying to save a curry that’s already too tomatoey, your best option is to keep cooking it for a more extended period – being careful not to burn it – to reduce the acidity. Adding more spices, ginger, and onion that you have first cooked to a paste in oil can help balance the flavor better.
While adding sugar to counteract the tartness of the tomatoes is an option, it’s usually a last resort as it can significantly sweeten the dish if you’re not careful.