If you love curry, then this authentic Sri Lankan Beef Curry is a must try. Slow cooked with Sri Lankan curry powder, whole spices and coconut milk it's full of flavor and so delicious! Have plenty of rice, roti or bread to scoop up the silky gravy and tender beef!
- Authentic Sri Lankan Beef Curry
- Why You’ll Love This Recipe:
- Ingredients For Beef Curry
- What's The Best Beef For Curry?
- What is Sri Lankan Curry Powder Made Of?
- How to Make Sri Lankan Beef Curry
- Can I Cook Beef Curry Without Coconut Milk?
- How To Serve Beef Curry
- Storing and Reheating
- How To Make Beef Curry In Pressure Cooker or Instant Pot
- More Recipes You'll Love:
Authentic Sri Lankan Beef Curry
The curry of my childhood, this Sri Lankan beef curry recipe is as authentic as it can get. This delicious beef curry is cooked at least twice a week in my house and we love it. If you love Sri Lankan food, check my Sri Lankan chicken curry for another authentic curry recipe.
Each household has its unique way of cooking beef curry and though I was taught different variations, this is my go-to recipe. Chunks of beef marinated in Sri Lankan roasted curry powder and slow cooked on low heat produces tender beef that has absorbed all the flavors and just melts in your mouth.
The beef gravy or the curry sauce is so cherished in my house, it's used to dress up rice and mop up roti or bread. Serve this beef curry with fluffy Basmati rice and Sri Lankan red lentil dal for a Lankan feast.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe:
- Authentic: This beef curry is closest to what I grew up eating in Sri Lanka. It has been perfected over time. And the only other addition that's not typically found in Sri Lankan cuisine is tomato paste. It's totally optional but I find a tablespoon of tomato paste enhances the tangy flavor and the color of the curry.
- Flavorful: It's so good it'll become one of your favorite curries to cook.
Ingredients For Beef Curry
- Oil - cooking oils like vegetable oil, coconut oil or light olive oil
- Onion - I prefer red onion but feel free to use white or yellow onion.
- Tomatoes - ideally roma tomatoes chopped.
- Garlic and Ginger - If you don't have ginger and garlic paste, use 3 garlic cloves and 1" ginger minced.
- Whole Spices - cardamom, cloves and cinnamon
- Curry Powder - Make my Sri Lankan Curry Powder for an authentic Sri Lankan Beef Curry.
- Red Chilli Powder - or cayenne pepper. For a less spicy version use Kashmiri chilli powder.
- Coconut Milk - I use full fat canned coconut milk. You can use fresh coconut milk or coconut milk powder dissolved in water. For coconut cream 1 or 2 tablespoons, would do.
- Vinegar - white vinegar or coconut vinegar can be used.
- Curry Leaves
- Green Chili
- Pandan leaves - optional but use couple of 2-inch pieces if you have them.
What's The Best Beef For Curry?
This beef curry is so versatile that most cut of beef can be used. Boneless beef cuts like sirloin, rib eye will cook faster and will produce tender succulent beef. These cuts are more expensive compared to stew beef which is also boneless but takes a bit longer to cook. Stew beef will have a bit of fat and it'll add to the flavor.
You can also use beef with bones and it produces a more flavorful curry. Though these take longer to cook the end result is so worth it. Ensure the bones comprise only about ⅓rd of the 2 pounds beef used. So if you have some time on a weekend start this curry in the morning in time for lunch.
I used stew beef for this recipe.
What is Sri Lankan Curry Powder Made Of?
What makes this beef curry truly Sri Lankan is the curry powder used. Sri Lankan curry powder is made with a unique blend of roasted whole spices and curry leaves. It has roasted coriander seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, black pepper and curry leaves ground to a fine powder.
Most of these spices are pantry staples. If not, you can easily find them in your local Asian grocery store. My recipe for Sri Lankan roasted curry powder is so easy to make you can make your own curry powder in no time. It also yields a small batch enough to make 2 to 3 curries so your curry powder is always fresh.
For ready-made Sri Lankan curry powder, Sri Lankan grocery stores are your best bet. Not every Indian or Asian store stocks the Sri Lankan curry powder and if you're lucky you'll find it stocked.
Substitutions For Sri Lankan Curry Powder
Here's what you can use if you don't have roasted curry powder on hand.
- 2 ½ tablespoon coriander powder
- ½ tablespoon cumin powder
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- To thicken the curry add 1 teaspoon of rice flour dissolved in some water towards the end of cooking.
The generic curry powders you find at stores can be substituted, but note that it won't be an authentic dish anymore.
How to Make Sri Lankan Beef Curry
*Scroll below for the printable recipe card and ingredient measurements.
Cut the beef into 1.5" to 2" pieces. In a medium bowl, mix the beef cubes with curry powder, chili powder. vinegar and salt. Let it marinate until you fry the onions and tomatoes.
In a heavy bottomed pot or a large saucepan with a lid, heat the cooking oil on medium heat. Once the oil is heated add cinnamon stick, cloves, cardamom, curry leaves and onions. Cook until onions turn slightly brown stirring occasionally.
Add ginger garlic paste (or minced ginger and garlic) and fry until the raw smell disappears. Pour in the chopped tomatoes and cook for a minute or two.
Next, add the marinated beef to the pot and let it cook for a couple of minutes stirring occasionally.
Add 2 cups of water, give everything a good stir and let it come to a boil over medium high heat. Cover the pot, turn the heat to medium or low and let it simmer for about 30 minutes.
Mix in coconut milk and tomato paste if using. Check and adjust seasoning to taste. Cover and let it simmer for another 15 to 20 minutes until beef is tender.
Can I Cook Beef Curry Without Coconut Milk?
Yes, you absolutely can. Not everybody wants to use coconut milk or might avoid it for health reasons. You can still make an authentic and delicious curry without coconut milk.
Just skip the coconut milk and simmer until the beef is tender.
How To Serve Beef Curry
This beef curry is so versatile it goes well with a lot of side dishes.
White Basmati rice, dill rice or string hoppers would be excellent rice options. Toasted bread or any flatbreads like roti, parotta (paratha), coconut roti is great to scoop up the gravy or the curry sauce. Don't forget the dal if you want to serve it the Lankan way!
This beef curry can also be used to make the famous Sri Lankan street food, kottu roti.
Don't limit this curry to rice and bread, add it to vegetables side dishes like mashed potatoes.
Storing and Reheating
The best thing about this beef curry is it stores well in the fridge. Store leftovers in an airtight container and keep it in the fridge for up to a week.
I find it easier to reheat the curry in microwave for a minute or two. Add a tablespoon of water to the curry if it's thick. You can also reheat the curry on the stove until warm.
How To Make Beef Curry In Pressure Cooker or Instant Pot
The traditional method to cook the beef curry is to slow cook it. But if you're pressed for time, cooking the curry in the pressure cooker or Instant Pot is quicker. I find that pressure cooked beef lack the flavor the slow cooked beef has. But if you want a curry in a hurry the pressure cooker still makes a decent beef curry.
To pressure cook, you need less liquid as it releases water.
To cook the beef curry in a pressure cooker or instant pot
- Heat oil in the cooker and cook the whole spices, curry leaves and onions until onions are slightly browned.
- Saute ginger garlic paste until the raw smell disappears. Add the chopped tomato and cook for a minute or two.
- Add the marinated beef and cook, stirring occasionally for about 2 minutes.
- Add 1 cup of water, coconut milk and tomato paste.
- Cover with the lid and pressure cook for 20 minutes for boneless beef and 30 minutes for beef with bones.
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Sri Lankan Beef Curry
- Heavy bottomed cooking pot
Marinate the beef
- 2 pound beef
- 3 tablespoon curry powder
- 2 teaspoon red chili powder
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- 3 tablespoon oil
- 1 cup red onion chopped
- 1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste or 3 garlic cloves and 1" ginger minced
- 2 green chilies
- 1 sprig curry leaves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 3 cardamom pods
- 3 cloves
- 1 cup tomato chopped
- 2 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups water
- ¼ cup canned coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste optional
- Cut the beef into 1.5" to 2" pieces. In a medium bowl, mix the beef with curry powder, chili powder. vinegar and salt. Let it marinate until you fry the onions and tomatoes.
- In a heavy bottomed pot or a large skillet with a lid, heat the cooking oil. Once the oil is heated add cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, curry leaves and onions. Cook until onions turn slightly brown stirring occasionally.
- Add ginger garlic paste (or minced ginger and garlic) and fry until the raw smell disappears. Pour in the chopped tomatoes and cook for a minute or two.
- Next, add the marinated beef to the pot and let it cook for a couple of minutes stirring every now and then.
- Add 2 cups of water, give everything a good stir and let it come to a boil. Cover the pot, turn the heat to medium and let it simmer for about 30 minutes.
- Mix in coconut milk and tomato paste if using. Check and adjust seasoning. Cover and let it simmer for another 15 to 20 minutes until beef is tender.
- Use fresh coconut milk (thick) or coconut milk powder dissolved in water instead of canned coconut milk. If using coconut cream, 1 or 2 tablespoon would do.
- Substitute Sri Lankan roasted curry powder with 2 ½ tablespoon coriander powder, ½ tablespoon cumin powder, 1 teaspoon black pepper powder. Add 1 teaspoon rice powder at the end of cooking to thicken the gravy.
- Store leftover beef curry in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.
- Reheat in microwave or on the stove top.