South Indian Onion Curry Recipe

Onions are so famed all over Asia; almost all of our dishes incorporate this root into the final product. Here’s a sour and spicy curry from Kerala! 

Growing up in a very south indian household, onion curry is a very regular part of my Fridays. I say Fridays because on Fridays, we practiced consuming a vegetarian diet. And onion curry was go-to when it came down to this. Essentially, this is a very rich and robust curry made with a lot of onions and a hearty serving of tamarind. The tamarind makes this curry highly sour; if you’re not into sour-ish foods then you should proceed with caution. 

Onion Curry Cravers Guide

This particular recipe was inspired by a specific dish called Ulli Theeyal from Kerala. Ulli Theeyal is a much drier and richer version of onion curry, and is made with coconut. Coconut is heavily used in many Keralan dishes, owing to the fact that coconut literally comes from this part of India. Here, freshly grated coconut is used in place of coconut milk. This is in contrast to the Malabar Fish Curry I made recently, which uses coconut milk to thicken and flavour the gravy. 

Onion Curry can be made with a variety of vegetables, including carrots and potatoes. These two are in fact more common than other vegetables, though you can use brinjal or snow peas too. In fact, if you’d like to make this into a non-veg curry, this base is perfect for most types of seafood. However, seafood tends to make curries watery so you might want to take note of this before you go about adding prawns to this. 

Looking for a meaty side to go along with this? What about some butter chicken? 

South Indian Onion Curry Recipe

Recipe by Krishy MalCourse: MainCuisine: IndianDifficulty: Easy


Prep time


Cooking time



Onions are so famed all over Asia; almost all of our dishes incorporate this root into the final product. Here’s a sour and spicy curry from Kerala! 

You’ll need;

  • For the Curry Base
  • 2 Tbsp Vegetable Oil

  • 2 Tsp Coriander Seeds

  • 1 Tsp Fenugreek Seeds

  • 1 Tsp Whole Black Peppercorns

  • 4 – 6 Long Dried Chillies

  • 100g Fresh Grated Coconut

  • 100ml Water

  • For the Curry
  • 1 Tbsp Vegetable or Coconut Oil

  • ½ Tsp Black Mustard Seeds

  • ½ Tsp White Mustard Seeds

  • ½ Tsp Fenugreek Seeds

  • 2 Sprigs Curry Leaves, leaves removed and stems discarded

  • 150g Red Shallots, peeled and halved

  • 1 Tsp Turmeric

  • 1 Tsp Salt (or to taste)

  • 2 ½ Tbsp Tamarind, dissolved in 400ml Water

  • 1 Tsp Jaggery, or brown sugar

You’ll need to;

  • In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, add the vegetable oil, coriander seeds, peppercorns and dried chillies. Saute until fragrant, about 4 minutes. Then, add the 100g grated coconut and continue to cook until the coconut gets toasted. Allow this mixture to cool.
  • Then, transfer this to a blender, and add the water. Blend until you get a smooth paste. Set aside.
  • Again in the same heavy based saucepan, add the vegetable or coconut oil (if using), then the mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds and curry leaves. This will crackle quite a bit, but this is an essential part of the tempering process. Stay patient and weary of sputtering oil.
  • To this, add the onions, turmeric and salt. Cook the onions till they turn almost translucent and start to lose their colour. Add the blended coconut paste, stir and let the mixture come to a boil.
  • Once it boils, add the tamarind water and jaggery, or brown sugar. Continue to boil away; this will help to cook the onions further. 
  • Remove from the heat when desired thickness is achieved, and serve warm with roti or Jeera Rice.

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