The Story of Curry

Updated: Aug 4

Curry Powder has been present in America for several hundred years. In fact, one of the earliest American cookbooks, The Virginia Housewife by Mary Randolph published in 1824, had 6 recipes calling for curry powder!

So what exactly is curry powder?

In the West, we think of curry as a dish from India cooked with spices and paired with rice. In India, there is no one dish called curry. Instead, a blend of different spices is created as each dish is made.

The Portuguese first created a mix of spices and called it curry powder to help them recreate the flavors found in many Indian dishes. The British soon followed in their footsteps of colonizing the Indian subcontinent and became mad about the flavors they found in this land filled with spices so different from their own. In order to appease the British taste for Indian foods, Indian chefs created a mix of spices for the British to take back home with them. This became the curry powder we know today.

So how did curry powder make it to the United States?

Many British people made great fortunes through the East India Company and used that money to come to North America to create large estates. With the newly moneyed British in the colonies, came servants and indentured servants from India and with them curry powder.

In Great Britain, Queen Victoria employed an Indian staff to cook Indian food for her, making this cuisine fashionable among the nobility of England. Soon the recipes of curry also became popular among the general population and also spread to North America this way.

So what is in a curry powder? The recipe for curry powder varies greatly but generally features:

  • Turmeric

  • Cumin

  • Ginger

  • Black pepper

Though curry powder recipes vary, most are pleasantly warm and pungent with a rich depth of flavor.

Curry Powder Questions We Often Get Asked

Is masala a curry powder?

Masala means spice in Hindi. In the curry world, masala curry usually refers to curry powders with a traditional base of turmeric, cumin, ginger, black pepper and an addition of cinnamon and ginger adding just a touch of sweet and hot notes.

What is the difference between curry powder and garam masala?

Unlike curry powder, garam masala is a traditional Indian spice blend believed to have originated in the Northern regions of India in the 13th century. It has many different variations throughout India, but each one focuses on warming spices such as cloves and cinnamon. At SpiceTopia, our garam masala blend adds fruity coriander, smoky cumin, sharp black pepper, and fragrant cardamom to the warming blend of cinnamon and cloves.

Unlike curry powder which is added at the beginning of a recipe, garam masala is often added at the end of the cooking process. This allows the aroma of each spice to hold up and shine in the finished recipe.

Does SpiceTopia have a Tikka Masala or Korma Curry Powder?

Tikka Masala can be created with any good Indian curry powder. What makes it distinct is its base of onions, tomatoes, and cream.

Korma can also be created with your favorite Indian curry powder. A base of yogurt and cashews is what makes korma korma.

So no, we do not sell a specific curry powder to make these dishes. We do have a Curry Formula which can help you create these dishes with any of our curry powders.

If you haven’t used curry powder yet, we invite you to give it a try!

SpiceTopia offers several curry blends which can work well depending on the flavors you enjoy.

And if you are looking for heat:

To get you started with an easy curry recipe with a spicy kick may we present Potato Vindaloo. If super spicy isn’t your thing, you can make this same recipe with our Original Curry Powder.

Potato Vindaloo


2-4 tablespoons Oil or Ghee

1 Onion chopped

2 tablespoons fresh Ginger

2 teaspoons Brown Mustard Seeds

1 ½ teaspoon Pacific Flake Sea Salt

2 tablespoons Vindaloo Curry Powder

2 large Russet Potatoes, peeled and cubed

2 cups Water

⅓ cup Apple Cider or White Wine Vinegar


  1. In a large, deep skillet or dutch oven heat the ghee or oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, ginger, and mustard seeds with a pinch of salt. Saute until the onions begin to brown- about 5 minutes.

  2. Push the contents of your pan to the edge, add more ghee or oil if the pan is dry. Add 3 tablespoons of Vindaloo Curry Powder to the pan. Stir and cook for about 2 minutes.

  3. Add potatoes, water, vinegar, and a large pinch of salt to the pan. Stir well. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer for 20-25 minutes, until the potatoes can be pierced with a fork easily. Remove the lid and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes or until the sauce has thickened.

Sources: Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors by Lizzie Collingham

"The Subversive, Surprising History of Curry Powder"


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