Curry powder is a spice mix of widely varying composition based on South Asian cuisine. Curry powder and the contemporary English use of the word “curry” are Western inventions and do not reflect any specific South Asian food, though a similar mixture of spices used in north South Asia is called garam masala. The word “curry” is derived from the Tamil word kari meaning “sauce, relish for rice”. However, use of curry-like mixtures was prevalent in South Asia long before the arrival of Europeans in India. In fact, almost 4000 years prior, spice blends with key ingredients of ginger, garlic, and turmeric were used in the Indus Valley Civilization. The chili pepper, a ubiquitous ingredient in curry today, was brought to South Asia from the Americas through the Columbian Exchange in the 16th century.
Most curry powder recipes include coriander, turmeric, cumin, fenugreek, and chili peppers in their blends. Depending on the recipe, additional ingredients such as ginger, garlic, asafoetida, fennel seed, caraway, cinnamon, clove, mustard seed, green cardamom, black cardamom, nutmeg, long pepper, and black pepper may also be included. The Portuguese importation of the chili pepper from Brazil and their mixing of other Asian spices enabled the development of ‘curi’. Most curry powder labels do not list all the spices individually. Badia puts out a Jamaican style Polvo de Curry Powder, listing the ingredients as: Spices including turmeric, salt, dehydrated onion. Sadaf is more forthcoming with its ingredients. This company puts out a hot Curry Powder, listing the ingredients as: Chilies, Black Pepper, Curry Leaves, Fenugreek, Ginger, Cayenne, and other spices. The ingredients listed as “other spices” are most likely the ones that give a particular curry powder its distinctive taste.
1 tablespoon of curry powder contains the following nutritional information according to the USDA:
- Calories : 20 kcal
- Fat: 0.87 g
- Carbohydrates: 3.66 g
- Fibers: 2.1 g
- Protein: 0.8 g