What is the Difference Between Jamaican and Indian Curry?

I have loved Indian food for decades, particularly curry. More recently, I’ve been hearing about Jamaican curry. I’ve begun wondering about the differences between Indian and Jamaican curry.

Here’s what I learned:

While similar, Jamaican curry is prepared with curry powder. These often use allspice, turmeric, mustard, coriander, cumin & fenugreek. Curry in India is not made with curry powders (that’s a UK invention) and is often sauce based with either coconut milk or cream blended with tomatoes, fresh herbs and toasted spices.

But there’s surprisingly a lot more to know about curry.

So today, we’re diving deep into curries. We’ll examine some of the key differences. But we’ll also explore the similarities and if one is healthier than the other.

Ultimately, we’re answering the question of what is the difference between Indian and Jamaican curry?

Let’s get going!

What is Jamaican curry made of?

Caribbean curry is typically prepared with pre-made curry powder spice blends.

They often include turmeric, cumin, paprika, cardamom, garlic, and fenugreek. But they also use allspice which is what gives Jamaican curry its unique flavor and sets it apart from most other curries.

Jamaican curry powder is often used as a rub.  The ingredients (chicken, peppers, potatoes, onion, etc) would then be allowed to marinate for a couple of hours before cooking.

Then the ingredients would typically be cooked in boiling water to create more of a stew.

What is Indian curry made of?

There are several etymologies of the word “curry.”

One etymology suggests that “curry” comes from the word carel that the Portuguese used to describe the fragrant, spicy dishes they found in India.

Another suggests that it derives from kari, the word for sauce in Tamil. Eventually, the word “curry” evolved to describe almost any Indian dish with a sauce.

Curry is really just a combination of spices, and there isn’t actually a dish called “curry” in India.

However, I was able to find that traditional Indian curry spice mixes usually contain a cream or coconut milk base with a salt or acid component.

The saltiness or acidity can be from lime juice, garlic, ginger, tomatoes, or onions. Curry will also almost always contain turmeric, coriander, fenugreek, curry leaves, and sometimes cumin.

Ironically, curry powder sold in stores (a British invention) rarely, if ever actually contains the leaves of the curry plant.

If you are considering making your own curry, be sure to check out this recent article on my blog where I talk about the differences between coconut milk from the can and from the carton. Just click that link to read it on my site.

Hint: you should definitely use coconut from the can when making curry.

Even in India, you’ll find people arguing over what curry is made up of. It may be used with fish or chicken, and of course vegetables only in many parts of the country.

Further inland, you may find dried coconut in your curry. Coastal Indian curries will contain more turmeric and the final product will be more yellow in color. Inland curries will use more tomatoes and be redder in color.

What is the difference between curries from different countries?

Curry isn’t actually a spice, but rather a collection of spices, although in India the leaves of the curry plant would definitely be part of it. Today, you’ll find curries all over the world. From India to Thailand to Jamaica.

You’ll even find curries throughout Asia, in Japan, and parts of China.

Indian curry was initially a generic term for sauce-based dishes.

When Europeans came to India, they brought with them the spices that we think of now when we think about curry. Tomatoes, onions, garlic, and ginger helped to develop Indian curry into the delicious spice mixture it is now.

British curries are heavy in tomatoes, onions, garlic, and ginger. They are often spicey, with a coconut milk base. They are usually redder than other curries.

If you’d like to learn more about how Indian curry differs from Thai curry, head over to this recent article. I break both of them down, including the 1 radical difference between the 2.

Just click on the link to read it on my blog.

Caribbean curries are high in turmeric

They often include allspice, cumin, paprika, cardamom, garlic, and fenugreek. They can be made into a paste or a powder and used as a marinade. Jamaican curry is usually bright yellow due to the high amounts of turmeric.

The addition of allspice, which would not typically be used in India, is one of the biggest differences between Indian and Jamaican curry.

Jamaican curries are typically based on more pre-made curry spice blends

However, Jamaica has a large Indian population. Indian households are making their own curries and are mixing spices when cooking, rather than using the pre-made mixes.

I bet eating curry in Jamaica gets the best of both Indian and Jamaican spices!

Curry from Thailand is made using a variety of curry pastes

Curry pastes are made from fresh ingredients and have a thick, moist quality. It can be found on the shelves in most grocery stores.

The paste when left unopened, can be stored for more than 3 years. To read more about how long Thai curry paste can be stored, just read this recent article on my blog.

The curry paste then gets mixed with coconut milk to form a rich sauce.

Is Jamaican curry healthier than Indian curry?

Possibly.

Like most curry powder, Jamaican curry powder contains spices that are considered good sources of nutrients. These nutrients could include various vitamins and minerals as well as fiber.

However, pre-made spice blends may contain an excessive amount of salt.

While Indian curry is made up of fresher ingredients, it is generally added to dishes that are high in fat and butter.

So, while the Indian spices may be considered healthier, the Jamaican dishes are more likely to be healthier as a whole. And if you make your own Jamaican curry powder, you can control the salt.

Jamaican dishes typically consist of leaner meat and fish and vegetables.

If you like Indian food but prefer lower-fat options, chances are you’ll love Nepalese food.

Nepal takes culinary cues from Tibet, India, and China. As a result, it shares many of the same flavors but is generally considered healthier than Indian food.

Read more about Nepalese food and how it differs from Indian food in this recent article.

Is Indian curry hotter than Jamaican curry?

Just like other traditional spice blends, curry is highly subject to variation.

But if you’re just buying jarred curry powder, chances are anything Indian (which again, is a British invention) will likely be hotter than Jamaican.

Jamaican curry often gets its heat from fresh peppers (such as scotch bonnet). Indian curry can get heat from fresh peppers too but also dried chili powder.

Because they are both made with many of the same ingredients, they will provide very similar results. Again, what makes Jamaican curry stand out alone is the addition of allspice.

But to control the spice levels, it’s always best to make your own spice blends.  Paprika is a great way to get chili powder flavor without the heat and smoked paprika is even better!

And if you’re looking for heat, skip Indian and Jamaican curry and head straight to Thai curry!

In this recent article, I demystify and explain all the key differences between Indian and Thai curry and what makes 1 significantly healthier than the other.

But I also get into other curries too. I even explain why the leaves of the actual curry plant rarely get used in curry powders.

Just click the link to read it on my site!

Did I cover everything you wanted to know about what the difference is between Indian curry and Jamaican curry?

In this article, I took a look at the differences between Indian and Jamaican curry.

We explored some of the similarities and some of the key differences. But we also looked at which one is healthier and which one is hotter.

In the end, we answered the question what is the difference between Indian and Jamaican curry?

Which one is your favorite?

Also, you should consider getting a food processor for making your curry, Indian sauces or chutneys. It really makes cooking Indian food (and other foods), not just curry, much easier.

Just head over to this recent article to read about how much easier Indian cooking is with the use of a food processor. Just click that link to read it on my site.


Photos which require attribution:

Curry Goat – Babble On Babylon by Alpha is licensed under CC2.0

Jeff Campbell

Jeff was a leader for Whole Foods Market for over 2 decades and is now a recovering foodie. When he's not spending time in the kitchen, he can usually be found with his wife & 3 daughters, he can usually be found practicing martial arts, making music, or blogging on his other sites. Click to learn more about me

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