Sri Lankan Beef Curry


I was an incredibly fussy eater as a child. The list of foods I didn’t eat was a lot longer than those that I did. I was very anti tomato. I despised mushrooms and if there was anything in my rice; turmeric, vegetables or sultanas (ahhh) my poor parents would have to ask for plain.white.rice. I think they especially enjoyed this when we were at friends places for dinner. I was fussy with fruit, I only liked crunchy, sour types like granny smith apples. I did not eat bananas and okra and eggplant were a bit contentious.

I’m well and truly getting my come-uppance now, Mister C’s tastes change almost daily. Yesterday and today he ate a kiwifruit in a sitting, and now that I’ve gone and bought a bag of the really nice expensive, organic variety, I bet you he’s not going to try any of it.

As I got older I thankfully got over most of these ‘issues’, nowadays there are only a few things I don’t eat, bananas being one of them. I did however stop eating red meat as I finished Uni.  We didn’t eat it much at home, except for mince, and therefore I couldn’t cook it well. By the time I got married I didn’t eat it at all and it was only moving to the US that got me eating it again. Beef is huge here, where you’re likely to get pork or lamb in Australia, Washington especially prides itself on beef (with the animal’s name and favourite variety of grass printed on the menu) and fish. So if you’re not eating much fish, it’s mushrooms for you! When I was pregnant there was a limit to the amount of fish I could eat, I couldn’t eat a lot of cheese (common in the vegetarian meals) and so beef it was.  Now that I started, I’ve been enjoying learning to cook it better and identifying different cuts and of course learning to cook the perfect steak.




  • 1kg (a little over 2 pounds) of beef stewing meat cut into 2.5 cm (1 inch) chunks
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp. chilli powder
  • 2 tbsp. vinegar
  • 1 medium red onion, roughly chopped
  • 1tbsp. ginger, roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 red bird’s-eye chilli, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons ghee
  • 4 cloves
  • 4 cardamon pods bruised
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • curry leaves
  • 1 tbsp roasted curry powder
  • 1/2 tbsp. curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp. of chilli powder (or to taste)
  • 4 large vine-ripened tomatoes pureed in the food processor or 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp. sugar


Marinate the  beef with the salt, pepper and vinegar. Set aside for at least 1/2 an hour.


In a food processor chop the onion, chilli, ginger and garlic. If you don’t have a good processor just chop all of these up finely.

In  a large heavy bottomed saucepan add the ghee, curry leaves, cloves, cardamon and cinnamon. Wait till the spices start getting lovely and fragrant and add the chopped onion mixture.


Cook this mixture off until the onions are soft and sweet. Add the spices (chilli, curry powders, turmeric) to the oil and onions and fry until the spices are no longer “raw” .


Now add the marinated beef and coat evenly with the spice mixture. Finally add the tomatoes and the sugar to the curry. Simmer the curry on medium heat with the lid on for at least an hour or until the sauce is thick and the meat is lovely and tender.






18 Comments Add yours

  1. Comment: Hi Akki, I’ve been looking at your site for a few weeks now and I just wanted to say thanks ever so much for the easy to follow and beautifully photographed recipes! I’m Sri Lankan, having grown up in England. I’ve been brought up on Sri Lankan food but I’m not the best cook so I’ve always been pretty cautious and scared to cook in fear of it going wrong. My friends have been recently bugging me to cook Sri Lankan food more so I’ve started experimenting more with Sri Lankan cooking and I’ve made a few of your recipes. They’ve all come out really well and it’s given me so much confidence in the kitchen. Now with a little help from my brother in law (an amazing cook) and your own recipes…I’m really enjoying cooking….almost as much as eating! I tried your Mas Beef curry, Ala Theldala, Pol Roti and Pol Sambol. You can see the pics at – I found with the Pol Sambol it was lacking in the orange colour a little so I added a pinch or two of chilli powder and it really made it zing. I look forward to trying out more of your recipes! Anushka xx

  2. Thush says:

    Thank you for your mouthwatering recipes together with the beautifully illustrated pictures. I am also a British Sri Lankan living in Sydney and I am constantly searching for authentic Sri Lankan recipes to follow (I should have watched my mother cooking all those years ago because she was (is) an excellent cook.) I am trying this beef curry today, and I am sure it will taste as good as it looks in your pictures. Thanks so much.

    1. chathginige says:

      Thanks so much Thush! I really hope you enjoy it!

  3. Talei says:

    What happens if it goes watery is there anything I should do to thicken it up? I’m cooking it now and it seems really watery?

    1. chathginige says:

      Hi Talei,

      The water content from the tomatoes and onions will make the curry watery to start with. It will thicken as you cook it. If it doesn’t thicken to a consistence you like we traditionally add some roasted rice ground to a powder to thicken the sauce.

  4. Talei says:

    Thank you for your reply… omg!!! It was AMAZING!!!! Thickened up perfectly on it’s own. I think it’s the best curry I have ever had!!!
    Thank you for sharing the recipe it was beautiful!

  5. Talei says:

    I’m making it again tonight…. slightly obsessed with this curry now 🙂

    1. chathginige says:

      That’s awesome! All I’d suggest is making a double batch, this curry gets better with age and freezes beautiful!

  6. Talei says:

    I’m cooking this again as we speak and in very excited! This will be my 3rd tim cooking this curry I think we can say I’m definitely hooked! Next time I’ll definitely take your advice and cook a double batch 😁😍

  7. Talei says:

    Do you have any other curry recipes that are traditional sri lankan? I’d love to try them if you do!

    1. chathginige says:

      Tonnes. Meat : try the chicken curry and black pork curry. Black pork is veg traditionally Sri Lankan. Veg, most of the veg curries on here are traditionally Sri Lankan. If not, I’ve usually said so.

  8. Graham says:

    My girlfriend was brought up in Sri Lanka – I cooked this as a special meal for her – absolutely absolutely and totally fantastic!!!!! This is a must for anyone who loves curries – many many thanks – 🙂

    1. chathginige says:

      Thanks so much Graham! What a lovely compliment. I’ve got a slightly different beef curry in the works with a more peppery flavour, keep an eye out for it.

  9. Dorthy says:

    Hi Akka please mention what vinegar

    1. chathginige says:

      Hi! White vinegar is what I use, so anything mild flavoured like that will work

  10. Eric says:

    What curry powder do you use in the recipe? You mention 1 tbsp roasted curry powder and 1/2 tbsp. curry powder. These are the only 2 ingredients that I am not familiar with. Thank you.

    1. chathginige says:

      Hey Eric! These are just your standard Sri Lankan curry powders. I’ll pop some links in for you.

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