South Indian Curry

I’m a sucker for anything leopard print and any recipe that includes coconut, which sort of explains how this recipe came to be.

I’m a child of the ‘80s, and Duran Duran remains one of my favorite bands. Their videos for “Hungry Like The Wolf” and “Save a Prayer” were shot in Sri Lanka against the backdrop of lush jungles, idyllic beaches with wandering elephants, and a marketplace full of intrigue. I’ve also kind of had a thing for Sri Lanka — it just seems so exotic and YOU MIGHT RUN INTO DURAN DURAN THERE!

Sri Lanka is also home to the distinctively-spotted Sri Lankan leopard, as well as a traditional dish called “sambol,” a paste made of ground coconut, chiles, and lime juice. Sri Lankans don’t usually follow strict recipes, so every cook’s curry has a unique flavor, just as every leopard’s spots are one of a kind. This sauce is slow-simmered on its own, so it can be mixed with any cooked protein and veggies at mealtime for curry in a hurry.

Packed lunch tip: When I pack my lunch with this sauce, I place a serving of cooked protein — grilled or roasted chicken, pork chops, ground beef or lamb, baked fish — in a BPA-free container on a bed of sautéed vegetables, then pour about 3/4 cup of this sauce over the top. When I re-heat it at lunchtime, all the flavors meld into deliciousness.

My recommendation? Cook up a batch and keep it in your fridge for tasty meals (even breakfast!) all week.

 South Indian Curry |

South Indian Curry Sauce

Serves 4-6 | Prep 10 minutes | Cook 20 minutes | Whole30 compliant

  • 2 medium jalapeño peppers, seeds and ribs removed

  • 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

  • 1/2 tablespoon ground cumin

  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander

  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger

  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped (about 2 teaspoons)

  • 1/4 cup water

  • 1/2 cup + 1/4 cup canned coconut milk

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil

  • 3 medium carrots, grated (about 2 cups)

  • 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes


In a food processor, combine the jalapeños, coconut, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, salt, ginger, garlic, and water. Process until it forms a smooth paste, remove to a medium-sized bowl, and stir in 1/2 cup coconut milk with a wooden spoon.


Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high, about 3 minutes. Add the coconut oil and allow it to melt. Add the carrots and sauté, stirring with a wooden spoon, until they’re tender, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes along with their juice. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer, stirring occasionally and crushing the tomato chunks with the back of the spoon. Cook 7-10 minutes, uncovered, until the sauce thickens and the vegetables are soft.


Add the spice paste to pan, mix well, and add the remaining 1/4 cup coconut milk. Stir to combine, then remove from heat. Use immediately to make a kickass meal, or store in a covered container in the refrigerator. It tastes fresh for up to 6 days.

You Know How You Could Do That?

  • I cook most of my protein for quick meals the same way: cut into bite-sized pieces (easier to cook), sprinkle with garlic powder, and sautée in fat of choice, or grill to crispy perfection on the gas grill. Easy! This works with chicken, ground beef, steak, pork chops, ground pork, ground lamb, and shrimp.

  • This sauce tastes particularly delicious on these veggies, steamed or roasted: mushrooms, cauliflower, zucchini, cabbage, green beans, or sweet potatoes. Or how about some Oven-Roasted Cauliflower Rice?!

Tasty garnishes
  • Before eating, sprinkle any of all of these on top: chopped cilantro; a squeeze of lime or lemon juice; finely chopped almonds, cashews, or macadamias; thinly-sliced scallions

Sunshine Alert!
  • Add an extra layer of lusciousness by stirring some organic, sugar-free Sunbutter into the sauce. I put a 1/2 tablespoon or so into a 3/4 cup serving of the sauce and my face exploded with happiness.

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  • I love your site, I already tried a few of your recipes and I’m so grateful to find a bunch of super healthy dinners in one place…I found you on pinterest, and I have been pinning you ever since. THANKS!! I especially love the the no dairy as my daughter has a sensitivity (and we shouldn’t eat that crap anyways) so many regular recipes call for some kind of dairy…also you have a quirky sense of humor which is very fun!

    • Mel says:

      I’m so glad you found me — thank you for your sweet words. Really great to know you’re enjoying the recipes. Happy cooking & eating to you!

  • Glynis says:

    Ohmydearlord, this curry sauce is HEAVENLY!! I can’t believe more people haven’t told you as much. Thank you for making so many fantastic recipes; my husband and I are in the last week of our first Whole30, and planning on staying Paleo for good, so I’m looking all over for yummy recipes. I will be buying your cookbook this weekend, for sure 🙂

  • Annie says:

    Do you use a small food processor for this? I have an 11 cup version, and I feel like it wouldn’t do well making the paste since it’s so large.

  • HJ says:

    Would it work if I threw in raw chicken thighs (~5 pieces) into the curry while it’s simmering?

    • Yes, that will work! If you want to make it taste even better, brown the chicken thighs first, then remove from the pan, make the curry, and add the chicken back in to simmer. Let me know how it turns out!

  • Maureen says:

    Just checking Mel, when you say two cans, (14.5oz) canned tomatoes, you do mean altogether 28.10oz in total right? One large can. I don’t want to overly dilute by doing too much. I did this recipe a couple of years ago and I know we loved it, but I am not sure what I did. Think 28oz.

  • Debbie says:

    Looks good. Just wondering how well this sauce would freeze? Can’t wait to make it!

  • Sarah Cox says:

    Thank you for you! I’ve tagged you on my instagram when I’ve tried to make your amazing recipes in your new cookbook 45 min or less! I’ve also been reading your posts and been a fan for a few years. I have to say that your move to Europe is SO exciting and brave and creative, I want to know more and can’t wait to read more. Have an amazing journey across the world! Sarah

    • Thank you for this sweet comment, Sarah! I’m so happy you’re enjoying Well Fed Weeknights, and I will keep an eye out for you on Instagram! I’m excited to share our adventures with you; right now, it’s just all about the boxes 😉