Cooking with Turmeric Recipes for Taste and Health

Turmeric is the natural source of the potent antioxidant curcumin. Only about 3% of turmeric is curcumin, but a tablespoon of turmeric in your favorite turmeric recipes every day is all you need to get the full benefits of cucurmin for health and turmeric for taste.

Make Your Own Curry Powder

Turmeric is the essential ingredient in curry powder. Personally, I prefer to make my own curry powder from turmeric and about 20 other ingredients I buy in small amounts in bulk for just a few pennies each at my market's bulk spice counter. Making your own curry powder gives you a fresher product that costs less.

Turmeric Curry Recipe


I start with 4 tablespoons (about 60 grams) of turmeric in a mortar. I add 1 or 2 teaspoons (3 to 8 grams) each of cardamom, mace, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, coriander seed (the seed of the plant that is also used as cilantro, but not cilantro itself), fennel seed, fenugreek, black pepper, red pepper, saffron, and tamarind. I grind my spices by hand but you could also pulse the mixture in a blender for a few seconds.

If you don't have all of these spices, you can the general taste of curry powder by using cardamom, mace, or nutmeg, but not all three. You might use black pepper or red pepper, but not both. Or you could use either fennel seed or fenugreek but not both.

Curry powders, of course, are a shortcut for making Indian-, Persian-, Pakistani-, Afghani-, or Thai-inspired dishes. Many cooks use a different blend of spices for each and every recipe. Curry powder is a shortcut to add interesting flavor to many dishes without the sophistication of the authentic flavor profile.

What about Commercial Curry Powder?

Commercial curry powder is about 20% turmeric, and a little less than 1% curcumin. A heaping tablespoon of commercial curry powder, however, delivers about 100 mg of curcumin, which is enough to make a difference in your nutrition. "Madras" curry powder is hotter than regular curry powder, but it has about the same amount of turmeric and curcumin. Garam masala has more cardamom, cinnamon, and mace. I use it to make pumpkin pies for the American Thanksgiving holiday.

Simple Turmeric Recipes

The easiest way to use turmeric in cooking is just to add a little curry powder to color rice, potato salad, tuna salad, baked beans, or chili. Garam masala goes well with pumpkin, acorn squash, mango, passionfruit, and yogurt. A pinch of Madras curry is an interesting addition to anything you make with chocolate, but don't add too much.

Of course, you don't have to use turmeric in the form of curry powder. Add a teaspoon of turmeric and a teaspoon of fenugreek to enhance the "earthy" flavors of mushrooms. Use a combination of turmeric with cinnamon and cardamom to make a "hot and sweet" fruit salad. This works well with melon, mangoes, nectarines, and peaches.

Vindaloo Curry Recipe

And for the quintessential turmeric recipe, consider making chicken vindaloo. This delicious stew uses a variety of antioxidant spices in addition to turmeric, such as ginger. I've listed a recipe that requires potatoes, but you could also make the vindaloo to be served over rice or pasta.

  • 3 cups (about 400 g) chopped onions
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped seeded tomatoes (about 4 medium tomatoes)
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons (40 ml) distilled white vinegar
  • 1 large garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon (5 g) minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon (5 g) tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon (5 g) garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon (5 g) ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2-3 g) paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2-3 g)ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2-3 g)ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1-2 g) cayenne pepper (or more, if you prefer)
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil
  • 6 skinless boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 1/2 pounds (600-700 g) russet potatoes, peeled, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups (about 400 ml) low-salt chicken broth or water

Using a little more or a little less of any of these ingredients will still produce an acceptable result.

Pulse the onions, tomatoes, vinegar, garlic, tomato paste, and spices in a blender until a paste forms. Heat a frying pan and add the oil. Then sautee the onion, vegetable, and spice paste on high heat until golden. Use this as base for braising the chicken and potatoes on low heat until fork-tender, usually about 60 minutes.

If you can't find garam masala, just add more turmeric and a pinch of cinnamon, cardamom, and mace. Leftovers kept in a covered container in the refrigerator will keep up to 3 days, the flavors actually deepening the longer you keep the leftovers in the frig.

Written By Robert S. Rister
Robert Rister is the author of Healing without Medication and many other books that have been translated into eight languages. He is a chemist, a formulator of natural products, and a writer of consumer guides to getting the greatest value from natural health care.

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