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Sri Lankan Beef Curry

Sri Lankan beef curry is chunky beef cooked in rich and spicy coconut gravy. Full of Ceylon flavours and spices.

Sri Lankan Beef Curry

As a child growing up, I ate beef curry at least once a week. A protein curry is something that is cooked in any household for every meal. Usually, Sundays will be our lucky day to eat beef, because beef is expensive and my mum would either make beef curry or lamb curry on Sundays as it’s a special day and we all enjoy it as a family.

After moving away from Sri Lanka, I don’t make curries every day like my mum used to. I would cook a Sri Lankan meal every Sunday, I think the reason I cook it every Sunday is because of the childhood memories I have, where we would all sit at a table and enjoy a nice Sunday lunch. I still remember how my dad would pour a nice glass of scotch for him, make a cocktail for my mum and mocktails for me and my brother haha hahaha Oh!!! what wonderful memories. For this reason, if you do follow me on Instagram, you will see me sipping margaritas every Sunday 🙂

My mum makes some of the best curries and beef curry was one of the curries that she is really good at. So this is a take on my mums beef curry.

You will notice I add tomatoes in my beef curry and I can hear my mum screaming in my ear, “who the bloody hell taught you to add tomatoes in a beef curry and chicken curry”hahaha well the real reason I use it, is because I don’t have goraka (a type of tamarind) lying around all the time, that is what balances the flavour and gives that tarty taste, so I use tomatoes to do that and also by Sunday I have tomatoes lying around in my fridge that I haven’t used, so I just dump it in my curry.

What cut of beef to use for Sri Lankan beef curry

I use beef chuck, oyster blade or gravy beef( Australia) basically any beef cut that is fatty and good for slow cooking. Generally, these cuts are inexpensive as they are considered secondary cuts. Curry will be flavourful if cooked for a long time, as it develops more flavour.

What kind of coconut milk is used for Sri Lankan beef curry

Now I get this question often if coconut cream can be used. Generally, we never use coconut cream in Sri Lankan cooking, we only use coconut milk. I use the desiccated coconut powder that is found in Sri Lankan grocery stores, but you can buy tinned coconut milk in any retail store in Australia.

We also classify coconut milk as thin and thick coconut milk. That’s because when you traditionally make coconut milk at home with real coconuts the final squeezing of the coconut milk is not creamy as the first squeeze then we call it thin coconut milk. And usually at home, we would start with thin coconut milk and finish off with thick coconut milk. But here since I use powdered coconut milk, I start with water and finish with coconut milk.

Where to buy Sri Lankan curry powder

For all my foreign readers, I do get this question often and I keep telling myself, I need to do a recipe on how to make your own curry powder, But I never got to that 🙂 But Sri Lankan curry powder is not something that is freely available in grocery stores unless you go to a Sri Lankan grocery store. But I know a few online places that sell really good sir Lankan curry powder and other spices, I have tagged their website below
Araliya, Lord and lion.

It is very important to use a good curry powder, as that’s what makes the curry a good one, it’s all in the curry powder used. Also, use roasted curry powder, so it saves you a lot of time in the cooking process.

What to eat with Sri Lankan beef curry

Do I need to sear the meat before making the curry?

Ok now, this goes against all that I learnt in cooking techniques, but no you don’t have to. well, I would never cook a beef stew or a lamb shank stew without first searing the meat. But it’s not the way Sri Lankan curries were made, and my mum never did it as well and I haven’t even tried searing the meat first to tell the difference, but I am going to go with what I have been doing in Sri Lanka and also what my mum thought me. If you want to do that extra step of searing the meat, by all means, go for it. But The way I have shown you below works perfectly fine.

How to make Sri Lankan beef curry

Sri Lankan beef curry is a bit of a process, like any curry. But the good part is, it’s a one-pot dish, where you can add all ingredients and let it cook. But follow my steps as per the recipe below and this will give you a bloody delicious beef curry!!!

The texture of the beef once cooked?

Now in Sri Lanka, our beef curry was always tough hahaha, local cows 😉 It had a bite to it, and there was something so good about it as well hahaha, that’s the beef curry I grew up with. But when I cook here in Australia with quality beef, even with cheaper cuts, I can get a soft texture, but not too soft that it just falls apart when a fork is put through, just enough that it has a bite to it.

Can I use a pressure cooker to make beef curry?

The truth is, I have done it this way because I have been time poor, but it doesn’t let the flavours develop, so it’s not as tasty. But you can do it this way. I certainly do it sometimes.

Watch how to make Sri Lankan beef curry

Step by Step recipe on how to make Sri Lankan beef curry

Sri Lankan Beef Curry

Sri Lankan beef curry

Flavourful beef curry soaked in a rich and tangy Ceylon gravy
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes

Servings: 4 people


  • Pot


Beef marinade

  • 500 g Beef dice
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Chilli powder
  • 2 tsp Roasted curry powder
  • 1 tbsp White vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp Black pepper ground
  • 1/2 tsp Turmeric

Beef curry

  • 2 tbsp Oil coconut, canola, vegetable,olive oil
  • 1/2 Large red onion
  • 4 Garlic cloves chopped
  • 1 Tomato dice
  • 1/2 inch Ginger grated
  • 2 Chili Red, green (sliced)
  • 1 sprig Curry leaves
  • 1 sprig Pandan leaves
  • 1/2 Cinnamon bark
  • 2 tbsp Chili powder
  • 1 tbsp Roasted Curry powder
  • 450 g Water
  • 200 g Coconut milk


Beef marinade

  • Marinate the beef with all the ingredients listed in the marinade recipe. Leave it for 1 hour or preferably overnight

Beef curry

  • In a sauce on medium heat add oil then add onion, garlic, ginger, chilli, curry leaves, pandan leaves and saute well until the onion and garlic are soft and cooked
  • Then add the roasted curry powder, chilli powder and cook for a further 1 minute until the spices are lightly roasted
  • Once it is roasted, add the marinated beef, water, cinnamon, tomato close the lid and cook for approximately 45 minutes, check the water level from time to time, if it needs more water, keep adding water.
  • Once the beef is cooked and tender, take off the lid and add coconut milk and let it simmer for 5-10 minutes
  • Once the coconut milk is incorporated and the curry has a creamy gravy consistency take it off the fire and enjoy


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