Sri Lankan recipe for lamb curry with tamarind and coconut

Sri Lankan recipe for lamb curry with tamarind and coconut

The clocks have turned back, the weather has turned, it’s distinctly colder. The winter chill is starting to bite. It is time to start thinking about recipes that are going to warm you from the inside out. Recipes, though they may take a little time to cook, they warm the kitchen and your heart. My winter warming recipe suggestion is a Sri Lankan recipe for lamb curry with tamarind and coconut. Hearty, spicy and delicious.

We often think of cooking lamb in Spring, but autumnal and winter lamb is good too. Think hearty stews, curries, long slow cooked roasts. I can feel my toes starting to warm already.

I won’t lie, this isn’t a quick recipe. A bit like the Sri Lankan black pork curry, this Sri Lankan recipe for lamb curry may take a little time. But if it’s a cold Sunday, and you can’t face leaving the house, this is the perfect recipe to get cosy with, eat well, then spend the rest of the afternoon and evening indulging yourself in a film or two. I mean, this is what lazy Sundays are made for.

Preparing your Sri Lankan recipe for lamb curry with tamarind and coconut

The preparation for this Sri Lankan recipe for lamb curry is easy enough. First make the marinade by dry roasting the spices, hand grinding in a pestle and mortar. Mix the spices with the tamarind water, coconut milk, the finely chopped garlic, ginger, and a chopped chilli or two. Add the lamb, and leave to marinate for at least an hour, or possibly two. It just depends how keen you are to eat this delicious curry.

Dry roasting and hand grinding spices are one of my favourite ways of preparing a spice mix. When I am in a rush, I have a selection of curry powders, but you just don’t get the intensity of flavour as you do by making your own spice mix. I have a small, very solid frying pan, which I put on the heat (medium to low – you don’t want your spices to burn). I then add the whole dry spices – and I wait for the fragrance to unfurl. When the kitchen is filled with the smell of deliciousness, take off the heat, pour the spices into the pestle and get grinding.

The base of the curry is onions and curry leaves – lots of curry leaves. Be generous. Fresh is best, frozen if you have them or dried will do. But the secret to this curry is in the cooking.

For this Sri Lankan recipe for lamb curry with tamarind and coconut, it’s down to a low heat and a slow cook and you will be assured a hearty, warming Sri Lankan lamb curry.



Sri Lankan recipe for lamb curry with tamarind and coconut

  • Author: Tooting Mama
  • Prep Time: 80 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 hours 5 minutes
  • Yield: 4
  • Category: Main dish
  • Cuisine: Sri Lankan


  • 800g of bite-sized chunks of lamb, trimmed of fat
  • 100ml tamarind water
  • 200ml coconut milk
  • 2 red dried chillies (crushed)
  • 1 teaspoon of fenugreek
  • 4 cardamom pods
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 teaspoon of coriander seeds
  • A teaspoon of black peppercorns
  • 1 inch of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 yellow onion sliced
  • 20 curry leaves
  •  A generous pinch of salt


  • First up is making the dry roasted curry mix
  • Place a small solid pan (I use a small frying pan) on a low heat
  • Add in the whole dry spices and wait for the fragrance to fill the room
  • Take the spices off the heat and pour into a pestle and mortar
  • Crush the spices into a fine(ish) powder, discarding the husks of the cardamom pods
  • Pour the spices into a large bowl
  • Add the finely chopped ginger and garlic
  • Followed by the coconut milk and the tamarind water
  • Now add the meat, and with a wooden spoon, mix the meat thoroughly in the marinade
  • Cover the bowl with clingfilm, and place the bowl in the fridge to marinate for at least an hour
  • Just before you are ready to take the marinaded meat out of the fridge you can make a start on frying the onions and curry leaves
  •  Heat the vegetable oil in a large casserole dish
  • Add the sliced onions and curry leaves
  • On a low heat, cook the onions till they are soft and melting, with a wooden spoon stir occasionally so the onions don’t stick to the bottom of the pan
  • Once the onions are almost transparent, add the marinaded meat
  • Mix the meat thoroughly into the onions and curry leaves, add a generous pinch of salt then cover with the lid, leaving to cook on a low heat
  • Every now and then, give the meat a stir
  • After about 30 minutes, just ease the lid of the casserole pot, allow a little space to let the water to evaporate and allow the sauce to thicken
  • After around 15 minutes, the sauce should thicken coating each morsel of meat with a delicious spicy coconut sauce
  • Serve with boiled rice, perhaps and dhal and aubergine curry and enjoy!


  • For this recipe, I use my deep-sides Le Creuset casserole dish with lid
  • To make the tamarind water, take a chunk of dried tamarind, about an inch. Place into a small bowl, add 100ml of boiling water. Let the pulp soak for a few minutes, give a stir with a spoon, then strain into a small bowl.

Keywords: Sri Lankan lamb curry

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