My slow cooker recipe for beef curry is rich and warming with the tenderest meat and a sumptuous savoury tomato gravy. It’s perfect for making ahead of time and almost entirely hands-off for when you have something better to do than cook.
Slow cooker beef curry recipe
Forget about ordering in. This slow cooker beef curry recipe is a mouth-watering Indian dish with warming spices and melt-in-the-mouth meat.
We love this curry, whether it’s a Saturday night treat or an after work supper. Enjoy it with all the classic accompaniments of pilau rice or flat breads, chutneys and poppadums. It’s the perfect dish to cook in advance, whether you are expecting company or a busy week.
This beef curry, like all slow cooker recipes, benefits from long, slow cooking that allows the flavours to develop and tenderises the meat. Meals made in the slow cooker are ideal for batch cooking. We like to make a large batch so there’s some for the freezer. That way, any night can be a curry night.
Despite what you may think, beef curry recipes are an authentic part of Indian tradition. While the majority of Indians are Hindu and avoid eating beef, India has a long history of cultural and religious diversity. You might be tempted to think that beef curry is an invention of the British in India, but that is not the case.
While it is illegal to sell beef in some states, in others beef and buffalo meat are part of the food heritage, and this combination of flavours is part of a long tradition. If you’ve never eaten beef in a curry before, why not give it a try?
Why make slow cooker beef curry?
- This recipe is very simple.
- It is full of flavour – rich intense curry gravy and tender, delicious beef.
- Made in the slow cooker, it is largely hands off. All you need is about 10 minutes hands on time at the start.
- It is adaptable, so you can easily adjust the spice level to suit your taste.
- It is great for batch cooking. Fill the freezer and you need never waste money on takeaway. (In fact it is even better when made ahead and reheated)
Slow cooker beef curry ingredients
- Beef – I tend to use diced braising/stewing beef, something with about 10–15% fat. Don’t be too health conscious – you want a little fat in a slow cooked recipe. If you are using very lean beef, add a little butter to the pot. There’s no coconut milk in this curry, so a little won’t hurt.
- Spices – I use a curry powder, garam masala, chilli flake (this is the outside of the chillies without the seeds so adds lots of lovely rich chilli flavour without the heat), paprika, cumin, cardamom and cinnamon.
- Ginger – I much prefer to buy a ginger root, rather than dry powder. I freeze it and grate from frozen whenever I need it, and there is not need to peel it either.
- Onion and Garlic – I usually have onions at the bottom of the fridge, but you can also use a handful of frozen chopped onion. Simply fry from frozen
- Canned Tomatoes and Tomato Puree – The tomatoes can be chopped or whole. Whole ones will fall apart as they cook, so there’s no need to chop them.
Buying a reasonable brand (but not the most expensive) is well worth the extra few pennies. If you are using cheap tomatoes, add a little tomato puree/paste and a spoon of sugar to both enrich and counteract the acidity of under-ripe tomatoes. You could also use passata here, or even a jar of tomato pasta sauce as long as it isn’t full of Italian herbs.
- Beef Stock – A cube or stock pot is all you need. If using a cube, make it up into a thin paste with just a little water.
- Butter – This is optional, but it adds a lovely texture and richness for that proper British Indian Restaurant style finish to the curry, and it does make a big difference if your meat is very lean. Leave it out or add a little coconut oil if preferred.
- Spinach – Again, this is optional, but very much worthwhile. It’s delicious with the beef and one of your daily veg. It also means your curry will be packed with iron. A supermarket packet of spinach will wilt down into the sauce very easily.
Which cut of beef is the best for slow cooker curry?
I would use diced braising or stewing steak this slow cooker beef curry recipe. This is usually a tougher cut like skirt, flank or chuck. One of my preferred cuts is shin – which is perfect for long slow cooking.
When slow cooking beef don’t be swayed by health concerns to pick the leanest cut – you want some fat in there for both flavour and texture. About 10-15% fat is perfect.
If you use very lean meat, add a knob of butter to the pot. It will really help the texture and give you that velvety quality to the sauce.
How to make slow cooker beef curry – step by step
Before you start, read my step-by-step instructions, with photos, hints and tips so you can to make this perfectly every time.
Scroll down for the recipe card with quantities and more tips at the bottom of the page.
Step One – Peel and finely dice the onion. Then sauté the onion in a little oil until it is starting to turn golden. Remove from the pan and add to the slow cooker.
Step Two – Fry off the diced beef in a little oil or dripping, until it starts to colour. It is best to do this in stages, so that there is plenty of room in the pan.
If any liquid comes off the beef, pour it all into the slow cooker pot, it is all full of flavour so don’t waste it!
Step Three – Return all the beef to the pan. Now add the ground spices, chilli, garlic and ginger and give it all a good stir.
Helen’s Fuss Free Tip
You are not fully cooking the meat or spices at this point. Frying the beef until it starts to colour adds some extra flavour (due to the Millard reaction). Toasting the spices also brings out more flavour.
Step Four – Add the remaining ingredients to the slow cooker and stir well, before putting the lid on.
Cook for half an hour on high to bring the curry to a simmer. You can then continue to cook for a further 3–4 hours on high, or turn down to low for 5–6 hours.
Give it a stir from time to time while it cooks. (NB this is not essential, so don’t worry if you want to go out and leave it to cook.)
I find that cooking for longer than 6 hours does not improve the curry, and won’t make the beef any more tender. It will already be fall apart at this stage, but still have a little texture. However unlike a slow cooked chicken dish you can leave this one for longer.
Timings will depend on your own slow cooker, however, so adjust the timing if you know yours is always a little fast or slow. It’s important to know your own equipment.
Step Five –The cardamom pods and cinnamon stick tend to float to the top towards the end of cooking, so you can fish them out with a spoon.
If you used a lean stewing steak, then you can add a knob of butter to enrich the curry. This makes a big difference to the flavour and the texture of the sauce.
If you prefer a thicker curry sauce, you can now thicken the curry. You can do this by leaving the lid ajar for the last 30-40 minutes of cooking, to allow the sauce to reduce, but my preferred method is with cornflour.
Put 2 heaped teaspoons of cornflour/cornstarch into a small bowl. Then scoop out a few spoons of the curry sauce and stir into the cornflour to make a thin paste. Pour into the curry and stir through. The sauce will start to thicken. If you want to go further, repeat.
When using cornflour to thicken a dish, ALWAYS add liquid to the cornflour in a separate bowl to make a paste before you stir it into the sauce. NEVER add dry cornflour to a dish of hot sauce. You will never get the lumps out.
Step Six (optional) – Spinach is a fantastic addition to this curry. Cram as much as you can into the slow cooker, and put the lid on so it starts to wilt. After a couple of minutes, stir it in. Then repeat. Spinach reduces down a lot, so the curry will absorb what may look like a huge amount of leaves.
If using frozen spinach, defrost and squeeze out the excess water very thoroughly before adding to the pot.
- You can vary the spicing with your favourite curry powder blend or paste.
- For a creamier, korma style curry, try swirling though some double cream at the end.
- Make this go further by adding a can of drained and rinsed chickpeas or lentils half an hour before the end of cooking time.
- It is really easy to add some extra vegetables into this slow cooker curry recipe. Just chop up and fry some bell peppers and mushrooms with the onions at the start of cooking. Include raw vegetables that you would normally steam or boil, such as green beans, along with the liquid.
Storage and freezing
This slow cook beef curry recipe is designed for batch cooking. Like most casseroles, stews and slow cooked dishes, the flavour develops over time and it can be even better the next day (although it is still amazing straight from the slow cooker).
Allow the curry to cool, and pack into an airtight container as soon as it is cold. You can keep it in the fridge for up to 3 days, or freeze for about 3 months. Defrost (from frozen) and reheat in a pan on the stove top, or heat in the microwave, making sure it is properly hot before serving.
I use plastic takeaway trays to freeze my batch cooking. They hold the perfect amount for two, stack in the freezer, and go through the dishwasher again and again. Either reuse ones from the actual takeaway, or you can buy them online. The 500 ml version is perfect for a serving for 2.
Hints and Tips
- You can make this beef curry recipe on the stove top or in the oven instead. Use a good heavy casserole dish, with a lid that fits properly. Cook on a low heat (using a diffuser ring if necessary) for 3 hours, or in a low oven 150C (fan) / 325 F / Gas 3 for 2 and a half to 3 hours.
- Do not be tempted to sling it all in the slow cooker and skip the frying stage. It will be disappointing. That extra effort makes it so much better.
- Fresh spices are better. If the jar of curry powder has been in the cupboard for years, then please throw it and buy fresh.
I use a generic medium curry powder from the supermarket. It has more of the bitter flavours like turmeric and fenugreek, balancing out the sweeter spices in garam masala. However, this dish is very flexible and you can use your own favourite curry spices, whether that’s a Madras or Jalfrezi mix.
If anything, I think the flavour improves if you keep it in the fridge, or freeze, then defrost, to reheat in a day or two, so this is a great dish to make in advance.
Technically no. But the browning causes the Milliard reaction which adds flavour. Frying the spices toasts them and adds yet more flavour (think about a chicken tikka). I’ve done it both ways and think it is worth that little extra effort for the best taste and use of ingredients.
More curry recipes
- Leftover Turkey Curry – speedy, easy and perfect for after Thanksgiving or Christmas
- Slow Cooker Chicken Curry – warming comforting chicken curry in a rich coconut sauce.
- Slow Cooker Lamb Curry – fall apart lamb in a rich tomato and coconut curry sauce.
- Lamb Rogan Josh – fully flavoured with tender chunks of lamb
- Chicken Biryani – one pot, lightly spiced chicken and rice
- Homemade pilau rice – golden yellow, lightly spiced with butter finish (you can also make Instant Pot pilau rice)
- Raita – the classic refreshing and cooling curry accompaniment made with yogurt, cucumber and mint.
- More easy curry recipes – No need for takeaway with my British Indian restaurant style recipes which are easy to make at home.
Easy Slow Cooked Beef Curry
- 1 large onion (peeled and finely diced)
- 1 tsp vegetable oil
- 600 g braising / stewing steak
- 1 tbs fresh ginger (finely grated)
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 tbs curry powder
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp chilli flake (or to taste)
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 6 cardamon pods
- 2 tsp cumin
- 1 can tomatoes (regular 440g can)
- 2 tbs tomato paste
- 1 beef stock cube / stock pot
- 2 tsp cornflour (optional to thicken )
- Peel and finely dice the onion. Then sauté the onion in a little oil until it is starting to turn golden. Remove from the pan and add to the slow cooker.1 large onion, 1 tsp vegetable oil
- Fry off the diced beef in a little oil or dripping, until it starts to colour. It is best to do this in stages, so that there is plenty of room in the pan. If any liquid comes off the beef, pour it all into the slow cooker pot.600 g braising / stewing steak
- Return all the beef to the pan. Now add the ground spices, garlic, chilli and ginger. Give it all a good stir1 tbs fresh ginger, 2 cloves garlic, 2 tbs curry powder, 1 tsp garam masala, 1 tsp chilli flake, 1 tsp paprika, 2 tsp cumin
- Add the remaining ingredients to the slow cooker and stir well, before putting the lid on.1 tsp chilli flake, 1 cinnamon stick, 6 cardamon pods, 1 can tomatoes, 2 tbs tomato paste, 1 beef stock cube / stock pot
- Cook for half an hour on high to bring the curry to a simmer. You can then continue to cook for a further 3–4 hours on high, or turn down to low for 5–6 hours. Give it a stir from time to time while it cooks if you can, but don't worry if you can't.
- The cardamom pods and cinnamon stick tend to float to the top towards the end of cooking, so lift them out with a spoon. If you used a lean stewing steak, add a knob of butter to enrich the curry.
- You can adjust the consistency to make it thicker if you prefer. Leave the lid partially open for the last 30–40 minutes of cooking OR thicken with cornflour at the end of cooking. To do this, Put 2 heaped teaspoons of cornflour/cornstarch into a small bowl. Scoop out a few spoons of the curry sauce and stir into the cornflour to make a thin paste. Pour into the curry and stir through.2 tsp cornflour
- If you are using spinach, add it now. Cram as much as you can into the slow cooker, and put the lid on so it starts to wilt. After a couple of minutes, stir it in. Then garnish with coriander leaf and serve.
- This recipe is 14 Weight Watchers points per portion