Jamaican Ingredients: Curry Powder

A funny thing happened this week! I was planning to make Curry Powder the Ingredient of the Week and then yesterday, out of the blue, I received two questions about curry powder! Chris in Canada asked if the curry I use in my Curry Chicken recipe is Jamaican curry powder and, if so, how it different from Indian curry powder. Peter in London, England also asked about what curry powder I use, and if I have a homemade recipe. Thank you both for your questions.

As far as curry powder goes, I’m not too fancy. I generally buy the “all-purpose” brands available at the supermarket. If you’ve made my Curry Chicken recipe you’ll know that I fry some cumin seeds before adding my curry powder to the pot, to kick up the flavour. However, I do sometimes buy “Jamaican” curry powder blends when I find it.
Jamaica’s love of curry originates from the influence of East Indian cooking brought to the island by indentured workers in the 19th century. I did a little research to find out what really makes a Jamaican curry powder different from an Indian curry powder.

What I found is that there are many different variations and combinations of spices in each version, but in general, Jamaican curry powder usually contains allspice and Indian does not. Indian curry powder tends to use both black and green cardamom, Jamaican curry powder does not. Indian curry powders may contain star anise and mace, Jamaican curry powders generally don’t use these spices.

Below are two recipes for homemade Jamaican curry powder that I found but have not tried myself. Honestly, at my age, I’m happy to use the store-bought stuff. However, it you’re willing, I think you’ll find either of these recipes easy. You’ll need either a spice grinder or a mortar and pestle to grind all the spices together. You can also kick up the heat by adding cayenne to either recipe, but I recommend adding heat when cooking a curry dish by using either scotch bonnet pepper or hot pepper sauce. Have fun!

 Jamaican Curry Powder
1/4 cup whole coriander seeds
2 tablespoons whole cumin seeds
2 tablespoons whole mustard seeds
2 tablespoons whole anise seeds
1 tablespoon whole fenugreek seeds
1 tablespoon whole allspice berries
5 tablespoons ground turmeric

Method: Place a spices in a skillet and toast over a medium heat until colour darkens slightly and spices are very fragrant. Remove pan from heat. Let spices cool to room temperature then grind and place in an air-tight storage container.

Jamaican Curry Powder
5 parts ground turmeric
4 parts coriander seeds
3 parts cayenne
1 part ground ginger
1 part grated nutmeg
1 part whole allspice
3 parts fenugreek seeds
2 parts cumin seeds
2 parts whole black pepper
2 parts star anise or aniseed
2 parts yellow mustard seeds
1 part whole cloves

Method: Grind spices together and place in an air-tight storage container.

Curry Powder
Comments (8)
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  • Christine (another Chris in Canada)

    Jamaican curry powder is definitely different from other curries. For starters, it has a higher percentage of tumeric than other curries. In the Greater Toronto Area, you can purchase Beta Pak curry powder, from Twickenham Park in the Jamaican stores. If in the GTA, try Nicey’s. Don’t be fooled by “Jamaican Style” Curry Powder. They don’t make your food taste like authentic Jamaican Curry… stick to those that were mixed in Jamaica… for the best results. It’s also not that expensive . Even though it may be easy to make the curry powder yourself, it is cheaper to buy the real Jamaican pre-mix than buying all the different spices separately. Plus, you’ll support Jamaica’s economy by buying Jamaican pre-mixed curry…

    • Fran from Bronx, NY

      I am sad because almost all store brought “Jamaican curry” contains more salt than is necessary. My brother brought a bottle of Jamaican Curry supposedly imported from Jamaica at the local West Indian grocery store and made curry chicken. in the crockpot. Sadly to say, it was too salty. I don’t ever remember curries as having salt as the ingredient. If I had time and the recipes for curries, I would make it and give it to him to make. Well, lesson learned. I really wished that I had paid more attention to my aunt when she was alive (she’s Jamaican by birth) Thank you for putting this up so now I can go and get the spices needed to make a good Jamaican curry and do away with store brought messes. **UGH!!!**

  • RabbiBlue

    Great recipe which happens to be kosher too, oy vey! Shalom shalom

  • Birdy

    My husband and I were in Jamaica once. That was all it took to leave a lifelong impression. It changed our lives and we have yearned to go back every day since the plane lifted off the island.

    I used your ingredient list today but added a teaspoon of my husbands “respiratory failure” spice mix, which is dehydrated mix of hot and hot hot peppers that he grinds together. I could never eat something that hot, but he loved it!

    I’ve saved ur site to my favorites and will be fusion your this and recipes every chance I get.

    It’s Irie.

  • Zora

    I see the tangy coleslaw but where is the recipe for the creamy coleslaw?

  • rebecca

    hi I am mixed race and my dad is always making oxtail, chicken curry, curry goat. He uses shop bought curry powder so it will be nice to teach him something new for once as he always teaches me. I am so happy that I am only 14 because it means I have a long time of learning how to cook west Indian food. yay. I love your website.

    • Fay & Angela

      Hi Rebecca, thank you for getting in touch. Cooking for you dad will be very special for him. If you have any questions, just let us know!

  • Alan

    Hi, love your recipes. Have you tried the Caribbean curry powders by Dunn’s River, Tropical Sun and Mr Brown’s? They’re the main Jamaican ones available here in the UK as far as I can see – just wondering if you’ve varied them and rate them?