What Is the Cream Used in Indian Curries?

Last Updated on May 31, 2023 by Lauren Beck

As a lover of Indian cuisine, I’ve often marveled at curries’ rich and creamy texture. But what exactly is the cream that lends that lusciousness to these dishes? 

In this article, we’ll unravel the mystery behind the cream used in Indian curries, exploring the different types and debunking common misconceptions. 

Get ready to dive into the world of Indian flavors and discover the secrets of their creamy goodness!

What Is the Cream Used in Indian Curries?

  • Fresh Cream: Fresh cream, also known as malai, is a popular choice for adding creaminess to Indian curries. A thick layer of cream forms on top of the milk when it’s boiled and cooled. This cream is rich in fat and imparts a velvety texture to curries.
  • Heavy Cream: Heavy cream, with its high-fat content, is another option to achieve creamy consistency in Indian curries. It provides a smooth and luxurious texture, enhancing the dish’s richness.

How to Make Indian Chicken Curry?

Making Indian chicken curry combines aromatic spices, flavorful ingredients, and a touch of creaminess. Here’s a general process:

  1. Sauté onions, garlic, and ginger in oil until golden.
  2. Add spices like turmeric, cumin, coriander, and garam masala, and cook for a minute to release their flavors.
  3. Add chicken pieces and cook until browned.
  4. Pour in tomato puree or diced tomatoes and cook until the sauce thickens.
  5. Add a dollop of cream to the curry and simmer for a few minutes to blend the flavors.
  6. Garnish with fresh coriander leaves and serve with rice or naan bread.

Are Malai and Cream the Same?

Yes, malai and cream refer to the same thing in Indian cooking. Malai is the term used to describe the cream that forms on top of boiled milk. 

It is a common ingredient that adds richness and creaminess to various Indian dishes, including curries.

Is Amul Fresh Cream Malai?

Amul fresh cream is a popular brand of cream in India. While it is commonly referred to as malai, it is not the traditional malai that forms naturally on boiled milk. 

Instead, it is a manufactured cream that serves a similar purpose of adding creaminess to Indian curries.

What Can You Use Instead of Cream in Indian Cooking?

If you prefer to avoid cream or are looking for healthier alternatives, some substitutes can still provide a creamy texture:

  • Coconut milk: Coconut milk adds a rich and creamy texture to curries while imparting a subtle tropical flavor.
  • Cashew cream: Soaked and blended cashews can be a dairy-free alternative to achieve creaminess.
  • Yogurt: Yogurt can be whisked and added to curries for a tangy and creamy consistency.

Can I Add Cream To Any Curry?

Bowl of Chicken Curry

While cream can enhance the flavor and texture of many Indian curries, not all curries require cream. 

Cream is commonly added to richer, heavier curries like butter chicken or korma. Lighter curries, such as those with tomato-based gravies or yogurt-based sauces, may not require cream.

Can I Use Milk Instead Of Cream In A Curry?

Milk can be used as a substitute for cream in some curries but may result in a lighter and less creamy texture. 

To thicken the curry, mix milk with a small amount of flour or cornstarch to create a slurry before adding it to the dish.

What Makes Indian Food Creamy?

The creaminess in Indian food comes from the combination of ingredients and cooking techniques. 

Cream, coconut milk, yogurt, and ground nuts are often used to add richness and smoothness to curries [1]. 

Slow cooking, simmering, and blending ingredients contribute to the creamy texture.


In my culinary adventures, I’ve savored countless Indian curries, each one boasting a creamy texture that adds depth and richness to the flavors. 

The cream used in these curries can come in various forms, from traditional malai to heavy cream. It’s the cream that gives these dishes their velvety smoothness and indulgent appeal. 

However, coconut milk, cashew cream, and yogurt can provide creamy substitutes for those seeking alternatives. The beauty of Indian cuisine lies in its adaptability, allowing you to explore different creamy elements and create your own signature curries. 

So, grab your spices and prepare to embark on a flavorful journey through Indian curries.


Lauren Beck
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