Fragrant with fennel, cinnamon and cloves and bathed in creamy coconut, lamb coconut curry is a lovely change from tomato based curries.

Fragrant and Creamy

Redolent of fennel, cinnamon, and cloves, with tender lamb bathed in coconut milk, this coconut lamb curry is a must. Sunday means lamb in many non-veg Indian households, and as with any curry, what it is flavored with varies all over India. I love the combination of coconut, curry leaves, and some sort of acid, in this case, tamarind paste.

Lamb Madras Curry

British Indian food lovers may recognize this combination of spices as a Madras curry. Madras is now Chennai, and in the U.K. this curry is code for very hot and fiery. My tolerance for heat from chilies is pretty low, so this fragrant curry is captivating, but not an incendiary dish.

Coconut Lamb Curry

This inspiration for this recipe is another winner from Hari Ghotra’s YouTube channel, though I have made a few changes as usual. I took a cue from Madhur Jaffrey’s Madras curry and added a cup of coconut, which I think adds sweetness and allows the spices to blend more gracefully. Feel free to mix up the meat you use. Chicken will help bring this curry together much more quickly. But resist the temptation to use chicken breast, as it has a tendency to be dry.

Happy Cooking!

~ Alonna

See Notes below before you cook.

Coconut Lamb Curry (Madras Curry) a serving dish full of tender lamb garnished with paratha and fresh cilantro

Coconut Lamb Curry (Madras Curry)

Fragrant with fennel, cinnamon and cloves and bathed in creamy coconut, lamb coconut curry is a lovely change from tomato based curries.
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Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Indian
Keyword: beef, Chicken, coconut, Curry, dairy free, Lamb, make ahead, South Indian
Prep Time: 35 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Servings: 6



  • 2 pounds lamb ~ Cut into cubes, use beef or chicken thighs
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 1/5 teaspoon anise or fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon white poppy seeds ~ Or same amount cashews
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 4 green cardamom pods
  • 1 cassia or cinnamon stick ~ 3 inches
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons Kashmiri ground red chili ~ Substitutions
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea or table salt ~ Substitutions

Masala (Sauce)

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil ~ Or oil of your choice
  • 1 teaspoon black or brown mustard seeds
  • 10 fresh curry leaves ~ Coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups onions ~ Finely diced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste ~ Buy or make
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice ~ More to taste
  • 2 cans coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro ~ Chopped for garnish



  • Gather your marinade ingredients.
    Coconut Lamb Curry (Madras Curry) with all the ingredients for the marination of the lamb
  • In a medium pan over medium heat, add all the whole spices: coriander, anise or fennel seeds, poppy seeds or cashews, cumin, cardamom, cassia, and cloves. Toast for a minute or two until fragrant. Let cool for 5 minutes.
    Coconut Lamb Curry (Madras Curry) a large skillet toasting the marination ingredients
  • Grind spices in a spice grinder, straining out any big pieces and then run through the grinder again. You will probably have about a tablespoon of coarse spice that you can discard. Add the turmeric, chili powder, and salt.
  • Place lamb in a large bowl and coat with the spice powder. If you have the time, allow the lamb or beef to marinate for 2 hours, or overnight. If using chicken, a couple of hours will be enough marination time.
    Coconut Lamb Curry (Madras Curry) lamb marinating in spices

Masala (Sauce)

  • Gather your sauce ingredients.
    Coconut Lamb Curry (Madras Curry) masala ingredients gathered
  • Add coconut oil to a heavy dutch oven or saucepan and heat to medium-high. Add the mustard seeds and once they begin to pop, immediately stir in the curry leaves, onions, and salt. Cook the onions until they begin to brown; about 8 minutes. If the onions stick to the bottom of the pan, add water in 1 tablespoon increments as needed.
  • Add the ginger garlic paste. Sauté for 30 seconds, stirring continuously. 
    Coconut Lamb Curry (Madras Curry) a dutch oven with the masala ingredients cooking.
  • Add the meat and water and cook for 4 minutes. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting, add the coconut milk and cover. Cook very gently, stirring occasionally. You are looking for the sauce to thicken and the lamb to be very tender. Lamb will take between 60 minutes and 90 minutes. Beef could take up to 90 minutes depending on the size of your cubes, and boneless chicken will take about 15 minutes. Add lime juice starting with a tablespoon, adding more as needed.
    Coconut Lamb Curry (Madras Curry) cooking the meat in coconut milk
  • Check for salt, acid (lime), and heat level from chilies. As with most curries, allowing the meat to rest in the sauce overnight will give you and even more flavorful dish. Serve with a simple rice side and/or Indian bread.
    Coconut Lamb Curry (Madras Curry) a serving dish full of tender lamb garnished with paratha and fresh cilantro


  • If you are cutting lamb or beef into cubes yourself, you may want to purchase an extra half-pound of meat. I find that a large cut of lamb or beef has quite a bit of fat that needs to be trimmed away.
  • If you prefer using chicken for this recipe, you may want to use about 3/4 the amount of spices in the spice powder, and adjust the cooking time accordingly. Chicken thigh meat will be the best choice here.
  • Indian white poppy seeds are different enough from black poppy seeds, that if you don’t have them, it is best to leave them out. Use cashews instead. The purpose of either is to add body to the final sauce for this coconut lamb curry.