Last updated on 17-Sep-2023
Korma (also called Kurma or Qorma) is a dish originating in the Indian subcontinent, consisting of meat or vegetables cooked with yogurt or cream, water or stock, and spices to produce a thick korma sauce. Traditionally, the meat or vegetables is first seared on high heat with ghee and then subjected to long, slow cooking using low heat and a minimum of added liquid (braising).
We have had Korma dishes at several different restaurants, and while the flavour profile may vary from place to place – and it can even be a bit too sweet for our taste sometimes – it’s usually delicious and one of my favourite Indian sauces. I like it so much that I decided to try to develop a recipe inspired by the flavour profile I love but with no sugar added and also with a quicker preparation time. As it turns out, this sauce is a perfect medium for vegetables, paneer, fish and shrimp, instead of the much longer time it would take to make the dish with options like lamb, goat, beef or game meat.
There are so many versions of Korma, changing from region to region, country to country, and over time, it’s hard to point to one as being the “right” one or even “better”, as it will depend on regional adaptations and personal taste. Some of the variations of the recipe include almonds, cashews or other nuts, dried coconut, and/or coconut milk, and I love to use these elements. So I checked many recipes online, finding the commonalities, testing ingredient combinations, until I was left with a blend that is a winner in our home.
My version below may stray from authenticity in favour of practicality and our preferences, but I guarantee it is delicious! Since the cashew nuts and coconut milk in the recipe make it creamy and luscious, I also decided to leave out the traditional cream/yogurt, making this a dairy-free recipe. It’s also gluten-free and low-carb by itself (the choice of accompaniments is up to you – we love this easy flatbread), and can be pescatarian, vegetarian or vegan, depending on what is added to the sauce.
Ready to bring some Indian flavours and inspiration to your home? 🙂
Fish Korma (dairy-free)
- Stick blender or regular blender
- 2 tbsp coconut oil or ghee
- 1 onion large, diced
- 1 piece of ginger (about 2 cm or 1 in) fresh, peeled and grated or minced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tsp curry powder
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp cumin ground
- 1½ tsp garam masala mild
- ½ tsp cinnamon ground
- ½ tsp red pepper flakes (or to taste)
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 cup crushed tomatoes
- 400 ml coconut milk (14 oz) 1 can
- ½ cup cashew nuts raw
- 400-500 g fish fillets (1 lb) whiting, haddock, cod or similar; boneless, thawed if frozen, about
- salt and pepper to taste
- ¼ cup cilantro fresh, chopped
- Cut fish fillets into bite-size chunks, sprinkle with salt and set aside. Place cashew nuts in the cup of a hand blender (or jar of a regular blender), cover with hot water and let it soak for a few minutes.
- Heat coconut oil (or ghee) in a heavy bottom pot over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until they start to get translucent. Add ginger and garlic and sauté for another 1-2 minutes, without letting them burn.
- Add all the dry spices and mix well to coat the onions and get fragrant. Add the crushed tomatoes, stir well, season with salt to taste and a pinch of ground black pepper. Bring to a gentle boil and cook for a few minutes, stirring regularly.
- Add the fish chunks and let them cook in the sauce until opaque and flaky (about 8-10 minutes).
- Meanwhile, strain the water from the cashew nuts, add the coconut milk to the blender cup/jar and blend until smooth. Add this cashew cream to the pan and bring the mixture back to a gentle boil. If the sauce is too thick, thin it out with a bit of hot water. Taste and adjust salt if needed.
- Simmer for a few minutes stirring often to prevent burning or sticking to the bottom of the pan. The sauce will also become creamier as it cooks.
- Sprinkle with fresh cilantro (+ more cashews - optional) and serve.
- Serve with cooked basmati rice and/or hot naan (or this easy flatbread), or cauliflower rice to keep it a low-carb meal.
- The same korma sauce can be used with peeled shrimp (made in the same way as the fish) or diced vegetables (such as cauliflower, carrots, potatoes, green beans, peas) and/or paneer (Indian cheese). If using vegetables, add them after adding the spices, and let them cook with a bit of water and the tomatoes until softened, before proceeding with the cashew cream. If using paneer (in cubes), it can be added at a later stage, as it doesn't need to be cooked, just heated through.
- This sauce would still work with bite-size pieces of meat (e.g. chicken, beef, lamb, or goat), but they would have to be seasoned and seared/cooked before adding to the sauce.