Thakkali Curry (This Tomato Curry Will Wow Your Vegan Friends!)

thakkali curry

If you have ripe tomatoes that you need to use up, this thakkali curry is the perfect recipe for you! It’s tangy, spicy, and absolutely delicious. Made with humble pantry staples, you can easily whip up this dish anytime.

Here’s what you’ll need:

What is thakkali curry?

Thakkali is the Tamil word for tomato, so thakkali curry translates to tomato curry.

I’m not a fan of raw tomatoes, but tomatoes softened in curry? They are heavenly! Whenever my mum makes curry at home, I always fish out all the tomato chunks and hoard them on my plate! Soft juicy tomatoes with hidden pockets of spicy curry, GAHHH, my mouth is watering as I type this!

In addition to tomatoes, I also add whole small onions that get beautifully soft and sweet, making this a tomato onion curry.

This curry epitomizes the beauty of Indian cooking – with a little love, the humblest of ingredients can create the most satisfying dishes.

Other vegetarian recipes you can try

Why you’ll love this thakkali curry recipe

Here’s why you should try this tomato and onion curry:

  • It’s a great way to use up any extra tomatoes lying around in your kitchen. Tomatoes are a beautiful mix of sweet and tart, and they are featured front and center in this curry.

  • It’s vegetarian and vegan-friendly. If you’re looking to incorporate more plant-based dishes into your diet, this is a good recipe to have on hand. It’s flavorful and easy to make. Pair it with some rice and crispy fried okra chips, and you’ve got yourself a super satisfying meal.

  • It’s affordable. This recipe uses basic pantry staples such as onions, spices, and tomatoes that are budget-friendly.

Tomato onion curry ingredients

To make this curry, all you need is a handful of humble ingredients. Here’s what you’ll need:


I use 4 medium tomatoes for this recipe that serve 2–3 people.

Ripe tomatoes work best here. I cut each tomato into 8 segments and cook them for about 15 minutes in the curry. The tomatoes get soft and mushy, adding tons of flavor to the curry in the process.

Red pearl onions

Adding whole onions to a curry may sound odd, but it’s quite common in some South Indian curries. I use 6 whole red pearl onions here, and they become wonderfully soft and sweet in the curry.

Gingelly oil

For this curry, I use gingelly (sesame) oil. If you don’t have this, you can substitute it with regular vegetable oil.

thakkali curry


For this curry, I use a handful of whole and ground spices, namely:

  • Mustard seeds
  • Cumin seeds
  • Urad dhal (split black gram)
  • Chili powder
  • Turmeric
  • Curry powder

Curry leaves

Of course, no South Indian curry is complete without curry leaves! Add these beauties in as you brown your onions and they’ll release their wonderful flavor into the curry.


This is another must-have when it comes to curries! Chopped cilantro doesn’t just add that pop of color at the end, it also adds fresh, citrusy notes to your curry. Don’t skip this!

How to make thakkali curry

The best part about this curry is it’s so easy to make! Here’s how to make this quick and easy tomato curry recipe:

1. Start by tempering the spices.

Heat gingelly (sesame) oil in a pot, before adding mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and urad dhal (split black gram). Fry the spices until the mustard seeds begin to pop.

2. Next, brown your onions.

Time to add your aromatics – onions, chili, garlic, ginger, and curry leaves. Sauté until your onions brown. This process takes a little time, but be patient. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years from watching my mum cook in the kitchen, it’s this – browning your onions is key to a flavorful curry!

Here’s a quick tip: Add some salt to the onions to draw out the moisture and help them brown faster.

thakkali curry

3. Add the tomatoes and ground spices.

Once your onions brown, it’s time to add your tomatoes and ground spices along with a little water to prevent the spices from burning. Cook for a few minutes before adding more water and bringing the pot to a boil.

4. Cook the curry for 15 minutes.

Once the curry comes to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer and cover the pot, leaving the lid slightly ajar. The reason I do this is to allow the steam to escape, and the curry to thicken as it cooks.

5. Finally, taste and garnish the thakkali curry.

Taste the curry and add more salt, if needed. Garnish with cilantro and serve with rice and other yummy sides!

How to serve thakkali curry

You can serve this curry with rice and other sides for a well-rounded meal. Here are some sides that you can enjoy with this tomato onion curry recipe:

Frequently Asked Questions

Are onions good in curry?

Onions and tomatoes serve as thickening agents in curries. To ensure a thick and rich curry, always start with a base of finely chopped onions. And brown them patiently!

Is red or white onion better for curry?

If you’re wondering what type of onion to use for curries, here’s your answer.

Red onions are a staple in South Asian cooking, and are preferred in preparing traditional curries for their full-bodied flavor. Meanwhile, white onions tend to be milder and are more prominent in French and other Western cuisines.

What are pearl onions?

Pearl onions, or baby onions, are similar to regular onions, but they are smaller and sweeter. They are great for adding into stews and curries. They can be cooked and eaten whole, and they add a juicy pop of onion goodness when you bite into them.

Do pearl onions taste like regular onions?

In terms of flavor, pearl onions are sweeter and milder than regular onions. They can be cooked whole in curries, stews, braises, and gratins.

What can pearl onions be used for?

Pearl onions are mild, sweet, and can be eaten whole. They can be roasted, pickled, glazed, and used in stews, curries, braises, and gratins.

What is the secret of Indian curry?

Three core ingredients form the base of almost any curry: red onion, ginger, and garlic. Browning the onions adds depth of flavor to the curry, whereas ginger-garlic paste adds nice, savory notes and a wonderful aroma.

What gives curry depth of flavor?

Here are a few things to keep in mind to make a good curry: brown your onions, use adequate amounts of fresh, aromatic herbs and spices, and add tomatoes to give body to your curry.

Avoid using old or stale spices that have lost their flavor and aroma. If you’re not sure how to store your spices, here’s a guide on How To Store Spices Long Term.

thakkali curry

Thakkali Curry | Tomato Onion Curry

This curry is the perfect recipe for tomato lovers. It’s tangy, spicy and absolutely delicious! Featuring two humble ingredients front and center, tomatoes and onions, this curry captures the beauty and essence of simple yet delicious home cooking.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Servings 3 people


  • 3 tbsp sesame oil
  • ½ tsp mustard seeds
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp urad dhal (split black gram)
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and whole
  • 1-inch ginger piece, minced
  • 2 sprigs of curry leaves
  • 2 red chilies, chopped
  • 6 small onions, peeled and whole
  • 4 ripe tomatoes, each cut into 8 segments
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp Kashmiri chili powder
  • 3 tsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp chopped cilantro


  • Heat mustard oil in a non-stick pot on medium high before adding mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and urad dhal. Fry until mustard seeds begin to pop.
  • Next, add the chopped onions, ginger, garlic, curry leaves, chilies, and small onions. Sauté until onions brown, around 8 to 10 minutes.
  • On medium-low heat, add tomatoes and ½ tsp salt. After1 – 2 minutes, add the chili powder, turmeric, curry powder, and ¼ cup water. Mix well and cook for 3 – 4 minutes.
  • Then, add the remaining water and on high heat, bring to a boil. Once the water starts boiling, lower the heat to medium-low. Cover the pot, leaving the lid slightly ajar to allow the steam to escape, and the curry to thicken. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Finally, taste and add more salt if needed before garnishing with chopped cilantro. Serve hot with rice and other sides.
Keyword thakkali curry, tomato onion curry


If you’re looking for easy, affordable recipes, then this onion and tomato curry is definitely a must-try! Featuring two humble ingredients front and center, tomatoes and onions, this curry captures the beauty and essence of simple yet delicious home cooking.

Once you try softened tomatoes in curry, there’s no going back! You’ve been warned!

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