Top 5 tips to avoid curry smell

Topics in this article

  • Introduction
  • 1. Choose sweet aromatic ingredients in making fragrant curries
  • 2. Good cooking oils to prevent curry smell
  • 3. Correct methods of making curry for a sweet-smelling home
  • 4.Take inspiration from world of fragrant cooking
    1. Sri Lanka
    2. Mediterranean
      1. Curries that can benefit from dash of Italian herbs, from my curry catalogue.
    3. Southeast Asia & East Asia
      1. Aromatic curries that use lemongrass
  • 5.Cooking and Cleaning to avoid curry smells in the house.


Curry smell is a taboo among many curry lovers. One must not talk about it if one loves curries. As a curry lover myself I understand. After giving the topic a long and hard thought I am finally challenging myself to write an opinion post about the unspeakable topic of curry smell and how to prevent it when cooking curries. I think I have earned the right to write it after all these years of making curries. Read to the end and I promise you you will not be disappointed.

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Fragrant curries are highly desirable and rewarding to cook. They make my house fill with the sweet aroma of herbs and sweet-smelling spices like cinnamon, fennel and more.

As a curry lover, I am no stranger to raw and toasted aromas of various seasonings that go into curries. It brings me joy. It makes my meal more satisfying. I am never bothered by it the least. However, I have met people who are sensitive to it. One of them is my dearly beloved husband. In fact, it is his aversion to the curry smell in his clothes that prompted me to think especially about preventing curry odors in my meals.

There is no denying that curry can get into everything, and the smell is very stubborn to get rid of. Especially, over a lengthy period of cooler months in New England when you can’t open windows, I am reluctant to cook some of my favorite curries indoors because of the smell. In short, this post is about tips and tricks I follow when cooking with pungent curry mixes and some sweet aromatic curries you can make to stay ahead of unfavorable aromas.

Not all spices are culprits of pungent odors. Sometimes, remedying overpowering odor is as easy as avoiding worse spice “culprits” in our curries. There are multitude of great curry recipes that help us do just that, in my blog as well as overall blogging community.

Other times, good cooking methods and food storage tips come in handy to minimize the aroma of the spices getting on to your drywalls.

The essential oils from the spices we use evaporate into the air around us when we cook. As the air cools down, they tend to settle on porous surfaces and get absorbed, making the surface smell of what was just cooked. Common porous surfaces are drywalls, curtains, and upholstery. In them the aroma tends to stay longer.

Who are the worst culprits of curry smell? The worst of the worst is cumin and fenugreek seeds, sometimes used together. This is completely my opinion because each of us is sensitive to different odors. At least for me frying dried fish, shrimp paste, fish sauce, garlic, cumin and fenugreek really comes to mind.

1. Choose sweet aromatic ingredients in making fragrant curries

image of apples in fragrant curry
Spicy Apple Curry

Fenugreek, garlic, cumin, and fermented elements in curry pastes make very potent and pungent curry blends. They pack flavors as well as smells. Some curries really do need them to get their authentic flavors. However, there are a lot more recipes that use fragrant spices and give away fruity and herbal aroma that is really refreshing when you get them simmering.

Apples, pineapples, lemon, lime, carrots, cashews, and plantains are some great ingredients to cook fragrant curries with. Making yellow curry is a clever way to incorporate such ingredients with sweet smelling aromatic spices like cinnamon, fennel and turmeric to make a fragrant curry.

How to prevent curry odors with yellow curry

If you are new to making curries and want to play it safe, I highly recommend making a light fragrant yellow curry that blends sweet spices. I would call it a good beginner curry. Choose fragrant curry blends with herbs like Pandan, lemongrass or spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, fennel, cloves, lemon zest and turmeric in the mix.

rice and curry lunch
Yellow curries served with rice

There are plenty of great light yellow curry recipes that use little or no cumin or fenugreek seeds. These curries are going to go long way when avoiding curry smell in the kitchen. Also, cinnamon, turmeric and fennel-based curries simmered lightly in coconut milk just gives out sweet and mild fragrance and refreshing flavor in crowd pleaser meals, in my home kitchen.

Likewise use spices, like nutmeg, cardamom, cloves, lime zest, cinnamon, star anise and black cumin to counter unsavory aromas from stronger chilies, fenugreek, and cumin, while making red curries.

2. Good cooking oils to prevent curry smell

Cooking oil plays a big part in dispersing essential oils from the spice blends throughout the sauce. I am calling it the vital part in developing flavors. Number of essential oils dissolves in hot cooking oil quite efficiently. Frying the curry bases in cooking oil with a low smoke point then following that up with water on an open saucepan, really helps to get that aroma into the curry as well as surrounding very air effectively. How can we avoid losing some of that flavor and aroma preserve it in the curry, thus avoiding curry smell?

In my home kitchen, I love using coconut oil not only because flavor notes it adds, but also for its high smoke point, health benefits, and sweet aroma. It a very Sri Lankan way to sauté curry powders with onions garlic, curry leaves with cooking vegetable or meat while making red curries.

I love using ghee or clarified butter for its higher smoke point, amazing flavor when making Indian curries.

Gaining insight on the spice blends that are sensitive to you and using a high smoke cooking oil like refined avocado oil while toasting them is a terrific way to minimize how much of the odor goes to air when cooking. Also keeping the heat low to medium while warming up premade strong curry blends and keeping a lid on the pot when simmering is also highly recommended.

3. Correct methods of making curry for a sweet-smelling home

It’s always a good idea to pick the cooking method based on how potent the curry blend is going to be. Tempered curries use high heat, shorter cooking time and little to no sauce. Most vegetables are curried this way in my home. I usually temper my vegetables first to par-cook and then add my curry powder during the last 5 to 10 minutes while finishing the curry. That way flavor of the curry powder preserves in the curry instead of in the walls of my home.

Long slow simmered curries like most red meat curries or usually tough cuts of meat, need to be simmered in seasoned curry broth for a long time to leave them tender and absorb a good amount of flavor. Such rendering of flavors gives a delicious curry sauce. However, it is process that gives out lots of aromatic steam over extended period of time. My go to tip when making long slow cooked curries is investing in high quality clay Dutch oven so that I can finish simmering part in the oven. Clay Dutch oven helps develop great flavor, by keeping all the aromatics inside the cooking pot.

BBQ and grilling and using dry heat like grilling isn’t a traditional part of average Sri Lankan home cooking, there are however great recipes that use this method with curry seasoning blends in Asian cooking that I can adopt. Mostly Sri Lankan curries are made on stove top. But same seasonings can be used to cook BBQ outdoors when needed blissfully. It just helps to keep all the curry odors outdoors. I love cooking black pork curry and sour fish curry this way in my smoker. Finished curry BBQ is unbelievably delicious with curry blend infused with smoke, crusted to the skin.

Each ingredient benefits from a cooking method that helps bringing out the best flavors without overpowering curry smell. Keeping lids on while simmering, slow cooking curries in the oven and converting recipes to suit outdoor cooking on the grill are more ways that correct cooking methods helping to prevent curry smell.

4.Take inspiration from world of fragrant cooking

I love making recipes from around the world. Especially curries and sauces. I love that there are lot more recipes available now from so many great bloggers and writers around the world, creating new and old family recipes and uploading them on their platforms every day.

Good cooking inspirations are easier to find than ever. I feel like there is no better time to be running a food blog than now. Social media is full of such inspiration, some are amazing creators. I am in some of the platforms too sharing what I can. I apologize I am really slow to catch up in every platform equally. I am an old soul. I would rather cook and write, most of the time eat.

Before I ever thought of running a food blog, I used to follow recipes from Gennaro Contaldo religiously and tried to recreate them in my kitchen. I still do. More I read I became Italian cooking addict. After reading everything I got my hands on and I am still a enthusiastic student of art of Italian cooking. More I learned; I saw how authentic Italian sauce making is similar to the process of making curries in principle. They use different seasonings and ingredients, in essentially similar cooking methods.

Since then, I have been a part of many Facebook groups with great curry recipes from around the world. It makes me really happy following amazing recipes, witnessing so many people cooking delicious food. I feel lucky learning tips from other recipes around the world, reading treasured family recipes and being able to incorporate them in my own cooking.

I know, I could not possibly hope to give all the tips and tricks on fragrant cooking from around the world from few paragraphs. However, I am going to try and introduce few of my favorite picks and write a little bit how I incorporate them in my curries.

Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan food is dear to my heart. I am proud to say my fellow Sri Lankans are really good curry makers. Present in that little oasis of cooking and curry making, are the influences of Indian, African, European, and East Asian cooking methods.

Inspirations on how to avoid curry smell

What spices Sri Lankans use in curries to avoid curry smell and leave a only the good aromas? We use concoction coconut, lime, fennel, lemongrass, cinnamon, Pandan and cloves among other things. Fennel is potent, aromatic and a great anti-inflammatory addition to any light coconut milk based curries. It delivers beautiful flavors in a combination of coriander, cinnamon or turmeric in coconut-based curry sauces.

A fitting example of toasted Sri Lankan curry blend masking is Sri Lankan shark fish curry, or Sri Lankan chili fish curry. Brindle berries, clove, nutmeg with red curry blend takes away unfavorable musk and convert it to a savory mouthwatering aroma.

Turmeric is power when it comes to masking odors. There is not anything better for you than this beautiful golden spice. It has so many uses apart from just making curries. It is a medicinal spice that belongs in every kitchen spice cabinet.

Dry powdered turmeric has a slightly woody and fresh aroma. Fresh turmeric roots have a gingery and orange like aroma. I love using both in my curry seasoning blends. Turmeric powder is more potent than root so you will only need a pinch to give your curries a beautiful color and flavor. I use turmeric while cleaning fish for seafood curries to remove smell from the skin.

Turmeric does not give away huge aroma and does not tend to linger on unless you are using too much of it. Two cups of coconut milk will only need less than a teaspoon of turmeric to give a nice flavor. I have fallen so much in love with using turmeric roots in recent years. It gives curry a beautiful bright yellow tint and fresh scent.


It does feel like Mediterranean soups and sauces are the pinnacle of fragrant cooking. Making some Mediterranean recipes can help the whole house filled with roasting herbs and fruity aromas, whether it is the use of herbs like basil, rosemary, sage, bay leaves, mint or spices like clove, fennel, coriander paired with dried fruits and nuts.

I often add dash of marjoram, rosemary, or sage when I am making yellow curries with vegetables or making Sri Lankan flat breads with scraped coconut and yellow curry powder.

Curries that can benefit from dash of Italian herbs, from my curry catalogue.

Click on the name to go to the recipe page

Southeast Asia & east Asia

My favorite most fragrant spice from southeast Asia is Star Anise. I cannot describe how well I have come to love it. I love using it along with my red curry powder, when I am making stir fried cabbage or cauliflower. Dash of this magical fragrance in cabbages, helps turn curry smell to a desirable mouthwatering aroma.

Southeast Asia brings so many cooking inspirations that I use to avoid curry smell in my home. My favorite Asian herbs and spices lemongrass, Pandan leaves and fennel, sweet basil. I love Thai green curry with vegetables. Coconut milk simmering with herbs and spices is so divine. Sri Lanka has deep rooted cultural ties with Siam and Myanmar and has lot of similarities to cooking methods, spices and herbs we use to southeast Asia. We use lemongrass in our red curries, fish curries and meat curries to turn curry smell to an aroma that’s iconic and appetizing.

Aromatic curries that uses lemongrass

Final tips of avoiding curry smell does not include any cooking at all. they really are good housekeeping tips. This tip is about how to avoid curry smell in house by correctly storing food and cleaning the workspaces.

5.Cooking and Cleaning to avoid curry smells in the house.

white wooden cupboards

I always plan-ahead and combine similar types of curry recipes together, so that I can cook clean at the same time. I do not cook every day. I have always loved making cooking and cleaning after a big meal prep, efficient, as much as possible. That is how I started simplifying and making of so many Sri Lankan curries to three distinct curry seasoning blends. Time spent on creating this curry blends have been highly rewarding. It helps me make any curry I love withing 10 minutes, have a minimalistic approach with such complicated recipes as Sri Lankan curries. I find that now I am trying more keto style meals having premade seasoning blends helping me even more.

On the day of meal prep and cooking, I pick my curry recipes, prep my ingredients finish cooking them in one go. Once I am done, I store away the curries for freezer in spill proof containers and start cleaning. Cleaning right away is an important step in avoiding curry smell around the home.

My favorite cleaning solution to curry smell is surprisingly simple. Its equal part of warm water, vinegar, and lemon juice. Vinegar and Lemon juice combat curry smell wonderfully.

Another pro tip of getting curry smell off carpets and rugs is cleaning them with baking soda and hydrogen peroxide solution. I dust the carpets with baking soda before vacuuming and leave them overnight before vacuuming it off. Then use hydrogen peroxide and a little lemon essential oil in a spray bottle to spray the carpets. If you have lot of rugs in home, inventing a good carpet steamer might be worthwhile. Steam cleaning carpets once every two or three really helps keeping odors at bay.

Cleaning work surfaces in between, especially after each prepping session, is really helps to stay on top of the cleaning routine and avoid making a big mess to clean up in the end. Runaway scraps and spills do happen a lot when you are working with a lot of ingredients, and I don’t want any curry or flavored oil in hard-to-find spaces contributing to curry smells and cooking odors afterwards. The quickest cleanup for the messes that happen on the go is microfiber cloth dipped and wrung out in warm water mixed with little vinegar. Just wipe away and rinse the cloth, reuse.

Thank you for reading till the end. I do hope that you found good take away tips among this long and hopefully not so tiresome reading. I linked to curry recipes that I used here as examples and if you would like to look at recipes. Some of the recipes are still in the process of being written down as posts and will be posted near future.

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