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Sri Lankan Beef Curry for the slow cooker

Sri Lankan Beef Curry

Adapted from Olivia Andrews; the original recipe called for goat; beef or lamb work equally well. In Sri Lanka, pandanus leaf might be used in such a curry, but I do not know where to get any here. A tiny bit of vanilla extract will actually substitute pretty well so don't be afraid to use it! I promise your curry will not taste like a sugar cookie!

Course Entree
Cuisine Curry, Sri Lankan
Author Laura


  • 2 t coarse sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 3 lbs beef chuck
  • 2 T virgin coconut oil, divided
  • 6 green cardamom pods, bruised
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 t fenugreek (methi) seeds
  • 20 fresh or frozen curry leaves
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1/2 t ground turmeric
  • 1 t paprika or cayenne pepper
  • 1 T minced ginger or ginger paste
  • 1 T minced garlic or garlic paste
  • 1 t ground cumin
  • 1 t ground coriander
  • 1 T tomato paste (I used the double strength paste in a tube)
  • 1 15 oz can coconut milk
  • 1 medium large tomato, chopped
  • 1 t raw sugar
  • 2 5-inch ends of lemongrass stems, bruised
  • 1 t vanilla

For Garnish/Finishing:

  • lime or lemon wedges
  • sliced chile pepper (we used sweet pepper but hot peppers are more traditional)
  • sambal oelek
  • Basmati rice


  1. Rub salt over the beef chuck and let stand for 20 minutes. Then brown the entire hunk of meat in 1 tablespoon coconut oil on both sides in either a large pan or a cooktop-safe slow cooker insert over medium heat.

  2. Remove the meat and place in large bowl. Add the second tablespoon of coconut oil with cinnamon stick, cardamom pods and methi seeds. let roast until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

  3. Add curry leaves--stand back as they will splatter. Let roast briefly, about 30 seconds. 

  4. Add the onions with a pinch of salt. Let them cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until they are caramelized, about 15 minutes. While the onions are cooking, chop the browned beef chuck into 2-inch pieces and place back in the bowl.

  5. Add turmeric and paprika to the cooking onions. Splash with water if the onions are sticking or scorching.

  6. Add the garlic and ginger to the onions and stir. Let cook for 2-3 minutes and then add the ground coriander and cumin. Stir. Add the tomato paste and stir again. Let cook for 30 seconds.

  7. Add the coconut milk, chopped tomato and lemongrass. Bring to a boil. Either add the contents of the pot to the slow cooker or transfer the slow cooker insert to the slow cooker base. Mix in the beef chunks (with accumulated juices) and the vanilla. 

  8. Cover with the slow cooker lid and cook for either 4 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low.

  9. The beef should be fork tender when done. Taste for more salt. Serve with Basmati rice, garnished with lemon or lime wedges and sliced fresh chile pepper (sweet or hot). Those of us who enjoy heat also liked it with sambal oelek.