Curried meatballs in onion gravy is a recipe that I’ve been making for my family for years and it never fails to impress. The curried meatballs are oven-baked (so they stay perfectly round) and a dollop of mango chutney adds a tangy sweetness to the curried onion gravy.
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This recipe has stood the test of time
This is my tried and trusted recipe for curried meatballs in an onion gravy. I’ve been making it for years and it’s up there with sausages as the meal most frequently requested by my family over the years.
Mind you, they do have a point! I mean what’s not to love about a bowl of lightly spiced meatballs swimming in a delicious curry-flavoured onion sauce, all served on a bed of fluffy white rice? This meal absolutely screams ‘comfort food’.
It doesn’t take long to make either. Just mix the meatball ingredients together and form into balls, then pop them in the oven and let the oven take care of cooking them while you get on with making the sauce.
Why I think you’ll love this recipe
- It tastes good – full stop!
- You can make it ahead – curried meatballs and onion gravy are perfect for making ahead and freezing for those nights when you don’t feel like cooking, but still want to feed the family a wholesome meal.
- It’s economical – 450 grams of mince (or 1 pound depending on where in the world you live) will make 18 meatballs, which is easily enough for 2 meals for a family of 4.
- The secret ingredient – (which is mango chutney) adds a whole new element of flavour to the curry gravy. (Note, if you are South African please feel free to substitute the mango chutney with Mrs Balls chutney 🙂 ).
Let me show you how to make it!
What you will need
For mixing the meatball mixture you will need a mixing bowl. I like this set of bowls with lids because it means you can mix the meatball mixture early, pop on the lid and then store the bowl in the fridge until you are ready to bake the meatballs.
This recipe makes 18 meatballs with enough onion gravy for all of them. If this is too much for one meal you can freeze half for another meal or simply halve the ingredients to make a smaller batch.
**You can find the complete list of ingredients and full instructions for making these curried meatballs with onion gravy on the printable recipe card at the end of this post**
I’ve split the ingredients into 2 images – one for the curried meatballs and one for the onion gravy.
Beef mince – I like to use minced beef with a 5% fat content. Anything higher than that and you will find you have a lot of moisture cooking out of the meatballs once they are baked.
Onion – this should be grated on a cheese grater so that it cooks at the same time as the beef.
Egg – used to bind the mixture together so the meatballs don’t fall apart as they cook.
Panko breadcrumbs – used along with the egg for binding. Panko breadcrumbs are extra light and very absorbent so they hold all juices from the meat in the meatballs. If you can’t get Panko you could substitute with day-old bread that you have grated on a cheese grater.
Spices – these are the spices I used:
- Ground coriander
- Ground cumin
- Garam masala
- Chilli flakes – you can leave these out if you don’t want the heat
Onions – peeled and cut in half top to tail and then sliced into semi-circles.
Red pepper – deseeded and with the inner membranes removed, then cut into thin slices.
Passata – this is just tomatoes that have been sieved to remove any bits of skin and seeds. It is normally sold in bottles or cardboard packets in the supermarket (normally next to the canned tomatoes). If you have a glut of tomatoes, here’s a recipe for your own homemade passata that you make like.
Tomato puree – you may know it as tomato paste. This is highly concentrated tomatoes and it adds extra tomato flavour to the dish.
Mango chutney – this adds a little sweetness to the curry. It’s one of the tips I picked up during my time in South Africa. Curry as made by the Cape Malay population always contains a little chutney. Feel free to leave it out if you don’t want the extra sweetness.
Garlic and ginger – I like to use garlic and ginger paste in bottles because then I can be sure of the measurements. If you prefer to use fresh, by all means do so, but be sure to crush both the garlic and the ginger finely.
Stock – you could use either beef, chicken or vegetable stock. If you don’t have fresh stock, make your own with a stock cube.
Oil – for frying the onions – use a neutral-flavoured vegetable oil rather than olive oil.
And finally the spices:
- Garam masala
- Ground coriander
- Ground cumin
Also not pictured, but necessary for thickening the gravy is a small amount of plain flour.
What to do
Start off by making the meatballs.
Place all of the ingredients for the meatballs into a mixing bowl and mix thoroughly to combine. When you think you’ve mixed enough, mix for another minute – just to ensure all the spices are equally distributed throughout the mixture.
Divide the mixture into 18 roughly equally-sized pieces and roll into balls (about the size of golf-balls)
Place the meatballs on a baking tray lined with baking parchment (or a silicone mat). There is no need to add any oil.
Preheat the oven to 200C / 400F and bake the meatballs for 15 to 18 minutes until they are nicely browned.
Once the meatballs are in the oven you can get on with making the curried onion gravy.
Heat the oil in a large pan and add the sliced onions, red peppers, garlic and ginger
Stir to coat the vegetables in the oil then turn the heat to low and cover the pan with a lid. Leave it to steam for 15 minutes, until the onions are translucent and the peppers have started to soften. Stir occasionally so they do not burn.
Once the onions and peppers have softened, tip in all the spices and the flour.
Stir to remove any lumps, then stirfry (still on a low heat) for one minute.
Stir in the tomato passata, stock, chutney and tomato paste.
Turn up the heat slightly and bring the mixture to the boil. Continue to stir until the mixture thickens. The gravy should have quite a thick consistency. If it is too thick, thin it down slightly with a splash of stock or water.
Add the meatballs into the gravy, cover and leave to simmer on a low heat for 5 minutes or so to give the meatballs time to absorb some of the flavour from the sauce. Serve hot with a dish of white rice.
I like to garnish the meatballs with a little chopped parsley or coriander when I transfer them to a serving dish, but that’s up to you!
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Curried meatballs and onion gravy FAQ
I like to serve these meatballs with rice, but you could also serve them with cous cous or even spaghetti. (Curried spaghetti and meatballs anyone?)
When I serve them with rice I normally add a green side vegetable such as peas, beans or broccoli. If I was serving them over a plate of spaghetti I would probably add a fresh green salad.
Pack any cooled leftovers (meatballs and gravy) into a rigid plastic container and freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost in the refrigerator and then reheat gently in a saucepan until piping hot.
Leftover gravy (without meatballs) can be frozen in a plastic bag for up to 4 months.
You can freeze the unbaked meatballs on a baking tray until they are solid and then transfer them into a plastic bag and freeze them for up to 3 months.
To use either defrost the meatballs and bake them as per the recipe, or bake them from frozen but add an additional 5 minutes to the baking time
Yes, the meatballs can be fried in a little vegetable oil over moderate heat. Use a pair of tongs to help you turn the meatballs so that they brown on all sides. Frying time will be approximately 10 minutes. Cut a meatball in half to check that is completely cooked through.
If you would like all the flavour, but none of the ‘burn’, simply leave out the chilli flakes.
Commercial curry powder normally contains a blend of cumin, coriander, turmeric and chilli, which are the main spices in this dish. Depending on the brand, there may be small quantities of other spices too.
If you would like to use a pre-mixed curry powder, you can substitute it for the spices given in the recipe, with the exception of paprika (which you should still add).
I would also be inclined to taste the curried onion sauce once the spices have cooked, and perhaps add half a teaspoon of allspice for additional flavour.
Do bear in mind that I haven’t used chilli flakes in the sauce so if you do use a commercial curry powder you will have a spicier sauce.
Also, commercial curry powder comes in different strengths (mild, medium and hot) so you should bear this in mind when deciding how much to use.
Save for later
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If you enjoy meatballs as much as I do, you may like to try some of my other meatball recipes:
- Moroccan lamb meatballs with homemade tomato sauce – succulent lamb meatballs with subtle Middle Eastern flavours with a tangy homemade tomato sauce.
- Barbeque meatballs – a sweet and tangy homemade barbeque sauce with meatballs.
- Creamy meatball stroganoff with mushroom sauce – tasty meatballs in a creamy mushroom stroganoff sauce served with tagliatelle.
- Meatball soup – a tasty tomato and vegetable soup packed with juicy meatballs.
- Thai meatballs with satay sauce – spicy chicken and pork meatballs served with a Thai-flavoured satay sauce.
Curried meatballs in onion gravy.
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- 1 pound / 450 grams lean beef mince 5% fat if possible
- 1 medium onion (grated) approx 1 cup
- 1 large egg
- ½ cup / 60 grams Panko breadcrumbs
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- ½ teaspoon dried chilli flakes optional or to your own taste
- 1 teaspoon salt optional or to your own taste
Curried onion gravy
- 2 tablespoons sunflower oil for frying the onions
- 2 – 3 mediium onion (thinly sliced) approximately 2 cups
- 1 small red pepper (capsicum / bell pepper) deseeded and sliced
- 1 cup stock (beef, chicken or vegetable) use a stock cube if necessary
- 1 cup passata
- 1 teaspoon garlic paste
- ½ teaspoon ginger paste
- 2 tablespoons tomato puree / tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons mango chutney
- 2 teaspoons garam masala
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- ½ teaspoon salt or to your own taste
- 1 tablespoon flour for thickening
- Preheat the oven to 200°C / 400°F
- Place all of the ingredients for the meatballs into a mixing bowl and mix thoroughly to combine. Ensure all the spices are evenly distributed.1 pound / 450 grams lean beef mince, 1 medium onion (grated), 1 large egg, ½ cup / 60 grams Panko breadcrumbs, 1 teaspoon paprika, ½ teaspoon ground coriander, ½ teaspoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon garam masala, ½ teaspoon dried chilli flakes, 1 teaspoon salt
- Form the meat mixture into 18 golf-ball-sized balls.
- Place the meatballs on a baking tray lined with baking parchment (or a silicone mat). There is no need to add any oil.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 15 to 18 minutes until the meatballs are nicely browned.
Curried onion gravy
- Heat the oil in a large pan and add the sliced onions, red peppers, garlic and ginger2 – 3 mediium onion (thinly sliced), 1 small red pepper (capsicum / bell pepper), 1 teaspoon garlic paste, ½ teaspoon ginger paste, 2 tablespoons sunflower oil
- Stir to coat the vegetables in the oil then turn the heat to low and cover the pan with a lid. Leave it to steam for 15 minutes, until the onions are translucent and the peppers have started to soften. Stir occasionally so they do not burn.
- Once the onions and peppers have softened, tip in all the spices and the flour.2 teaspoons garam masala, 2 teaspoons ground coriander, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon paprika, 1 teaspoon turmeric, ½ teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon flour
- Stir to remove any lumps, then stirfry (still on a low heat) for one minute.
- Stir in the tomato passata, stock, chutney and tomato paste.1 cup stock (beef, chicken or vegetable), 1 cup passata, 2 tablespoons tomato puree / tomato paste, 2 tablespoons mango chutney
- Turn up the heat slightly and bring the mixture to the boil. Continue to stir until the mixture thickens. The gravy should have quite a thick consistency. If it is too thick, thin it down slightly with a splash of stock or water.
- Add the meatballs into the gravy, cover and leave to simmer on a low heat for 5 minutes or so to give the meatballs time to absorb some of the flavour from the sauce. Serve hot with a dish of white rice.
Leftover gravy (without meatballs) can be frozen in a plastic bag for up to 4 months. Unbaked meatballs can be frozen on the baking tray until they are solid and then transferred into a plastic bag and frozen for up to 3 months.
To use either defrost the meatballs and bake them as per the recipe, or bake them from frozen but add an additional 5 minutes to the baking time. If you prefer to fry the meatballs, they can be fried in one or two tablespoons of sunflower oil in a frying pan for about 10 minutes. Turn them with tongs to allow them to brown on all sides Nutrition assumes that this recipe will serve 6 people and that all the sauce and meatballs will be eaten.
I am not a nutritionist. The nutrition information has been calculated using an on-line calculator, and is intended for information and guidance purposes only. If the nutrition information is important to you, you should consider calculating it yourself, using your preferred tool.
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