Sri Lankan Garlic Clove Curry

Although this delicious Garlic Clove Curry from Eleanor Ford’s The Nutmeg Trail  is suggested as a side dish, it’s so good that it deserves to be the star of the meal! Hailing from Sri Lanka, whole cloves of garlic are cooked in a savoury curry of coconut milk and spices. Despite the relatively short cooking time there’s no vampire-warding pungency here; the garlic cloves become wonderfully sweet and tender!

Garlic Clove Curry

Read our full review of The Nutmeg Trail by Eleanor Ford to find out more about the book. We were captivated by the history and stories of spices and how they travelled around the world.

Sri Lankan Garlic Clove Curry

A real treat for garlic fiends. Poaching in a spiced coconut gravy mellows and sweetens the cloves and they take on the floral muskiness of curry leaves and brown sugar notes of fenugreek. Get ready for obscene quantities of garlic, around five heads, depending on size. If you are lucky, you can find peeled frozen garlic in some Asian or health food shops. Otherwise, here is a tip to make the peeling less laborious: Break apart the heads with the heel of your hand and drop them all into a large pan for which you have a lid (or use two large metal bowls, lip to lip). Cover and shake vigorously until the cloves have freed themselves from their papery jackets. It is not infallible, working better with some garlic than others, but enormously satisfying when it does.
Servings 4 or more as a side
Author Eleanor Ford


  • 250 g (9oz) garlic cloves (about 5 heads)
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 tablespoons neutral oil
  • 10 fresh curry leaves
  • ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 green chillies, slit lengthways
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • ½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon Kashmiri chilli powder
  • 200 ml (generous ¾ cup) coconut milk
  • 12 cm (4½ inch) pandan leaf (optional)


  • Peel or defrost the garlic cloves (see introduction). Trim the onion, halve lengthways then slice lengthways again into wide petals.
  • Heat the oil in a saucepan over a medium–high heat. Add the onion, curry leaves and salt and fry until the onion softens, then starts to turn golden and sticky. Add the garlic cloves and cook for a few minutes, to sear the outsides. Add the tomato, chillies and spices and cook for about 5 minutes so the tomato breaks down into a sauce.
  • Pour in the coconut milk with the pandan and bring to a simmer. Cook on a low heat for around 30 minutes, being careful not to stir too much as the garlic softens. You may need to add a little water towards the end. Taste a clove – it should be very soft, sweet and any harsh rawness cooked out. The timing will depend on the age and size of your garlic cloves, so taste is the best judge. Start checking at about 25 minutes and be ready to cook for 45 minutes, if needed.
  • This is a dish that works well being made in advance. Serve warm rather than piping hot.

Eat With

  • Rice or roti and other vegetarian dishes, such as dal
  • Consider also a Mint sambal: Grind together in a food processor 30g (1/3 cup) grated coconut, leaves from a small bunch of mint, 1/2 red onion, 1 garlic clove, 3 green chillies with or without their seeds, and a pinch of salt. Add a squeeze of lime juice and a little water to loosen the blades.

Feeling lazy, we had our garlic clove curry on its own with some ready-made naan and it was a fantastic meal. Whilst I agree that it could form part of a larger meal, we thoroughly enjoyed it on its own too.

Garlic Clove Curry (Kavey Eats)

This dish seems really unusual but it’s definitely one worth trying for yourself. Don’t be put off by the large volume of garlic – it works!

Browse our full collection of curry recipes from around the world.


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Kavey Eats was provided with a review copy of The Nutmeg Trail by Eleanor Ford from publisher Murdoch Books. Photography by Ola O. Smit. 

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4 Comments to "Sri Lankan Garlic Clove Curry"

  1. Rosie

    Thanks for sharing this recipe, I was looking for something to use up my garlic harvest!! Made it last night and it was AMAZING! I cooked it for ages definitely more like 45 mins and the sauce was soo rich and flavoursome and the garlic so sweet and caramely. Definitely one for the garlic lovers out there 😋


    Agree, it’s a great recipe for all of us garlic lovers! Glad you enjoyed!

  2. Sally

    Love this recipe! Made it for a nursing mother because garlic and fenugreek are supposed to encourage supply, and they loved it!


    Isn’t it a wonderful recipe? How lovely that you made it for a nursing mother, that’s such a thoughtful thing to do! Thanks for commenting! I’ll let Eleanor Ford know!


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