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Making curry healthier

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
I'm trying to make curry healthier. We make lots of curries with cream and coconut cream/milk, but they are just so high in fat. I'm going to start experimenting with yogurt based curries, and I wonder if you can use Greek yogurt to make curry. I've seen a few recipes that call for stirring in Greek yogurt at the end of cooking. Is this preferable to adding before simmering? Is regular yogurt better for cooking curries? Do I need to make allowances for substituting Greek yogurt?
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post #2 of 20
IMHO, "low fat" does not necessarily equal "healthier".

I think that any form of yogurt, especially the "reduced fat" types, will curdle if you try to "cook" them, just as sour cream needs to be added after cooking to dishes like beef stroganoff.

I would be looking at the total nutritional content of a "serving", i.e. including the rice, and be guided by a balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fat, whether you follow the U.S.D.A. recommendation of 40% protein, 30% carbohydrates, 30% fat or some other ratio. I have some reservations about any dietary ratio that provides for less than 15% fat.
Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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post #3 of 20
Thread Starter 
When I say healthier, I mean lower in calories.

I've read in several places online that Greek yogurt is less likely to separate than regular yogurt, though I am aware that full-fat yogurt must be used if not using Greek. Even that would be healthier than cream or coconut milk.

12 ounces Heavy Cream = 1233 calories
12 ounces coconut milk = 667 calories
12 ounces plain, full-fat yogurt = 414 calories
12 ounces Greek yogurt = 181 calories
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post #4 of 20
I'm not sure that's true. It seems to me you're confusing healthy, fat content and calorie count. I understand you're not looking for nutritional advice - but then you might want to be precise about what you're looking for: healthy? low calory? low fat? All three are quite different! And I believe more than one nutritionist would tell you that coconut milk is healthier than any dairy based product.

In any case I have made indian curry with greek yogurt, it works great. I used the Fage Total yogurt (not the 2% or 0% fat ones, the regular one). When the curry is done, turn off the heat and mix in the yogurt. I'm not sure there's any benefit in simmering the yogurt. I've never tried, but my instinct tells me it doesn't sound right.

Keep in mind some curries don't have any yogurt, cream, milk or coconut milk in them - so that's another option.

I've also seen curries served with Greek yogurt in a bowl next to the curry. So each guest can add exactly however much yogurt they want in their plate. It makes for an entirely different experience (hot and spicy curry, rice, and cold thick yogurt on your plate) which is quite interesting.

In my experience, the hotter (in terms of chili) the curry, the more yogurt you need.

Hope that helps!
post #5 of 20
Oops I missed that. OK so I don't agree with the paradigm that healthy = low in calories, but at least you've clarified what you're looking for.

Also, I'm assuming in your list of calories you're using 0% Greek yogurt? Keep in mind the texture in the 0% Greek yogurt is quite different from the texture in the regular one. I'm not sure how the 0% one would react when mixed to hot liquid - never tried that.
post #6 of 20
Thread Starter 
French Fries, sorry about that. I edited my post (probably while you were reading it) because it came out a little snarky when I didn't intend that! According to what I've read online (several sources), Greek yogurt is much better than any type of non-strained yogurt for cooking at higher temperatures. Thanks for your notes. It does sound interesting to serve the yogurt on the side!
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post #7 of 20
I bet that Greek yogurt you list is non-fat to be that low.

Yogurt tends to more in the Indian style of curry and coconut milk more Thai. Not an absolute rule of course.

More importantly, when making a curry with coconut milk, the best method is to take the solidified cream from the top of an unshaken can of coconut milk and fry your spices and aromatics in that. The fat renders out of the breaking cream. This flavoring step will be lost if you switch to yogurt and don't use a different fat here.

They cook and taste rather different and produce a different mouthfeel. I wouldn't consider one to be a substitute for the other in the way you seem to want them to be.

Rather than skipping the coconut milk and going for a saucy curry, up the quantity of vegetable solids so you have more fiber and eat less of the fatty coconut milk per serving. Or mix it with portion control and add some other sides so you don't have a large serving of a high calorie curry.

I think there are better options for maintaining the calorie intake you desire while eating quality foods.

Certainly there are yogurt based curries well worth eating too.
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #8 of 20
One factor that you may wish to consider: if you replace, say, coconut milk with yogurt, will the replacement be in a 1:1 ratio?

I haven't tried it with curries, and BTW, many of the recipes I've looked at do not use ANY dairy, but I have played around with substituting yogurt/sour cream for heavy cream in several dishes and I've found that, as a general rule, it takes 4-6 times as much yogurt/sour cream as heavy cream to achieve the same consistency. That would greatly affect the resulting calories as well as fat content in the final dish.

Perhaps you could post a recipe or two for us to peruse?
Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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post #9 of 20
I use very little coconut milk in my curries - I tend to make Indian style dishes - and also cut out ghee.

If you make curries occasionally, so what if it is made with ghee or coconut milk? A little fat won't hurt - it's the use of HUGE amounts of fat in some Western diets that is the killer!
post #10 of 20
Try a Non -dairy 0 fat creamer.
CHEFED
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CHEFED
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post #11 of 20
I grew up in India, and where I lived, most curries had no dairy products or coconut milk.
post #12 of 20
Thanks a lot for the information! Come to think of it, thinking of the curries in our indian restaurants around here, I don't think they contain any dairy or coconut milk either.

Aside from coconut milk in Thai curry, who started using yogurt in curries then? The English probably?
post #13 of 20
What kind of curry are you making? I would recommend saag because of the use of spinach in it and chaana masala ( hope that's spelled right) which is a vegetarian dish made with chick peas.
post #14 of 20
Yogurt, cream and coconut milk are each commonly used in curry in some parts of India. I can't say I'm an expert at all, but there are regional differences. I grew up mostly in the NE.
post #15 of 20
Thread Starter 
I love masala, it's one of my favorites. I make a great paneer masala with homemade paneer. Previously, I've made it with coconut milk. I make a lot of korma, too.
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post #16 of 20
I don't know if you have it in your area, but if you can source light cocnut milk/cream, that may be an option.

Tomato/chlli/ onion/ roasted spice & assorted veg sauces are great for a curry sauce base, and can be made with very little fat.

But remember, some curries made with yoghurt (greek lite is excellent) or coconut milk are actually meant to split. It's considered the sign of a good dish cooked well.
 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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post #17 of 20
Thread Starter 
Funny you mention that, DC. I found some lite coconut milk in my pantry, so I used it last night. The curry turned out delicious. It wasn't as creamy, but it was only about 350 calories per serving. I'm very happy with it. I know that I could cut the calorie content down even more by omitting the potatoes.
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post #18 of 20
Heat 12 ounces of rice milk, stir in 3 tablespoons of unsweetened finely shredded coconut, cover and let steep for 5 minutes, pour into blender and process till smooth, strain through fine mesh strainer being sure to push well on solids to extract as much liquid as possible. This will produce a coconut milk substitute that is about 300 calories. If you want more coconut flavor just add more coconut to the steeping step. Each tablespoon adds about 40 calories.
Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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post #19 of 20
Good stuff :) Try serving it with some Greek yoghurt to stir in as a condiment - this will not add many calories and will give it that creaminess you are missing.
 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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post #20 of 20
I cook a lot of curries with yoghurt - you have to be a bit careful, especially if there are acidic ingredients as well (lime tamarind etc) but it can all be done without curdling if you are careful.

Curries, properly prepared are naturally very healthy; the spices, mustard oil, onions and garlic all have good nutritional properties. Most Indians are vegetarian as well

Andy
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