Healthy Tips

Get Curried Away: Hot, Spicy Foods Trigger Feel-Good Endorphins

bowl of curry

From slightly spicy to hot, curry powder makes a variety of delicious dishes. Though the spice blend can contain up to 20 different spices and herbs, most curry powder varieties include red chili pepper, turmeric, cumin, coriander and fenugreek.

When it comes to your health, curry powder provides an interesting benefit: The spiciness from the red chili pepper causes your brain to release endorphins and dopamine, giving you a feeling of pleasure. Never experimented with curry powder in the kitchen? Give it a try with these three easy, budget-friendly recipes:

Chickpea and Sweet Potato Coconut Curry

Zesty lime tames the heat in this simple vegetarian recipe that comes together quickly.

  • 9 ounces easy-cook rice
  • 1 tablespoon medium curry powder
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated
  • 13.5 ounces canned coconut milk
  • 1 lime, juice and zest
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, chopped into large cubes
  • 14 ounce can chickpeas, drained
  • 9 ounces frozen peas

Cooking instructions:

In a large saucepan, add a small amount of cooking oil, the curry powder and garlic. Stir in coconut milk, lime juice and zest. Add sweet potato. Cook for 15 minutes or until the potato is soft. Add the chickpeas and frozen peas and warm through. Serve with rice.

Butter Chicken

Warm up on a cool night with tender chicken in a curried sauce. Add more curry powder for a spicier taste.

  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger root
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon white pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups tomato puree
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ½ cup heavy cream or evaporated milk

Cooking instructions:

Chicken: Place the chicken pieces in a medium bowl and sprinkle with lemon juice, olive oil, and 2 teaspoons curry powder. Toss to coat the chicken and set aside.

Sauce: In a heavy skillet, cook onion, garlic and ginger in 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat, about 4 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon curry powder, pepper, salt, tomato puree, and 2 tablespoons butter and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir the marinated chicken into the sauce. Bring back to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 11-15 minutes until chicken is thoroughly cooked (165 F as tested with meat thermometer.) Stir in the heavy cream or milk and serve over hot cooked basmati rice.

Pakistani Ground Beef Curry

Regular lean ground beef takes on spicy international flavor in this meal the whole family will love.

  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • ¾ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon chile powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 8,5 ounces can peas, including liquid (optional)

Cooking instructions:

Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, cook and stir until browned, 5 - 8 minutes. Add beef and tomatoes. Cook, uncovered, until tomatoes break down, about 15 minutes. Add curry powder, paprika, salt, pepper, chili powder and cayenne. Cover and simmer until flavors combine, about 30 minutes. Uncover and stir in peas. Cook until heated through, 3 - 5 minutes. (Note: if omitting peas you may want to add ½ cup water.)


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This content is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.


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