Sri Lankan Chicken Curry

Science Behind the Red Hue in Curries

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I make curries every week and I know it’s chili powder but have you ever wondered what’s the Science behind the fiery red hue in Curries? Does red curry mean it’s spicy? Is it healthy? Let’s find some answers!


Capsanthin is a natural pigment found in red chili peppers. It belongs to a group of compounds known as carotenoids. These are responsible for the colors of various fruits vegetables and leaves. When you sprinkle chili powder into your dishes, you’re essentially introducing capsanthin into the mix.

Is Capsanthin healthy?

Capsanthin, as a carotenoid pigment found in red chili peppers, offers various health benefits. It possesses antioxidant properties, which can help neutralize harmful free radicals in the body, potentially reducing the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer. Additionally, capsanthin may support eye health due to its ability to protect against oxidative damage to the eyes. Including capsanthin-rich foods in your diet, like red chili peppers, can contribute to overall health and well-being. (Do not confuse capsanthin with capsaicin which contributes to heat)

Impact of Heat and Cooking

Interestingly, capsanthin is not fully activated until it’s exposed to heat. When you cook your curry, the heat helps release more capsanthin from the chili powder, intensifying the red color of the dish. This is why freshly cooked curries often appear redder than their raw counterparts.

Variations in Redness

The intensity of the red color in curries can vary depending on factors like the type of chili powder used, its concentration in the dish, and even the cooking method employed. Some chili powders contain higher levels of capsanthin, resulting in deeper red hues, while others may produce lighter shades. For example, Indians use Kashmiri Red chili powder when they want to turn their curries bright red.

Red hue in curries doesn’t mean it’s spicy

while a dish may appear very red due to capsanthin, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s spicy. The spiciness of a dish depends on the presence and concentration of compounds like capsaicin, which is responsible for the heat sensation in chili peppers. The level of spiciness is determined by factors such as the type and amount of chili peppers or chili powder used in the dish. It’s entirely possible to have a dish that is intensely red in color but mild or even completely devoid of spiciness, depending on how it’s prepared.

Next time you marvel at the crimson allure of your favorite Curries, remember that there’s Science behind its vibrant red hue. Thanks to capsanthin, a simple sprinkle of chili powder can transform an ordinary dish into a visually striking masterpiece. So, embrace the fiery redness and savor every flavorful bite of your beloved curry!

Most common chili powders I use at home: (Amazon Affiliate)

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