Pan-Roasted Potatoes and Onion with Turmeric

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

I have a very discerning palate and am apt to be overly critical of my culinary creations. Nevertheless, every once in a while, I have to admit I surprise myself. This simple curry bowled me over, all because of the simple technique of slow-roasting the potatoes and onion while sweating them at the same time. The crusty layer that forms on the bottom of the pan (which is why a nonstick pan will not work) yields robust, nutty-sweet flavors that are incorporated into the curry when the pan is deglazed. Mutter kachoris—savory ginger-chile–spiked green peas nestled in flaky fried bread—makes a winning combination.

Ground “Deggi chiles” is a mixture of dried mild red chile varieties, prized for its deep red-orange color and gentle heat. Most of the red color comes from dried red capsicum (bell pepper) and Kashmiri chiles. It is available in boxes (100 grams) under the brand name “MDH,” found in any Indian grocery store. As an alternative, I suggest a combination of cayenne (ground red pepper) and sweet paprika for a near color and taste match.




Total Timeunder 1 hour

One Pot MealYes

OccasionCasual Dinner Party

Recipe Courseside dish

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, lactose-free, low cholesterol, low saturated fat, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free, vegan, vegetarian



Taste and Textureherby, hot & spicy, savory


  • 1 pound russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, cut into ½-inch cubes, and submerged in a bowl of cold water to prevent browning
  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • 1 large red onion, cut into ½-inch cubes
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
  • 1½ teaspoons coarse kosher or sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground Deggi chiles (see Notes) or ½ teaspoon cayenne (ground red pepper) mixed with ½ teaspoon sweet paprika


  1. Drain the potatoes and pat them dry.

  2. Heat the oil in a large skillet, or in a wok, over medium heat. Add the potatoes and onion, and stir once or twice. Cover the skillet, and let the vegetables slowly roast and “sweat,” stirring them occasionally, until a thin brown layer of crust has formed on the bottom of the skillet and the potatoes are tender (some of the cubes should almost fall apart when pierced), 15 to 20 minutes. If the skillet seems too hot and the crust appears to be burning, lower the heat a notch.

  3. Stir in the cilantro, salt, turmeric, and ground chiles. Pour in 1 cup water, and scrape the skillet to release the dark brown layer of onion and potatoes. (Once the water warms, the layer will loosen much faster.) Bring the orange-yellow curry to a boil and cook, uncovered, until it thickens, about 2 minutes. Then serve.



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