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Sri Lankan–Style Black Pork Curry



Srilankan Black Pork Curry in a bowl with rice lime wedges and fresh herbs on the side.
Photograph by Shawn Michael Jones, Food Styling by Thu Buser, Prop Styling by Stephanie De Luca

This take on a classic Sri Lankan curry is particularly unique due to its use of black pepper, which has a slow-building heat that creeps up on you. Black pepper doesn’t contain capsaicin, the substance responsible for chiles’ spiciness; instead it possesses a compound called piperine that gives it a warming intensity. (Peppercorns tend to lose their pungency over time, so consider cracking open a fresh jar for this recipe.) Paired with fragrant spices (cloves, cardamom, coriander), fatty pork, and an ample amount of vinegar to balance everything out, this curry is an explosion of flavor.

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What you’ll need

Recipe information

  • Total Time

    2 hours 30 minutes

  • Yield

    4 servings


Curry Powder

15 fresh curry leaves
18 whole cloves
5 cardamom pods
1 4"-long Ceylon cinnamon stick, broken into small pieces
2 Tbsp. black peppercorns
1 Tbsp. coriander seeds
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. fennel seeds

Pork and Assembly

1½ lb. skinless, boneless pork shoulder (Boston butt), cut into 1" pieces
½ cup distilled white vinegar
1 tsp. turmeric powder
1 Tbsp. Diamond Crystal or 1¾ tsp. Morton kosher salt, plus more
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, finely grated
1 2" piece ginger, peeled, finely grated
10 fresh curry leaves
1 lemongrass stalk, bottom third only, tough outer layers removed, lightly bruised
Steamed rice (for serving)

Special Equipment

A spice mill or a mortar and pestle


  1. Curry Powder

    Step 1

    Toast 15 fresh curry leaves, 18 whole cloves, 5 cardamom pods, one 4"-long Ceylon cinnamon stick, broken into small pieces, 2 Tbsp. black peppercorns, 1 Tbsp. coriander seeds, 1 tsp. cumin seeds, and 1 tsp. fennel seeds in a dry small skillet over medium-low, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Transfer to spice mill or mortar and pestle and let cool. Grind to a fine powder. Set curry powder aside.

  2. Pork and Assembly

    Step 2

    Place 1½ lb. skinless, boneless pork shoulder (Boston butt), cut into 1" pieces, in a medium bowl. Add ½ cup distilled white vinegar, 1 tsp. turmeric powder, and 1 Tbsp. Diamond Crystal or 1¾ tsp. Morton kosher salt; toss to coat. Cover and chill 30 minutes.

    Step 3

    Heat ¼ cup vegetable oil in a medium Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium-high. Cook 2 medium onions, finely chopped, 6 garlic cloves, finely grated, and one 2" piece ginger, peeled, finely grated, stirring often, until fragrant and onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Mix in 10 fresh curry leaves, 1 lemongrass stalk, bottom third only, tough outer layers removed, lightly bruised, and reserved curry powder, then add pork along with any vinegar at the bottom of the bowl and mix well. Pour in 1½ cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover pot, and simmer, stirring occasionally and adding up to ½ cup more water if needed, until pork is tender and liquid is slightly thickened, 1½–2 hours. Taste and season with more salt if needed. Fish out lemongrass; discard.

    Step 4

    Divide pork curry among shallow bowls or plates and serve with steamed rice.

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How would you rate Sri Lankan–Style Black Pork Curry?

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  • Decent, I’d make it again. Maybe I’d use a little less vinegar and lemongrass next time but overall good.

    • Anonymous

    • 6/2/2024

  • Pretty good! My husband said “it tastes like a warm hug”. I think this is more of a winter dish, so I’ll probably come back to this when the weather gets cold. Don’t be intimidated by the spices and vinegar. It all comes together and makes a lovely curry.

    • Mary Z.

    • Houston, TX

    • 6/2/2024

  • Not a good curry IMO, the vinegar is odd and gives it a sour taste. Might be okay recommend making with no vinegar

    • Mark

    • Toronto

    • 6/2/2024

  • This is very very very good, really enjoyed how the vinegar and the fattiness of the meat balanced each other out while allowing the over flavors to flourish on top of that. One of the best recipes I’ve made so far

    • Cam

    • 6/22/2024

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