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10 Easy To Find Fresh Curry Leaves Substitute
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Buying curry leaves can be difficult in Western countries. Here is a list of  10 easy to find fresh curry leaves substitute that will help replicate and replace curry leaves flavour in an Indian dish.

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The signature flavour of South Indian cuisine is the silken smoothness of a coconut based sauce and the aromatic vibrant smell of curry leaves in most South Indian dishes. Some may also refer to them as ‘kari leaves’ or ‘curry patta’ in Hindi.

Known for it’s unique citrusy, fresh, pungent flavour, cooking with fresh curry leaves is an indispensable part of the South Indian cuisine .

However the use of curry leaves is not just limited to the Southern Indian states. The distinctive flavour of the leaves makes it a popular Indian spice or herb in different Indian regional cuisine and is added in various recipes using curry leaves.

Finding fresh curry leaves substitute can posses a challenge in Western part of the world, as they are not readily available in super markets. Here is a list of 9 alternative to curry leaves in cooking Indian dishes.

What Is Curry Leaf ?

Curry leaves are the tear dropped shaped leaves that comes from the native curry plant grown in India and other tropical countries.

Cooking with curry leaves in Indian dishes normally involves them being used with other whole spices such as mustard seeds, cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds etc as opposed to being the single herb or spice. However you can always use curry leaves in any dish if you wish to add a fresh aromatic flavour to.

The leaves have been used since centuries in India and Sri Lanka for culinary, medicinal, and religious rituals.

Best Substitute For Curry Leaves

Below is a list of top 9 fresh curry leaves substitute as some of the best alternatives to replace curry leaves flavour in a dish in no specific order of recommendation.

1. Lime Zest

The citrusy, lime like flavour of curry leaves makes using the rind of a lime one of the easiest and suitable swap for fresh curry leaves. To further deepen the flavour you can squeeze some fresh lime juice into the dish at the very end but be careful about the tanginess as well.

How Much Substitute To Use

When using lime zest as a substitute, make sure that you use only the green part of the skin and not the white rind. This will make the dish bitter.

To replace 10 fresh curry leaves in a dish use 1 tsp of lime rind.

2. Kafir Lime Leaves

Sharing similar flavour as lime rind, kafir lime leaves in my view is one of the most convenient and best replacement as, in my opinion it comes closest to the flavour goodness of curry leaves.

Kafir lime has a much stronger flavour than curry leaves hence a little goes a long way. If the leaves are large then break them into two parts if you wish.

How Much Substitute To Use

Since the flavour of kafir leaves are robust, use 1 or two kafir lime leaves to replace 10 – 15 curry leaves.

3.Lemon Zest

The zesty freshness of lemon zest makes is a very versatile culinary ingredient. When compared to lime zest lemon is comparatively milder.

The citrus undertones makes it a good choice for replacing curry leaves.

How Much Substitute To Use

Being a milder variant to lime zest use 2 tsp of lemon zest almost at the end of the cooking process for lifting those flavours.

4. Lemon Balm Leaves

This is perhaps the perfect match of how curry leaves look and the aroma. Lemon balm leaves also known as Melissa have both culinary and medicinal uses. It has an aromatic minty smell similar to that of curry leaves bringinf with it the citrusy freshness of lemon.

You can use both the leaves and the tender stalk of lemon balm for culinary purposes.

It may not be always easy to find lemon balm in supermarkets although these days you can find dried lemon balm leaves as well.

How Much Substitute To Use

Replace 10 – 15 curry leaves with 10 fresh lemon balm leaves or 15 dried lemon balm leaves.

5. Lime Leaves

Another one belonging to the citrus family are lime leaves. They too have a subtle freshness when compared to all the lemony-lime menthol like scents mentioned about.

It is a good idea to rub lime leaves between your palm to release the fragrance before using them.

How Much Substitute To Use

You may need to use 4-5 fresh lime leaves to replace 10 – 15 curry leaves.

6. Bay Leaves

Many seem to confuse bay leaves with curry leaves. They are not only two different types of culinary leaves but also have different flavour profiles.

You can read about the difference between curry leaves and bay leaves in this post here.

If you are making a gravy or liquid based dish then I could suggest using bay leaves as a alternative to curry leaves. However they do not do much in terms of mimicking the curry leaves taste like the other alternatives mentioned above. Bay leaves are very mild and few may also debate the use of bay leaves as a flavour enhancer.

How Much Substitute To Use

Unless you use fresh bay leaves , the dry once do not replicate the flavour of curry leaves. You can use 3-4 bay leaves in a dish right at the beginning of the cooking process.

7. Basil Leaves

Sweet, floral and aromatic in flavour basil leaves is not used in Indian cooking. However you can use basil leaves instead of curry leaves if you must although the flavour profiles do not match.

I do not recommend using basil leaves if the dish uses spices in large proportions. Basil leaves are best used if the dish you plan to use them as a substitute for curry leaves have limited mild tasting spices.

How Much Substitute To Use

Use 12- 15 fresh basil leaves to replace 10 fresh curry leaves in a dish.

8. Coriander Leaves or Cilantro

Another signature ingredient in many Indian dishes are the fresh coriander leaves/cilantro. Curry leaves and coriander leaves compliment each other in a dish and further enhances the flavour. However your chances of missing curry leaves in a dish is far less if you use a large handful of fresh coriander leaves instead.

Coriander leaves also have a fresh minty flavour that compliments and is somehow comparable to curry leaves taste.

How Much Substitute To Use

Use about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of freshly chopped coriander leaves to substitute 10 curry leaves in a dish.

9. Crushed Whole Coriander Seeds

Another substitute for curry leaves are freshly crushed coriander seeds. They tend to have a subtle mild citrusy flavour with a hint of mint.

You may ask why not use ground coriander instead? The reason for this is that freshly ground whole coriander seeds have a fresher more vibrant flavours than pre-ground coriander powder, hence a better fresh curry leaves substitute.

Crushed coriander leaves can be used in both dry and gravy based dishes.

How Much Substitute To Use

Use 2 tsp of whole crushed coriander seeds instead of 10 fresh curry leaves.

10. Dried Curry Leaves

An almost obvious replacement for fresh curry leaves is using the dried version. If the fresh leaves have been properly air dried then dried curry leaves are perhaps one of the best alternatives to the fresh once.

Similar in flavour although much mild, you need to add dried curry leaves at the beginning of the cooking process and let it simmer or cook to release the flavours.

How Much Substitute To Use

Use 15 dried curry leaves to replace and replicate the flavour of 8-10 fresh curry leaves in a dish.

Curry leaves on a stock
Curry leaves substitute pinterest image

How To Find A Suitable Substitute For Curry Leaves in Indian Cooking?

Prized for the unique and distinctive flavour compounds, it may be a challenge to find a suitable curry leave alternative. Given the extensive use of curry leaves in Indian cooking and dissemination of the Indian population around the globe, there have been shifts on the type of curry leaves available to buy.

Dry curry leaves is one such option, however before you use them as a substitute for fresh curry leaves keep in mind the flavour profile, the reason you are using the leaves in a dish and how to use curry leaves in cooking.

Below are few tips that will help you find the best replacement for curry leaves in a dish.

Why are fresh curry leaves used in the recipe?

Understand the reason for the use of curry leaves in the recipe. If it is the main flavour enhancer such as this Indian green beans and coconut dish then you may need to use an aromatic fresh curry leaves substitute instead of dry leaves such as bay leaves or dry curry leaves.

In what type of dish are curry leaves used in?

The use of curry leaves in always to make savoury dishes. If it is a dry dish then you can use both the dry and fresh options to substitute curry leaves in that dish.

If it is a gravy based sauce dish where the hero ingredient has a strong flavour such as fish like this salmon curry, meat, onions, cabbage, cauliflower, lentils then using one of the fresh replacements is a good idea. Using the fresh options to replace curry leaves works better in such dishes as they also have a stronger flavour profile which compliments the hero ingredient.

Where To Buy Fresh Curry Leaves

It is best to buy fresh curry leaves if you can. You are most likely to find them in Indian or ethnic gorcery stores.

Another option is to buy dried curry leaves or curry leaf powder.

Here are some recommended brands:

Organic Curry leaf powder from Pride of India 

Organic Ceylon Dried Curry Leaves

Curry Leaves Substitute Infographic

Here is a recap ans a helpful infograghic listing all the 10 best substitute for curry leaves

infographic on fresh curry leaves substitute

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