Cooking With Fenugreek Seeds- 10 Uses and Benefits
Another wonder spice, fenugreek is are not only a great spice to flavour food but also have many health benefits. Learn how to use fenugreek seeds in cooking and reap the goodness of this popular Indian seed spice.
Another of those wonder spices that do more than just add flavour to the dishes. Fenugreek seeds or methi dana as known in Hindi, is integral to Indian kitchen not only for cooking purposes but also benefit from good health.
Rich in many vitamins and minerals such as folic acid, vitamin C, A, B6, K, calcium, iron, potassium, zinc to name a few, fenugreek seeds have been used as a alternative medicine in Ayurveda for many health ailments.
Cooking with fenugreek is one of the best ways to flavourfully ingest good food and health.
In this post, I will discuss what is fenugreek seeds, why should you be cooking with them and how to use fenugreek seeds in cooking
What is Fenugreek
Fenugreek is a plant that grows annually and has small white flowers. It is native to Asia, Southern Europe and the Mediterranean.
It is one such culinary item what can be used as a herb, spice and also as a leaf vegetable.
The use of fenugreek in Indian food is an all rounder. That is there are multiple uses of fenugreek that goes beyond just food. The many health benefits makes it a crucial ingredient as natural home remedies for common health issues.
There are different types of fenugreek used.
- Fenugreek Seeds
- Fenugreek powder
- Dry fenugreek leaves (Kasuri Methi)
- Fresh fenugreek leaves
Each of them are used in different ways.
Fenugreek seeds, are the tiny , hard stone like seeds that come from the flower of the fenugreek plant.
They are yellowish brown in colour and used whole or in powdered form in cooking and even for cosmetic purposes.
English – Fenugreek, Greek hay
Fenugreek in Hindi (Indian Language) – Methi dana, Methi ke dane
Fenugreek in German – Bockshornkleesamen
Fenugreek in French – Graines de fenugrec
Fenugreek in Spanish – Semillas de fenogreco
If one was to ask how does fenugreek taste then perhaps the closest match to describe it would be, fenugreek tastes like maple syrup. That is the flavour is slightly sweet nutty with a bitter undertone.
The seeds when bitten into are bitter. Care should be taken not to over roast or burn the seeds to avoid making the dish bitter.
Fenugreek Seeds Usage
In Indian cooking there is a specific use of whole fenugreek seeds.
They are added to warm oil to add flavour to dishes such as curries, rice dishes, lentils, grains, batters, and many snack items. This method is called tempering the spices in oil.
There are also different ways on how to prepare fenugreek seeds for cooking purposes depending on the type of dish you are cooking:
Crushed Fenugreek Seeds
This is when whole seeds are slighly crushed to break them down. They are not as fine as fenugreek powder but are instead coarse with a slight bit to it. Crushed seed are mainly used in making pickles, stir fries, in batter or savoury snack items.
Roasted Fenugreek Seeds
Dry roasting whole spices especially seed spices like fenugreek enhances the taste. You can bloom the seeds in a hot dry pan for upto 2-3 minutes until it changes slightly in colour and turns fragrant. This intensifies the fenugreek flavour to become more aromatic and nuttier .
You can choose to use either whole seeds (roasted or plain) or crushed seeds (roasted or plain) in cooking as per your taste preference.
Below are few ideas on how to use fenugreek seeds:
- Add to curries and stews: Temper whole seeds in oil, ghee or butter and add it to daals (lentils and legumes dishes), stir – fries, base sauce for curries like these lamb bhuna recipe and prawn masala recipe.
- Add it to stir-fries: The uses of fenugreek seeds in stir fries in unmistakable. You can add whole seeds with other seed spices like mustard seeds, cumin seeds, cardamom and make an aromatic vegetables stir-fry. More ideas on how to add flavour to vegetables in the post here.
- Make it into a spice rub: Lightly crush the seeds and add it with other aromatic spices like cumin powder, coriander powder, turmeric, sumac, paprika, ginger and garlic and make it into a rub or marinate.
- Make homemade spice blend: Make your own homemade spice blends like this Bengali panch phoron masala
- Add to fried foods: Add it to fritters and deep fried snacks like pakoras, to not only add a nutty crunch but also aid in digestion.
- Add to legumes and lentils: Whole fenugreek seeds can also be added to different types of legumes and grain dishes like chickpeas, beans, rice.
- Use as a pickling spice: Being rich in vitamin C you can add fenugreek seeds for pickling vegetables.
- Make fenugreek water: Benefit from the many healing properties of fenugreek and make a health drink of fenugreek water or tea as a natural remedy to control blood sugar levels, heartburn and inflammation.
- Add to savoury pancakes – When making savoury pancakes with chikpea flour, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli then adding roasted and crushed fenugreek seeds enhances the taste.
- Make healthy salads: You can also sprout fenugreek seeds and add it to salads.
Fenugreek Seeds Benefits
Considered as a power house of vitamins, minerals and fibre, fenugreek has been used in ancient Chinese and Indian natural medicinal practices.
When using fenugreek as an alternative treatment, it is must to observe caution and consult with a health practitioner.
Below are some of the common health benefits of fenugreek seeds and powder:
May regulate blood sugar level and control diabetes – Fenugreek is known to improve insulin function in the body and slow down the absorption of carbohydrates therefore controlling the sugar levels in people with diabetes.
Helps reduce menstrual cramps – Taking fenugreek seeds or drinking fenugreek tea or water may also help provide relief from menstrual cramps.
Enhances breast milk production – It is a common grandma remedy to give lactating mothers fenugreek tea for improving the production of milk while nursing and breastfeeding.
May help improve male libido – A specific compound in fenugreek has been said to increase testosterone levels in male and bring better sexual satisfaction.
Aids digestion and acid reflux – Taking fenugreek seeds or water can also have positive effect to reduce acid reflux caused by indigestion. A study suggests that fenugreek fiber have properties similar to that found in antacid medications.
May prevent hair fall and promote healthy scalp – Fenugreek seeds or powder can be made into a paste and applied to hair as a mask to prevent hair fall, thinning hair, dandruff and add luster and bounce. You can also boil the seeds in coconut oil and use it.
What Are The Side Effects and How Much Fenugreek To Eat
According to Ayurveda fenugreek seeds are considered within the hot food category. To reduce heat in the body before consuming the seeds as an alternative treatment, it is advised to soak the seeds overnight.
The recommended daily intake for adult is:
- Whole fenugreek seeds : 3-5 mg.
- Fenugreek powder – 5 – 10 mg
Always seek medical advise before taking fenugreek seeds as a remedy.
Taking the seeds as a natural therapy is considered safe for upto 3 years.
Few side effects that may be associated are:
- Allergic reaction
- Unusual body odour
Fenugreek Seeds Substitutes
Although there are easy alternatives to fenugreek seeds but the substitutes do not replace the health benefits.
There is a detailed post written on the best options that you can use to replace fenugreek flavour in a dish.
Where To Buy & Store
Since there are many health benefits of fenugreek seeds you are likely to find them in most natural health food stores.
You can also buy them from any local Indian grocery store .
For ease of shopping buy them online. My recommended online store for all your spice requirements is The Spice House.
You can buy Fenugreek seeds directly from them by clicking on the image below.
It is best to store whole fenugreek seeds in an airtight container away from direct light, ideally in a cool dark place.