Can’t Find A Curry Leaf? Here Are the Substitutes That Will Save Your Recipe

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Have you ever encountered curry leaf in one or two of the recipes in your cookbook? If you think that this ingredient is similar to the curry spice that you commonly taste in Indian dishes, then you are definitely wrong. Don't even try to substitute this ingredient with that spice because it will give a very different flavor from what the recipe intended to have.

What some people might not know is that curry leaves originated from South Asia. This is an herb that is added to dishes to give them that citrusy flavor. It is also used in some South Indian recipes to add a subtle aroma and provide a slight twist to dishes that are already heavily flavored.

Curry leaves can be easily planted and grown in your backyard. It has shiny leaves that have a dark green color. Its flavor is also very comparable to other herbs like lemongrass, asafoetida, citrus, and anise. If you are planning on adding this to your dishes, be prepared for the slightly pungent taste and nutty aroma that it can bring.

The Flavor

The flavor of curry leaf is commonly found in Malaysian, Thai, and Indian dishes. It gives an authentic taste to these cuisines so if you’re thinking of exploring these kinds of dishes; you might want to keep a stock of curry leaf in your pantry. Because they have the same name, some people might think that this herb has the same exotic taste as the curry spice. However, you must know that they are very different when it comes to flavor. Curry spice is a mixture of other spices and comes in powder form. On the other hand, curry leaf is an herb that can give your food a strong aroma and unique flavor.

Nutritional Value

Whether it’s your first time or not to cook with curry leaves, knowing the benefits that it brings to the table will allow you to think of ways on how you can add this to your diet and experiment with it. Here are several health benefits that you can enjoy by adding curry leaf to your dish.

  • One of the many problems of people who love food is cholesterol. It's just delightful to taste various dishes that sometimes we forget to eat just the right amount of everything. Fortunately, curry leaf is known to have antioxidants that can prevent LDL cholesterol from forming. It basically increases the good cholesterol from your body which could allow you to avoid heart diseases.
  • People with anemia should also try incorporating curry leaves into their diet because these herbs are rich in iron as well as folic acid. These two nutrients are the best combo against anemia because folic acid is responsible for helping your body absorb iron. Curry leaves are rich with both of these nutrients so your body will be able to fight anemia better.

Best Curry Leaf Substitutes

Curry leaf is a common food ingredient used in Asian countries. It might be challenging to find these herbs in American grocery stores. If you don't have an Asian store in your area, you can still enjoy the recipes in your cookbook by substituting curry leaf with these ingredients!

1. Lemon Balm

One of the most available substitutes for curry leaf is the lemon balm. It may be growing right now in your garden. This is a popular ingredient for herbal teas because of its minty flavor. The aroma that this herb can give to your dishes is a lot similar to curry leaf, which makes it a great substitute.

Aside from its aroma, it’s also full of benefits that would make you feel good about using it in your recipes. It’s an antibacterial agent, protects you from heart diseases, helps your body fight diabetes, and also improves your concentration and sleep quality.

If you choose this herb as a substitute, the recommended amount is six lemon balm leaves per nine curry leaves. The best part is that you can use the leftover lemon balm leaves to make tea. Now that's a really efficient way of using this herb!

While it’s a great addition to your recipes because of its health benefits, if you are thinking of using this herb as a treatment for your health condition, try consulting your doctor first.

2. Bay Leaf

Some people might prefer a hint of sweet flavors in their dish. If you are one of these people, then you might want to consider bay leaf as your curry leaf substitute. This ingredient is usually incorporated in Mediterranean recipes. Those who are big fans of such cuisines might have a stock of bay leaf in their kitchens. This is also a widely available herb, which would make it easier for you to complete your recipe even without a curry leaf. 

Bay leaf comes from the laurel plant and sometimes comes in dried form. The dried leaves usually have a stronger flavor than fresh ones. This herb is also packed with various benefits, so it's a good idea to keep some in your garden or your pantry. Some people use it against dandruff, muscle pains, and joint pains, as well as boils.

Just like curry leaves, bay leaf has a citrus flavor, but it's slightly different because of the sweet, peppery and bitter twist that it has.

3. Lime Zest

If you are someone who loves cooking, then you must know just how important the aroma of your food can make everyone salivate. Curry leaf gives a powerful aroma to your recipes, but since you are missing this ingredient, you can use lime zest to achieve that citrus aroma for your dish.

When using lime zest as a substitute, just remember to use the uppermost layer of the rind because this is where the most citrusy flavor will come from. The oils at the top layer contain a pungent and strong flavor that is quite similar to curry leaf. But if you want to get the exact flavor that curry leaf gives using this substitute, you can add some basil leaves with your lime zest.

Zesting a lime is pretty simple. You can use the zest in various ways as well such as in desserts and cocktails. It’s also a great garnish that will give your dish a splash of color! Simply get a grater and use the smallest holes to get the right size for your lime zest. After this, you can now put the zest in a bowl and use it as a substitute for your curry leaf.

4. Lime Leaves

This substitute might not be as widely available as the others, but just in case you have lime leaves at home instead of curry leaves, you can use it as a substitute as well. This substitute also has a citrus flavor that you can get by crushing, slicing, or simmering in your recipe. When using this, the recommended amount is six leaves for every ten curry leaves. Lime leaves are the best for soup recipes and stir-fried dishes.

Kaffir lime leaves are a popular Thai ingredient, and it has shiny green leaves. However, when using this ingredient, you need to remember that the leaves cannot be consumed whole and uncooked. It would be best to slice them first in small pieces before adding them in.

5. Basil Leaves

Do you want to add a twist of floral flavor to your dish? Basil leaves will do a great job as a curry substitute. This is especially great when you are trying to experiment with Asian cuisines.

You’ve probably heard a lot about using basil in Italian dishes as well. It’s an important ingredient for your pesto sauce. But do you know that it has various kinds as well?

The common basil that you find in Italian dishes is called sweet basils. But if you are looking for the kind that has a citrus scent, then you should look for a lime or lemon basil.

The Best Thing to Do When Looking for a Curry leaf Substitute

One of the most fulfilling experiences that you might want to try is to taste dishes from various cultures.  You might be thinking that doing this would cost you a lot because of the plane ticket and other travel expenses. But you can do this by simply creating dishes in the comfort of your own kitchen! From the Mediterranean to Southeast Asian cuisines, there is no limit to what you can create in your kitchen.

However, one of the most difficult challenges that you might encounter is looking for the ingredients. Curry leaf is a popular ingredient that gives an authentic flavor to your recipes. And it can also be hard to find especially when you’re in the US.

Fortunately, there are other herbs that you can use as substitutes. Lime zest, bay leaf, basil leaf, lemon balm, and lime leaf, are easier to find, but they can also give your food the flavor, aroma, and most importantly, the nutrients that can give your body a lot of benefits.
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2 thoughts on “Can’t Find A Curry Leaf? Here Are the Substitutes That Will Save Your Recipe”

  1. Curry leaves are an almost mandatory part of many Asian and Thai dishes, providing a taste that is synonymous with their cuisine and the flavors they bring to the table

  2. Bought a huge bag of dried curry leaves on amazon, then while shopping I also found fresh bundles of curry leaves in produce section. Now I also find out that they are easy to grow in your own garden. Who knew? I thought that this would be more encouraging for me, but so far I have not used those dried leaves, and most of the fresh bundle is wilted and will get in garbage. I have had lots of time but unfortunately my husband will not eat anything spicy so I am left to eat all that I might make with this. I do believe I will make something in the next few days but these times are far and few between. Too Much food to make and not enough time to make it!

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Gabrielle Anderson

On a day to day basis, Gabrielle manages her own fitness company but in her spare time contributes t...

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