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

Chris Starks
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The Flavor

Curry leaves have a distinctively unique flavor with a strongly aromatic scent that is similar to basil and kaffir lime, resembling lemongrass and lemon rind, and are rather citrusy.

In the South Indian cooking style, curry leaf is used as an aromatic and a side garnish. It is one of the most important items on the Indian spice rack. The leaves are never used alone but generally added to dishes in tandem with other spices. Curry leaves and bay leaves are always included in the ingredients of a recipe to add flavor.

Curry leaves have a unique flavor that’s difficult to replicate due to the high content of pungent essential oils like eugenol and methyl chavicol and the presence of anise and anisaldehyde.

Nutritional Value

Curry leaves, also known as Murraya Koenigii, are a part of the curry tree of the family Rutaceae. In addition to having many different species of curry leaves, they also include many different curry tree varieties. Out of the 14 global species that belong to the genus Murraya, only two are found in India.
Although the curry tree is native to India and Sri Lanka, it is now considered invasive in Hawaii, tropical South America, and the West Indies. In addition, it is now being grown in Australia and other tropical and subtropical regions as an ornamental species.

Curry leaves have been used since the 14th century A.D. in India and Sri Lanka for culinary, medicinal, and religious rituals. The trees and leaves contain numerous different compounds, including linalool, alpha-terpinene, myrcene, eugenol, mahanimbine, caryophyllene, murrayanol, and alpha-pinene
Eugenol is a monoterpene that is known for its painkilling and locally anesthetic properties. It is the same compound that gives cloves their spicy taste. Some studies also suggest that eugenol has antioxidant, anti-anxiety, anti-inflammatory, and antibiotic properties.

Best Curry Leaf Substitutes

Are you trying to make your favorite curry dish but don’t have access to curry leaves? Let me share the list of herbs and ingredients that you can use in place of curry leaves.

One of the best things about curry leaves is their flavor, and they give your dish a delicious and unique aroma that one can’t achieve by using other substitutes. So try not to compromise on their taste, and instead use the substitutes only when you don’t have curry leaves available. If you live in a climate where the plant is native, you can easily grow your own.

Lemon Balm

Lemon balm is commonly used in Mediterranean recipes and can be used as a substitute for curry leaves. Lemon balm is an aromatic herb with a lemon-like flavor and is usually added whole or in part just before serving. Just like curry leaf, it could be added as a garnish or blended into the dish.
Lemon balm leaves have a more robust flavor than curry leaves. If you’re substituting for curry leaf, you may want to start with adding half of the amount and adjust based on your preference.

Bay Leaf

Bay leaves are more bitter and pungent than curry leaves. You use bay leaves, alone or in combination with dried red chili peppers or black pepper, in many Indian and South Asian dishes. If you ever find yourself without any curry leaves and need a substitute, try using bay leaves.
Like curry leaves, bay leaves are referred to as “Asian spice” on most spice racks and are used in similar dishes. Although bay leaves are bolder than curry leaves, they are highly similar in flavor. When using bay leaves as a substitute, you can use an equal amount of bay leaves instead of double curry leaves.

Lime Zest

The thing about curry leaves is their lemony, citrusy taste. Lime zest provides the same punch and flavor as curry leaves and is an excellent inexpensive swap, so much easier to find! Quantity-wise, one zested lime is the equivalent of eight curry leaves.

Lime Leaves

Lime leaves and curry leaves are the same appearances, but they vary in popularity and are used in different cuisines. Lime leaves have a very intense flavor, so make sure to use them sparingly to create a balanced dish. Lime leaves are a common ingredient in Thai food and are available fresh in some Asian grocery stores. Lime leaves are often used to season Thai curries and soups.

They have a similar flavor to curry leaves but have a citrus undertone, which works well in coconut milk and lime juice dishes. We use lime leaves frequently in Thai recipes, but we also use them in Indian recipes. Because lime leaves are so similar to curry leaves, you can substitute one for the other in most recipes. For every ten curry leaves the recipe calls for, use six lime leaves.

Basil Leaves

Basil Leaves and curry leaves are both culinary herbs, but they’re used in different ways in Indian and Southeast Asian cooking. Curry leaves are related to bay leaves; both are species of the Laurus genus and share the same flavor profile. They are used to add flavor to curries and are also heaped over steamed rice.

They lend their flavor to soups and stews dishes, as well. Basil leaves are a popular ingredient in Mediterranean recipes. In Greek cuisine, basil leaves are typically paired with Greek-style yogurt and vegetables like tomatoes. They’re also used in soups and salads. Basil leaves can also be used to make aromatherapy oils and concoctions to wipe away negative emotions.

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

Step 1: Think about the flavor of the curry leaf.

Curry leaves have a delicate and distinct flavor and unique aroma and go well with traditional South Indian cuisine. You can substitute curry leaves with ordinary bay leaves.

Step 2: Substitute with a fresh herb.

Another option is to substitute curry leaves with a fresh herb that is quite similar to curry leaf flavor. Fresh basil works great well in green or cream curry pastes. Fresh coriander leaves can also substitute for curry leaves in fish dishes.

When using these fresh herbs as substitutes, make sure to chop them very finely and use a heavy hand while stirring them into the curry. Their flavor is much more concentrated than curry leaves.

Step 3: Substitute fresh curry leaves with dried curry leaves

One good alternative to fresh Curry leaves is to use dried counterparts. It gives quite a similar flavor with a little different aroma.