Curry powder is an essential ingredient for several recipes, especially Indian recipes, such as chickpea curry. It is also used in seasoning, soups, and stews.
Curry powder is also a popular ingredient for both meat-based and vegetable-based recipes. So if you’ve run out and don’t know what to use as a curry powder substitute, you could be in trouble.
Luckily, there are a few ingredients that you can use when you are looking for a replacement for curry powder. It is a mix of different spices, both savory and sweet; as it is, it's easier to replace compared to other more essential herbs.
Here’s what you need to know about curry powder and what ingredients you can use to replace it.
What does curry powder taste like?
As mentioned, curry powder is a combination of different components, such as cumin, coriander, and turmeric. It sometimes includes red or black pepper, ginger, cardamom, mustard, cinnamon, clove, and bay leaf.
You can now buy curry powder in both mild and hot varieties, which means they add a different heat level to your dish.
The cumin, bay leaf, and turmeric give curry powder an earthy flavor, while the cinnamon and clove add the zing that makes the curry powder stand out among all the other ingredients in your dish.
Depending on how much pepper your curry powder has, it can be milder or hotter. More black pepper leads to a milder version, while more red pepper leads to a hotter powder.
What can you use as a substitute for curry powder?
1. Make your own blend
The best option for a curry powder replacement is to make your own blend.
Using turmeric, ginger, and cumin, you can have a flavor that resembles store-bought curry powder.
You can also add cinnamon, chili powder, nutmeg, and allspice based on your preferences. Keep tasting the blend to check whether it tastes like curry powder.
Some people also like adding toasted black almond or cumin seeds to the mix. Garlic powder and onion powder can enhance the flavor as well.
Often, the blend you make on your own has a more intense taste than store-bought varieties, and you’ll find that you prefer mixing spices yourself rather than buying it.
2. Garam masala
Garam masala is made of cumin, coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, bay leaf, fennel, and peppercorn, which are almost all the same ingredients used in curry powder.
If you’re looking for a curry powder replacement that you don’t have to mix on your own—garam masala is your best bet.
Because garam masala has a more pungent and bitter taste than curry powder, you might want to use a smaller quantity of it than the curry powder called for in your recipe.
However, some people also use an equal amount of garam masala as curry powder—so taste your dish and make sure it suits your taste requirements.
3. Curry paste
Contrary to what their similar names may make you think, curry powder and curry paste have different tastes.
The chiles and lemongrass in curry paste’s composition make it stronger than curry powder.
However, if you mix the curry paste with water, its flavor becomes milder and can replace curry powder.
Mix one tablespoon of curry paste with an equal amount of water for the best results.
4. Chaat masala
Chaat masala is cooler than garam masala, so it brings a sweeter taste to your recipe than other substitutes. Depending on what kind of dish you’re making, this might make chaat masala a better replacement.
You can use the same amount of chaat masala as curry powder. However, you should start with a small amount and work your way up, as chaat masala is stronger than curry powder.
5. Allspice and cumin
Because cumin is already an ingredient found in curry powder, all you have to do is add allspice to it to use it instead of curry powder.
Cumin, on the other hand, has an earthy taste, as well as an intense and lemony flavor. The allspice makes the flavor warmer and adds a bit of sweetness—bringing it closer in taste to curry powder.
Use one teaspoon of cumin mixed with ¼ teaspoon of allspice to replace every teaspoon of curry powder called for in your recipe.
The bottom line
While curry powder has a complicated combination of spice blends, its components are very much distinguishable from other more intricate slew of herbs out there. And if you happen to be quite a stickler for these tastes, you’re in luck as most of its substitutes should be now easy for you to decide!
All the substitutes I’ve managed to gather have varying levels of sweet and savory flavors. They also differ in how mild or hot they are.
When you’re using these replacements, be sure to start in smaller quantities and work your way up until you get a more curry powder-like taste.