curry leaves substitute

Curry Leaves Substitute

We’ve all had it happen to us – one minute you’re happily cooking away and the next you realize you haven’t got all of the ingredients you need!

Do you dash out for a quick trip to the shops to replenish your supplies? Or do you soldier on with your cooking and find a replacement for your missing ingredient? If the ingredient you’re missing is curry leaves, here are some suggestions of things you could use as a curry leaves substitute:

Kaffir Lime Leaves

It might be a long shot, but if you happen to have some kaffir lime leaves lying around, these make an excellent replacement for curry leaves. In fact, Kaffir lime leaves have such a similar taste to curry leaves you’d be hard pressed to taste the difference in your finished product.

curry leaves substitute kaffir lime leaves

Bay Leaves

If you’ve got a herbs and spices collection at all then, chances are good you’ve got a packet of bay leaves. Bay leaves make a good substitute for curry leaves giving a sweet note and added flavor to your dish.

Bay leaves can be a bit stronger in flavor than curry leaves though so you will only want to use one bay leaf for every ½ cup of curry leaves that the recipe requires.

curry leaves substitute bay leaves

Lime Zest

Lime zest is a great substitute for curry leaves, it adds that citrusy zing and gives that same great punch of flavor that curry leaves can provide. Mix your lime zest with some chopped basil leaves to really help replicate the flavor of curry leaves.

lime zest as substitute for curry leaves

Lemon Zest

If you don’t have any limes for lime zest, then hopefully you’ve got a lemon tree! Similar to lime zest, lemon zest can be used in place of curry leaves to add a citrusy flavor punch and take your dish to the next level.

lemon zest substitute of curry leaves

Lemon Balm/Melissa Leaves

Lemon balm leaves, from the lemon balm or ‘Melissa’ plant, also make a good replacement for curry leaves. The minty fresh aroma mixed with a lemon, citrusy twist of lemon balm leaves offers a similar taste effect to that of curry leaves.

lemon balm replacement for curry leaves


If you’ve got some fresh basil growing or just happen to have a fresh bunch of basil leaves, you can use these instead of curry leaves as a substitute.

For best results using basil leaves as a replacement for curry leaves, combine the basil leaves with some lemon juice or zest (or both) to really try to replicate the fresh, citrusy flavors of the curry leaves.

basil substitute for curry leaves

It’s good to know that, if you don’t have curry leaves at hand, you can find other ingredients to help replicate the flavors that curry leaves provide. Have you ever wondered about curry leaves themselves and their use in the kitchen? Here’s some more information all about curry leaves:

Everything You Need To Know About Curry Leaves

replacement for curry leaves

The first thing you need to know about curry leaves is that they are very different from curry powder. Curry leaves come from the curry tree, which is a tree native to India. Curry powder, meanwhile, is a mixture of spices blended together to create that well known curry taste.

The leaves from the curry tree – curry leaves – are well known for flavoring Indian dishes. They are beautifully aromatic and add a fresh, citrusy flavor to your food. 

Traditionally used in Indian food, curry leaves are a staple ingredient providing flavor to curries, rice dishes, ghee, broth, chutney, sauces, bread, meat, and seafood. Not just for flavor, curry leaves are also great for your health.

While the flavor of curry leaves is great for your taste buds, your health is also looked after as these little leaves are also packed with iron, calcium, and vitamins A, B, C, and B2.

Also, due to the high levels of antioxidants and phytonutrients found in curry leaves, it is possible that curry leaves may reduce heart disease, relieve inflammation and pain, decrease tissue aging, protect the nervous system, help fight cancer, and balance blood sugar! That’s a pretty good resume!

Curry leaves are most commonly used in Indian and other South-Asian cuisines, such as Indonesian, Sri-Lankan, Malaysian and Thai food. While they can be eaten raw, we wouldn’t recommend it as curry leaves taste better when cooked – that’s when they really add some flavor to your favorite dishes.

By sauteing curry leaves in some type of fat – such as butter, oil, or ghee, the aroma of the leaves will bring your dish to life as the curry leaves release their flavor.

What Do Curry Leaves Taste Like?

While we wouldn’t recommend eating a curry leaf by itself (although you can if you wish), curry leaves are generally used to enhance or bring out the flavors of your dish. They have a fresh, sweet, yet tangy, aroma.

As you may have guessed from looking at our curry leaf substitution suggestions above, curry leaves taste a bit like basil and/or kaffir lime leaves – somewhere in between the two. They also have a lemongrass or lemon rind flavor to them, adding a citrusy flavor to whatever you add them to.

Curry leaves do change in flavor somewhat when cooked at which point they will give more of a nutty taste while still giving a lovely fresh, citrusy aroma.

What Plant Does The Curry Leaf Come From?

curry leaf tree

Curry leaves come from the Curry Leaf Plant, sometimes also called a Curry Leaf Tree, with the botanical name of Murraya koenigii. This is a different species from what many people know as an ornamental curry plant, Helichrysum italicum, which has leaves that smell like curry.

Neither of these plants is used in the manufacture of curry powder which, as stated before, is just a blend of ground spices, and actually doesn’t include any ‘curry’ at all!  

Curry leaves are long, with a shiny, deep green glossy color. They look like bay leaves which, as mentioned above, can be used as a substitute for curry leaves, but unlike bay leaves, you can leave curry leaves in your food.

Of course, if you prefer, you can remove them at the end of cooking, before serving, if you’d rather not include the leaf in your dish, or you can chop them up very finely so that you get all the flavor from them but then don’t notice the actual curry leaves in your meal.

Keeping in mind all of the health and nutritional benefits that curry leaves offer, as mentioned above, it might be worth keeping them in!

Where To Get Curry Leaves

substitute of curry leaves

Some supermarkets may stock curry leaves these days – ask at your local independent supermarket and they might be able to get them in for you. Otherwise, you can often find curry leaves at farmer’s markets or Indian grocery stores.

The good news is, once you have some curry leaves in your possession, they usually store well and will maintain their flavor for quite a while. Curry leaves can be refrigerated, air dried, or even frozen to preserve them. 

Of course, there still may be times when your supply of curry leaves has been deplenished. Don’t despair, just check back through our list of curry leaves alternatives and you’ll hopefully have the perfect curry leaf substitute that you can use instead until you get your next batch of curry leaves!

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