Major Appliances

@ The Markets

Spice Hacks • Substitute for Curry Powder

Written by Luisa Davis on . Posted in food

Curry powder substitute in soups, sauces, stews and hearty curry dishes are numerous and can even be gotten from the bases of most curry powder.

For a majority of curry powder blends, the base mixes are toasted coriander and cumin. These can even be used singly or in combination with other ingredients as a substitute for curry powder. Curry powder is a vital ingredient in some dishes and as such, care must be taken when seeking for an alternative to curry powder.

The Versatility of Curry Powder

Viewed as an East Indian spice but invented by the western culinary world solely for the replication of taste and texture of Indian cuisines; curry powder is a complex blend of spices. Please note that it is not a spice itself. Curry powders vary widely by region and household.

Though exact composition varies with manufacturers, the Indian-type curry powders are often heavier on cardamom while Thai-style curry seasoning are a bit heavier on chilies and sometimes ginger.

Curry powder’s typical constituent which acts as the base includes turmeric, coriander, cumin, red chile and fenugreek. But depending on the recipe, additional ingredients like ginger, caraway, garlic, black cardamom, nutmeg, white turmeric, curry leaf, fennel seed and a host of other spices may also be included.

Curry powder is often presumed to be the powdered form of curry leaf but that is not the case as it is just a separate herb. However, it is also associated with the same region as curry powder.

Curry powder is one spice blend that is very important and can serve as both a primary or special ingredient in the kitchen. Different people have different needs for this spice with different cooking method or recipe preferences. With respect to all of this, curry powder is also considered important as it is a food additive that lends its savory sweet flavor.

Because curry powder is made up of multiple ingredients, it has a range of tastes. For example, spices like cumin, bay leaf and turmeric gives the spice a savory texture. On the other hand, cloves and cinnamon gives curry powder a “sparkling taste”.

With the category of curry dishes available, there are different curry powders and difficulty lies in choosing a curry powder with a specific blend of spices to match the ingredients and methods used in preparing the dish. For example, there are traditional recipes that require curry powder and wouldn’t taste right without it. There are also certain dishes that require curry powder to add a subtle complexity to them and they just wouldn’t be right without it.

So therefore, bear in mind that there are thousands of curries and to attempt to use one generic powder in place of all of them is a tough sell.

Curry powder is not just a delicious addition to your food but it is also full of nutrients that keep the body and mind healthy. This spice blend gives a distinct flavor to dishes, gives off a nice aroma and adds heat to vegetables or meat dishes.

In the world of cuisines and curries, there are a lot of recipes that incorporate curry powder. Examples of these dishes which can be main courses, light meals or snacks include Cheat’s chicken katsu curry, smoked mackerel pilau rice, red lentil soup and a host of many others.

Onions of all kinds as well as meat and your seasoning sauce works well in any kind of curry. Indian curries are delicious and go well with tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, cauliflower, peas and broccoli while Thai curries go well with bell peppers, green beans, basil, baby corn, etc and the Africans do not broil their meat (be it chicken, beef or turkey) without curry.

Getting the Right Replacement for Curry Powder

Curry powder is one spice powder that as essential as it is, is not indispensible in recipes that require it. Since curry powder has a lot of uses, whenever this yellow mix happens to be absent from your kitchen or is out of stock at the local market, you do not need to be worried. So what do you do when you have run out of your stock of curry powder and you need to make a delicious dish?

Luckily, there are many good substitutes for curry powder in times like this. Substitute for curry powder in recipe can be gotten right there in the kitchen if you happen to have a few of the constituent spices in the pantry.  This is a great option for someone who is health conscious and loves to know what goes into curry mixtures. No additives, no preservatives, no fillers, no nothing!

Also, if you love to be able to control the heat of your curry powder, making one yourself is the best option as you get to know what to add or subtract to your taste. So if you have the most basic of spices in your pantry, not something unusual, this is good as you can easily get creative with getting a substitute for your curry powder.

When you seek an alternative to curry powder, the first thing to keep in mind is the base mix as each spice in the mix confers a specific color and taste sensation. Normally, curry powder works best when it is blended with a liquid or semi-liquid prior to adding it to your cooking. Take note that this is not a must and is most viable if you’re making use of it immediately in your cooking.

Turmeric gives it its yellow color; pepper is for heat, coriander for a floral, citrus- like taste and cumin is for bitter smokiness. The regional variation of mixes that abounds results from the base mix and they have varying levels of sweetness, tartness and piquancy. To make the most basic base mix, combine equal parts of coriander, black pepper, cumin and turmeric.

With the regional variations that abound, there are different additions to the base mix to get specific curry powders with different tastes and flavors. For a mild curry mix with just a moderate heat but heavy on aroma, all that is needed is to add equal parts of fenugreek, cinnamon and cloves to the base mix.

To get an extra kick of spice and zest, add one tablespoon of ground ginger per cup of mix along with equal parts of mustard seeds and smoked paprika or chili powder. Meanwhile, if a sweet-and-spicy combination is what is desired, add two tablespoons of garam masala per cup along with anise or fennel seeds. (Take note that the seeds will have to be ground to get the powdered form)

For a non-spicy curry powder alternative, a mild curry powder mix can be made with ingredients like ground cumin, ground coriander, turmeric powder, ground ginger, yellow mustard powder and cayenne pepper in different amounts.  What gives the powder its heat is the cayenne pepper and mustard.

Substitute for Curry Powder in Soup

There are a lot of curry powder substitutes and these are not just restricted to soups but can be used in stews, dips and as part of main dishes.

  1. Garam masala

It can be said that the curry powder is a westernized version of garam masala, a spice mix that forms an integral part of Pakistani and Indian dishes. Given that curry powder is very much inspired by this Indian spice, it is undeniably the best substitute for curry powder. This is a spice similar to curry powder, yes, they both have similar ingredients and flavor.

The words, Garam and masala translates to mean “hot” and “a mixture of spices” respectively. From the meaning of both words, you can get the fact that the whole gist of gram masala is to spice your food up. As opposed to curry powder with its generally sweet taste, garam masala has a spiciness and piquancy to it.

In Indian culture, garam masala is applied after the dish has been cooked. This is done to keep and preserve the strong, aromatic scent of the food. This is different from how curry powder is applied as it is typically used in the cooking process. This doesn’t mean that you cannot use garam masala in the same way that you can use a curry powder.

A note to keep to self is that curry powder is much milder than garam masala. So if a situation presents itself where you have garam masala in the place of curry powder, you can easily alternate spices. For example, if the recipe calls for a teaspoon of curry powder, you can easily replace it with a quarter teaspoon of garam masala. In this way, you can be sure that the natural flavor of your cuisine won’t be overwhelmed and supplanted by an excess of garam masala.

  1. Cumin and Allspice

Another great alternative to curry powder is the combination of cumin and allspice. Persons with these in their pantry are in great luck as they can easily use them if curry powder goes missing from their spice rack.

With a typical curry powder that consists of about 10 to 15 different spices, to recreate it will prove to be difficult especially if you’re planning to gather them one by one. However, if you have allspice and cumin, this problem can easily be by past.

To replicate the luscious effect of curry powder in any recipe you’re going to make, this is how you’re going to make a substitute for curry powder. Just combine a whole part of cumin to a quarter part of allspice. This ratio is very practical as you can create any amount of curry powder substitute accurately and easily.

  1. Curry paste

This is one good substitute for curry powder and is easily discerned from its name. Curry paste is a combination of many spices with curry powder being one of them but this time, wet ingredients are included in the blend. Examples of these include oil with extracts of ginger and garlic.

Photo by Marco Verch / CC BY

This combination gives the paste a strong taste, in fact, a much stronger taste than curry powder. So there are recipes that will benefit from the use of curry paste than curry powder. So if you’re craving a curry with a strong aroma, it is best to use curry paste.

Curry paste is best applied when you want to enliven a bland recipe, such as soups and stews, which will become extra potent if you put some curry paste in them. This will give your dish an exciting delicacy but if you’re satisfied with the flavor of curry powder, then you should stick to it. If you have no curry powder, then you will have no option but to get curry paste instead.

  1. Chaat Masala

Another curry powder substitute that can be used is an Indian spice called chaat masala. If you’re making a curry recipe and you do not have garam masala or curry powder in your kitchen, chaat masala can come to your rescue.

Both garam masala and chaat masala are derived from India but they both belong to separate worlds. Garam masala is known as a spicing ingredient while chaat masala is regarded to be a cooling spice. This makes chaat masala a great substitute for curry powder. Both are pretty similar since they are both mild and sweet.

To use chaat masala as a substitute for curry powder, just use equal proportions. For example, if a recipe asks for two teaspoons of curry powder, you can replace it with two teaspoons of chaat masala. If you want to enhance its flavor, you can add more chaat masala to the recipe but be sure to do so gradually.

Conclusion

As you can see from the list of alternatives, there are a lot of substitutes for curry powder that can be used whenever curry powder is not available. It is advisable to keep some of the spices mentioned here in your pantry as they can be of great help.

One thing to keep in mind though is that there are different flavors and textures. Therefore, care should be taken to use these spices in the appropriate amounts. After all, you don’t want to eat food that is either too hot or too boring for your taste buds. So study these ingredients and experiment with the effects of these substitutes to your cuisines and have a nice time.

Tags: , ,

Luisa Davis

Luisa Davis

Luisa Davis is a frelance writer and foodie based in Portland, California. Though raised on her mother's homestyle Italian cooking, she has spent most of the last five years traveling and immersing herself in other countries' cuisines. Her work have been published in various publications, both online and offline.

Leave a comment

//