Are You Out of Curry Powder? How About These Substitutes?
So, you have your pot on and you’re planning to cook up your Indian curry, the one that blows everyone’s mind! You search your cupboard. You search all your drawers. No curry powder left. Are you thinking of changing the menu? Why don’t you try these curry powder substitutes instead?
Curry powder is a great addition to sauces, stews, soups, marinades, and, of course, hearty savory curries. An East Indian spice, curry powder is a blend of herbs and spices. While curry powder varies in taste and flavor due to its composition, it remains a complex seasoning, one that offers your dish a change in aroma, smell, taste, color, and consistency. And even though it’s quite complex, its flavor profile can be replicated. Discover all our curry powder alternatives below!
What is curry powder made of?
Most of the time, curry powder includes cumin, turmeric, coriander, chili, celery, salt, fenugreek, and allspice.
Indian curry powders usually have more cardamom, while Thai curry powder is heavier on ginger or chili. While the ingredients may vary from one region to another, curry powder has a base of cumin and toasted coriander. (FIY, this is a good piece of information for when you feel like making your own batch of curry power!)
Sometimes, curry powder can contain caraway, ginger, nutmeg, black cardamom, garlic, curry leaves, fennel seeds, and white turmeric. From all these spices combined, you can see why the taste and flavor range are so complex! What can you replace curry powder with? Let’s check out all the flavors you’ll find in curry powder first!
What does curry powder taste like?
Before we jump into the wonderful, fragrant world of curry powder substitutes, we should talk more about all the different flavors that curry powder has. Made from many spices, curry powder has a range of tastes. Cumin, turmeric, and bay leaf offer a savory, warm, and pungent aroma. Cloves and cinnamon contribute with a shiny, sparkling, extra warm taste. Cinnamon also has a sweet flavor. And they all bring heavy, earthy, rich, and profound flavor profiles. Caraway and cardamom, when added, also bring zing to curry powder, while pepper and chili flakes bring heat.
And let’s not forget about the floral, herby fragrance of coriander and the fresh scent of turmeric, ginger, and fenugreek (when added)! What a kaleidoscope of tastes and flavors that can be encountered in curry powder! It can be a challenge to find a proper replacement!
Eight Curry Powder Substitutes You Can Try!
As an Indian blend of spices, replacing curry powder can be overwhelming. Because it merges many aromas, you might think it would be tricky to find a replacement. That’s why we did the work for you! Here are some simple ingredients that’ll save your recipe.
1. Garam Masala
Is Garam Masala a good curry powder substitute? Garam Masala is another blend of spices used in Indian cuisine. With cloves, cinnamon, black pepper, nutmeg, cumin, and cardamom, Garam Masala comes close to curry powder, although it can be more intense, having a pungent aroma and a slightly bitter taste. However, it’s used to add flavor at the end of the cooking process, to add a finishing touch, while curry is added in the beginning to reveal its aromas.
Still, if you don’t have curry powder, you can add Garam Masala. Just keep in mind that you’ll get a milder, more delicate flavor.
2. Ground Cumin
Ground cumin is one of the best alternatives for curry powder. Odds are you have cumin at hand, even though you might not have curry powder. While cumin is present in curry powder, it has a different aroma.
Still, you can use it to replace curry powder since it will replicate the latter’s warm, spicy, earthy, zesty, and intense flavors. It will also add a mellow yellowish tone. If you want to bring ground cumin closer to curry powder, add some black pepper and some chili flakes. Extra tip: roasting the cumin seeds before blending them into a powder will make the flavors stand out more.
3. Curry Paste
Curry paste, while it has a similar name to curry powder, is quite different. Don’t let the name fool you! Usually added to Thai dishes, curry paste makes a good alternative to curry powder.
It has a bold aroma, mixing chili, garlic, lemongrass, turmeric, shrimp paste, and sea salt, and it will bring more pungency and tanginess to your dish, but it can work in stews and curries. You’ll like its warm, hearty aroma. Just make sure to dilute it with some water to obtain a delicate, milder aroma. One tablespoon of curry paste with one tablespoon of water should easily replace one tablespoon of curry powder.
4. Chaat Masala
What can you use if you don’t have curry powder? Chaat Masala is a good option if you’re passionate about Oriental cuisines, and you don’t have curry powder, but do have this blend lying around.
Chaat Masala is made from many aromatic plants, herbs, and spices, such as cumin, coriander, Amchoor, ginger, black pepper, fennel, asafoetida, Kala Namak, red chili, tamarind, and green mango powder.
This blend packs a lot of tanginess and has a savory flavor, but it’s also warm and hot. So you may want to use it to add some heat to your dishes. It’s safer to start small and work your way up because Chaat Masala is way stronger than curry powder, and it can overwhelm your food.
5. Sambar Powder
If you’re passionate about Indian cuisine, the odds of you having this condiment in your kitchen are high. Sambar powder is used in many south Indian recipes. It contains cayenne pepper, ground coriander seeds, fenugreek, ground ginger, black mustard seeds, garlic powder, and clove powder. From its spices, you can guess it makes one of the best substitutes for curry powder.
6. Curry Roux
Japanese Curry Roux is made from flour, oil, sugar, salt, curry powder, Garam Masala, and cayenne pepper. You can imagine it makes for a good curry powder replacement.
7. Coriander Seeds
Coriander seeds, just like turmeric, are a key ingredient in curry powder. They have a fresh, minty, floral scent and a subtle sweetness to them. While you can add toasted and ground coriander seeds instead of curry powder, adding some toasted ground cumin seeds and chili peppers to the coriander seeds will make the blend more similar to authentic curry powder.
8. Tandoori Masala
Tandori Masala, usually added to Pakistani and Punjabi dishes, is made from a blend of ground coriander, ground cumin, garlic powder, ground ginger, ground cloves, ground mace, ground fenugreek, ground cinnamon, black pepper, ground cardamom, and ground nutmeg. How to substitute curry powder with Tandoori Masala? It’s better to start with just a pinch of this Masala (blend) since it can be powerful. It will also give your dish a rather pink or reddish hue, so that’s going to be different than your usual yellow tone of curry powder.
How to make curry powder at home: try these mixtures!
If you’re feeling bold and creative, the following mixtures of aromatic herbs and spices will make great subs for curry powder. Just try them!
1. Turmeric + Coriander + Allspice
Can you substitute turmeric powder for curry powder? You could if push comes to shove. The good news is that you’ll get the yellow tone of curry. However, to mimic its wonderful blend of flavors, you need to complement the turmeric with a hint of coriander seeds and allspice. And if you want to pack more heat, a sprinkle of chili flakes will suffice.
2. Cumin + Allspice
What to use instead of curry powder? Raid the cupboard! Do you have cumin and allspice? Good! You can use them together instead of curry powder. Cumin is already a part of curry powder, having an earthy, lemony, shiny, intense, and zingy flavor. Allspice makes the blend even warmer, bringing a hint of sweetness. In terms of ratio: use one teaspoon of cumin + ¼ teaspoon of allspice for every teaspoon of curry powder the recipe mentions.
3. Cinnamon + Cloves + Fenugreek + Coriander Seeds + Cumin
If you’re trying to obtain a moderate heat blend but one that packs plenty of aromas, this one is for you. Mixing equal parts of fenugreek, cloves, and cinnamon to the base of curry powder, aka coriander seeds and cumin, will give you an amazing result.
4. Mustard Seeds + Ground Ginger + Smoked Paprika/Chili Powder + Cumin + Coriander Seeeds
Another good curry powder replacement! One that will pack an extra kick of spicy, zesty, and shiny tones! Per one cup of cumin and coriander seeds, add one tablespoon of ginger and one teaspoon of each of the rest of the ingredients.
5. Garam Masala + Anise/Ground Fennel Seeds
Mixing Garam Masala with some toasted and ground anise or ground fennel seeds will give you an intense, sweet, and spicy curry powder alternative. In fact, this is one of the best curry powder substitutes for sauce-based dishes.
6. Ground Cumin + Ground Coriander + Turmeric + Ground Ginger + Cayenne Pepper + Yellow Mustard + Ground Black Pepper
You can make your own curry powder at home by mixing the following ingredients. If you desire an enhanced flavor, toast the cumin, black pepper, and coriander before grinding them.
- 4 tablespoons ground cumin
- 3 ½ tablespoons ground coriander
- 1 tablespoon ginger powder
- 2 tablespoons turmeric powder
- ¼ tablespoon yellow mustard powder
- ¼ tablespoon cayenne powder
- ½ tablespoon ground black pepper
- Salt to taste
7. Cumin + Coriander + Turmeric + Ginger
What can you use instead of curry powder if you run out of it? Well, if you have the aforementioned ingredients, you’re in luck! Using a teaspoon of each spice, you’ll get a great blend that can stand up to the likes of curry powder. Adding a hint of cinnamon, ground cloves, pepper, and salt will perfect the mix.
8. Ground Coriander Seeds + Cumin + Turmeric + Chili Powder + Ginger + Black Pepper
To obtain a perfect DIY curry powder at home, you need to mix the following spices and herbs. To make their flavors even bolder, make sure to toast the coriander seeds, the cumin seeds, and the black peppercorns before grinding them.
- 2 tablespoons ground coriander seeds
- 3 teaspoons cumin
- 2 teaspoons turmeric
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
The ultimate homemade curry powder recipe
If you’re planning to make your own signature curry powder at home to use while it is still fresh and aromatic, here is what you need to obtain that perfect flavor. It helps if every ground ingredient you find below is obtained from the toasted, whole ingredient.
- 4 tablespoons ground coriander
- 4 tablespoons ground cumin
- 4 teaspoons ground ginger
- 3 tablespoons ground turmeric
- 2 teaspoons dry mustard
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper or ground chilies
Yes, curry powder has a plethora of tastes, scents, flavors, and aromas, which reveal themselves in wonderful, explosive ways. But they are no match for your creativity! We’re pretty sure now you’ve got this covered!
Related: Most Popular Indian Curries