Curry leaves (Kadi Patta) are one of the essential ingredients in Southeast Asian cuisines especially in India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and Thailand.

However, if you live outside of Asia and are planning to cook some Asian dishes, you may need some curry leaves substitutes.

The aromatic and flavorsome leaves come from the curry tree or Murraya koenigii. The plant grows 11-20 feet and is native to India in the Rutaceae species.

Curry leaves are must to make some of the authentic Indian dishes. Usually, in Southern India, the leaves are added to the dishes as a seasoning. Curry leaves are fried in oil along with mustard seeds, chopped onions, and garlic as the initial preparation for making curries.

Apart from the distinct flavor and aroma that curry leaves bring to the dishes, it has some promising therapeutic benefits on human health. [1]

In fact, in Ayurvedic medicinal practices of India, curry leaves are an effective remedy for cough, hypertension, hysteria, hepatitis, rheumatism, poisonous bites, skin eruptions, diabetes, and even cancer. [2]

It is difficult to get fresh curry leaves in the USA. In that case, you may need to look for some substitutes for curry leaves. These alternatives are the closest bet to provide similar aroma, flavor, and nutritional values to your dishes.

Here is a list of the best curry leaves substitutes that you may try.

5 Substitutes for Curry Leaves

1. Lime Zest

Lime zest the tiny shavings of the outermost skin layers of limes. The citrus aroma and the pungent flavor of the zest may add similar taste to your dishes just like the curry leaves. Gourmet experts recommend to mix basil leaves and lime zest to substitute for curry leaves flavor in the recipes.

curry leaves substitute

You can scrape off the rind of a full lime as an alternative to 8 curry leaves in the dish. Lime zest contains essential nutrients- vitamins and mineral contents that are beneficial to the health. Recent scientific data support the anti-cancer effects of lime rind.

2. Basil Leaves

Basil or Ocimum basilicum is one of the primary ingredients in Italian, Thain, Vietnamese, and Indonesian cuisines.

The edible herb belongs to the mint family. Two major kinds of basil vary in flavor and smell. Sweet basil has a clove-like aroma whereas lime or lemon basil has a citrus flavor.

Basil is a powerhouse of nutrients and therapeutic components. It’s easy to replace curry leaves with basil though the latter will bring a slightly different flavor in the dish.

Lime basil can become a close curry leaves substitute due to its zesty flavor. You can either use fresh or powdered basil to replace curry leaves.

3. Bay Leaves

Aromatic bay leaf is another good substitute for curry leaves. Bay leaf is an important part of Indian cuisines just like the curry leaves. Both these culinary leaves have savory taste, sweet-bitter flavor, and spicy aroma.

Bay leaves come from bay laurel, California bay leaf or Indian bay leaf plants. Bay leaves mainly adds fragrance to the dishes rather than flavors. It has powerful medicinal values for human health. You may replace curry leaves with bay leaves in your soup, stew, and other dishes.

4. Lemon Balm

Lemon balm or Melissa officinalis belongs to the mint family. The aromatic herb is native to Europe, Asia, and the Mediterranean region.  Lemon balm leaves are used for flavorings in the food and as tea.

curry leaves substitute

The lightly sweet and acidic notes of lemon balm may make a good replacement for curry leaves.

5. Makrut Lime Leaves

Makrut lime leaves or kaffir lime leaf is generally used in Thai dishes. The intensely green leaves have a waxy texture. The makrut lime leaf has a distinct, fresh, and citrusy aroma.

You can easily find kaffir lime leaf at Asian groceries at a very cheap rate. Makrut lime leaves go well in soup, stews, rich dishes, gravies, and cocktails. You may replace a ½ cup of curry leaves with 1-2 makrut lime leaves in the recipes.

You can use kaffir lime leaf in your dishes in a number of ways.

  • Grind makrut lime leaves into a paste using a mortar and pestle.
  • Roll and chop the leaves finely with a knife.
  • Cut the leaves into pieces using scissors, perfect for throwing into your curry, soup, stews, etc.
  • Simmer whole makrut lime leaves in your dishes for some time to get the flavor and aroma.

Bottom Line

Curry leaves add a distinct aroma and flavor to many of the Asian dishes. The culinary leaves are a good source of nutrients and have numerous health benefits. Curry leaves are basically imported in the U.S.A.

In case you run out of curry leaves you can substitute it with some easy and available herbs. Lime zest, basil, bay leaves, makrut lime leaves, and lemon balm leaves are some of the closest substitutes of curry leaves.

You are recommended to use the replacements in a moderate amount and not to overpower the dish with the flavor. The curry leaves substitutes may provide with the intended fresh citrusy, sweet-acidic aroma, but your dishes won’t have the distinct curry leaves taste.

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