Discover the many uses of curry leaves, an herb that is popular in Asian cuisine. Learn how to grow your own, and find substitutes if you can't find them locally.
What Are Curry Leaves?
Chances are, if you’ve ever eaten at an Indian restaurant, you’ve come into contact with curry leaves. These fragrant leaves are used to add flavor and aroma to many traditional Indian dishes.
- They are actually the leaves of the Murraya koenigii plant or curry tree, which is native to the Indian subcontinent and Sri Lanka. They are also known as kadipatta, karipatta, karivepaku, karivembu, karivepallai, or sweet neem leaves.
- They are frequently used to season curries and are especially common in South India for their unique flavor. They have a taste that is comparable to asafoetida and has herbal undertones.
- They are also known for their medicinal properties. In Ayurvedic medicine, they are used to treat digestive disorders and to improve liver function.
- They can be found fresh or dried at most Indian grocery stores or in the Indian spices aisle of your supermarket. If you're lucky enough to have a curry tree in your backyard, you can pluck the leaves fresh from the plant.
- To use them, simply remove the stem and chop the leaves finely. Then, add them to your dish at the beginning of the cooking process so that they have time to release their flavors.
These aromatic leaves are used to flavor many popular dishes, from slow cooked curries to dals. But did you know that curry leaf tree also offers some great health benefits?
- They are rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, which can help to boost immunity and fight off infection.
- They also contain carotene, which is converted into vitamin A in the body and is essential for eye health.
- They are also known to aid digestion and relieve stomach pain.
- In addition, they have anti-inflammatory properties that can help to reduce swelling and inflammation.
Fresh Vs Dried
For those who love Indian cuisine, curry leaves are an essential ingredient. But what's the difference between fresh and dried?
- For starters, fresh curry leaves have a much more potent flavor than their dried counterparts. They also tend to be more expensive and harder to find.
- Fresh ones are usually green with a slightly purple hue, while dried ones are brown.
- When it comes to texture, fresh leaves are softer and more delicate than dried ones, which are more brittle.
- When it comes to cooking, fresh curry leaves can be used in pretty much any dish, while dried ones are best used as a last-minute addition to giving dishes a boost of flavor.
- Fresh leaves can also be frozen for later use, whereas dried leaves should be used within six months of opening.
How To Use Curry Leaves
I'm sure many of you have seen curry leaves at the grocery store and wondered what you could do with them on earth. Well, wonder no more! Here are three simple ways to use them in your cooking.
- You can use them as a spice. Just dry them out and grind them up into a curry powder using a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle. Then, you can use this curry powder to flavor curries, stews, and other dishes.
- You can use curry leaves to make tea. Simply steep a few leaves in hot water for a few minutes, then remove and enjoy. This tea is said to be helpful for digestive problems and morning sickness.
- Finally, you can use them in any recipe mostly South Indian recipes, or use them as an ingredient during the tempering process along with mustard seeds. Just throw a few in when you're cooking rice, soup, chutney, or stew to give it an extra bit of flavor.
So there you have it - three easy ways to use this herb in your cooking! Give them a try the next time you see them at the store.
How To Plant Curry Leaves
If you want to get the most out of your curry leaves, it's best to grow them yourself. Here's a step-by-step guide to planting a curry plant:
- Start with a well-drained potting mix. Curry plant prefers slightly acidic soil, so if your mix is on the alkaline side, you can add some peat moss or compost to balance it out.
- Water the potting mix until it is evenly moist but not soggy.
- Sow the curry leaf seeds in the moist potting mix, spacing them about 2 inches apart.
- Cover the seed pots with plastic wrap or a clear lid to create a mini greenhouse effect away from direct sunlight or full sun. This will help to keep the mix moist and encourage germination.
- Place the seed pots in a warm, sunny spot and keep an eye on them for signs of growth. Once the seedlings emerge, you can remove the plastic wrap or lid.
- When the seedlings are about 4 inches tall, transplant them into individual pots or into your garden bed.
- Water the curry plant regularly, especially during hot, dry weather. Mulch around the plants to help retain moisture in the soil.
- Harvest the leaves when they are needed for cooking. You can also dry or freeze them for later use.
Substitute For Curry Leaves
While curry leaves are a key ingredient in many Indian dishes, they can be difficult to find outside of Asia. Luckily, there are a few good substitutes that can be used to create a similar flavor. Spoiler alert: there's no perfect substitute, but some come pretty close!
- Bay leaves: Bay leaves have a similar flavor to curry leaves and can be used in much the same way. They can be added to dishes at the beginning of cooking. Just be sure to remove them before serving, as they can be quite tough.
- Cilantro: Cilantro has a bright, fresh flavor that works well in many Indian dishes. It can be used in place of kadipatta both as a seasoning and as a garnish.
- Mint: Mint is another good option for flavoring Indian dishes. It can be used in place of curry leaves both as a seasoning and as a garnish. Just be sure to use it sparingly, as it can quickly overpower other flavors.
- Basil: Basil is another good herb to use in place of kadi patta. It has a similar flavor but is slightly sweeter. It can be used in the same way as curry leaves but should be added towards the end of cooking so that its flavor doesn't become too muted. There are many other herbs and spices that can be used to create a similar flavor to curry leaves. Experiment until you find a combination that you like.
People Also Ask [FAQs]
Curry leaves have a taste that is similar to asafoetida, with a more herbal feel like basil and bay leaves.
The Indian curry leaves are called the Murraya koenigii, known as curry leaves in English, in India they are called in different ways such as kadi patta, karipatta, karivepaku, karivembu, or karivepallai.
Yes, you can freeze curry leaves.
Wrap Up: Curry Leaves
- They are a versatile ingredient that can be used in many different dishes such as coconut chutney, tandoori chicken, and masala dosa.
- They have a slightly herbal flavor that pairs well with rice, soup, and South Indian curry dishes that use coconut milk.
- While they can be difficult to find outside of Asia, a few good substitutes can be used in their place.
- They are also easy to grow yourself. Simply follow these steps, and you'll have a fresh supply of curry leaves.
Do you have any tips on how to use this herb? Let us know in the comments below.
Curry Leaves Chutney
- 10 stems Fresh Curry Leaves
- 2 each Red Chilies or Green Chilies
- 1 teaspoon Ginger
- 1 teaspoon Tamarind Paste
- 0.5 teaspoon Jaggery or to taste
- 1 tablespoon Finely Chopped Cilantro
- Salt. to tatse
- In a blender combine curry leaves, red chilies, ginger, chopped cilantro, and tamarind paste.
- Heat oil in a pan and add the blended paste.
- Fry for two or three minutes until the ingredients are well combined.
- Add the jaggery and salt to taste.
- Cook for another minute or two until the chutney is thick and glossy.
- Serve hot with steamed rice or idli/dosa.