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Substitute For Curry Powder


Are you looking for the best substitute for curry powder in a recipe? This delicious seasoning is a staple in Indian cuisines. However, there are quite a few substitutes to use instead. Check our list below for the top options that you can use to replace this flavorful spice.

white measuring spoon filled with bright orange ground spice and two glass spice bottles labeled " curry powder"

What Is Curry Powder?

Curry powder combines multiple spices, allowing people to create curry easily without first creating this spice blend. This seasoning blend has a long history dating back about 4,000 years.

This powder offers a sweet and savory taste. Common ingredients in the spice blend are ground cumin, ground turmeric, ground cloves, ground cinnamon, and bay leaf.

Curry Powder Varieties

In the USA, there is one variety of curry powder. However, there are quite a few options for curry powder ranging in flavor from spicy to herby in India. There’s also a wide array of colors for the seasoning mixes, as in India, most seasoning mixes are considered curry powders.

Some curry powder varieties include garam masala and Madras curry powder. Garam masala offers a milder taste, while Madras curry powder is known for its more robust earthy flavor and sometimes very spicy taste. This heat varies depending on which chilis are used in the spice blend.

Best Curry Powder Substitutes

Homemade Curry Powder

Creating your own curry powder is the quickest and most convenient way to substitute curry powder. Luckily, most of the ingredients in curry powder are easily accessible, and most cooks will have the ingredients already available on their spice rack.

Use cumin, coriander, turmeric, and chili peppers as a base. Then add additional ingredients like cinnamon, ginger, fenugreek, and fennel.

Pros

Creating a homemade blend recipe for curry powder allows you to include all the flavors and alter them to your taste.

Cons

Using this substitution adds another step to your recipe, so it may not be a good option for those in a time crunch as it will require some experimentation.

Cooking Tip:

Use a 1:1 ratio to replace store-bought curry powder with homemade curry powder.

Curry Paste

Curry paste is a Thai option that uses chilis, lime, garlic, turmeric, and shrimp paste for its flavor. It offers a different texture than curry powder and requires pan frying before use. This option is ideal for Thai recipes, though it will also provide a pleasant taste in Indian curries.

Pros

This paste is readily found in most grocery stores and is budget-friendly.

Cons

The flavor is quite different from curry powder and offers much more heat to recipes. Curry paste typically comes in a bright red color, while curry powder is often more orange or yellow. This hue creates a difference in appearance in recipes.

Cooking Tip:

Start with ½ the required amount and adjust as needed.

Garam Masala

Garam masala is one of the available curry powder blends making it one of the best substitutes for curry powder. This spice blend has about 32 ingredients, and you can expect a more complex flavor than US curry powder or a “standard” curry powder.

Garam masala offers a sweeter taste with spicy, flowery notes in recipes.

Pros

Use garam masala in curry dishes and seasoning for meat and vegetables.

Cons

This spice blend may not be as widely available in all grocery stores.

Cooking Tip:

Start with ½ the required amount and adjust as needed.

Madras Curry Powder

This swap is one of the curry powders that will provide the most similar taste to standard curry powder. This option is widely used in Indian recipes to replace regular curry with madras curry powder in any dish.

Pros

This curry powder is earthy and aromatic. It also contains turmeric, so you can expect a similar color in recipes when using madras curry powder as a replacement.

Cons

This swap is another replacement that may not be easy to find in local grocery stores unless your store has a larger Indian spice section or you live near an Indian supermarket.

Cooking Tip:

Use a 1:1 ratio to substitute Madras curry powder instead of curry powder.

Sambar Powder

Sambar powder uses many of the same spices as standard curry powder, offering a similar taste with umami flavor notes. However, you’ll notice a much stronger taste, so it’s best to use sambar in smaller quantities. You can use this powder for most recipes that require curry powder.

Pros

Use sambar powder for stews, soups, and meat dishes.

Cons

This option is another alternative that can be challenging to find in grocery stores.

Cooking Tip:

Use ½ the required amount to sub curry powder with sambar.

Chaat Masala

Chaat masala is another variety of curry powder, as noted above. This option contains many of the spices that traditional curry includes. However, there is either the addition of mango powder or dried pomegranate seeds. This option creates a sweeter, tangy taste that does not match standard curry powder.

Pros

This masala blend works well with potatoes, fruit, salads, nuts, and chaat. Unfortunately, this swap is not a suitable replacement in curries.

Cons

It is necessary to add some cayenne powder to offset the sweetness present. If you have a low tolerance for spiciness, opt for a different replacement.

Cooking Tip:

Use ½ the required amount and adjust as needed.

Chili Powder

If you’re trying to replace the complex flavor found in curry powder, chili powder can work well as a replacement. It offers earthy, herby, and spicy flavor notes. This powder blend uses many of the same ingredients as curry powder, creating a similar flavor.

Pros

Most people already have chili powder in their kitchens, making it easily accessible. If not, all grocery stores carry this seasoning in the spice aisle for an affordable price.

Cons

The chili powder color is much different from curry powder, creating a different appearance in recipes. This powder blend contains other spices not usually found in Indian dishes, like oregano, so it will not bode well with all recipes that call for curry powder.

Cooking Tip:

Use ¼ the amount required in the recipe and adjust as needed. It’s best to start with a smaller quantity as chili powder is much spicier.

Ground Cumin

As ground cumin is one of the main ingredients in curry powder, it can also be an excellent substitute to add some of the flavor notes. Expect an earthy, savory taste when incorporating ground cumin into dishes.

If you don’t have ground cumin on hand, you can use cumin seeds and grind them using a mortar and pestle or a coffee grinder.

Pros

Cumin is a common seasoning that most already have in their spice drawer. Use ground cumin as a replacement in curries.

Cons

Likely, you will want to add chili powder, black pepper, or cayenne pepper to create a spicier, more complex taste that better mimics the flavor of curry powder.

Cooking Tip:

Use ½ the required amount as a swap for curry powder.

Onion Powder

Onion powder offers a strong, sweet, almost garlicky flavor to recipes when used as a substitution. This powder lacks the complex flavor of curry powder. However, it is versatile in its uses, and you can include it in any recipe that calls for curry powder.

Pros

This powder is also readily available in grocery stores, though you probably already have it in your kitchen.

Cons

The color is not the same for onion powder, causing a difference in appearance in dishes. This replacement is another powder you’ll want to add a few additional spices for a more similar curry powder taste.

Cooking Tip:

Use ½ the required amount and add more as needed.

Black Pepper

Like chili powder, black pepper is a good alternative if you want to replace the heat in recipes. This spice adds an earthy and woody taste to dishes. It’s also versatile enough that you can use it for sweet and savory dishes.

Pros

You already have this seasoning in your kitchen, either in peppercorn form or ground.

Cons

The appearance will be different when using black pepper. Also, if you’re recreating lighter-colored dishes like curries or soups, the black pepper will be visibly noticeable, which may be less appealing to certain people.

Cooking Tip:

Start with ½ the required amount and adjust as needed.

Cayenne Powder

Cayenne powder is a spicier alternative than black pepper or chili powder. It offers a bright red hue, much different from curry powder. Use this replacement in conjunction with turmeric and cumin to better mimic the flavor of curry powder.

Pros

This spice is most likely already in your spice cabinet at home.

Cons

Cayenne powder is not a good alternative in all dishes.

Cooking Tip:

Use ¼ the required amount to replace curry powder in recipes.

Chinese 5 Spice

Chinese 5 spice contains many spices that reside in curry, like cinnamon and cloves. It offers a lightly spicy, sweet taste that mimics curry powder. This spice blend also contains ingredients like star anise and Szechuan peppercorns, so additional flavors are present and noticeable to those with sensitive palates.

Pros

Use Chinese 5-spice for curries and nearly any recipe that requires curry powder. It even offers a similar color without using turmeric.

Cons

This spice blend works best with fattier meats, so it may be overpowering when you use it with fish or vegetable dishes.

Cooking Tip:

Use a 1:1 ratio to replace curry powder with Chinese 5-spice.

Ground Coriander Seeds

Ground coriander works well as a substitute for curry powder as it offers a complex taste and is one of the ingredients found in curry powder. This spice creates an earthy, sweet, citrusy taste in recipes. Though, it does lack the heat offered by curry powder.

Pros

Use this swap in any recipe that calls for curry powder.

Cons

This option is another seasoning that lacks the pretty yellow color offered by curry powder.

Cooking Tip:

Start with ½ the required amount and adjust as needed.

Allspice

Allspice is another blend that incorporates many of the same spices, like curry powder. Expect allspice to add a warm, earthy taste in recipes, including cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg. This blend is sweeter than curry powder and lacks the heat present.

Pros

Use allspice for all recipes that require curry powder.

Cons

This swap is another spice blend that lacks the yellow-brown color present in curry powder. Adding cumin and cayenne or black pepper is necessary for a closer flavor.

Cooking Tip:

Use ¼ the amount required by the recipe if using allspice by itself. With cumin and black pepper included, you can use a 1:1 ratio.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Can I Substitute for Curry Powder?

Multiple varieties of curry powder are available, including garam masala and Madras curry powder. These work well as you can use them in all recipes that call for curry powder. Otherwise, creating a homemade curry powder is another excellent replacement.

Are Curry Powder and Curry Paste Interchangeable?

You can use curry powder and curry paste in place of each other for some recipes. However, curry paste does not provide the same curry powder taste. You’ll notice some similar flavor notes, though.

Can I Use Garam Masala to Replace Curry Powder?

Yes, you can use garam masala as a curry powder substitute. There will be a difference in appearance for dishes when using garam masala and some flavor differences due to its lack of turmeric powder.

Conclusion

It’s best to decide on the spices you want to use and experiment with the amount of each. Or, look up a specific recipe for the spices you have on hand.

Now, you have a wide array of options to choose from when replacing curry powder. While each swap offers a pleasant flavor or mimics the heat, the best curry powder substitutes are garam masala, chaat masala, Madras curry powder, or a homemade mixture. Try them all and see which is your favorite.

More Ingredient Substitutes

Natalia | Flavorful home
Natalia is a recipe developer, food photographer, and home cook. She started Flavorful Home to document her recipes and share home cooking tips. She loves creating flavorful and nutritious meals while keeping the cooking process simple and joyful!

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