Curry powder is a mixture of ground spices such as turmeric, coriander, cumin, ginger, and black pepper/chili. It may also include additional ingredients like fenugreek, clove, garlic, cinnamon, nutmeg, bay leaf, and mustard.
In the colonial era, the British spice merchants invented this spice mix in imitation of spice blends used in Indian saucy or gravy dishes called curries. Interestingly, curry powder is rarely used in Indian dishes though it remains a popular spice mix in many parts of the world including Great Britain and the United States.
What to do when you have run out of curry powder or it isn’t available in your locality? What else can you use in place of curry powder? This article explores the best substitutes for curry powder to use in a pinch.
What is a good curry powder substitute?
Honestly, it isn’t hard to find an alternative curry powder as there are a couple of other spice blends that have similar ingredients and flavor profiles. Even you can easily make your own substitute for curry powder with common ingredients already available in your pantry.
While choosing a substitute, always consider the desired flavor of your recipe. Avoid spice mixes that have complex flavors or that are excessively hot and spicy.
Here are the best substitute options to consider when you don’t have curry powder:
1. DIY Curry Powder
There is no better replacement you can use in place of curry powder than making your own spice blend. Certainly, it gives you the freedom to customize the ingredients according to the need of the recipe and your personal taste preferences.
Generally, the blend you make on your own has a strong flavorful taste than store-bought varieties. Once you learn to make it, possibly you may never buy it again.
Here is the simple recipe for making your own curry powder:
- 4 tsp ground cumin
- 3 tsp ground coriander
- 2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp ginger powder
- 1/4 tsp yellow mustard powder
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/4 tsp cayenne powder
- Salt to taste
Note, you may also add to the mix additional and optional ingredients like fenugreek, cinnamon, clove, garlic, onion, bay leaf, or allspice according to your taste preferences.
Just simply mix the ingredients in a spice blender. For the best flavor and longer shelf life, roast the ungrounded ingredients and grind them in a spice grinder prior to mixing them all. Store the homemade curry powder in an airtight container and stock it in a cool dry place.
2. Garam Masala
Garam masala is a widely used spice blend of Indian origin. In fact, it is the most commonly used spice blend in the Indian subcontinent.
Garam masala and curry powder are cousins as most of the ingredients in them are the same. Garam masala has more intense flavors and is way more pungent, bitter, and aromatic than curry powder.
When it comes to the closest replacement for curry powder, obviously garam masala is your best bet. The other way around is also true that curry powder is the best alternative to garam masala as well. While substituting, always start by adding a lesser amount of garam masala to your dish as it is more flavorful than curry powder, and if required add more after taste-testing.
3. Chaat Masala
Chaat masala, also spelled as chat masala, is a spice powder mix popular in the Indian subcontinent. This masala is mostly used for flavoring all kinds of fruit salads. A teaspoon of chat masala sprinkled over boiled potatoes, egg omelets, any fruits, or regular salads is a culinary practice in India.
Chaat masala, cooler than garam masala, can bring a mix of sweet and pungent tastes to your recipes. This spice mix would work as a substitute for curry powder depending on the overall flavor of your dish. Most ingredients in both these spice blends are the same. Note, it’s stronger than curry powder, so use it sparingly in your dishes.
4. Curry Paste
The curry paste is made up of fresh ingredients whereas curry powder contains dry ground versions of similar ingredients. It has a stronger and more concentrated flavor than curry powder.
Curry paste is a viable alternative to curry powder especially in soups, stews, marinating, meat rub, and grilled dishes. Diluting the curry paste with an equal amount of water gives a milder flavor similar to curry powder.
5. Tandoori Masala
Tandoori masala, similar to curry powder, is a popular orange-red colored spice mix in Punjabi cuisines, especially in poultry and vegetable dishes made in tandoor ovens or grills. This spice mix is hotter than curry powder for it contains a lot more red chili peppers besides other spices. Tandoori masala is a good swap for curry powder and works great in soups, stews, meat dishes, and marinating.
6. A mixture of Allspice and Cumin
Last but not the least, a blend of cumin and allspice can do the magic that curry powder does to your recipes. The earthy, lemony and slightly pungent flavors of cumin and allspice with flavors reminiscent of cloves, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, with slight peppery overtones give a moderately sweet and warm kick to your dish. A mixture of these two spices is a gratifying alternative to the warm spicy flavors of curry powder.