Fenugreek is a common ingredient in Indian dishes and is also often taken as a supplement. Both leaves and seeds of this plant are edible.
In case you don’t have this spicy herb at hand then finding a good fenugreek substitute is easy. I’ve got a list of alternatives to both fenugreek leaves and seeds.
Fenugreek: An Overview
Fenugreek is an annual plant in the family Fabaceae, also called Leguminosae or bean and pea family. It’s also called methi in India. This spicy legumes herb is cultivated across the world as a semiarid crop.
The seeds are used in cooking, in traditional medicine, and to hide the taste of other medicine. Fenugreek leaves are also edible, a popular vegetable in India.
The seeds taste slightly sweet with a nutty flavor reminiscent of maple syrup and burnt sugar. Surprisingly, they can be incredibly bitter when eaten raw but when cooked they turn sweet and adds depth of flavor to saucy dishes.
Fenugreek leaves are mostly bitter in taste, but when added to recipes, they titillate the taste buds. Most of their bitterness diminishes after cooking.
Uses In Cooking
Fenugreeks seeds and leaves are used for flavoring various cuisines across the world. This nutty-flavored spice is a staple ingredient popularly used in Indian cooking.
Some of the curry powder blends and appetizers like Indian chutneys make good use of it. Ground fenugreek seeds are used in dry rubs for meat as well as in some herbal blends.
Fenugreek leaves are a common vegetable that is used in dishes like subzis, rotis/parathas, patties/tikkis, and many more. Whereas, seeds or dried leaves are used in recipes like butter chicken, daals, and dhansak.
Methi is a well-known traditional remedy for all sorts of digestive problems, diabetes, hair loss, obesity, painful menstruation, and a few more.
What’s A Good Fenugreek Substitute?
In many localities around the globe, fenugreeks aren’t easily available in stores, thus finding a substitute becomes necessary. Fortunately, you can easily get a variety of fenugreeks leaves and seeds substitute that add a similar flavor to your recipes.
Best Substitutes For Fenugreeks Seeds
Seeds of fenugreeks are more commonly used than the leaves. Let us first look at some of the best replacements for the seeds.
1. Maple Syrup
While tasting the fenugreek at first you feel you are tasting maple syrup. Notably, both maple syrup and fenugreek contain a chemical compound called sotolone that is responsible for their similar flavor.
In fact, fenugreek extract is often used as a flavoring agent in artificially produced maple syrups.
When you don’t have fenugreek, add a teaspoon of maple syrup to your recipe. Use it sparingly or else the sweetness of maple syrup would overpower your recipe.
Mustard seeds, especially the yellow variety, are a nice alternative to fenugreek seeds. The earthy spiciness of slightly fried mustard provides a soothing flavor equivalent to fenugreek.
Another viable option is to use a teaspoon of Dijon mustard with honey to achieve the closest flavor of fenugreek.
Use the same amount of mustard seed in lieu of fenugreek seeds.
3. Curry powder
A dominant ingredient in curry powder is none other than fenugreeks. In an emergency, you can comfortably use curry powder as a replacement ingredient.
If you are opting for curry powder, make sure to adjust other ingredients in your recipe as it contains a mixture of other spices as well. Some chefs recommend heating the curry powder before its use in your recipe to weaken its strong flavors.
4. Mustard and Fennel Seeds
A blend of fennel and mustard seeds could be another agreeable swap for fenugreek. Crush both of them before making the blend.
Prior to the use, oil frying this blend reduces the sweetness of fennel and subdues the pungency of mustard.
Use the mixture of fennel and mustard seed in a 1:1 ratio for replacing fenugreek seeds in your recipe.
Best Substitutes for Fenugreek Leaves
Fenugreeks leaves are frequently used in several dishes all over the world, from salads to curries to Turkish pastes called ‘Cement to pita bread.
Now let’s look at what are the good replacements for leaves of fenugreek.
1. Kasoori methi (Dry Fenugreek Leaves)
Kasoori methi, which is a dried form of the leaves, is a suitable substitute for fresh leaves. Even though dry, it still retains a lot of flavors just like the fresh leaves. Some say that dry leaves have a stronger taste and aroma than fresh leaves.
Dry leaves work best in recipes that have leaves sprinkled over like in a sauce or something.
Use 1 teaspoon of kasoori methi in place of one tablespoon of fresh leaves.
2. Maple syrup
Just as you use maple syrup instead of the seeds, use it in place of leaves as well. This works in recipes that use leaves for the sake of flavor.
Just add a teaspoon of maple syrup in the palace of a tablespoon of fresh leaves. The aroma of maple syrup withers away in prolonged cooking, therefore add it at the end of cooking.
3. Fresh celery leaves
Celery leaves, especially the Chinese variety, have a flavor quite identical to fenugreek leaves. Both of them have a bitter taste but it becomes a pleasant flavor after cooking.
As a substitute, use the celery leaves in the same quantity.
This leafy vegetable has a flavor profile akin to celery and methi leaves. A peppery taste is more pronounced in raw watercress in comparison to the bitterness of celery and fenugreek leaves. Even so, after cooking watercress produces a delicious flavor similar to celery. In an emergency, use it as a substitute for methi leaves.
Spinach doesn’t share the same flavor profile as fenugreek leaves. But it can very well mimic the texture and appearance of fenugreek leaves.
For the exact flavor, add a pinch of ground fenugreek seeds to the spinach leaves while cooking.