5 BEST Curry Leaves Substitutes in Cooking

Have you ever wondered what adding a unique and delicious flavor to your dishes would be like?

Curry leaves are edible leaves that are commonly used in Indian cuisine.

These aromatic leaves have a fairly strong, nutty scent and can enhance the taste of any dish they are added to.

Cooking with curry leaves is incredibly easy, and there are numerous ways you can use them.

Not sure how to do so? Don’t worry – we’ve got you covered.

Read on to learn all about cooking, using, and substituting curry leaves.

What is Curry Leaf?

Curry leaf is an aromatic and flavorful herb found in Asian cuisine that is gaining in popularity.

It has a distinct flavor, with a slightly bitter taste and an earthy, fragrant smell.

Due to its strong taste, it should be used sparingly – two or three leaves at most are accurate for a regular-sized dish.

It can be used as a part of dry masalas and sauces, added to vegetables during cooking, or tempered in oil with chilies and other spices for seasoning.

It pairs well with lentils as well as vegetables, giving both savory dishes like dals and kurmas great depth of flavor.

A superb way to enjoy curry leaves’ taste and aroma is by frying the leaves first in oil quickly over high heat – this will release their full flavor and render them crispy enough to use as a garnish on top of rice dishes or curries.

5 BEST Curry Leaves Substitutes in Cooking

If you’ve ever been to an Indian grocery store or even watched a cooking show featuring South Asian cuisine, then you know that curry leaves are a vital part of many dishes.

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But what do you do if you don’t have access to fresh curry leaves? Here are five of the best curry leaves substitutes in cooking:

1 – Bay Leaves

Bay leaves are an indispensable ingredient in many cuisines around the world, from Greek to Indian-style cooking.

A member of the laurel family, these dried leaves come in two main varieties: Mediterranean and Californian.

Mediterranean bay leaves are hardier, with a musky aroma and woodsy flavor, while Californian bay leaves have a milder taste.

When cooked, both kinds become fragrant and provide a delicate earthy aroma to dishes like stews and soups.

They pair well with other robust herbs such as thyme and oregano, providing depth to traditional recipes like chicken cacciatore or beef bourguignon.

If you don’t have access to fresh curry leaves, bay leaves make an excellent substitute for a similar flavor profile.

**Note:** Bay leaves can be quite bitter if not cooked long enough and should always be removed from the dish before serving.

2 – Lemon Balm

Lemon balm is a must-have for every kitchen.

It is an aromatic herb from the mint family with a strong and unique flavor as well as a soft, velvety texture.

When used fresh or dried and powdered, lemon balm goes particularly well with classic Mediterranean dishes and salads; it gives those dishes an intense, flavorful kick.

You can either use it in its powdered or whole form when the leaves are added directly to the dish before serving; each technique provides a slightly different taste experience.

Additionally, you can substitute dried lemon balm leaves for curry leaves if you are looking for something new but similar in flavor.

**Note:** Lemon balm leaves have a strong, sometimes overpowering flavor and should be used sparingly to avoid an overly sour dish.

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3 – Lime Zest

Lime zest is a great way to add a burst of flavor and freshness to many dishes.

It comes from the rind of limes, which (after washing) should be grated with a microplane for best results.

The zest has more intense citrus flavors than the juice, and it can also provide an interesting texture to food.

In particular, its distinctive taste helps to balance savory and sweetness in recipes.

Plus, the versatility of lime zest means that it can replace curry leaves in traditional Indian recipes – simply roast or sauté the zest before adding it to your dish.

Whichever route you take, exploring lime zest is certainly a rewarding culinary experience.

**Note:** When using lime zest, be careful not to add too much, or the dish can become overly sour.

4 – Kaffir Lime Leaves

Kaffir lime leaves often referred to as Thai lime leaves, are widely used in Asian cooking and contribute a unique flavor to dishes.

Harvested from the kaffir lime, these leaves have a distinct bumpy texture due to their double-lobed shape.

The flavor is both subtly bitter and sour at the same time, adding complexity to dishes without overpowering them.

Fresh kaffir lime leaves can be used just like curry leaves in many recipes but should be removed from the dish before serving as they are not edible in this form.

Alternatively, it can be added as a paste during marinating or frying for best results.

**Note:** The paste should be cooked thoroughly to prevent a bitter taste from overpowering the dish.

5 – Lemon Zest

Lemon zest is an incredibly versatile ingredient, and it’s no wonder why it has become so widely used in cooking today.

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It is the finely grated peel of the lemon and contains essential oils and pectin–which both add to its distinctive flavor.

When using lemon zest, you can expect a fragrant aroma with a subtly sweet flavor.

You should also notice little flecks of yellow in dishes, which provide a welcome burst of freshness.

Lemon zest is often used to add flavor to baked goods like muffins or cakes, as well as savory dishes like pasta or risotto recipes.

If you don’t have access to lemons, you can substitute lemon zest for curry leaves; just make sure to adjust the amount to taste depending on what dish you’re making.

With these uses in mind, it’s easy to understand why this ingredient has become so popular in cooking today.

**Note:** When using lemon zest, remember to only use the outermost part of this citrus fruit’s peel; the white pith underneath is bitter and should be avoided.


In conclusion, curry leaves are a wonderful ingredient to add depth and flavor to dishes, but they can sometimes be hard to source.

Fortunately, there are plenty of substitutes that can give you similar results.

From bay leaves and lime zest to kaffir lime leaves and lemon zest, there are plenty of ways to bring a new level of flavor to your cooking.

With the right amount of experimentation, you can easily find the perfect substitute for your favorite recipe.

The key is to experiment and find what works best for you.

5 BEST Curry Leaves Substitutes in Cooking

5 BEST Curry Leaves Substitutes in Cooking

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes


  • 1 – Bay Leaves
  • 2 – Lemon Balm
  • 3 – Lime Zest
  • 4 – Kaffir Lime Leaves
  • 5 – Lemon Zest


  1. Choose a preferred substitute from the provided list.
  2. Follow the cooking instructions for the selected substitute.
  3. Use the correct proportion of ingredients when preparing the substitute.

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