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9 Substitutes for Dried/Fresh Curry Leaves in Indian Dishes

Curry leaves are an essential ingredient in many recipes, especially in Indian cooking. Dried curry leaves won’t cut it most of the time.

Luckily, there are several excellent substitutes for dried or fresh curry leaves, including curry powder, lime zest, lemon zest, kaffir lime leaves, bay leaves, lemon balm leaves, basil leaves, Daun salam leaves, cilantro, and coriander seeds.

Learn the proper substitution ratios for each option below so your dish can still be tasty and distinct.

What is a Good Substitute for Curry Leaves

Below are the nine best curry leaves substitutes so you can still make your favorite meals!

1. Lime Zest or Lemon Zest

lemon zest

One of the best curry leaves substitutes are the zest of a lemon or lime.

The zest is the outer rind which is a bright green or yellow, depending on which fruit you have on hand. You can use a grater or peeler to get zest from one of these fresh fruits.

You should only use the outermost part of the peel, not the white part that lies underneath the colorful zest.

Lime is typically a better choice than lemon, as the flavor is more similar to the tanginess of curry leaves.

How to Substitute

When using lime zest, you should substitute half a teaspoon of lime zest for every five fresh curry leaves the recipe calls for.

When using lemon zest, you should use double the amount, meaning a full teaspoon of lemon zest for every five fresh curry leaves.

2. Kaffir Lime Leaves

kaffir lime

Kaffir lime leaves are slightly different from standard lime leaves, as they have a bold flavor and aroma.

Kaffir lime leaves also tend to be smaller than typical lime leaves, meaning you have to use more when it’s a substitute for fresh curry leaves.

How to Substitute

A little goes a long way when using kaffir leaves as a substitute for fresh curry leaves. You only need to use one kaffir leaf for every ten fresh curry leaves the recipe needs.

Unfortunately, kaffir lime leaves can be just as difficult to come by as curry leaves, so this isn’t the most convenient substitute unless you already have some in your kitchen.

3. Bay Leaves

fresh dried ground bay leaf

Bay leaves are one of the more convenient substitutes, as many people have dried bay leaves in their kitchen, and most grocery stores have fresh ones in stock.

While curry leaves are zesty and pungent, bay leaves are more earthy and comforting. They’re best for gravy or other mild sauce rather than a bold Indian dish.

How to Substitute

When substituting, you should use an equal amount of fresh bay leaves for fresh curry leaves.

If you’re using dried bay leaves, use one teaspoon for every fresh curry leaf needed. But dried bay leaves will not enhance the flavor nearly as much as fresh ones.

4. Lemon Balm Leaves

lemon balm

Lemon balm can be a tough ingredient to find, but it’s a stellar substitute. Although lemon balm is not mint, it has a minty freshness that mimics the citrus flavor of curry leaves.

You can use the leaves and the stalk of lemon balm to recreate the curry leaf flavor.

How to Substitute

The substitution is also easy, as you can use about the same amount of each leaf.

Lemon balm leaves can be a bit more pungent, so if anything, use one or two leaves less when substituting for fresh curry leaves.

5. Basil Leaves


Basil leaves, like bay leaves, are a convenient substitute for fresh curry leaves, as many people already have them in their homes, and most supermarkets keep them on hand.

But also like bay leaves, basil leaves have a more mild and earthy flavor.

How to Substitute

When using basil leaves as a substitute for curry leaves, you should use more basil.

If the recipe uses ten fresh curry leaves, you can substitute them with fifteen basil leaves.

6. Daun Salam Leaves

daun salam leaves

Daun Salam Leaves are a common ingredient in Indonesian recipes and can make for a decent substitute for curry leaves in Indian cooking.

They look similar and have a spicy, distinct smell that will add a lot of flavor to your meal, but they won’t be as citrusy and sweet as curry leaves.

How to Substitute

When using Daun salam leaves as a replacement for curry leaves, you can use a one-to-one ratio, so for every curry leaf you need, use one Daun salam leaf.

7. Cilantro

cilantro dried

Cilantro is a convenient dried curry leaves substitute, and it has that minty, fresh, citrusy flavor that you want from the curry leaves.

It’s the perfect substitute for curry leaves in Indian cooking, specifically in curries.

How to Substitute

Use about half a cup of chopped fresh cilantro for every ten curry leaves.

If you use dried cilantro, use two-thirds of a cup, but you won’t get the citrus flavor with dried cilantro.

8. Coriander Seeds

coriander seeds

Coriander and cilantro are the same plants, cilantro is the leaves, and coriander is the seeds!

So you can grind up whole coriander seeds, which have a pungent and refreshing flavor similar to curry.

How to Substitute

Use one teaspoon of crushed coriander seeds for every five fresh curry leaves the recipe called for.

9. Curry Powder

curry powder

One of the most apparent substitutes for curry leaves is using curry powder. If they have the same name, they must taste the same, right?

You may be surprised to learn that curry powder is not dried and blended curry leaves. In fact, curry powder is a combination of several spices: cumin, cinnamon, turmeric, coriander, fenugreek, and red pepper.

Curry leaves and curry powder have very different flavor profiles. Curry leaves have a zesty, lemony flavor, while curry powder is spicy.

While this means curry powder isn’t necessarily always an alternative to curry leaves, you can still use them together in Indian or Mediterranean dishes. Many curry sauces can benefit from the fresh zing of curry leaves–or in this case, curry leaf substitutes.

FAQs About Curry Leaves

Below are commonly asked questions about dried curry leaves substitutes.

Where can I get curry leaves?

Head to your local Asian or Indian grocery store for fresh curry leaves. Standard grocery stores in the US can carry fresh curry leaves, but there is no guarantee.

How much ground bay leaf equals one bay leaf?

A ground equivalent [1] will be between one-eighth and one-quarter of a teaspoon.

How do I substitute dried curry leaves for fresh ones?

When using dried curry leaves substitute, use double the amount. For every fresh curry leaf, use two dried curry leaves.

I’m Jennifer Schlette, a Registered Dietitian and Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. I love cooking, reading, and my kids! Here you’ll find the healthiest recipes & substitutions for your cooking. Enjoy, and be well, friends!

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