Curry leaf is commonly used as a flavoring agent in soups, stews, and– of course– curries, particularly in Southeast Asia. Although no substitute for curry leaf can provide the exact same culinary effects, there are several substitutes for curry leaf which can be used if you are in a pinch. If you are in the middle of a recipe and just discovered that you are missing curry leaves, consider using these flavorful herbs as alternatives.
Most notable for its use in Mediterranean cuisine, bay leaf can lend a sweet-savory undertone to your dish, acting as an acceptable substitute for curry leaf. Bay leaves will not give your meal the exact same flavor as curry leaves, but it can help to balance the other tastes and fragrances in your meal. Use the same amount of bay leaf that the recipe calls for in curry leaves.
Also known as melissa, lemon balm is a member of the mint family with a distinctively citrus-like flavor. Lemon balm has an aroma that is remarkably similar to curry leaf or lemon rind. Use two thirds the amount of lemon balm that the recipe requires in curry leaves. Add only the leaves of the plant, not the edible stem or root.
Basil leaves, which are popular in Italian and Asian culinary traditions, can be good substitutes for curry leaves in some recipes. Basil is an ideal curry leaf substitute if you are cooking Thai curries, because it provides a sweet and floral undertone to these spicy dishes. A trace amount of lemon juice can provide the citrus-like flavor of curry leaves.
Lime zest, the shavings of the uppermost layer of a lime’s thick rind, may be a good substitute for curry leaves in many recipes. It provides a subtle fragrance and an exotic taste remarkably similar to curry leaf. The zest of one lime is equivalent to eight curry leaves.