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What are Curry Leaves?

curry leaves herb


Curry leaves are herbs harvested from a glossy green leaf with strong citrus notes used throughout Indian and Asian cooking to add depth and freshness.

What do curry leaves taste like?

Curry leaves have a pungent aromatic flavor of citrus with a mild spice and bitterness, the aroma is nutty with hints of anise and lemongrass.

Where does curry leaves come from?

Native to India the curry tree or murraya koenigii bears the curry leaves which are popular to Indian and Sri Lanka cooking. 

The name curry leaf originates from the Tamil ‘Kari’ which means soup or sauce. 

Worldwide the leaves are referred to as curry leaves whilst in India, they are also known as sweet neem leaves.

Curry Leaf Uses

Classically curry leaves are used in Indian, Thai, and Malaysian cooking within soup, sauces, condiments, marinades, and stir-fries. 

The leaves can be also used to add a citrus note to cocktails, egg dishes, breads or herb-filled rice/potatoes and vegetable dishes. 

In India a popular use for curry leaves is to fry in oil with other spices as the base for curries, the process is called tadka. 

Curry leaves can be added at the start of cooking for depth, at the end for a lightness or quickly fried and used as a crisp garnish.

Curry Leaf Substitutes

  • Bay leaf: best substituted into recipes which heats the curry leaf. Bay leaves have aspects of citrus whilst also being sweet.
  • Lemon balm: citrus aroma and flavor which is similar to fresh curry leaves. 
  • Lime zest: replicates the citrus flavor and is best added at the end of cooking.
  • Lime leaf: similar in appearance and provides a citrus flavor best for soups and sauces.

Curry Leaf Compliments and Pairings

The citrus flavoring and Indian origin mean curry leaves pair well with coconut, chili, garlic, ginger, tomato, fish, vegetables, poultry, lime, lemon, rice, pulses, basil, coriander, and mint. 

Curry Leaf Expiration and Storage

  • Fresh: store fresh leaves in a sealable ziplock bag and place in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
  • Dried: dried leaves are more subtle in flavor and scent, they are best stored in an airtight container for 3-4 months.
  • Frozen: properties hold up well to freezing for 3-4 months. The longer the leaves stay in the freezer the less intense their flavor will be.

Fun Facts about Curry Leaves

  • Fresh curry leaves are banned from being imported into the EU due to the risk of transporting citrus greening disease.
  • Curry leaves and curry powder are not related. Curry leaves are the fresh citrus leaves from the curry tree whilst curry powder is a blend of popular spices used for curries.

Popular Curry Leaf Recipes

  • Tadka
  • Maju Krueng
  • Curry leaf chutney
  • Coconut rice
  • Curry leaf sambol
  • Karalan prawn curry
  • Curry leaf chicken

Chef Max

Michelin trained professional chef with a passion for recipe writing and all things food. I have worked for over five years at top restaurants across the UK and have gained an ability to create any recipe you desire, from comfort food recipes to fine dining recipes. My experience in food writing includes a placement at Delicious Magazine which involved feature writing, recipe testing, article research, and content creation.

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