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Fresh Curry Leaves

By Cook's Illustrated Published March 2016

While sometimes used in curries, curry leaves are unrelated to and only rarely found in curry powder—and they are definitely not a curry powder substitute.

Deep green and glossy, fresh curry leaves have a faint lemony aroma and a complex flavor—our tasters noted hints of cumin, menthol, popcorn, and grass. While sometimes used in curries, curry leaves are unrelated to and only rarely found in curry powder—and they are definitely not a curry powder substitute. Since heating in fat helps draw out their mostly oil-soluble flavor compounds, curry leaves are typically fried lightly in oil or butter before other ingredients are added. We tasted them in a red lentil dish (masoor dal) and in a potato samosa filling and found that their unique flavor was a welcome contribution. However, we needed to use eight to 10 leaves rather than the three or four some recipes recommend. The leaves are typically left whole for cooking and are tender enough to eat, though they can be removed before serving. Freeze fresh leaves in a zipper-lock bag for up to a month to preserve their flavor. You can find them at Indian markets, and they’re increasingly available at grocery stores.