Fenugreek, a popular ingredient in Indian and Mediterranean cooking, comes in both seeds and leaves forms. Its seeds are tiny, mustard-yellow, and hard, while its leaves are similar to those of clover plants. Both the seeds and the leaves have a tangy, bitter flavor, but once cooked, it transforms into a delicious maple-like, burnt-sugar flavor.
Fenugreek is commonly used to add flavor and a distinct maple syrup-like aroma in curries, rubs, and more. If you run out of fenugreek, you can use these substitutes to replace fenugreek seeds as well as leaves to give your dish the same delicious flavors!
1. Maple Syrup
You’d be surprised to know that maple syrup is perhaps the best substitute for fenugreek. Maple syrup is sweet with slightly bitter undertones, much like fenugreek. It is an excellent substitute for fenugreek leaves or seeds in any recipe because both contain sotolon, a chemical component that alters their flavor and aroma. Because their flavors are so similar, some artificial maple syrup recipes even ask for the use of fenugreek seeds!
While the two ingredients have similar flavor profiles, maple syrup is sweeter. As a result, it’s best to start with a small amount to avoid making the meal overly sweet. Keep in mind that the flavor of maple syrup fades when cooked, so add it near the end of the cooking process to get that unique bitter, nutty, and sweet flavor in your dish.
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds = 1/2 teaspoon maple syrup.
(You can also use it to replace fenugreek leaves; just make sure to start with a small amount and then add more if needed.)
2. Yellow Mustard Seeds
Yellow mustard seeds have the same mild bitter yet spicy flavor as fenugreek, with earthy or nut undertones, making them an excellent substitute in many recipes. However, it’s worth noting that yellow mustard seeds don’t have the sweet notes of mustard and won’t work as a substitute in dishes that need some sweetness.
You can use yellow mustard seeds in place of fenugreek seeds in soups, chutneys, sauces, and more, or use them to flavor meat and seafood-based dishes. Simply toast the mustard seeds at a low temperature to release their flavor before using them in your recipes.
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds = 1 teaspoon mustard seeds. (Add a splash of maple syrup for added sweetness.)
Note: If you’re using fenugreek leaves, use mustard greens rather than mustard seeds to deliver a subtle, delicious aroma to your dish.
3. Curry Powder
Most curry powder blends contain fenugreek seed powder as one of the main ingredients. So, if your recipe calls for dried fenugreek powder, you can easily use curry powder instead and get the desired flavor.
When using it as a stand-in, keep in mind that curry powder has additional ingredients that will also affect your overall dish, but it will still work in a pinch. Simply blend your curry powder with some olive oil to bring out the flavor and aroma of fenugreek, then add it at the start of the cooking process to get a more robust flavor.
1 teaspoon fenugreek seed powder = 1/2 teaspoon curry powder.
4. Fennel Seeds
Fennel seeds are sweet, unlike the bitter fenugreek seeds, but they do a wonderful job of replicating the nutty, sweet flavors of fenugreek. Fennel seeds work well in desserts that call for fenugreek seeds as well as in rubs where they enhance the flavor of other ingredients.
While you can use fennel seeds in place of fenugreek, use it sparingly as too much would overpower the other flavors in the recipe. Because of their strong anise flavor, fennel seeds will likely not work as a stand-in in all dishes.
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds = 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds.
Pro tip: Combine fennel seeds and mustard seeds to make a sweet and spicy blend that tastes like fenugreek seeds. Roast the two seeds together to balance the sweetness of fennel seeds while toning down the overwhelming flavors of mustard seeds.
5. Chinese Celery Leaves
Chinese celery leaves have a bitter but nutty flavor, quite like fenugreek, and even resemble fenugreek leaves in appearance. And because they are readily available in most supermarkets and grocery stores, they’re a good substitute to use in a pinch.
When substituting Chinese celery leaves for fenugreek, keep in mind that it will taste peppery and will add a slightly bitter flavor to your meal. Celery leaves also lack the maple-like flavor of fenugreek, so be careful when adding it in recipes that need an added sweetness. You can fix this by adding a pinch of sugar to balance out the flavor.
1 cup fenugreek leaves = 1/2 cup Chinese celery leaves + a pinch of sugar (optional).
6. Mustard Greens
Mustard greens have a slightly spicy, bitter flavor with a grassy freshness that is similar to fenugreek. It works well in a variety of cuisines, particularly in Asian dishes, and may be used raw or cooked. As it does not dominate the other flavors in the dish, mustard greens can be a good fenugreek substitute.
Mustard greens are a fantastic substitute for fenugreek leaves in soups, stews, curries, stir-fries, and salads as well as in smoothies and teas. You may also combine them with other greens to give the dish a flavor boost.
1 teaspoon fenugreek leaves = 1 teaspoon mustard greens.
7. Dijon Mustard
Dijon mustard is a highly acidic condiment made from mustard seeds and white wine, among other ingredients. It has a strong, acidic, spicy flavor similar to wasabi, but it may be used to enhance the flavor of any savory meal that calls for fenugreek.
Dijon mustard can be used in sauces, meat rubs, and sandwiches as a replacement for fenugreek. Just keep in mind that its peculiar flavor profile won’t work in desserts. It will also give the dish a slightly different flavor than fenugreek, but you may not notice a great difference in the final dish.
1 teaspoon fenugreek = 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (Adjust to taste).