Curry powder is a magical medley of spicy, savory, sweet, and earthy spices that enhances the heat, flavor, and complexity of any recipe you add it to. It’s a unique spice mix from India and is used most commonly in traditional Indian cuisine. Curry powder is a mix of turmeric, ground coriander, chili powder, pepper, ground cumin, and ground ginger.
As you may have imagined, on their own, a lot of these ingredients can make pretty decent substitutes for curry powder, depending on the recipe. Using this curated list of ingredients, you can find a good substitute for curry powder in any recipe.
#1. Garam Masala
Like curry powder, garam masala is also an Indian spice blend used to add warmth and complexity to a dish. Garam masala tastes milder than curry powder, making it an ideal substitute for light curry. Garam masala contains coriander, cumin, cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, fennel, and peppercorn.
You can purchase garam masala at most Asian specialty stores in case curry powder is unavailable. Garam masala doesn’t contain turmeric though, so you should expect the appearance of your dish to be a little different. It may also affect the overall taste of your dish slightly depending on the other ingredients you use.
1 Tsp. Curry Powder = ¼ Tsp. Garam Masala.
#2. Curry Paste
Curry powder and curry paste are essentially the same. You can consider curry powder the dry and powdered version of curry paste. There are multiple varieties of curry paste available, like Thai, Jamaican, and Madras. Pick the one that contains the ingredients your recipe needs. You can find curry paste in most international stores.
If you want a no-hassle substitute for curry powder in bland recipes, using curry paste is better since it has a strong flavor. It will enhance the flavor of soups, stews, and curries. Just remember, curry paste carries a strong and pungent aroma.
1 Tsp. Curry Powder = 1 Tsp. Curry Paste.
#3. Chaat Masala
Chaat masala is one of the most popular condiments and cooking ingredients in Indian cuisine and used to perk up everything from salads to desserts. It is combined with dishes to give them savoriness, tanginess, and just a hint of spiciness. Chaat masala is generally made of asafoetida, crushed and blended cumin seeds, coriander seeds, mango powder, red chili, black pepper, clove, and some other spices too.
If you’re ever out of curry powder and need a quick replacement from your spice rack, chaat masala can come to your rescue in a pinch. Chaat masala and garam masala may belong to different worlds but provide an overall similar taste to cooked dishes.
1 Tsp. Curry Powder = 1 Tsp. Chaat Masala.
#4. Turmeric + Coriander + Allspice
This substitute involves making your own version of curry powder at home. Just take equal amounts of ground turmeric, coriander seeds, allspice, and mix them well.
You get a mix that’s almost as good as store-bought curry powder in taste and appearance. You can use it in any recipe that calls for curry powder.
1 Tsp. Curry Powder = 1 Tsp. Mixture of Turmeric, Coriander and Allspice.
#5. Ground Cumin
Say you’re making a recipe that doesn’t particularly call for a lot of heat or tanginess. Ground cumin may lack the range but can give you similar results as curry powder when you don’t have the time to go shopping. It’s best when used in small amounts because overseasoning a dish with cumin can make it pungent.
Ground cumin tastes slightly sweet, earthy, and warm with a nutty element. If you’re using it in a spicy curry, you might also want to throw in some dried red chilies or pepper to compensate for cumin’s lack of heat.
1 Tsp. Curry Powder = 1 Tsp. Ground Cumin.
#6. Sambar Powder
Sambar powder is a special south Indian masala that is used to flavor Sambar, a south Indian lentil-based stew. It’s made using most of the spices that go into curry powder but in different proportions, so you can expect a slightly different final taste.
Sambar powder usually contains cumin, coriander seeds, mustard seeds, black peppercorns, fenugreek seeds, dry red chilies, cinnamon, and dried coconut. The taste can be described as tangy, savory, and mildly spicy.
1 Tsp. Curry Powder = ½ Tsp. Sambar Powder.
#7. Tandoori Masala
If you’ve ever eaten chicken tandoori or paneer tandoori, you may be familiar with the taste of “tandoori.” It is smokey, tangy, and has a somewhat zesty taste.
Tandoori masala can add a distinctive flavor to any recipe. It brings a lot of the same elements and basic spices as curry powder, making it an excellent substitute.
1 Tsp. Curry Powder = ½ Tsp. Tandoori Masala.
#8. Ground Ginger + Ground Cinnamon + Coriander Seeds
Here’s another DIY curry powder that you can make at home. Mix equal parts of ground ginger, cinnamon, and coriander seed, and grind them into fine powder. This mixture should add just the right amount of heat, sweetness, spiciness, and savory goodness to any curry or stew. It’s well-balanced, not too intense or too light.
If you’re planning to use it in a spicy dish, you may also want to add some chili powder, paprika, or pepper.
1 Tsp. Curry Powder = 1 Tsp. Mix of Ground Ginger, Ground Cinnamon and Coriander Seeds.
Allspice is a common household spice derived from the dried berries of the West Indian Allspice tree. It is also known as Jamaican pepper or pimento. Allspice resembles dried peppercorns in both appearance and flavor. It’s warm, smoky, spicy, and nutty.
Allspice may lend you slightly different results when it comes to flavor and appearance. But you can use it to replace curry powder in virtually every recipe and get a delicious outcome.
1 Tsp. Curry Powder = 1 Tsp. Allspice.