What is a Good Substitute For Curry Leaves?

You are reading this article so chances are that you know exactly how awesome an addition curry leaves are to recipes. Talk of a picture-perfect herb.

Obtained from the curry leaf plant they add a distinctly citrusy, aromatic flavor with a nutty aroma.

These leaves are best, more flavorful when they are used fresh but if using them dry, you should be sure to add more leaves to your dish to compensate for the loss of flavor.


Did you know that curry leaves tend to also form the basis of garam masala when combined with other spices? And did we mention the versatility of curry leaves?

What about the punch of flavor that curry leaves add to any meal they are added to?

There is literally so much we can say about curry leaves and the advantages there are to using them.

 The only downside about this awesome spice is that the curry leaves can be really hard to come by in the supermarket, grocery store, or farmers market. Hence the reason why we need a substitute in the first place.

In case you have been wondering what some great substitutes for curry leaves are, we have got you covered. Lime zest, bay leaves, makrut lime leaves, lemon balm, basil leaves, and daun salam leaves are some of the most excellent substitutes you can get to curry leaves.

Curry leaves are known to be commonly used in chutneys and sauces, baked goods like bread and crackers, infusing broths with the stunning flavor, infused in oil as a topping on crusty bread, or combined with several other spices to make the best blend of seasoning.

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Where to buy curry leaves


You can find curry leaves at the farmer’s market or more specifically, at your local Indian grocery store.

If you are in luck some certain Asian supermarkets stock them too. In the alternative, you can go the route of making an order for fresh or dried curry leaves online on amazon and have them delivered directly to your doorstep! How convenient is that?

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Curry Leaves Substitutes

Traditionally curry leaves are considered to be indispensable in Indian cuisine but if you find yourself running out of them or are unable to purchase them here are a few alternatives that you can use before you stock up again.

Do not worry, these substitutes will be sure to add the curry leaf citrusy flavor to your dish.

   1.Lime Zest


This one is definitely the cheapest and easiest to find of the substitutes listed in this article.

The lime zest flavor complements almost every dish that stands for curry leaves. It is essentially the outer green layer of the peel that is fragrant and packed with flavorful oils. You simply zest the limes directly into your dish.

Use the smallest holes on your grater to get the right size for your lime zest. And, although it does not perfectly mimic the curry leaf flavor and aroma it most definitely comes close to achieving it by adding the citrusy note.


There is a chef’s secret to turning up the flavor; adding some freshly minced basil leaves with your lemon zest to your meal.

This adds depth to your dish and brings it closer to the unique curry leaf taste and aroma that we all know and love so much. The splash of color that it comes with is an added advantage to using lime zest as a substitute for curry leaves.

Typically, you just need to substitute 8 curry leaves with one zested lime. If you chose to go with the basil leaves combo, make sure to use the same amount of basil leaves that your recipe indicates for curry leaves.

2.Bay Leaves


Commonly used in Mediterranean cuisine, bay leaves are considered a readily available and affordable alternative to curry leaves.

Bay leaves are available as a whole, dried, or ground into a powdery form. It is a staple product in most chef’s pantry and it adds a sort of minty flavor and aroma that intensifies the taste of soups, sauces, and stews. However, when bay leaves are eaten raw they have a sharp and bitter taste to them.

Although it is not the exact depth of flavor and aroma that curry leaves give, they are still close to the real thing. Unlike curry leaves, when used a whole you have to pick the bay leaves out of your food (unless of course, you do not mind chewing them).

Crushed or ground bay leaves are often used in a muslin bag or tea infuser to make it easier to remove them from the food.

When being used as an alternative, make sure to substitute half a cup of curry leaves with just one bay leaf.

  1. Makrut Lime Leaves

Makrut lime leaves are an essential part of Thai cuisine and offer a strong, rather distinctive citrus flavor and aroma. They may not be as widely and readily available as the other substitutes mentioned on this list but makrut lime leaves make for a good substitute to curry leaves too.

In contrast to curry leaves, makrut lime leaves should not be eaten whole and are mainly used for flavoring dishes such as curries, soups and broths, and stir-fries.

You can choose to either crush, slice, or simmer the makrut lime leaves in your recipe to draw out their flavor.

Another chef’s secret is adding a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice just before serving your meal for that added “je ne sais quoi”. Remember that you will need 6 lime leaves for every 10 curry leaves your recipe calls for.

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4.Lemon Balm


Lemon balm is also known as sweet Melissa or sweet balm. This is a perennial herb that is part of the mint family. It’s one of the most widely available substitutes and may actually be growing in your garden right now!

It offers a delicate lemon aroma and flavor. It is important to note that only the leaves of the balm work well for recipes not the root or stem of the balm.

As with most herbs and spices, it is best used fresh as drying reduces its flavor and would require you to use more than the recipe calls for.

Lemon balm works well when it is used alongside basil leaves, chives, parsley, and dill. Leftover lemon balm leaves do not have to go to waste and be thrown out and can be used to make tea.

Talk of efficiency and versatility!!! It is advisable that generally, 9 curry leaves can be replaced with 6 lemon balm leaves. 

   5.Basil Leaves


This is a very diverse herb that is used in various cuisines and that is part of the mint family. Fresh basil leaves have a sweet floral aroma and they taste a bit peppery with a hint of mint.

Dried basil leaves on the other hand are much more mellow and are closer to oregano in terms of taste. There are different types of basil leaves and they all tend to have a similar taste but lemon or lime basil to be precise work best as an alternative to curry leaves.

Some chefs actually recommend using basil leaves as the only alternatives to curry leaves. Do not cut up basil leaves before using them. It is best to tear them up really well. This simple act of tearing basil leaves helps to keep their flavor intact.

Their floral notes effectively complement dishes that use curry leaves. And, of course, as mentioned earlier, it is worth noting that they can be used in combination with lemon zest for that extra depth of flavor to your dishes.

This substitute will be best used in spicy Thai curry dishes for the contrasting sweet taste and in salads.

When using as a substitute for curry leaves, use the same amount of basil leaves that your recipe indicates for curry leaves.

6.Daun Salam Leaves


More commonly known as Indonesian bay leaves. Its flavor mimics that of cinnamon but milder.

Their flavor does not generally pair well with vegetable dishes. Because of this, daun salam leaves will work best as curry leaves substitute in meat preparations.

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If you are like me and have an adventurous palate then experiencing dishes from different cultures around the world is on your bucket list.

Traveling to experience all this might not be feasible but you can bring all these cultures; from Southeast Asia to Mediterranean cuisines to the comfort of your kitchen by simply creating the dishes.


However, an obstacle you might face in your quest is finding the exact ingredients your recipes call for.

The curry leaf is one such ingredient that can be hard to find especially in the US. Unfortunately, nothing can really replicate the exact authentic and rich flavor it brings to a dish.

Luckily they are other more readily available herbs that can be used as alternatives and would still add flavor to your food and as a bonus some essential nutrients that can greatly benefit your health.

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