One of the commenters on our recipe for Curried Vegetable and Chickpea Stew brought up a question we actually get asked fairly frequently in our lives as cooks: Is there another spice that can be substituted for curry powder? Hear our thoughts after the jump!
First of all, understand that curry powder is actually a blend of several spices. There is an actual curry plant, but it's not what we think of as the curry spice. Curry powders are typically include tumeric, coriander, cumin, fenugreek, and red pepper, with other spices thrown in depending on the brand you buy (or make!).
Not all curry powders are created equal. The blend, the proportions, and the quality and age of the spices in the blend can all be different, so keep trying new spice blends as you come across them and be discerning with where you buy your spices.
If you've already run the gamut of spice blends, it's likely that there's one particular spice within the blend that isn't to your liking. Try making your own curry spice blend - something we recommend doing at least once anyway! Not only can you control the freshness and quality of the spices, but you also get a feel for each spice individually. With some trial and error, you can identify which spice is the culprit and can tweak the recipe to your taste. We like the spice blend used in our recipe for Malaysian Beef Curry.
You can also try substituting garam masala. This is another Indian spice mix that tends to be sweeter to the palate than curry powder. Though garam masala also varies in the exact blend and in quality, it usually includes spices like cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and coriander. Check out our recipe for DIY Garam Masala and give it a try in your next curry recipe.
Any other suggestions of particular curries to try or other spices to substitute?
Related: Quick Tip: Boost Flavor by Toasting Spices