Inside the Spice Cabinet: Fenugreek

updated May 2, 2019
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(Image credit: Michelle Peters-Jones)

Used for both its leaves and its seeds (both whole and ground), fenugreek, also known as methi and shambalileh, is a unique and highly fragrant ingredient.

What Is Fenugreek?

Taste: Bitter, sweet
Most Popular Use: Curry powder, spice blends, teas

Native to Asia and the Mediterranean, both the seeds and the leaves (fresh or dried) of the fenugreek plant are edible. The seeds are small, hard, and have a shrunken rectangular shape similar to dried beans or corn kernels. The leaves are flat and spear-shaped, and radiate out from a central stem. While both smell like caramel or maple syrup when heated, their taste is rather bitter, like burnt sugar.

Store whole and ground fenugreek in airtight container, in a cool, dry, and dark location for up to six months. Fresh fenugreek leaves have a short shelf life and should be used immediately.

How To Use Fenugreek

Fenugreek is most widely used in Indian cuisine, though it’s also found in North African and Middle Eastern dishes. The ground seeds are often used in curry powder, spices blends, dry rubs, and tea blends. A pinch can also be sprinkled over yogurt, cooked greens, or sauce. Fresh leaves can be added to salads and cooked dishes.

Recipes for Cooking with Fenugreek