Fenugreek, also known as methi, is a tasty aromatic herb/spice frequently used in Mediterranean and Indian cooking but can be hard to find, especially if you need leaves. Here are the top 10 fenugreek substitutes for cooking, plus what it tastes like and goes best with.
If you’ve ever enjoyed authentic Mediterranean or Indian cuisine, chances are you’ve tasted fenugreek. Perhaps without even realizing it.
Fenugreek is a popular spice that lends a nutty flavor to the dishes it’s added to. It also has an impressive list of health benefits. Because it’s not a commonly used spice in American food, it might not be that easy to find.
But if you want a true flavor when you prepare foods from other places, you will need something that replicates the taste of fenugreek.
Fortunately, finding a fenugreek substitute is fairly easy, and I have plenty of suggestions to share. You have various options, so you can experiment to find which one most closely resembles the flavor you’re looking for.
Before you decide to give up and prepare something else, check out these great alternatives to fenugreek and get ready for a delicious meal.
What is Fenugreek?
Fenugreek is a green, clover-like, herb native to southern Europe, the Mediterranean, and Asia. It’s used both for culinary and medicinal purposes. Fresh fenugreek leaves are available in the Autumn, but seeds, dried, and ground forms are available anytime.
What Does Fenugreek Taste Like?
Fenugreek has a bitter and sweet taste that’s reminiscent of maple syrup with burned notes. The bitterness mellows with cooking and melding with other spices.
This spice goes especially well with other warm spices like cinnamon, star anise, cloves, and peppercorns. Fenugreek is an amazing aromatic spice that compliments many foods such as cauliflower, potatoes, root vegetables, rice, lentils, creamy sauces, yogurt, seafood, soups, and stews.
Best Fenugreek Substitute in Cooking
1. Maple Syrup
You might be wondering how maple syrup could mimic the flavor of a spice like fenugreek. It’s actually a great choice because it offers a similar mixture of bitterness and sweetness.
Both maple syrup and fenugreek contain sotolon, a chemical compound that impacts the flavor. For that reason, maple syrup happens to be one of the most common substitutes for fenugreek.
You don’t want to substitute maple syrup in large amounts. That’s because it will make your dish too sweet. I recommend starting with just a little bit and then tasting your dish, adding more to get the flavor you’re looking for.
The number one substitute is actually a combination of maple syrup, and a bit of mustard seeds, our number 2.
2. Mustard Seeds
Mustard seeds have a similar nutty flavor when compared to fenugreek. That makes them a great alternative in many recipes. Unlike maple syrup, you won’t have to worry about the sweetness factor.
For a truly authentic fenugreek flavor, use yellow mustard seeds. Toast them a bit before adding them to your dish. This releases the flavor so you can get the full effect.
In most recipes, I use the same amount of mustard seeds as I would fenugreek. This 1:1 ratio makes it easy to make the substitution.
3. Curry Powder
Most curry powder blends contain fenugreek, making it an ideal substitute in many dishes. You’ll still get the flavor you’re looking for, so your recipe will still have the authentic taste you want.
Keep in mind that curry powder contains other spices in addition to fenugreek. For that reason, the fenugreek flavor won’t be as strong. Make sure you balance the curry powder with any other spices in the recipe.
That way, they don’t overpower the meal and take away from the taste of the fenugreek. A bit of trial and error might be necessary if you plan to use curry powder as a substitute.
4. Fennel Seeds
Fennel seeds have a strong flavor, so you won’t need a lot of them. However, they offer a similar fresh taste to fenugreek which makes them an ideal alternative.
Fennel has a distinctive anise flavor, and I think it’s a good choice for meat rubs and savory dishes. It might not work so well in every dish, but don’t be afraid to give it a try.
5. Chinese Celery Leaves
Not only do Chinese celery leaves resemble fenugreek in flavor, but they also mimic it in appearance. They’ll give your dish a bitter but nutty flavor, similar to fenugreek.
To achieve the best results, use about half the amount of celery leaves to replace the fenugreek. They’re great for chutneys and sauces, and I like to add a pinch of sugar to further bring out the flavor.
6. Dijon Mustard
While it will lend the dish a slightly different flavor than you might be used to, I think Dijon mustard makes a tasty fenugreek substitute.
If you don’t have any other options on hand, a teaspoon of Dijon mustard works in a pinch. It’s great in sauces and meat rubs. Add a bit more to taste as necessary as your meal cooks.
Like Chinese celery leaves, kale has a similar appearance to fenugreek and can be used in various stew, salad, and stir-fry recipes.
While kale will lend a dish the bitterness you expect from fenugreek; it’s much more pronounced. For that reason, it’s best to cook the kale leaves before adding them to your dish.
8. Mustard Greens
Because the flavor of mustard closely resembles that of fenugreek, the greens also make a great substitute.
Mustard greens have a slightly spicy but bitter taste that lends itself to various dishes that call for fenugreek. I use them both raw and cooked, and they make a great addition to curry and stir-fry recipes.
9. Alfalfa Sprouts
Alfalfa sprouts are a common substitute for celery leaves. So it makes sense that you can also use them as a fenugreek substitute.
While the flavor isn’t the same, you’ll still get the slightly bitter and sweet undertones you expect when cooking with fenugreek. At the same time, the taste is pretty mild, so feel free to use them at a 1:1 ratio.
Spinach makes a good substitute for fenugreek for much the same reason that kale does. You get a whole lot of nutrition packed into each leaf, but the flavor profile is similar.
Spinach won’t create quite the same dish that fenugreek does, but its bitter flavor and leafy texture will be pretty close.
Choosing a Fenugreek Substitute
One of the great things about finding a fenugreek substitute is that you can experiment in the kitchen. Try out the various options to find out what works best for the dish you’re preparing.
Keep in mind that you can’t always use a substitute at a 1:1 ratio, so make sure you add whichever option you choose sparingly to start. You can then add a bit more as you go to get the flavor you’re trying to create.
Before you go, check out all of my delicious recipes and get ready to prepare some tasty meals for yourself and your family.