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I mostly make curry from scratch. However some recipes (kedgeree)call for using curry powder. I can never get the mix right.

Is there a standard spice mix substitution?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

There isn't a standard substitution for curry powder; all the blends are subtly different, and may or may not include any of a dozen or so spices.

The standard grocery store curry powders all have turmeric, coriander, and cumin in large amounts, and a smaller amount of cayenne or red pepper. Beyond that, they may include varying amounts of cardamom, mustard seed, fenugreek, asafoetida, caraway, cinnamon, nutmeg, garlic powder, ginger, black pepper, or clove. How almost all of them manage to taste like pallid imitations of real Indian curry blends is anyone's guess.

I know recipes are frowned on here, but in this case I think it may elucidate things. Alton Brown provides a recipe which will probably get you a good ballpark result:

  • 2 tablespoons whole cumin seeds, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons whole cardamom seeds, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds, toasted
  • 1/4 cup ground turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne

Either store together and grind before use (whole seeds store longer), or grind it up into a powder and store that way.

From that base recipe you'll have to tinker with all of the additional spices to get your own substitution.

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this worked well. Not quite the same, but that could be put down to freshly ground ingredients. I think it was cardamon seeds which made the difference. –  Jeremy French Jun 26 '11 at 12:20
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The thing to do is to visit an Indo-asian grocer's shop and ask for Garam Masala, which means mixed spices. Be careful not to get the mixture that is used in tea.

The general mixture usually includes powdered turmeric(4), coriander(4), cumin(2), cardamom(1), chili(1) and cloves(1/2), and quite a bit of salt (often as much as 50% by weight). English curry powders also contain powdered ginger, usually.

Fenugreek (ask the man in the shop for methi) has a very fugitive flavour. If you are using it (usually as the dried leaves), add at the very last moment before serving the food - the taste disappears in a couple of minutes if you cook with it.

Methi gets included in mixtures to make them smell interesting, but by the time the dish is served the savour is long gone.

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Garam masala does make an excellent curry, but from what I've seen, curry powder in this context is for the specific blend used in Indian-influenced or Indian-inspired dishes from Britain, France, Australia, etc. For these dishes, garam masala is not an appropriate substitute; it would be like using a Spanish salsa in a recipe calling for sauce espagnole. The mention of kedgeree as one recipe needing it further confirms this opinion. –  BobMcGee Jun 26 '11 at 4:32
    
Thanks for the info but bobmcgee is right. I have actually tried garam masala as a substitute before and it didn't work. –  Jeremy French Jun 26 '11 at 12:18
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