What is Curry? What is the difference between Curry Leaves and Curry Powder?


Indian Food 101: What's the difference between curry leaves and curry powder?

I’m writing this blog post because there seems to be some confusion about the difference between curry, curry powder, and curry leaves. I often get asked whether you can substitute curry powder for curry leaves (the answer is no), so I wanted to write a post to explain the difference.

Curry is a complicated word with a complicated past. For those unfamiliar with Indian cuisine, the word “curry” has become a catch-all term for all Indian dishes, which can be offensive (more so when people claim not to like “curry” 🙄) considering how diverse Indian cuisine is. At the same time, many people, Indians included, use the word “curry” to describe a dish with gravy (e.g., my mom’s chicken curry). Personally, I think that as long as you’re not ignorant about it, it’s fine to use the word curry.

It’s important to know the difference between curry powder and curry leaves – so, thanks for reading and being curious enough to learn more about this subject.

Here are the questions I’m going to answer for you today:

  • Are curry leaves the same as curry powder? (No).
  • What are curry leaves, and where can I find them?
  • What is curry powder?
Indian Food 101: What's the difference between curry leaves and curry powder?

Are curry leaves and curry powder the same?

No, not at all.

You cannot substitute curry powder for curry leaves. Curry leaves have a distinct flavor that’s unlike any other herb or spice.

What are curry leaves & where can I find them?

Curry leaves come from the curry tree and are used as a seasoning in South Asian cooking. They have a distinct smoky, citrus-like flavor and aroma. If you search the internet, I’m sure there are people who will compare the aroma and flavor of curry leaves to some herb or another, but I’ve honestly never smelled anything that resembles a curry leaf other than a curry leaf itself.

You can find curry leaves at almost any local Indian grocery store – they’re very cheap, usually only a dollar per pack. If you don’t live near an Indian store, then you can order them on Amazon though they will be more expensive.

How to store curry leaves:

I suggest putting them in a ziplock bag and storing them in your freezer (I do this all the time). Take them out and use them as needed!

Here are a few of my favorite recipes on the blog that call for curry leaves:

What is curry powder?

Funny story, when I first started cooking (many years ago), I was helping my mom in her kitchen and I asked her where she kept the curry powder. She looked at me like I was crazy. My mom, who grew up in India, had no idea what “curry powder” was.

That’s because curry powder is a British invention.

Curry powder isn’t Indian. It’s a pre-made spice mix that includes Indian spices like coriander, turmeric, cumin, cayenne, etc. Curry powder does not contain curry leaves.

When it comes to authentic Indian recipes, you won’t find “curry powder” in a list of ingredients – and if you do, search for another recipe. For example, authentic Murgh Makhani (Butter Chicken), Navratan Korma, and Goat Curry, will NOT have curry powder listed as an ingredient.

The truth is, I like curry powder. I used to feel a bit conflicted about this, but the fact is, it’s a tasty blend of spices. It’s nice to use when making quick meals or sides. It’s a great spice mix for creating Indian-fusion or Indian-inspired recipes – just don’t call it an authentic Indian dish because it won’t be. You can add this spice mix to eggs (deviled eggs!), veggies, fish, chicken salad, and have a well-seasoned dish in a short amount of time.

Here are a few Indian-inspired recipes on my blog that use curry powder:

Have any more questions about curry leaves or curry powder? Leave me a comment 🙂

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Find out more about my cookbooks Indian Food Under Pressure and South Asian Persuasion.

About Ashley

Hi, I’m Ashley. Thanks for being here! I truly believe that food brings us closer together. Gather around a table with good food and good people, and you’ll have the ingredients you need to create some happy memories. My hope is that you find recipes here that you can’t wait to share with family and friends.


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  1. Shnobia Ghazel says

    For me curry is more than food, it my life. I want to eat curry everyday, but curry powder give you shits.
    Lets go curry leaves!!

  2. Ted MacLeod says

    Hi Ashley,
    I am a semi retired landscaper embarking on growing herbs etc. I am researching different cuisine to try to appeal to people who want fresh herbs and spices to cook with. I came across your blog, your story is wonderful. I am pretty new to Indian cuisine. I am presently going through a local restaurants menu…I love it. Looking forward to trying your recipes. Thank you for clarifying ‘curry”. Cheers! Ted MacLeod

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