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” πŸ™„) 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 πŸ™‚

Related Recipes


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. William says

    I’m really trying to find out how much curry leaf powder equals one leaf. The recipe I’m using calls for 10-14 dried curry leaves, but I only have curry leaf powder (NOT curry powder). I see that for dried bay leaves, the conversion appears to be one dried bay leaf = 1/8-1/4 tsp dried bay leaf powder. I wonder if this is the same conversion for curry leaf vs. curry leaf powder?

  2. JenniferNicol says

    Great post! Your website is really cool and this is so informative. I think this post is so helpful to us.

  3. Josephine deck says

    When your recipe for ground beef coconut curry calls for 2 sprigs of curry leaves, about how many leaves would this be?

  4. Melissa says

    Hello! My curry plant looks quite different. The leaves a
    Most look like a lavender. Can it be used the same as curry leaves that look more β€œleafy”?

  5. Daxa says

    Hello Ashley,
    You have an absolutely wonderful website!!!
    I would like to make my own curry powder. Do you know of any good recipes?
    Thanks again for all your hard work πŸ™‚

  6. Malisa says

    Are there dishes where the curry leaves are used along with the curry spice mix? Or do they normally not cross pots together?

    • My Heart Beets says

      They are not used together — recipes with curry powder may have Indian flavors but they are not actually Indian dishes whereas recipes calling for curry leaves are authentically Indian. You won’t find curry powder in an authentically Indian dish. Hope that helps πŸ™‚

  7. Alan P. says

    I was wondering what went wrong from several occasions of curry experimental cooking, I had almost all the needed spices(quite some initial investment to get things started from a non-indian supermarket)/ingredients for the dishes I wanted to do, except the curry leaf. Until today I bought a bag of leaf the first time and used them in my basic chicken curry, no idea if it’s also the newly bought ghee and mustard seed I used. It turned out nicely and enjoyed every drop of the gravy. It’s a bit of a game changer to me.

    I’m kind of blessed to be in a city (Hong Kong) where there’s a concentration of Indian population around, Indian grocery is just a few subway stations away.

    Nice blog posts explaining a few Indian food and things here and there.

  8. Stefanie says

    I LOVE curry leaves, and used to have a plant. Unfortunately, it didn’t survive a move so I no longer have it. Lately, I’ve been having a hard time finding the leaves in Indian grocers. I read up on it a bit and found out that there is a disease going around on curry leaves that can be spread to citrus, so the (USDA?) has restricted their import into the US so the disease doesn’t negatively affect the citrus industry. I was reading some of the most recent comments on the amazon link above to the fresh leaves and I am concerned they may harbor the disease in question (people talking about them being wilted, moldy appearance, etc). I would be very cautious purchasing these right now if you have citrus on your property or even in your area πŸ™ SAD! I wish my plant was still alive!

  9. lisalu says

    I’ve had great success for longer-term storage of curry leaves by laying them out on paper towels (layers if you have that many) and storing them in a ziploc bag in the fridge. Top layer should be a paper towel (to ensure they stay dry). They’ve lasted as long as six weeks like this! The leaves may start to detach from the stem, but they stay green and fresh.
    South Indian food has turned out to be my all-time favorite cuisine. Curry leaves are required!

  10. Lisa says

    Do you take curry leaves out of the dish after it’s cooked, like Bay leaves? Or do you just smash it up in there?

    • My Heart Beets says

      Great question! Curry leaves are edible. That said, I only eat curry leaves if they’re crisp/fried in oil – otherwise I push them to the side of my plate. They’re not very appealing when soft/soggy.

  11. Galliesallie says

    Could you talk about the regional specialties of India? I know nothing about what areas some popular Indian dishes in the U.S. come from. And what region does your cooking originate from?

    • My Heart Beets says

      That’s a great idea! I’ll add that to my list of “classes” πŸ˜‰ The recipes on my blog and in my eBook are from many different regions (mostly Punjabi cuisine and Keralite cuisine though).

  12. kimberly says

    Really, really, really looking forward to more of this series — great idea! It will help those of us who love the cuisine and can’t claim it as our birthright to reproduce it at home more authentically and respectfully.

paneer lababdar

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