1 August 2022

The 12 Best Substitutes for Fenugreek for Your Recipes

By Killian

Fenugreek seeds and leaves are common in many Indian and Mediterranean recipes as they add a nutty and earthy flavor.

Although they taste bitter when eaten raw, fenugreek seeds and leaves taste sweet and provide a unique spicy aroma to sweet and savory dishes when roasted and incorporated into your recipes.

But what if you run out of this intense flavor enhancer in the middle of your kitchen? This guide offers many versatile options that you can try if you are looking for a substitute for fenugreek. Let’s explore them.

The best substitutes for fenugreek

Fenugreek seeds and leaves are grown and consumed in India, in various regions of North Africa, and in southern Europe. They are often combined with other spices in a biryani, used as a seasoning for meat, or used to make chutneys, stews, salads, or sauces.

You can buy fenugreek seeds, fenugreek powder, leaves fresh, frozen, or even dried. If the recipe calls for fenugreek seeds, you can substitute powder for them, but not the other way around because the texture of the seeds can affect the consistency of your sauces and curry mixes.

The dried leaves can be used in large quantities to provide the same flavor as the fresh leaves. However, you cannot use the seeds as a substitute for dried fenugreek leaves because they offer a different flavor and cook differently.

Both fenugreek seeds and leaves have a burnt sugar flavor and can go well with different ingredients to add some heat and a nutty, earthy flavor. They are spicy with a bit of bitterness and can enhance the flavor of many savory and sweet dishes.

Some bread recipes use fenugreek seeds to enhance the flavor, as they impart a sweet, caramel-like flavor. They can also be used to improve the flavor of your roast and fish dishes.

Fenugreek leaves are combined with other ingredients, such as celery, in your soups, stir-fries, or even salads. Some people also infuse fenugreek leaves to drink a healthy tea.

While the leaves are often added towards the end of the cooking process to create a fresh aroma, the seeds are often mixed with other ingredients at the beginning. The seeds are slightly more bitter than the leaves, thus providing a stronger flavor.

Despite all the fantastic features of fenugreek seeds and leaves, they may not be that easy to find. If you cannot go to an Indian food store, finding a substitute for fenugreek will help you make your recipes with the best flavor and aroma.

There are several alternatives to fenugreek that you can try in your recipe, depending on which part of the plant the original recipe calls for. The following options will help you boost the flavor to add the necessary warmth and richness to your dish.

1. Maple syrup

Maple syrup may not be the first option that comes to mind when looking for a substitute for fenugreek, but it actually brings the same slightly bitter notes with some sweetness.

Sotolon is a chemical compound that can be found in both maple syrup and fenugreek. In fact, some artificial maple syrup recipes call for the use of fenugreek seeds to enhance the flavor.

When used as a substitute for fenugreek in a chutney or sauce, maple syrup should be used sparingly because you don’t want to add too much sweetness to your recipes. This sweet and sour syrup can be used as a substitute for both the seeds and leaves for its earthy, nutty flavor.

2. Yellow mustard seeds

Yellow mustard seeds can be the perfect substitute for fenugreek seeds, because they add the same nutty yet spicy flavor.

These seeds combine sweetness with heat in a chutney or sauce. They can also be used to flavor meat and fish dishes. Simply substitute the same amount of fenugreek seeds for yellow mustard seeds for a subtle yet delicious aroma.

3. Black mustard seeds

Black mustard seeds have a stronger flavor than yellow ones. If you need your curry or chutney to be more intense, you can add black mustard seeds, which are a little hotter and more pungent.

When used as a substitute for fenugreek seeds, black mustard seeds can be a bit bitter. That’s why you should decrease the amount if you don’t like this flavor.

If your recipe calls for some sweetness, you can mix the black mustard seeds with maple syrup to achieve the desired flavor and aroma. You can also toast the mustard seeds if you think they add too much heat to your recipe.

4. Mustard greens

Green mustard greens have an interesting flavor. When chewing the leaves, you enjoy a spicy mustard flavor that is not too overpowering, combined with a bit of herbaceous freshness. As a result, it won’t spoil the other flavors in your dish.

You can use green mustard greens as a substitute for fenugreek leaves in a stew or soup. You can even mix mustard greens with other greens in your salad to add a bit of flavor.

Some people also use mustard greens in smoothies and teas instead of fenugreek leaves, because they are healthy.

5. Dijon mustard

If you don’t have access to mustard seeds or greens, a teaspoon of Dijon mustard will do the trick. It has a nice spicy flavor that lingers like wasabi.

Its sharp and sour flavor has a bit of heat that will help enhance the flavor of different sauces and dressings for meat. You can’t substitute fenugreek seeds in a dessert, but you can use honey mustard and dijon instead.

6. Curry powder

If dried fenugreek powder is the main ingredient in your savory dish, you can substitute curry powder instead. There are several types of curry powder mixes, and most of them contain dried fenugreek seed powder as the main ingredient.

Curry powder is easier to find if you can’t find the fenugreek seeds or dried powder. However, supermarket curry mixes often contain other spices to add a special flavor to your recipes.

Therefore, curry powder will be the perfect substitute for fenugreek powder if you don’t like the taste of fenugreek. It should be added at the beginning of the cooking process.

If you want to enhance the flavor of fenugreek in your recipe, we recommend that you mix the curry powder with a little oil before adding it to the recipe. Oil, especially olive oil, will help bring out the flavor and aroma of the fenugreek.

Masala curry powder contains other overpowering spices like clover and cinnamon that add more flavors to your recipe. You can experiment with different curry mixes to find the right flavor and taste for your dish.

7. Chinese celery

Chinese celery looks similar to regular celery, but is hotter and more pungent. It is not usually eaten raw, but it can be added to stews or combined with lamb, ham, chicken or turkey for the right touch. Chinese celery can be used in stir-fries, but also as a herb to enhance flavor.

Thanks to its slightly spicy and bitter taste, Chinese celery can be a perfect choice if you want to find a substitute for fenugreek leaves. You just have to add it towards the end of your recipe to bring out its characteristic flavor. You can also add some ground mustard seeds if you want to intensify the aroma.

8. Celery

Regular European celery can be used to replace fenugreek leaves if you don’t like the strong flavor of Chinese celery. It has a bold earthy flavor with the necessary freshness that makes it work for salads and dips. It can also be used as a seasoning for meat.

Celery has a mild flavor when blanched. Otherwise, it will turn out bitter when used as a substitute for fenugreek. It can be used to prepare a healthy smoothie or tea.

9. Fennel Seeds

Fennel seeds can be the perfect substitute for fenugreek seeds for those who find them too strong. They are sweet, so they will work for desserts that call for the use of fenugreek seeds. They can also be used in a meat dressing to enhance its flavor.

You can mix fennel seeds with some mustard seeds to create a sweet yet spicy mixture that resembles the flavor of fenugreek seeds. Just heat the fennel seeds with the mustard seeds, as the heat will help infuse the flavors together and make the mustard seeds less overwhelming.

10. Kale

Kale leaves are here on the list because you can use them to substitute for fenugreek leaves in stews, stir-fries, curries, salads, and casseroles.

To overcome its bitter taste, kale leaves must be cooked before including them in your recipe. They aren’t as hot as fenugreek leaves, but they do have a delicious earthy flavor that will do the trick if you can’t find fenugreek leaves or don’t like its strong taste.

11. Spinach

Spinach leaves can be substituted for fenugreek if you don’t like its spiciness. Spinach leaves have a mild and slightly sweet flavor, so they can be perfect for salads and stews.

When cooked, the flavor of the spinach leaves becomes even stronger and slightly acidic. They will affect the other flavors in your recipe, so you may want to proceed with caution the first time.

12. Alfalfa sprouts

Alfalfa sprouts have a sweet yet nutty flavor that blends with the freshness of the vegetables. Thanks to its mild flavor, alfalfa can be a perfect substitute for fenugreek leaves in various recipes, because they are not overly powerful.

Add them to your salads or sandwiches if you don’t like the spiciness of the fenugreek leaves.

How to choose a substitute for fenugreek

The characteristic flavor of fenugreek adds the necessary sweetness and spiciness to many recipes and dishes. If you’re looking for a substitute to replace the seeds, leaves, or ground powder, there are several options you can choose from based on your preferences and cooking recipe.

Maple syrup is the best substitute for ground fenugreek, because it provides the same flavor and aroma. To add more heat, you can mix the maple syrup with the mustard seeds or add them plain to your chutney, meat rub or sauce.

Yellow mustard seeds substitute for fenugreek in many dishes. If you like a strong flavor, you can use black mustard seeds.

Dijon mustard has a spicy flavor and can substitute for fenugreek seeds while adding a new flavor.

Curry powder can also be used to replace ground fenugreek seeds as it contains fenugreek and other spices. This option will work for you if you find the fenugreek seeds too potent.

You can use fennel seeds to replace fenugreek in desserts, because they are sweet. You can also mix them with some mustard seeds to enhance the flavor of savory dishes.

To substitute the fenugreek leaves, you can use Chinese celery leaves or kale. Both are packed with amazing nutrients and will provide the same earthy, peppery flavor, although the kale will be a bit milder. Celery leaves work too, but are cooler and softer.

Mustard greens can substitute for fenugreek in salads and stews. You can also use them to prepare smoothies. If you need a mild substitute that adds some crunch, you can try alfalfa sprouts.

Spinach leaves work for those who don’t like the spiciness of fenugreek leaves. You can use them in both raw and cooked dishes.

The next time you run out of fenugreek seeds, just check out our list of recommended substitutes for inspiration. You are sure to find an alternative to fenugreek that works for you.