Cooking With Fenugreek: The Dos And Don’ts

Fenugreek powder is made from ground fenugreek seeds. This spice comes mostly from the southern part of India and from Southern Europe. It is an ancient spice with a long history of use in food and medicine. Fenugreek is probably best known to westerners for its use in curry powder; it shows up in most curry powder blends. In curry powder, it is one of the most distinctive flavors, along with those cumin and coriander. It is a fiercely pungent spice and has the potential to enhance a dish or ruin it if used incorrectly. Consider the dos and don’ts below to ensure that you get the best results from fenugreek.

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Do toast your fenugreek before grinding to get the most from it.

Similar to many other spices, toasting helps to bring out new flavor notes and increases the spice’s pungency and depth. Before toasting, go through the seeds to find and remove stones and other debris.

Do use fenugreek powder in combination with other spices.

By itself, fenugreek powder may not have the most appetizing aroma. It works best as a part of an ensemble, where it will bring sweet notes and mild bitter ones to enhance other pungent ingredients. It is excellent when used alongside cumin and coriander.

Do buy whole fenugreek seeds and grind them.

Make your own fenugreek powder instead of buying the pre-ground powder, if possible. While buying the powder does eliminate the work of grinding the seeds, fenugreek will lose its flavor quickly after being ground. The whole seeds can be kept for longer without losing their aroma and flavor.

Do buy fenugreek powder in moderation.

Like many spices, you should buy fenugreek in amounts that you can use up right away. This ensures that you will only be using the fresh spice.

Do look for fenugreek online or in Indian stores.

It is not an easy spice to find in most western grocery stores.

Do store fenugreek properly.

To ensure that your fenugreek powder remains usable for as long as possible, store the whole seeds in an airtight container away from heat and light.

Do use both the leaves and the fenugreek powder together.

Both the leaves and the seeds of the fenugreek plant are useful for adding flavor to food. The leaves have a similar flavor to the seeds, but with a little added bitterness.

Do use fenugreek in small quantities.

The fact that it is pungent (especially after being toasted) means that it can easily overpower other spices in a blend. This effect can be seen in cheap curry powders, which tend to taste almost entirely of fenugreek.

Don’t go overboard when toasting fenugreek seeds.

While toasting does help to heighten the flavor, over-toasting can make it intensely bitter and give it an acrid aroma.

Don’t try grinding fenugreek seeds by hand.

The small yellow seeds are similar to dried corn kernels in that they have a similar rectangular shape and are very hard. They are hard enough that they are often likened to stones, which means that using a mortar and pestle make fenugreek powder can be a lot of time-consuming work. Instead, opt to use a spice grinder to break them down to powder after toasting.