Kasuri methi is a culinary herb that is especially popular in certain parts of India. Outside of the subcontinent, you might call it dried fenugreek leaves. These leaves are usually crumbled over curries to give the dish a savory herbal flavor along with a slight bitterness. The herb is essential for certain Punjabi dishes. The big problem is that kasuri methi is not always easy to find in the West. You can try your local Indian grocery store but if you don’t have one or they don’t stock this herb, you can try one of the kasuri methi substitutes below.
Your best bet: Fenugreek seeds
Fenugreek seeds are from the same plant, which explains why they are the best substitute for kasuri methi. They offer the same pungent, musky flavor that many of us associate with curry powder. They are also easier to find.
Note that while fenugreek seeds do have a lot in common with kasuri methi, there are certain adjustments that you will have to make when using it. Fenugreek seeds are a spice, not an herb so you will add them earlier in the cooking process than you would kasuri methi. You can either grind them and use the powder or temper the whole seeds in oil before removing them and using the oil to cook your dish.
You will be missing the bulk and herbaceous flavor that you would get with kasuri methi so you may want to add a leafy green such as watercress to your dish. It can replicate the look and mouthfeel that you would get with kasuri methi.
A decent second choice: Maple syrup
Kasuri methi and maple syrup have a flavor note in common, which is why fenugreek has been used as a key ingredient in budget maple syrups. The compound responsible for this flavor is called sotolone and shows up in maple syrup as well as in fenugreek leaves and seeds.
Maple syrup can provide much of the same flavor as kasuri methi but comes with the possible downside of sweetening your dishes. If you don’t want your food sweetened, you can get around this problem by using it in very small amounts. Use maple syrup as a kasuri methi substitute in dishes where the fenugreek flavor profile is supposed to be subtle.
In a pinch: Celery
The leaves of the celery plant can provide a similar appearance and texture to kasuri methi. Also, their flavor will work in most recipes that require kasuri methi since they have some of the same flavor notes in common.
While celery does not have the maple syrup note that you get from sotolone, it does have some aspects of the flavor profile. Celery has other benefits, such as the fact that it is easy to find and relatively affordable.
Curry powder is heavily dependent on the fenugreek flavor, so much so that it is arguably the main flavor of most curry powder blends. As a result, curry powder’s flavor is very similar to that of kasuri methi, which means that curry powder can work as a substitute as long as you don’t mind the other background notes and the yellow color.
Spinach won’t give you the same flavor as kasuri methi but it won’t throw off other flavors in the dish either. Use it to get a similar texture and appearance as kasuri methi. Use it along with fenugreek seeds.