Turmeric and curry powder look very much alike. In fact, they can be similar enough that you might mistake one for the other. However, the fact that these are very different ingredients will be evident once you start cooking with one or the other. Let’s take a look at how these two seasonings compare to each other.
Table of Contents
- How does turmeric differ from curry powder?
- Can you use turmeric in place of curry powder? And vice versa?
- When should you use turmeric? And when should you use curry powder?
- Must-read related posts
How does turmeric differ from curry powder?
Turmeric is a rhizome related to ginger. It looks like ginger, especially before you peel it. It is relatively mild in flavor; in fact, you may not get a lot of flavor or aroma unless you use a lot of it. The aroma and flavor that you will get from it are subtly reminiscent of citrus and ginger, but it has the potential to be bitter if used in excess. Turmeric is also known for its very bright yellow color. It is the ingredient that gives curry powder its distinctive hue.
Turmeric’s origin is in the East; it is a common ingredient in Indian cooking while also being famous for its medicinal benefits. It is often used as a substitute for saffron because to its color and relatively mild flavor. These days, turmeric is still commonly used for its health benefits. It has become a trendy health food because of its anti-inflammatory properties, which mostly result from a compound it contains called curcumin.
Curry powder, on the other hand, is a spice blend consisting of a mixture of spices, not just a single one like turmeric. While turmeric is always among those spices, it is present mainly because of the color. Curry powder will have multiple pungent spices like fenugreek, coriander, and cumin. In other words, most curry blends have too many strong flavors for the subtle notes of turmeric to stand out.
Curry powder may not be as renowned a nutritional supplement as turmeric, but most blends include many nutrient-rich ingredients. Curry powder will give you the nutrients from turmeric and from other spices in the blend.
Can you use turmeric in place of curry powder? And vice versa?
Ground turmeric by itself will not make a good curry powder substitute in any recipes where you want the taste of curry powder. As noted above, it lacks the complexity of flavor and the pungency that you would get from the typical curry powder blend. But turmeric can be a workable substitute if what you mainly want from your curry powder is its bright yellow color and not much else. Note that while it does not have the flavor of curry powder, it is an essential ingredient in a homemade curry powder blend.
–> Learn More: What’s A Good Turmeric Substitute?
Curry powder can be used as a turmeric substitute in dishes where the added flavor will not be a problem. You may not want to add curry powder to a smoothie, but it can work as a seasoning and coloring agent for vegetables, rice or meat.
–> Learn More: What’s A Good Madras Curry Powder Substitute?
When should you use turmeric? And when should you use curry powder?
The traditional uses of turmeric revolve around its color. Its yellowness makes it a great addition to pickles and to soups and some sauces. You can also use it as a health supplement by adding it to smoothies or fruit juices.
Curry powder is necessary if you are making classic anglo Indian curry dishes and can be used in other applications that call for a specific set of pre-measured Indian spices. You can use it as a dry rub for meat and as a seasoning for fries.