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What is the Flavor of Curry Leaves?

Slofoodgroup Team September 20, 2023

When most people think of "curry," their minds will conjure images of fragrant powders or savory South Asian stews. Rarely do they consider that the essence of "curry" is not just a dish or a pre-ground powder—it's actually a plant, scientifically known as Murraya koenigii. These vibrant green leaves possess an incredible ability to elevate the taste of dishes, adding a unique and unforgettable dimension. In this article, we delve into the complexities of their overall flavor to reveal the many layers of taste and notes that make them a stand-out ingredient that everyone should include in their spice cabinet.

Where Do Curry Leaves Come From?

Curry leaves are sourced from the curry leaf plant, or Murraya koenigii as it is scientifically known. While the plant is native to India and Sri Lanka, it can now be found in tropical or subtropical locations around the world. It can even be grown in many areas of the US, with proper care.  

Describing the Taste of Curry Leaves:

Curry leaves are small, aromatic, and possess layers upon layers of unmistakable flavor, which is why they are a staple in many dishes. The distinct taste profile of these leaves is often described as citrusy, herbaceous, somewhat bitter, and earthy. Here’s a breakdown of those key descriptors: 

Curry leaves taste citrusy. 

Curry leaves offer a citrusy brightness that is reminiscent of lemons, limes, or other citrus fruits. This zesty element adds refreshingly tangy undertones to dishes that perfectly balance many other ingredients these leaves are often paired with, including spice peppers, stewed meats, and other fruits. This makes them particularly appealing in recipes like chutneys, stews, and braises.

Curry leaves provide an element of earthiness.

Beneath the citrusy top note, curry leaves possess earthy, almost nutty undertones. These earthy flavors are mild but add depth and complexity to the overall taste profile, making curry leaves a versatile addition to both savory and sweet preparations.

Curry leaves are fragrant and herbaceous.

It’s nearly impossible to notice the grassy, botanical aroma of curry leaves. It’s like mixing basil, lemongrass, and pine needles. This fragrant quality infuses dishes with a delightful scent and works alongside those citrus notes in adding a bit of brightness and balancing other flavors. 

Curry leaves are sometimes described as being somewhat bitter. 

Just as cilantro is a polarizing herb that folks seem to either love or loathe, so are curry leaves. This is likely due to the subtle bitterness of the herb. For most, the bitterness is not overpowering, but adds an interesting layer to the flavor and complements other ingredients. 

The unique flavor profile of curry leaves makes them a sought-after ingredient in a wide range of dishes, especially South Indian, Thai, and Malaysian cuisine. It is such a fun and unique ingredient, though, so why stop there! If you are looking for quality curry leaves to incorporate into a specific dish, or just want some for some culinary experimentation, you can find premium, sun-dried curry leaves in our online spice shop.