How to Use Fenugreek in Indian Food

Learn about the spice fenugreek and how it's used in Indian recipes from cookbook author Maya Kaimal in this Howcast food video.

Fenugreek is a spice used in Indian cooking, although it actually comes from the Mediterranean. And the name fenugreek translates to mean "Greek hay." Indians use it, and they use it in many different forms.

The fresh leaves are actually cooked as a green, much like spinach. In north India, they’ll also use the leaves in a dried form like this, crumbled up and added to a curry like a tikka masala or a buttered chicken, towards the end of the cooking.

The other forms are the seeds, which are these little, small squarish tan seeds with a little ridge in them. And they are quite hard, so if you want a powdered form of fenugreek, you actually should buy it already powdered commercially, because it’s really, really hard to grind up on your own.

So let’s talk about the smell. The smell of fenugreek is really quite butterscotchy. It’s kind of almost like a bitter maple butterscotch smell. It tastes wonderful after it’s been cooked in hot oil. And it kind of mellows out the flavor and sweetens it up. Takes out the bitter and adds more sweet. And it’s a very nice ingredient used in fish curries in south India. It’s also used in sambar, which is an important vegetable lentil stew, eaten in south India.

So you don’t need much of it. But having a little bit on hand is really handy if you want to make authentic Indian cooking.