Here's what you can substitute for curry powder

If you have an overflowing pantry, a spice rack that's constantly in use, and a penchant for cooking Indian food, you may someday find yourself going to make a simple chickpea curry, only to find that you're out of curry powder. While there isn't a simple one-to-one curry powder substitution, you might be able to make a suitable replica using spices already in your cabinet. 

The most common types of curry powder you'll see tend to be blends anyway, and they're often old and flavorless. Once you understand what goes into a curry spice blend, you'll have the tools you need to make a tasty curry powder substitute that might just be better than what comes in a bottle.

What is curry powder?

Some people say that the pre-mixed curry powder you find in American grocery stores isn't really all that authentic, and they're right (via Raw Spice Bar). These days, Indian "curry" as we think of it mainly refers to dishes that use a blend of spices to give them their flavor and aroma, and it's a term that was used by British colonizers to help them categorize cuisines they were unfamiliar with (via Bon Appétit). 

If you're buying "curry powder" from the grocery store, chances are it's a blend of spices like turmeric, coriander, cumin, and fenugreek. This blend was actually an invention of the English (via Spices Inc). In India, there's a huge variety of spices one might use to make a "curry," depending on the dish and based on geography.

What spices can I use in a curry powder substitute?

There isn't just one spice you can use to replicate the complex flavors of a curry, so now's the time to look through your spice cupboard to see what you have.

Try using a blend of cumin, coriander, turmeric, and ginger. But don't be afraid to experiment. Adding a sprinkle of other ingredients, like nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, or chili powder can really make the spice blend sing. 

If you have black mustard seeds or cumin seeds, try toasting them in skillet before adding them to your new spice blend. You can even add garlic powder and onion powder to give your dish a more savory kick.

With a little experimenting, you're likely to find a curry powder substitute you love, and who knows — you might end up swearing off the pre-mixed stuff for good.