Although they are both leaves, the similarities between curry leaves and bay leaves end there. They are completely different ingredients. But can they be used in place of each other? Or are the differences too vast?
The main difference between curry leaves and bay leaves is the flavour. As the name suggests, curry leaves add a subtle curry tone to dishes. Bay leaves, however, add a perfumed citrus-like flavour to stews, soups and casseroles.
What are Curry Leaves?
Curry leaves are a popular herb across India and South East Asia. They come from the neem tree. They are fairly slim with an oval shape and quite small at around 3cm in length.
Fresh curry leaves have a glossy shine, but they can also be purchased dried, which tend to last longer. You can freeze fresh curry leaves, though.
In terms of flavour, they have a subtle curry flavour with hints of citrus. They can be compared to a combination of cumin, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves – another staple in Asian cooking.
Curry leaves can impart a subtle curry flavour to a range of dishes. They can also be fried in oil to flavour it. Deep-fried curry leaves can even be used as a topping for various dishes.
What are Bay Leaves?
Bay leaves are a herb from the laurel tree added to stews, soups, sauces and casseroles to slowly impart their subtle, floral and perfumed flavour into dishes. The leaves are removed before serving as they are too tough to eat.
Bay leaves are usually placed into a liquid-based dish to add earthy citrus notes. One or two bay leaves can be added to soup, stews, casseroles and sauces, then removed at the end of the cooking process.
Differences Between Curry Leaves and Bay Leaves
Although they might both be leaves, there is an extensive list of differences between the two ingredients:
- Flavour – The main difference between curry and bay leaves is their flavour. It’s why you can’t use them interchangeably. Curry leaves, as the name suggests, work well for imparting a subtle curry-like flavour to Asian dishes. Bay leaves, however, add a more perfumed, citrus flavour.
- Source – Each of these leaves comes from a different tree. Curry leaves come from the neem tree, whereas bay leaves come from laurels.
- Cuisine – Generally speaking, bay leaves are used in European cooking, and curry leaves are used in Indian and South East Asian cooking.
- Form – Although it’s possible to find fresh bay leaves, they will rarely be sold fresh. Curry leaves, however, are much easier to find fresh.
- Quantity Required – Bay leaves will go a long way. You will only need to add 1 or 2 (maximum) to a dish to add plenty of flavours. Adding more than this will overpower the dish. When using curry leaves, you’ll need around 10.
- Eating – Although unlikely to harm you, eating bay leaves is not something many people do. Usually, the leaves are discarded before a dish is served up. Curry leaves, however, can be eaten if they’re fresh. Dried curry leaves tend to be a little too rough, though.
- Use in Desserts – Although perhaps not something you’re likely to attempt at home, bay leaves have been used to flavour rice pudding, panna cotta, custard, ice cream, and cakes. Curry leaves would not work in quite the same way… Curry ice cream, anyone?
Similarities Between Curry Leaves and Bay Leaves
They might have several differences, but that doesn’t mean they don’t possess a few similarities:
- Appearance – Although you look closely at the two leaves, there are differences in how they look; ultimately, they are both leaves. From afar or if you’re not into your cooking, you will struggle to tell the difference.
- Ability to Impart Flavour – Both types of leaves have an incredible ability to slow impart flavour into a dish by using just 1 or 2 leaves. They are often left in a slow-cooked dish to release their flavour gradually.
That is it, however. If you think you could swap between curry leaves and bay leaves in your cooking, then you’ll be hugely mistaken.
Curry Leaves vs Bay Leaves: Which Wins?
It’s hard to compare these two. They add a different flavour to your cooking and are used in different dishes. Deciding which one is better is impossible.
But which of these two do you find yourself using more often than not?
Do You Prefer Curry Leaves or Bay Leaves?
Curry Leaves and Bay Leaves FAQs
Do you still have questions about both curry leaves and bay leaves? Then these FAQs might go some way to helping. If not, feel free to drop a comment at the bottom of the page!
Although they can be cooked similarly, swapping curry leaves for bay leaves is not a good idea. The flavour will be completely different. Of course, if you don’t mind adding a subtle curry flavour to your beef stew, give it a go…
You will want to use between 8 and 10 curry leaves when cooking a curry. This will be enough for a curry serving between 4 and 6 people.
Bay leaves are strong! This is why it’s a good idea to stick to using 1 for a dish serving up to 4 people and 2 for a dish serving up to 8 people.
Lewis is the founder and editor of Let’s Foodie alongside other food-related platforms including FreezeIt and SubstituteIt. He launched Let’s Foodie to provide aspiring cooks with one place to get the answers to some of the most commonly asked cooking questions.