A lot of people consider fenugreek as a cabinet underdog because it’s less known in many countries. But if you’ve been avoiding it just because you don’t know how it tastes, then let’s say you’ve missed out on a lot. But really, what does fenugreek taste like? Does it have the bitter taste everyone talks about? Or is it a different story?
The truth is it does have a bitter taste when it’s raw. However, there’s a lot to uncover about its taste. It didn’t become a staple ingredient in many Indian dishes for nothing.
So, without stretching this any further, let’s close this matter once and for all, shall we?
Fenugreek- A Little Backstory
Fenugreek comes from the plant Fabaceae that’s mostly cultivated in the Mediterranean and Asia. Scientifically known as Trigonella Foenum-Graecum, this plant grows up to 2 to 3 feet(60-90 cm).
While it’s not so popular in the US, it’s a must-have spice for many Indian recipes, making it a prominent spice in India and its surrounding countries. In India, it’s also known as “Methi” or “Kasuri Methi”. Although when it comes to names, fenugreek has a lot of them. Greek Hay Seed, Greek Clover, Bird’s Foot, the list can go on for a while.
The aromatic flavor flows through everything on the plant. From the fresh leaves to the dried seeds everything is edible. Apart from adding flavor to dishes, the seeds are also used for medicinal purposes.
The surprising fact is this common spice is also mixed in a number of cosmetic products and soaps. But let’s not focus on that. Today I’ll mostly be talking about the edible aspects and benefits of fenugreek.
What Does Fenugreek Taste Like?
Fenugreek in its truest form tastes bitter. But the bitterness goes away when you cook it for a while. That’s when the faintly sweet and nutty flavor kicks in. Most people agree it gives out a maple syrup taste, more specifically, maple syrup and celery.
In a nutshell, fenugreek has a slightly bitter, nutty, and slightly sweet taste. Some describe it as having a taste similar to celery or burnt sugar. The taste can vary depending on how it is prepared and consumed, such as in a supplement, tea, or spice.
But the comparison doesn’t end there. Some people say it tastes like burnt sugar. Well, people have different taste buds but everyone agrees on one point. When you combine fenugreek with a set of spices and herbs, the flavor and sweet taste reach a whole new level.
Other than adding a depth of flavor to every dish out there, fenugreek also has a lot of nutritional value. Here’s a chart to give you a quick idea-
|Nutritional Factor||Amount Per Serving- 100g/3.5 ounces|
Difference of Taste Between Fenugreek Leaves & Fenugreek Seeds
You already know that both the leaves and seeds of this plant are edible. But when it comes to intensity, fenugreek seeds are far more intense and aromatic. This also means the bitterness is more too.
However, fenugreek seeds don’t have the versatility of the leaves. To ground the spice, you need to leave it soaked overnight. But once you get through the extremely rough texture, the rich aroma makes it worth your while.
Nonetheless, there’s no denying that fenugreek leaves are much easier to add to dishes. As they’re ready to use, you can put them on all kinds of items from curries to flatbreads and grills in no time.
How to Use Fenugreek Seeds?
Known for its aromatic flavors, fenugreek is added to a number of dishes. But cooking with fenugreek isn’t child’s play. You need to be extra careful with the dish.
But remember the two ground rules, don’t overcook, and don’t add too much. Instead of getting a nice aroma, you’ll ruin the entire dish.
And finally, cooking at low to medium temperature is better. Despite the rough outer texture, it’s got a tendency of burning in a flash. Anyhow, here are a couple of ways you can incorporate this healthy spice into your dishes. Add an Extra Flavor to Your Dish
You don’t always have to add powdered fenugreek or leaves. Whole fenugreek seeds add a different flavor and rich flavor. Here’s how to do it-
First, warm up some oil with low to medium heat. Then tamper the spice for no more than 10 to 15 seconds. The spices are ready to be used now in whatever recipe you want.
Unlike the previous method, don’t use any kind of oil. Put a low heat and dry roast the seeds until they give out a nice light brown color. This process will take some time but once the color’s there, you can move on to crushing or powdering it.
You could very well make your own spice blend with fenugreek seeds. From cumin, and coriander to bay leaves, several spices go hand in hand with fenugreek.
Who doesn’t like pickles, right? Well, turns out you can add a dash of fenugreek to your pickles, making them even more irresistible.
You need 3 items, fenugreek seeds, ginger, and cinnamon. These 3 combined can make one of the best teas for indigestion. And as a bonus, you’re getting the other benefits of the spice.
What Are Fenugreek Benefits?
Let me be honest about something. There’s not a sufficient amount of evidence that fully proves the medical usage of fenugreek. But people have been using this useful herb for hundreds of years and they’re getting good results.
That being said, here are five of them among the long list of benefits you’ll get from fenugreek-
Improves Blood Pressure and Diabetes
Fenugreek is well popular in Asia because of its reputation with blood pressure and diabetes patients. And this makes complete sense.
If you dig deeper, 48 percent of the seed is basically dietary fiber. Dietary fiber isn’t the easiest thing to digest. You see the seeds extract a gel inside the stomach that gives fats and sugar a real hard time.
At the end of the day, you get to reduce your chance of heart conditions.
Acts as a Fever and Sore Throat Remedy
Combined with honey and lemon juice, fenugreek can help deal with fever as it’s nothing. And that’s not all. Thanks to the mucilage inside the seeds, you get a soothing feeling in your throat.
Soothes Menstrual Cramps
Because of the phytoestrogen in fenugreek, it can help women who are going through menopause. It’s not unusual for Asian practitioners to suggest fenugreek extract for period distress and hot flashes.
Helps with Weight Loss
As you already know, fenugreek is mostly made out of fibers. The interesting fact is when these fibers get inside your stomach, they swell, eliminating your food cravings.
The best part is that it couldn’t get any easier to incorporate into your diet. Take 1 tbsp of fenugreek and soak in a glass of water overnight or you could do it with hot water for 10 minutes. But consider the latter only for emergencies.
Increases Milk Production
A lot of people said they had better milk production after using fenugreek for a couple of weeks. It also eases the flow. Even though there are no conclusive studies, a 2012 study indicates that women do have increased breast milk when they use fenugreek regularly.
The reason behind this is that fenugreek stimulates the sweat glands. As mammary glands are hormonally modified sweat glands, people benefit from the effects.
What Are Fenugreek Substitutes?
You’ve already figured out that fenugreek isn’t something that sits on your countertop all year. In case of an emergency, it’s better to have an idea about some substitutes-
The Front Runner: Maple Syrup
If you’ve never tasted fenugreek, you should know that the taste is somewhat similar to maple syrup. It all happens because of a chemical compound called sotolone.
Both fenugreek and maple syrup come with fenugreek. As a matter of fact, fenugreek is used in making artificial maple syrup just to add that unique flavor.
However, use it sparingly when you’re considering it as a substitute. The extra sweet flavor of maple syrup might not go with every dish. And make sure to add it when you’re almost done cooking the dish.
A Tough Runner-Up: Mustard Seed
Yellow mustard seeds are a great substitute for fenugreek seeds. Even though you get a different aroma at first, the earthy flavor will stay intact.
As for the aroma, heating up seeds for a while should fix it. As it happens, the heat increases the taste similarity between the two.
Emergency Substitute: Curry Powder
When you can’t find either of the two substitutes, the best approach is to look for a curry powder that contains fenugreek. This is never the ideal solution, but it can save the day with some dishes.
If you ever do have to go through this, make sure you cook the curry powder in oil for a while. This will dim down the more overpowering flavors in the mix.
The Final Verdict
Hard on the outside, soft, and nutrient-filled on the inside, fenugreek is a unique herb and spice used for a long time. The enhanced aromatic flavor it adds makes it hard not to add to every dish.
There’s also the option to drink the extract if you don’t like to go through all the hassle. All in all, there’s no reason not to add this aromatic spice to your daily diet.
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As a home cook, I am working in the kitchen niche since 2001.
Writing a blog is one of my hobbies. Cooking is my passion and I love to experiment with spices. I hope you will get benefitted after reading my article.