Fenugreek – also known as Methi across India – is a popular spice and herb known for its sweet and nutty flavour. Sought-after across South and East Asia, both the seeds and the leaves are edible with each imparting their own distinct flavour to dishes.
You may not be able to access fresh fenugreek for a specific recipe and give up on making that dish. Don’t! Fenugreek is so incredibly easy to grow even without a garden that you’ll find yourself with a fresh supply for any recipes you want to try out.
Growing your own food can seem unachievable. But fenugreek takes up so little space it’s ideal – and it tastes fantastic!
What is Fenugreek?
Fenugreek is a tender annual that grows to a large height from large brown seeds. Although it’s a relatively uncommon crop in the West, it has been grown in North Africa and South Asia for centuries. It has a nutty flavour which is often compared to maple syrup, and a slight bitterness which is mellowed through cooking. Both the seeds and the leaves (fresh and dry) are edible and used in a variety of dishes. There is often some confusion between the different types:
- Fresh Fenugreek Leaves are known as Methi (in Hindi).
- Dried Fenugreek Leaves are known as Kasuri Methi.
- Fenugreek Seeds are known as Methi Dana.
Are can read more about how to cook with fenugreek below.
In Ancient Greece, Roman, Egypt and India, fenugreek was regularly used to treat illnesses and improve general health. Studies conducted in the modern day have been few and far between, with most using study groups too small to garner conclusive results.
How to Grow Fenugreek?
How to make Kasuri Methi (Dried Fenugreek)?
To make kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves), tie a bunch of fenugreek together and hang it somewhere warm until it thoroughly dries. You can also strip the leaves from the steam, spread them on a plate and sun-dry in a warm place. These methods will take around 48 hours depending on temperature of your home.
Alternatively, you make kasuri methi in the microwave. Strip the leaves from the steam, wash them thoroughly and pat dry before spreading evenly across a microwave safe plate. Set the timer to 3 minutes on maximum temperature, and then carefully turn the methi over and set the timer to another 3 minutes. Do keep an eye on it as microwave timings can vary. If it’s not completely dry, change the temperature to medium and set the timer for another 3 minutes.
Kasuri Methi will stay fresh for an indefinite amount of time if dried properly. Store in an airtight container in a dark place away from sunlight.
How to Cook with Fenugreek?
To cook with the fresh leaves, begin by stripping the leaves from the stem. Unlike with other herbs like coriander, this is essential as the stalk gives an unpleasant taste. Throughly wash the leaves several times. To decrease any chance of bitterness you can soak the leaves in salted water before using. The leaves are suitable for refrigeration once throughly dried and then kept in a small, air-tight container. They should be used within 4 days. You can also freeze fresh leaves and use when required.
Some popular Indian recipes for fresh fenugreek are Aloo Methi, Methi Parathas, Methi Pakora, Methi Paneer, Methi Chole, Methi Dal, Methi Puri, and Methi Muthia (steamed dumplings). You can also use fresh fenugreek when making Saag.
How to Use Kasuri Methi in Cooking? (Dried Fenugreek Leaves)
Simply add it near the end of your cooking. No need to soak it first – simply rub it between your palms and sprinkle over the dish. Use sparingly, as according to the recipe.
Some wonderful recipes which frequently use kasuri methi are Kadai Paneer, Dum Aloo, Dal Tadka, Paneer Tikka Masala, amongst others. It adds an irresistible smokey taste to any dish.
How to Use Fenugreek Seeds in Cooking?
There are two options you can take: You use them whole but slightly crushed, or you can use them powdered. If using them whole, crush them gently with a mortar and pestle and add at the beginning of recipes at the same time as your other whole spices (like cumin and mustard seeds). They will quickly become pungent and fragrant, but be careful not to burn them or they will become overpoweringly bitter.
Recipes that make use of whole fenugreek seeds are Samosas, both the traditional Punjabi Samosa and my modern Bread Samosa, Sambar, Achari Paneer, and various pickles. They are also used in traditional spice mixes such as Garam Masala, Panchporan, and Sambar powder.
To grind your own fenugreek powder, start by dry-roasting the seeds. This means adding them to a frying pan over low-medium heat without any oil. Toss the seeds or stir frequently to prevent uneven browning. For a mild taste, roast them until just lightly changed in colour, and for a deeper, more bitter roast, roast until they’re a darker brown. Turn off the heat and cool to room temperature before grinding in a spice-grinder to a fine powder. Fenugreek powder can then be used like any other spice powder in a dish.
How to Sprout Fenugreek Seeds?
Simply add them to a bowl, cover completely with water, add a plate on top and soak for one day. After soaking, drain the seeds and tie them in a fine muslin cloth, before adding to a bowl and covering once again with a plate. Check on them every day and within 4-5 days they will have sprouted. Store the sprouts refrigerated in an airtight container and wash before use. You can mix these with other sprouts such as moong and moth sprouts to make a healthy salad.
I’ve written a whole post about how to sprout seeds and beans here.