What Is A Substitute For Panch Phoron?

If you enjoy cooking Indian or Bangladeshi cuisine then you may be familiar with Panch Phoron. It is a classic mix of fenugreek, nigella, fennel, cumin, and black mustard seeds; when combined you get a seasoning that is a punchy combination of bitter, earthy, nutty flavor. If you don’t have a specialist spice store nearby then you’ll either need to make your own blend or consider using a panch phoron substitute in your next recipe. Keep reading to discover some useful alternatives and a flavor-popping recipe for making your own.

4 alternatives to panch phoron

1. Berbere

“for a hot and spicy option”

Berbere is an Ethiopian spice mixture that contains cumin and fenugreek, two of the “heavy-hitting” flavors found in panch phoron. The biggest difference is that berbere has the addition of chili and paprika which give it a more vibrant red shade and, of course, a lot more heat. Choose this replacement blend if you love your food to be fiery hot and full of opposing ingredients.

2. Garam masala

“A similar Indian blend”

If you’re looking for a change from panch phoron, but still want to fill your dish with classic Indian deliciousness then garam masala is a good choice for a stand-in. Translated as “hot spice” it’s a robust combination of flavors that fill the kitchen with intoxicating aromas. It works well with fish, poultry, beef, chicken, soups, stir-fries, or stews.

Like berbere, garam masala contains cumin and fenugreek which are two of the most prominent flavors in panch phoron. So, garam masala will have a similar feel to it, with the addition of some warming notes from cinnamon and nutmeg.

It is easy to find garam masala at most supermarkets. If you already have a well-stocked spice rack then you can also make garam masala at home. Combine cloves, cardamom, fenugreek, cumin powder, coriander powder, nutmeg, and cinnamon for a rustic, homemade version.

3. Curry powder

“In a pinch”

Curry powder can be found in any store and is a vibrant yellow shade. If this color won’t make your meal look weird then it is a great option. It has an earthy, pungent flavor with bitter notes thanks to the addition of cumin. Used in moderation, curry powder isn’t usually hot so it may appeal to a wider audience.

The biggest challenge with using curry powder is that you’re using it to replace whole spices. In many Indian recipes, you’ll add the spices to a pan and fry them to release the aromatics into the oil. This step won’t work with curry powder; instead, you could shake it onto the other ingredients to add color and taste. Another option is to incorporate the powder into a curry paste.

4. Make your own

“For authentic taste”

Although panch phoron isn’t a common product in stores, the spices that are used to make it are. This means that you can easily make a homemade version. Traditional recipes usually use equal amounts of every ingredient so it’s quick and easy to throw together. Remember that this blend uses the whole spices rather than ground ones. There is no need to grind anything, which saves even more time.


  • 1 Tbsp brown mustard seeds
  • 1 Tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 Tbsp fennel seeds
  • 1 Tbsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1 Tbsp nigella seeds


  1. Add all the seeds into a small bowl and mix with a spoon until combined.
  2. Pour mixture into an airtight container or jar and store in a cool, dry area until needed.

Recipe notes:

  • Nigella is also known as black cumin or kalonji.
  • If you don’t like too much of a bitter hit to your food then consider halving the fenugreek seed.
  • Radhuni is a Bengali spice that is used in authentic panch phoron. As it is hard to find in many countries outside of India, nigella is a good option to replace it.

Fast facts about panch phoron

  • It is also known as Indian five-spice and originated from the Indian subcontinent.
  • The spice mix is used in dishes such as shukto, mutton curry, lentils, chicken, vegetables, or in pickles.
  • Panch phoron is commonly used in Eastern India, Southern Nepal, and Bangladesh.
  • The mix consists of whole spices that are roasted or fried briefly in ghee or mustard oil to release their flavor and aroma.

Summing up

Panch phoron isn’t as easy to find in stores as some of the better-known spice blends. But that doesn’t need to stop you from making an authentic curry. Berbere, garam masala, or curry powder can all be used to replace panch phoron in cooking. If you have time, then making your own is an excellent way to breathe authenticity into your sub-continental dishes.


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