Many Indian recipes for dishes, such as Biryani, call for curd. If you have plans to try something new or cook one of your favorite dishes, but don’t have any curd on hand, you might be looking for the best curd substitute to ensure your recipe turns out as desired.
Fortunately, there are alternatives to curd that you can use without negatively impacting the recipe you’re trying to prepare. Read on to learn more about the different ingredient options you can use instead of curd.
Table of Contents
- What is curd?
- Indian Curd vs Yogurt
- Why is curd used in Indian recipes?
- What is Biryani?
- What other Indian recipes call for curd?
- Best Curd Substitutes for Indian Recipes
- Choosing the Best Curd Substitute for Your Recipe
What is curd?
Before we get into the different substitute options for curd, it is important to understand exactly what curd is. Once you know what curd is, it will be easier to understand why different ingredients can take its place when you are preparing your favorite Indian dish.
Curd, also called dahi in Hindi, is a fermented milk product or yogurt that is common in many Indian recipes. It refers to homemade yogurt that is naturally prebiotic, as opposed to pasteurized yogurt that you can buy at the store. Whereas pasteurized yogurt is more difficult to make at home, Indian curd can.
While the process of making pasteurized yogurt involves fermenting it with artificial acids, Indian curd can be made using vinegar, lemon, or lime, acids found in most kitchens. The preparation process involves curdling the milk using lemon juice, lime juice, or vinegar.
Indian Curd vs Yogurt
We started getting into some of the key differences between Indian curd and yogurt above, but there are some other distinctions you may want to understand.
First, as we mentioned above, the process of making curd and yogurt are different. Curd is easier to make at home using an acid, such as lemon juice, to curdle milk.
The types of bacteria found in yogurt and curd also differ. The process of making yogurt includes specific strains of bacteria, whereas there is typically less good bacteria overall in curd. Lactic acid bacteria are in curd, while different lactobacillus and streptococcus bacteria are in yogurt.
Another key distinction between yogurt and curd is that curd isn’t traditionally flavored. Yogurt is available in a wide range of flavors, including fruits and other sweeter flavors, while curd remains plain.
The taste of curd and yogurt will thus be very different. Even when compared to plain yogurt, curd has more or a sour or acidic taste. However, curd isn’t typically consumed by itself. It is typically mixed with rice or used when preparing different recipes. Yogurt, on the other hand, is often eaten on its own.
Curd and yogurt each deliver different benefits. Since many Indian dishes can be spicy, curd can help to cut the spice and make the meal more palatable for some. Curd can also help improve bone strength due to the higher amounts of calcium or phosphorus it has.
Yogurt is also a healthy food. It is high in protein, often much more so than curd, and contains calcium and other beneficial vitamins and minerals.
Why is curd used in Indian recipes?
There are a few different reasons why curd is featured so prominently in Indian recipes.
Curd has a thick and creamy consistency, so adding it to a recipe can help to thicken the sauce nicely, making the overall meal more enjoyable.
Another reason you may see curd included in a recipe is that it can work as a meat tenderizer. When cooking meals with meat, curd can help soften the meat, making it tender and delicious.
Indian dishes are also known for their strong spices. Adding curd in not only helps to cut these spices a bit, but it adds a bit of tang to the meal.
What is Biryani?
Biryani is a popular Indian dish featuring rice, meat, and different spices. Different meats, including chicken, lamb, beef, or fish can be used when making biryani. Additionally, you can find recipes for Biryani that are vegetarian and made without any meat.
Oftentimes, the region where the Biryani recipe comes from impacts the type of protein used to make it (shrimp or seafood are more common in Biryani recipes that originate from coastal areas of India, for example). Caramelized onions, fruit (either fresh or dried), herbs, and nuts can top Biryani before serving.
While today Biryani is seen as an Indian dish, its roots can be traced back to Persia. Experts believe that the Mughals brought the original dish to India, where it evolved to what is known as Biryani today.
When preparing Biryani, curd helps when marinating the meat. The acidity of curd works to tenderize the meat, while also enhancing the overall taste of the dish.
While you may have heard this dish simply referred to as Biryani, there are actually different variations of Biryani. The different variations are associated with different regions of India and may feature different spices and other key ingredients. The name of each of these variations indicates the region of India where it is from.
Below are some of the different versions of Biryani that you may see (or want to try making on your own):
- Hyderabadi biryani
- Sindhi biryani
- Malabar biriyani
- Calcutta/Kolkata biryani
- Kalyani biryani
- Mughlai biryani
- Ambur biryani
- Lucknowi biryani
What other Indian recipes call for curd?
Biryani is one of the more popular Indian recipes that uses curd, but it is far from the only one. Curd’s cream and thick texture, along with its tangy and acidic taste, enhances a variety of different Indian recipes.
Some other Indian recipes that use curd include:
- Punjabi kadhi pakora
- Gujarati kadhi
- Dahi aloo
- Dahi bhindi
- Rajasthani kadhi
- Aval dosa
- Maharashtrian kadhi
- Banarasi dum aloo
- Dahi aloo tikki
- Dahi vada
- Dahi bhalla
Best Curd Substitutes for Indian Recipes
Ready to find the best curd substitute for Biryani or another Indian dish that you’d like to prepare?
Here are a few substitute options that should work just fine in your recipe.
And, even better, many of them are things that you likely already have in your refrigerator or pantry.
When you’re searching for the best Indian curd substitute, yogurt is a logical choice.
While there are key distinctions between yogurt and curd that we shared above, the two are still quite similar. Yogurt’s texture and consistency closely resembles that of curd, making it an excellent substitution for an Indian recipe.
When substituting yogurt for curd in an Indian recipe, it is essential to use plain yogurt, rather than a flavored one. Curd is made without the addition of any flavors, and choosing a flavored yogurt won’t deliver the right taste. Many flavored yogurts are sweeter or have a fruity flavor, which certainly won’t match with savory and spicy Indian cuisine.
Buttermilk can also work as a substitute for curd when preparing a recipe.
It has a thicker consistency, similar to that of curd, and will be easy to find at the store. Like curd, buttermilk is also more acidic.
Just keep in mind that while buttermilk is thicker than regular milk, it won’t be as thick as curd, so you may need to adjust other ingredients to make sure the overall thickness and consistency of the dish isn’t off.
Sour cream can be an excellent curd substitute. Like curd, it has a thicker consistency that won’t require any altering when preparing the recipe. Sour cream, as its name implies, also has a more sour flavor, much like curd.
While the dish may taste a little different when you use sour cream, it will still taste very delicious.
Depending on the dish that you’re making, you may also find that mashed potatoes will work well as a curd substitute.
Curd helps to make the sauce thicker in Indian recipes, and this is definitely something that mashed potatoes can help with. Before adding mashed potatoes to the dish, you’ll want to make them very smooth.
If there are lumps in your potatoes, they’ll still be there when mixed with the Indian recipe, which could make it less appealing.
When you’re cooking your favorite Indian dish that calls for curd, you can also try using heavy cream. Just as heavy cream can work as a substitute for milk in recipes, it can also work as a substitute for curd.
Heavy cream has a much thicker consistency than milk. It is also much creamier. Adding it to an Indian dish with gravy can help to thicken the gravy without having a negative impact on the taste of the dish.
Milk may also work as a substitute for curd for Indian recipes.
However, it is important to note that milk is much thinner and more watery than curd. So, when you’re adding it to a sauce, you may need to add a few additional ingredients, like some flour or cornstarch, to get the sauce as thick as you want it to be.
If you prefer soy milk or coconut milk to regular cow’s milk, you could also use one of them as a curd substitute. These milks are also thinner, though.
To thicken the milk before adding it to your recipe, add a little cornstarch (about 1 to 2 teaspoons for each cup) to the milk. Mix the ingredients in a small pot over medium heat. Heat to a slow boil, then stir continuously until it thickens.
Cashews, or other nuts, may also work as a substitute for curd in your recipe. However, you’ll need to do some work to get the nuts ready.
Begin by adding the cashews to a pot of water. Bring the water to a boil, and let the cashews cook for about 20 to 25 minutes. Then, drain the water out, rinse the cashews with cool water, and transfer them to your blender. Add in about ¼ cup of water and blend the ingredients together. Continue blending until smooth, adding a little more water if necessary.
You can also try making your own curd for your favorite Indian recipe
Choosing the Best Curd Substitute for Your Recipe
If you came to this article stumped about what to substitute for curd for Biryani or another Indian recipe that you want to make, I hope you’ve found the answers you were looking for. Fortunately, there are different ingredients that will work just fine in an Indian recipe that calls for curd, many of which you may have in your kitchen already. Ready to get cooking?
Yes, if you do not have curd, milk will work just fine as a substitute. You can use regular cow’s milk, or you may also choose to substitute soy milk or coconut milk in place of the curd in your recipe. However, just remember that milk can spoil more quickly than yogurt, so you may not be able to keep leftovers on hand as long.
Yes, yogurt is one of the best substitutes for curd. Curd and yogurt are similar in a number of ways, including their consistency, which makes yogurt a natural substitute. Just remember, that curd is typically plain, so you’ll want to use a plain yogurt as a substitute.
There are a few different ingredients you can substitute for curd when making Biryani. Some of these include yogurt, milk, heavy cream, mashed potatoes, lemon juice, or buttermilk.
No, while yogurt and curd are similar, they are not the same thing. The process for making curd and yogurt varies, which impacts their taste and properties. While curd is made by using lemon juice, lime juice, vinegar, or other edible substances to curdle the milk, the process of making yogurt uses bacterial fermentation. Curd is easy to prepared at home, while yogurt is more difficult to make.