July 4, 2020

What Are Fenugreek And How to Eat Fenugreek Seeds

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Ever experienced the bitter tiny seeds you may have bitten into when eating a curry?! It could well be the aromatic spice called fenugreek seeds.  Read on to find what are fenugreek seeds and how to eat  fenugreek seeds and gain the best of benefits. 

What are fenugreek seeds

A common spice used in Indian cuisine, fenugreek seeds is popularly used in South Asian, Some African and Middle Eastern cuisine.

These tiny stone like seeds are hard and packed with essential nutrients which is what makes it a powerful medicinal spice used in Ayurveda.

Not only can they be used to enhance the flavour of any dish but also have many health benefits.

Different parts of the fenugreek plant have culinary usage.

You may already be familiar with the ground version of fenugreek seeds.

The difference between each type of fenugreek and their uses in cooking is explained in this post here. 

Fresh fenugreek leaves are used to make Indian vegetarian and non vegetarian dishes just as one would use spinach.

Dried fenugreek leaves is one those magic spices or Indian herb that instantaneously uplifts the flavour of many Indian dishes.

Tiny golden fenugreek seeds transform the taste of a dish simply by adding few sprinkles.

What Are Fenugreek Seeds Called in Other Languages.

Fenugreek in Hindi is called ‘Methi dana’

Fenugreek in German Bockshornkleesamen

Fenugreek in French Graines de fenugrec

Fenugreek in Spanish Semillas de fenogreco

How Does Fenugreek Seeds Taste

Fenugreek seeds have a nutty bitter taste.

Although bitter when you bite into them, the aroma has a sweet nutty undertone similar to that of maple syrup and celery.

How To Use Fenugreek Seeds

Traditionally in India fenugreek seeds are used to make Indian dishes especially in legumes, pulses and vegetables based dishes.

You need to be cautiousness when using fenugreek seeds.

Although a flavourful spice, adding too much or cooking it for too long will make the seeds bitter to taste.

It also has the tendency to burn quickly so it is best to work with them on low heat.

An easy way to consume fenugreek is using fenugreek powder instead of fenugreek seeds.

Here are few other examples of how you can use fenugreek seeds for cooking:

  1. Add whole fenugreek seeds to warm oil and allow it to splutter no more than 5-10 seconds. This cooking method is called tempering the spices. Learn how to temper your spices here.  Add your chosen vegetables and other spices and continue to cook as per the recipe.
  2. Lightly dry roast fenugreek seeds on low heat until it turns light brown in colour, crush or make fenugreek powder and add to roast vegetables, soups or salads.
  3. Spice up your curries, soup and broth by adding fenugreek seeds or fenugreek powder to boiling broth.
  4. Make spice blends or spice rubs by combining fenugreek seeds or powder with other spices such as cumin seeds, coriander seeds, bay leaves etc.
  5. Fenugreek seeds are also a popular pickling spice. You can add flavour your pickled vegetables or fruits such as gherkins, carrots, cauliflower, apples, mangoes etc.
  6. Fenugreek tea made by boiling fenugreek, cinnamon and ginger is good for digestion among other added benefits.

Fenugreek tea made with fenugreek seeds

Can You Eat Fenugreek Seeds

Some may find swallowing tough small stone like seeds a bit amusing.

Fenugreek seeds are completely edible.

I however do not recommend chewing on raw fenugreek seeds unless you like the bitter taste burst.

Just swallow them if you feel them in your mouth or take them out as you would with a bone.

Crushing fenugreek seeds into powder is another easy way of adding both flavour and not have the stony texture in your dish.

Often curry spice blends will include fenugreek powder.

What Spices and Food Go Well With Fenugreek Seeds

Since the taste is mild and neutral fenugreek seeds pair well with most food ingredients.

Here are some suggestions:

Vegetables – spinach, caulliflower , potatoes, green beans, pumpkin, carrots, cabbage, sprouts

Fruits – Apple, mango, pear, peach

Meat – All types of red meat and chicken

All types of pulses and legumes

Spices – Cumin, coriander, bay leaves, peppercorn, fennel seeds , turmeric , carom seeds , green cardamom, red chilli

Health Benefits Of Fenugreek Seeds

In the ancient science of Ayurveda, Fenugreek seeds is considered an integral part.

Some food industry refer them as a potential nutraceutical.

That is fenugreek seeds have the properties of being  both nutritional and pharmaceutical.

They are a good source of iron, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium.

Here are some of the highlighted benefits of fenugreek seeds:

  • Fenugreek Seeds For Weight Loss

Drinking fenugreek water first thing in the morning helps improve metabolism.

They contain fiber that promotes a feeling of fullness and keeps people from overeating and in turn aids in weight loss.

Its easy to make fenugreek water at home. Just follow these simple steps.

  • Promoting Healthy Lactation

I can personally vouch for this one as it is tried and tested.  I saw a substantial benefit of drinking fenugreek tea two to three times a day after my daughters birth.

It is believed that drinking fenugreek tea increase dopamine levels and hormones and improve the supply of breastmilk for lactating mothers.

  • Better Digestive System

Soaking fenugreek seeds in water and drinking it on empty stomach strengthens the digestive system.

You can also drink fenugreek water instead.

It improves digestion and prevents stomach disorders such as flatulance, bloating, heartburn and gastritis.

  • Regulating Blood Sugar Levels

Drinking powdered fenugreek dissolved in water or on its own is known to benefit people suffering from diabetes.

Fenugreek seeds can lower blood glucose levels and also improve glucose tolerance.

  • Fenugreek Seeds For Hair and Skin

Applying a paste of fenugreek seeds to hair helps in hair growth and fight against dandruff.

Paste applied to face helps prevent acne and maintains a healthy smooth skin.

You can also add fenugreek powder with your normal conditioner for healthier thicker hair.

What Are The Side Effects Of Fenugreek Seeds

Although a safe spice to consume, anything in excess can have adverse affect on your health.

Fenugreek seeds causes heat in the body, so limit consumption  to just a teaspoon in water for no more than 6 months.

This does not include the small amounts limited to 1 – 2 tsp  added to food as it includes other ingredients.

This only applies if you are consuming raw fenugreek in the form of fenugreek tea, fenugreek paste or fenugreek water as a natural medicine.

Avoid giving fenugreek tea or raw fenugreek to children. Fenugreek in food is absolutely safe to serve.

Here are some possible side effects of excessive consumption of fenugreek:

  1. May increase the risk of bleeding
  2. May cause diarrhea
  3.  Check with doctor if you have any underlying medical conditions before consuming raw fenugreek.
  4. People with nut allergies may react to fenugreek as both are related.
  5. Excessive or extended use of fenugreek may result in headaches, lightheartedness, and an odor in urine.

How to eat fenugreek seeds

Best Fenugreek Seeds Substitute

If you want to replace fenugreek seeds in cooking and looking for a suitable alternative then there are few options to choose from.

The type of substitute you choose will depend on the type of dish you are making.

Here are some options for you.

  1. Carom seeds or celery seeds – Both these seeds are nutty and aromatic and can be replaced for fenugreek seeds in most dishes.

2. Curry powder – For making curries and sauces, I suggest adding a tsp of curry powder as most curry powder spice blend have ground fenugreek seeds added.

Get homemade curry powder recipe here

3. Maple syrup – If you wish to add a bitter sweet undertone with a similar aroma to fenugreek then maple syrup is your best bet. Drizzle a spoonful or two for an aromatic sweet flavour.

4. Fennel Seeds – Ground or whole fennel seeds are also a good substitute for fenugreek seeds. Add them to the recipe as you would normally add fenugreek seeds.

Where To Buy Fenugreek Seeds

Due to the many health benefits of fenugreek seeds you will find them in most health food stores.

You can also buy them from any local Indian grocery store as they will surely keep them.

For ease of shopping buy them online. My recommended online store for all your spice requirements is The Spice House.

You can buy Fenugreek seeds directly from them by clicking on the image below.

Fenugreek seeds buy online
Click image to buy online

How to Store Them?

These little seeds are very easy to store and keep their freshness for longer since they are whole.

Keep them in an air tight container such as the one below and store away from direct light in a dry cool place.

For humid climate keep them in the fridge.

They will keep fresh and retain their property until 12 months.

To Conclude

Fenugreek seeds have been used for centuries in cuisines and for alternative health treatment.

They are loaded with health benefits and full of flavour.

Just be mindful of how much you eat especially if consuming raw. Check with your doctor if you are unsure about how to eat fenugreek seeds for health therapy.

It is safe to add them to your meals such as vegetables, meat, soups and curries.

Enjoy the flavour and be in good health!!

Have you used Fenugreek seeds or tried them in food you may have eaten? What did you think?

Please do share your thoughts or let me  know if this article has given enough information on how to use fenugreek seeds?

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