I have always been a curry powder skeptic, but Penzeys Curry (which is subtitled on the bottle as “The Now Curry”) has converted me.
The vast majority of the curry powders I’ve seen out there have been stale, mild, and flavorless. Many food websites and TV chefs are fond of telling their audience to throw out your curry powder and for good reason! I suspect that Penzeys is keenly aware of this stigma, as the word “powder” does not appear at all on the packing (including the ingredients list) despite it being a mixture a powdered spices. I admit I was intrigued by the tagline “The Now Curry” so I decided to give it a shot.
This curry has a classic, balanced spice flavor; no single component overpowers another. While the cumin, cinnamon, and turmeric are prominent you still get hints of ginger, coriander, and a mild heat.
I usually enjoy mixing up a curry powder from my own spices because I get to use whole cumin, coriander, cardamom, mustard seeds, etc. which, compared to their powdered forms, last longer on the shelf and have a more vibrant taste and smell once ground and toasted. Despite all of that, this curry powder has some distinct advantages over home mixed curry.
Most obviously, it’s easier. With “The Now Curry”, I can come home, hack up some veggies, drain a can a chickpeas, pop open a can of coconut milk, and have a really nice dinner done in 20 minutes. If I were mixing my own spices, taking them all out, measuring them, grinding them, and putting them back away might add another 5 minutes, which when you’re hungry and tired can seem like an eternity. Mixing my own spices makes it feel like a project meal, which is sometimes fun but not always. Plus, all that extra work has to happen before anything else can begin so you can toast the spices in oil to release their flavor, delaying every other step in making dinner.
Another advantage of this curry mix is that Penzeys puts more spices into their blend than I would. Depending on my energy level and what’s in my pantry, I might do 4 to 7 spices on a good day, while this blend has 15! Having all of those spices on hand would be costly, take up a lot of precious space in my spice rack, and ratchet up the inconvenience factor when putting together the curry mix. With the blend, I get it all in one place, and the ratios will always be consistent.
I was surprised to find out that I really enjoyed the texture of the blend as well. When grinding spices at home, it’s hard to get them very fine and easy to end up with a gritty dish. This powdered blend avoids that. On the flip side, this curry powder uses large size pieces of spices to a really pleasant effect. Both the garlic and ginger in this blend are dehydrated chunks instead of powders. They rehydrate as the curry cooks and make me feel like I took the time of hand chop fresh ginger and garlic. Both the garlic and ginger flavors come through really clearly, another benefit of leaving them in larger pieces. This is a really nice touch that enhances the curry and makes it feel really special. This is a perfect example of the attention to detail that makes Penzeys a special company and sets their products above the rest.
Two commonly cited disadvantages of curry powder are that it loses flavor faster than whole seeds and that it causes all of your curries taste the same. In this case, neither are big enough reasons to dissuade me from using this curry. As for the spices going stale, I go through this fast enough that it’s really not an issue. I usually use 1-3 tablespoons of the curry powder per dish depending on what I am making and how much, so I go through it in a few months maximum.
As for all of your curries tasting them same, that’s up to you! I love this for a quick weeknight dinner, but it is still fun to have a “project” curry where I mix my own spices and follow a recipe. Plus you can use this as just one spice component of your homemade curry and adjust the flavor of your final mix. Try customizing “The Now Curry” by adding more of one particular component or add chili flakes or powder to increase the heat. It’s really up to you! Plus, you can vary all of the other ingredients in your curry: try a coconut milk base, a tomato base, switch up the proteins and veggies. There is no end to the variety you can come up with.
For most of this review I have been comparing this curry to home ground and mixed curry spices. Keeping things fair and comparing likes to likes would be comparing it to other premixed curry powders, but frankly, there is no comparison. This product soars above the rest. This is by far the most thoughtful, delicious, and well balanced curry powder that I have ever used.
Overall, I highly recommend this curry. If you’re a curry purist used to grinding your own spices, you may find that this product has an important niche in your kitchen. If you’ve been using some other brand of pre-mixed curry powder, this is a significant upgrade. Either way, give it a try. I am confident that it will find prominent place on your spice rack and in your menu.
Weeknight Chickpea Curry
3 tablespoons olive or coconut oil
1 onion, cut into large chunks
3 cloves garlic, sliced
2 tablespoons Penzeys Curry
3 cups mixed chopped vegetables (I like a mixture of red bell peppers, chopped jalapenos, and frozen peas)
2 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
½ cup water
1 can full fat coconut milk
Salt to taste
Rice, Plain Yogurt, Cilantro
Heat the oil in a pan. When shimmering, add the onion and garlic and a pinch of salt. Saute for about a minute, then add the curry powder and toast for about another minute. Add the vegetables and chickpeas and another pinch of salt and stir until they are coated with the spiced oil. Add the water, cover, and allow to simmer around 10 minutes or until the vegetables are softened. Uncover and allow the water to boil off almost completely. Turn off the heat, add the coconut milk, and stir to combine. Taste, adjust salt, and serve.
Serve over white or brown rice and top with plain yogurt and chopped cilantro.
Ingredients List: turmeric, coriander, cumin, garlic, black pepper, fenugreek, cinnamon, fennel, nutmeg, white pepper, cayenne red pepper, cilantro, cloves, cardamom, and ginger