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12 Essential Spices for Indian Cooking

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Collect 12 Essential Spices for Indian Cooking you should have in your pantry at all times. Make your Indian spice blend for everyday use for your Indian dishes such as curry, dahl, or biryani.

Indian Spice mix fresh whole herbs.
Indian Spices

Whatever Indian food you prepare, this guide of 24 valuable spices will help you make your own seasoning.

Use it for your Indian curry chicken and meat dishes, add it to biryani rice or make a flavourful casserole. Choose your dish and enjoy the aroma of your whole house.

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History of Indian Spices

India has long been a spice trading hub, and spices have been traded worldwide for centuries. The history of Indian spices is as old as the subcontinent itself.

Spices such as turmeric, cardamom, black pepper, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, and chili were all discovered in India and used in various culinary preparations.

The early use of these spices was mainly for medicinal purposes, but over time, they have become an essential component of Indian cuisine.

Indian spices add flavor to food and may provide numerous health benefits due to their anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antimicrobial properties.

Today, Indian spices are used in cuisines worldwide and are an integral part of life for many people.

How Many Spices Are Used In Indian Cooking?

Indian cooking is renowned for its extensive use of spices. The variety and complexity of spices used in Indian cooking have been developed over centuries, with aromatic and flavorful combinations used to create the distinctive taste of Indian dishes.

The number of different spices utilized in traditional Indian cooking may vary depending on the region or type of dish being prepared. It is generally known that there are more than 40 Indian spices used regularly in Indian food.

A combination of various spices is often blended to create masala mixes that can be added to dishes for an extra layer of flavor.

How To Use Spices In Indian Food?

Indian food is known for its flavorful spices, making a dish stand out. When cooking Indian cuisine, it is essential to learn how to use spices properly to create the most flavorful dishes.

First, always start with whole spices and grind them fresh if possible. It is also important to use the right amount of each spice. Too little will be undetectable, while too much can overpower the dish.

Additionally, some spices should be cooked longer than others. For example, cinnamon and cardamom should be added at the beginning of cooking, while more delicate spices like coriander should be added at the end.

Lastly, combining several different types of spices is helpful for a unique flavor profile that will make your dish truly unforgettable. With a bit of practice and experimentation, anyone can master the art of spices often used in Indian kitchens.

Indian Everything Seasoning ready to blend.
Curry Spice Blend

Guide To Indian Spices For Flavoring Food

There is a wide variety of Indian spices available, ranging from mild to spicy and sweet to savory.

Each spice has its distinct flavor and can be used with other spices for an even more flavorful meal.

Cardamom is excellent for baking desserts due to its fragrant aroma and pleasant flavor. Cumin and coriander are often used together in curries for a deep earthy flavor.

Turmeric adds a unique yellow hue to dishes and a subtle sweetness and flavor. Ginger can be used fresh or dried to add heat or mild spiciness to dishes. Cinnamon lends a warm, comforting flavor, while cloves bring intense aromas and flavors.

Finally, black pepper is an essential Indian spice that adds depth of flavor and heat when used generously. With these crucial ingredients, you can create delicious meals with an authentic Indian flair.

Techniques To Use Indian Spices

One of the most popular and traditional methods is to use a mortar and pestle to grind them into a fine powder or paste. This allows you to create your seasoning blend that can be used for marinades, rubs, or garnishes.

Another technique is to dry roast the spices in a heavy skillet over low heat. This helps bring out the flavors and aromas of the spices and also helps preserve them.

Finally, you can also use whole spices in dishes such as curries, stews, soups, and even desserts to add an extra flavor and spice.

Regardless of which technique you choose, Indian spices will surely take your cooking up a notch.

List of Indian Spices For Our Curry Ground Spice Blend

As I always make my blends using a variety of spices, I would like to introduce you to a spice mix I make. The list contains 12 spices, which, once blended, give you a perfect seasoning for your Indian dishes. Let me do a brief introduction.

Turmeric Root

Turmeric root is a bright yellow spice member of the ginger family and has a sharp, bitter flavor. This root contains curcumin, a powerful antioxidant. In addition to its culinary and medicinal uses, turmeric root can also be used as a natural dye for fabrics and food coloring due to its vibrant yellow hue.

The versatile turmeric root is one of nature’s most valuable gifts and a favorite spice in popular Indian dishes.

Cumin Seeds

Seeds of cumin is one of the famous spices used extensively in Indian cooking. Cumin seeds are tiny, brownish-yellow seeds used as a spice in cooking. They have a slightly bitter and earthy flavor with hints of citrus and pepper.

The seeds can be used whole or ground, and are often toasted before being added to dishes for additional flavor.

Coriander

Coriander is an herb that comes from the seeds of the coriander plant from the parsley family. It has a strong, pungent aroma and flavor used to season many dishes.

The leaves and stems of the coriander plant are also edible and have a milder flavor than the seeds. Coriander is commonly found in almost every Indian recipe.

Garlic Plant

Garlic is a species in the onion genus Allium. Its close relatives include the onion, shallot, leek, chive, and Chinese onion.

Garlic has long been a common seasoning worldwide, with a history of several thousand years of human consumption and use.

Ginger Root

The Ginger root is the underground stem of the ginger plant, whose leafy stems grow up to three feet high. Its fleshy root has a tan exterior with a white interior and is often used in cooking and herbal medicine.

It has a strong, spicy flavor, making it one of the most popular used spices in India for use in curries and other Asian dishes.

Cardamom Seeds

Cardamom seeds are the dried, aromatic fruits of a tropical plant in the ginger family. They have a sweet flavor, with hints of lemon and mint. Cardamom is commonly used in cooking as a spice for curries and other dishes.

It is also used to flavor coffee, tea, liqueurs, desserts and baked goods. With this spice, a small amount goes a long way.

Curry Spice Blend in a bowl.
Spices of India

Nutmeg Seeds

Nutmeg is a seed obtained from the fruit of an evergreen tree that is native to the Moluccas, or Spice Islands, located in Indonesia. The nutmeg seed has a hard, dark brown outer shell and an inner kernel covered with a lacy red membrane.

The inner kernel is the part used for culinary purposes, and it is usually ground into a powder before being added to recipes. Nutmeg can be used to flavor many sweet and savory dishes and drinks like eggnog.

Fenugreek Seeds

Fenugreek seeds are tiny, yellow-brown seeds native to India and other parts of Southern Asia. They have a slightly bitter taste. They can be ground into a powder which can be added to curries and other dishes.

Clove Buds

Clove buds are the dried flower buds of the clove tree. They have a strong, pungent aroma and flavor, used as a spice for culinary dishes and as an herbal remedy.

Cinnamon Bark

Cinnamon bark is the inner bark of a cinnamon tree, which is peeled off in long strips and then dried. This bark has a sweet, spicy flavor that enhances the flavor of many dishes. It can be found in whole sticks or ground into a fine powder.

Indian Salt

Indian Himalayan salt is a type of pink salt mined from the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains in India. It is unrefined and contains many minerals, including calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, and zinc.

Indian Himalayan salt is said to be the purest form of salt available on Earth. It has a distinctive flavor and color, making it an ideal choice for cooking and seasoning dishes.

Black Pepper

Black pepper is a spice made from the dried, unripe fruit of the Piper nigrum plant. It is used to add flavor and spice to many dishes and is one of the main ingredients and most widely used spices in the world.

Additional 12 Indian Spices List That I Often Use:

As previously living in the Middle East for 15 years taught me to love and cook Indian dishes. The wide varieties of those commonly used spices and the way street Indian restaurants have used them made me fall in love with this cuisine.

After several years of cooking Indian dishes, my pantry has extended enormously, and therefore I feel you should also consider collecting some more commonly used Indian spices.

Saffron

Delicious saffron is a spice derived from the dried stigma of the flower of the saffron crocus. Saffron has been used for centuries in cooking, perfumery, religious rituals, and medicine.

It is one of the most expensive spices in the world by weight, and it imparts a mild flavor and yellow-orange color to dishes. A tiny pinch in your daily tea or coffee is a must.

Mustard Seeds

Mustard seeds are the tiny round seeds of various mustard plants. They are usually about 1 to 2 millimeters in diameter and may be colored from yellowish-white to black.

The seeds can be used whole or ground into a powder and added to curries, pickles, salad dressings, and other dishes for flavor.

Garam Masala

Garam masala is a blend of fragrant spices used extensively in Indian cuisine. It is typically composed of cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, nutmeg and other spices.

The ingredients may vary from region to region and even from chef to chef. Garam masala is usually added near the end of cooking or sprinkled on top before serving to preserve its flavor and aroma.

Fennel Seed

Fennel seeds are one of the main ingredients used spice in Indian cooking. They have a mild, anise-like flavor and aroma and are often used to season fish, salads, stews, and bread. Fennel can also be enjoyed raw or used to make tea.

Mace Spice

Mace is a spice made from the nutmeg seed’s dried, lacy outer covering. It has a warm, slightly sweet flavor similar to nutmeg but more delicate. Mace is used in baking, sauces, and stews.

Black cardamom

Black Cardamom, also known as hill cardamom or greater cardamom, is larger than green cardamom. It has a smoky flavor and is used in dishes such as biryani, curries, and desserts.

Green Cardamom

Green cardamom is a type of spice that comes from the seeds of the ginger family. It has a strong, pungent aroma and flavor and is used to flavor desserts, teas, curries, and other savory dishes.

Indian Spices whole and mixed.
Indian Everything Seasoning

Curry Leaves

Curry leaves, also known as kadi patta, are aromatic leaves that are an integral part of essential Indian homes. They are dark green and have a strong aroma and flavor. Curry leaves are used in various dishes to add flavor and aroma, as well as for their medicinal properties.

Tej Patta

Tej patta, also known as the common Indian bay leaf or davda-pat, is an aromatic leaf commonly used to add flavor and aroma to many dishes, including curries, stews, and dals.

Indian Red Chili Powder

Indian red chili powder is a hot spice blend made from dried and ground cayenne peppers. It has a bright red color, intense heat, and a smoky flavor. It is widely used in South Indian cuisine to add flavor and color to dishes like curries, marinades, soups, stews, and rice dishes.

Bay Leafs

Those leaves are aromatic leaves from the evergreen shrub, also known as laurel, used to flavor soups, stews, and other dishes. They have a slightly bitter taste and can be dried or fresh.

Bay leaves should be added at the beginning of cooking so that the flavor can infuse the dish.

Nigella Seeds

Nigella seeds, also known as black cumin or black caraway, are tiny black seeds with a slightly bitter flavor. The seeds can be used whole or ground into a powder to flavor curries, soups, bread, and other dishes used in North Indian kitchens.

Our Indian Everything Seasoning Blend

Out of the whole collection of 24 essential spices, I have picked 12 for you to make a wonderful mix of spices for everyday use.

I love to make this curry for friends and family as a Christmas gift. Suppose you want to prepare it for somebody, layering the spices in a glass container for a beautiful look. You can pick the color coordination from lightest to darkest or alternate colors.

Kitchen Gadgets:

  • Mortar and pestle
  • Glass bowl
  • Glass spice container

Ingredients:

  • Turmeric
  • Cumin
  • Coriander
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Cardamom
  • Nutmeg
  • Fenugreek
  • Clove
  • Cinnamon
  • Himalayan salt
  • White/black pepper

*Exact measurements are listed in the recipe card below.

FULL INSTRUCTIONS WITH STEPS FOR THE CURRY SPICE BLEND

First Step: Prepare Your Spices

Prepare all of the spices mentioned. Try to get the best quality you can find. Also, purchase whole seeds, leaves, plants, and roots.

Using a mortar and pestle, grind all of the ingredients into powder.

Regarding the amount, try to be precise with each spice as it makes a big difference in overall taste.

Spices of India ingredients.
Indian Spice mix

Second Step: Turmeric as a Start

As we are using turmeric the most, this is the spice I have started to build our seasoning. To it add garlic powder, cumin, and coriander.

Curry Spice Blend preparing.
Spices of India

Third Step: Beautiful Ginger

Next comes the flavorful ginger, cardamom, ground nutmeg, and fenugreek.

Indian Everything Seasoning adding spices.
Curry Spice Blend

Fourth Step: Last few Spices

Ground clove, cinnamon, Himalayan salt, and white and black pepper come last into the mixture.

Indian Spices steps.
Indian Everything Seasoning

Fifth Step: Blend

If you have made it into a gift spice container, leave all the layered spices and close the lid.

If it is for your own use, blend all the spices until they all form a unified seasoning.

Store it in a glass jar in your pantry and use it for as many Indian dishes as you need.

Indian Spice mix blending together.
Indian Spices

TRICKS AND TIPS:

  • Whole spices – grind all the spices before preparing the mixture whenever possible.
  • Quantities – try to use the exact amount for each spice as stated in the recipe for the overall blend to be perfect.
  • Paste – you can also make a perfect curry paste, combining all the spices with hot oil.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Where can I use Indian Spices?

The mix of Indian spices is so flavorful, that it will give you aroma like nothing else.

Great example is our chicken curry or Instant Pot chicken tikka masala for the start.

Where And How To buy Indian Spices?

If you’re looking to buy Indian spices, there are a few different ways to do it. One of the most popular and convenient methods is to purchase them online. Many websites specialize in selling Indian spices so that you can find a wide variety of products from across the country.

You can also visit your local Indian grocery store or spice shop for fresh and high-quality ingredients.

If you don’t have access to these stores, you can also order from international supermarkets or specialty food stores with a selection of Indian spices. Many supermarkets also carry generic brands of the most popular spices, such as turmeric, cumin, coriander, and garam masala.

Whichever method you choose, make sure to get your spices in small quantities, so they stay fresh for longer periods.

Should I Buy Whole Spices?

If possible, buy whole spices at all times. This holds them longer, and you will grind them just before they are ready to use. Mortar and pestle will give you the freshest aroma in your meals.

Check our printable clean eating grocery list for more shopping.

You can, of course, use a magic bullet or coffee grinder to powder those spices and flavorings.

Do Indian Spices Expire?

Yes, Indian spices do expire. The shelf life of Indian spices or spice blend varies depending on the type of spice and how it is stored. Generally, whole spices can last up to a few years, while ground spices will expire within six months. It’s best to store your spices in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.

More Herbs and Spices

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Spices of India as whole pieces in a bowl.
Indian Spice mix

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Indian Spice mix fresh whole herbs.

12 Essential Spices for Indian Cooking

Zuzana Paar
5 from 51 votes
Collect 12 Essential Spices for Indian Cooking you should have in your pantry at all times. Make your Indian spice blend for everyday use for your Indian dishes such as curry, dahl, or biryani.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Course Sauces and Spices
Cuisine Indian
Servings 9 Tablespoons
Calories 17 kcal

Ingredients
 
 

Instructions
 

  • Prepare all of the spices mentioned. Using a mortar and pestle, grind all of the ingredients into powder.
  • As we are using turmeric the most, this is the spice I have started to build our seasoning. To it add garlic powder, cumin, and coriander.
  • Next comes the flavorful ginger, cardamom, ground nutmeg, and fenugreek.
  • Ground clove, cinnamon, Himalayan salt, and white and black pepper come last into the mixture.
  • If you have made it into a gift spice container, leave all the layered spices and close the lid. If it is for your own use, blend all the spices until they all form a unified seasoning.

Video

Notes

  • Whole spices – grind all the spices before preparing the mixture whenever possible.
  • Quantities – try to use the exact amount for each spice as stated in the recipe for the overall blend to be perfect.
  • Paste – you can also make a perfect curry paste, combining all the spices with hot oil.

Nutrition

Serving: 1TablespoonCalories: 17kcalCarbohydrates: 2gSaturated Fat: 0.1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.1gMonounsaturated Fat: 0.2gSodium: 261mgPotassium: 77mgFiber: 1gSugar: 0.2gVitamin A: 11IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 21mgIron: 1mg

Disclaimer

Please note that nutrient values are estimates only. Variations can occur due to product availability and manner of food preparation. Nutrition may vary based on methods of origin, preparation, freshness of ingredients, and other factors.

Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

More Pantry

Make your pantry full of healthy choices with our clean eating pantry recipes. We have simple recipes for staple foods and versatile ingredients. They help you keep your pantry stocked with good options. Enjoy the benefits of clean eating with our pantry-friendly recipes, making it both convenient and delicious to stay healthy.

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By Zuzana Paar on February 10th, 2023
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About Zuzana Paar

Zuzana is the creative force and mastermind behind this scrumptious clean eating heaven. She will guide you on this delicious journey as a content creator, recipe developer, food writer, movie maker, blogger, and photographer. With her diverse skills she is dedicated to sharing delicious, healthy recipes and helpful tips with readers.

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