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spices used in Indian cooking

Top 7 super spices used in Indian cooking

Step into the vibrant world of Indian cuisine and discover the secrets behind its irresistible flavors. The distinctive combination of spices is what sets Indian cooking apart, transforming ordinary dishes into extraordinary culinary experiences. In this article, we unveil the top spices used in Indian cooking that bring magic to your Indian recipes, tantalizing your taste buds and leaving you craving for more.

The importance of spices used in Indian cooking

Indian cuisine is renowned for its rich and complex flavors, and spices play a crucial role in achieving this. Spices are the heart and soul of Indian cooking, elevating dishes to new heights and adding depth and character to every bite. They not only enhance the taste but also contribute to the vibrant colors and enticing aromas that make Indian cuisine so appealing.

The use of spices in Indian cooking dates back thousands of years, with each region and family having their own unique spice blends and recipes. Spices are not just a means of adding heat or flavor, but they are also believed to have medicinal properties and are used in Ayurvedic medicine to promote overall well-being.

Indian cuisine offers a wide variety of spices, ranging from the fiery and pungent to the warm and earthy. The spices used in Indian cooking are carefully selected and combined to create a harmonious balance of flavors, resulting in dishes that are both satisfying and delicious.

Health benefits of spices used in Indian cooking

Beyond their flavor-enhancing properties, the spices used in Indian cooking also offer a myriad of health benefits. Many of these spices have been used in traditional medicine for centuries and are now gaining recognition for their therapeutic properties.

Turmeric, for example, is one of the most widely used spices in Indian cooking and is known for its vibrant yellow color. It contains a compound called curcumin, which has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Turmeric has been used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat a range of ailments, from digestive issues to joint pain.

Cumin, another one of the staple spices used in Indian cooking, is not only aromatic but also aids digestion and helps in improving digestion. It is known to stimulate the production of digestive enzymes, which can alleviate symptoms of indigestion and bloating.

Coriander, with its fresh and citrusy flavor, is packed with essential vitamins and minerals. It is a rich source of vitamin C, vitamin K, and potassium, making it beneficial for maintaining overall health and boosting the immune system.

These are just a few examples of the numerous health benefits offered by Indian spices. Their medicinal properties, combined with their incredible flavors, make them an integral part of Indian cuisine.

The Top 7 Essential Spices in Indian Cooking

Chili Powder

Known for its fiery heat, chili powder is a must-have spice in Indian cooking. It adds a kick to dishes and can be adjusted according to personal preference. Whether you’re making a spicy curry or adding a hint of heat to your marinades, chili powder is a versatile spice that adds depth and complexity to your dishes.


Cumin is one of the most widely used spices in Indian cuisine. Its warm and earthy flavor adds depth to curries, rice dishes, and lentil soups. Cumin seeds are often roasted and ground to release their full flavor, and they can be used whole or powdered in various recipes.


Coriander is an essential spice in Indian cooking, known for its fresh and citrusy flavor. Both the seeds and the leaves of the coriander plant are used in Indian cuisine. Ground coriander is a common ingredient in spice blends and curries, while fresh coriander leaves (also known as cilantro) are used as a garnish in many dishes.


Turmeric is not only a staple spice in Indian cooking but also a powerful medicinal herb. It adds a vibrant golden hue to dishes and has a warm and slightly bitter flavor. Turmeric is often used in curries, rice dishes, and lentil soups, and it is also known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.


Cardamom is an aromatic spice that adds a delightful fragrance to Indian dishes. It has a sweet and slightly spicy flavor, making it a popular choice for both savory and sweet recipes. Cardamom pods can be crushed and added to curries, rice dishes, and desserts, or the seeds can be ground into a powder for a more subtle flavor.

Garam Masala

Garam masala is a spice blend that is widely used in Indian cooking. It is made with a combination of ground spices, including cumin, coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves. Garam masala adds a rich and complex flavor to dishes and is often used as a finishing touch to enhance the overall taste.

Mustard Seeds

Mustard seeds are commonly used in Indian cooking for their pungent and slightly bitter flavor. They are often tempered in hot oil to release their full flavor and added to curries, pickles, and vegetable dishes. Mustard seeds come in different colors, including black, brown, and yellow, each with its own unique flavor profile.

These seven spices are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Indian cooking. Countless other spices and spice blends add depth, flavor, and complexity to Indian dishes. Experimenting with different spices is a great way to elevate your cooking and discover new taste sensations.

As a homemade pickles supplier in Nagpur, we use these ingredients in all our homemade pickles.

How to Use and Store Indian Spices

Using and storing Indian spices properly is essential to ensure their freshness and maximize their flavor. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your spices:

  1. Buy whole spices: Whenever possible, opt for whole spices instead of pre-ground ones. Whole spices retain their flavor and aroma for a longer period, and you can grind them as needed for each recipe. This ensures that you get the freshest flavor from your spices.
  2. Toast and grind: To release the full flavor of certain spices, such as cumin and coriander seeds, it is best to toast them lightly in a dry skillet before grinding. This helps to unlock their essential oils and intensify their flavor. Once toasted, grind the spices in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle to a fine powder before using.
  3. Store in airtight containers: To preserve the freshness of your spices, store them in airtight containers away from direct sunlight and heat. Exposure to air, light, and heat can cause spices to lose their flavor and aroma more quickly. Keep them in a cool, dark place, such as a pantry or spice drawer.
  4. Label and date your spices: It’s easy to forget when you bought or ground a particular spice. To avoid using stale spices, label your containers with the name of the spice and the date of purchase or grinding. This helps you keep track of their freshness and ensures you use them within their recommended shelf life.
  5. Buy in small quantities: Spices are best when they are fresh, so it is advisable to buy them in small quantities. This way, you can use them up before they lose their flavor and aroma. Buying in bulk may seem cost-effective, but it can lead to spices sitting in your pantry for months or even years, losing their potency over time.

By following these simple tips, you can ensure that your spices stay fresh and flavorful, enhancing the taste of your Indian dishes.

Traditional Indian Spice Blends and Their Uses

In addition to individual spices, Indian cuisine also features a variety of traditional spice blends that are used to create complex and well-rounded flavors. These spice blends are often passed down through generations, and each family or region may have their own unique recipe. Here are a few popular spice blends and their uses:

  1. Garam Masala: As mentioned earlier, garam masala is a versatile spice blend that adds depth and complexity to Indian dishes. It is used in curries, rice dishes, and lentil soups, as well as in marinades and spice rubs. Garam masala is typically added towards the end of cooking to preserve its flavors.
  2. Panch Phoron: Panch Phoron is a Bengali spice blend consisting of equal parts of five whole spices: fenugreek seeds, nigella seeds, cumin seeds, black mustard seeds, and fennel seeds. It is commonly used in Bengali cuisine, particularly in vegetable dishes, lentils, and fish curries. Panch Phoron is often tempered in hot oil before adding other ingredients to enhance its flavors.
  3. Rasam Powder: Rasam is a tangy and flavorful South Indian soup. Rasam powder is a spice blend that is used to give rasam its distinctive taste. It typically includes coriander seeds, cumin seeds, black peppercorns, dried red chilies, and curry leaves. Rasam powder is added during the cooking process to infuse the soup with its aromatic flavors.
  4. Sambar Powder: Sambar is a popular South Indian lentil stew that is often served with idli, dosa, or rice. Sambar powder is a spice blend that forms the base of the sambar. It includes a variety of spices such as coriander seeds, cumin seeds, black peppercorns, fenugreek seeds, turmeric, and dried red chilies. Sambar powder adds a complex flavor to the stew and elevates its taste.

These are just a few examples of the many spice blends used in Indian cuisine. Each blend brings its own unique combination of flavors, creating a symphony of tastes in every dish.

Lesser-Known Spices That Add Depth to Indian Dishes

While the top seven essential spices are well-known and widely used in Indian cooking, several lesser-known spices deserve attention for their ability to add depth and complexity to dishes. Here are a few examples:

  1. Asafoetida: Also known as “hing,” asafoetida is a pungent spice that is used sparingly in Indian cooking. It has a strong and distinctive flavor that mellows when cooked, adding a savory and umami taste to dishes. Asafoetida is often used in lentil dishes, vegetable curries, and pickles.
  2. Black Cardamom: Black cardamom is larger and more smoky in flavor compared to green cardamom. It is often used in savory dishes, such as meat curries and rice dishes, to add a distinct smoky aroma. Black cardamom can be used whole or ground, and its flavor is released when it is crushed or cooked.
  3. Fenugreek Seeds: Fenugreek seeds have a bitter and nutty flavor that adds depth to Indian dishes. They are commonly used in spice blends, such as garam masala, and are also used as a tempering spice in many curries. Fenugreek seeds can be toasted and ground, or used whole in cooking.
  4. Nigella Seeds: Nigella seeds, also known as “kalonji” or black cumin, have a mild and peppery flavor. They are often used as a topping for bread, such as naan, and are also added to pickles and curries. Nigella seeds can be used whole or ground, and they add a unique flavor to dishes.

These lesser-known spices may not be as widely recognized as their popular counterparts, but they bring their own distinct flavors to Indian dishes. Exploring these spices can add a new dimension to your cooking and introduce you to a whole new world of tastes.

Where to Buy Authentic Indian Spices

To truly experience the flavors of Indian cuisine, it is important to use authentic and high-quality spices. While it may be tempting to pick up spices from your local grocery store, they may not always be the best option in terms of freshness and quality.

One of the best places to buy authentic Indian spices is an Indian grocery store or market. These stores specialize in Indian products, including a wide variety of spices. Here, you can find a range of spices, from common ones like cumin and coriander to more exotic options. Indian grocery stores often stock spices in bulk, allowing you to purchase small quantities at affordable prices.

We generally order our spices from keralaspicesonline.com

If you don’t have access to an Indian grocery store, several reputable online retailers specialize in Indian spices. These online platforms offer a wide selection of spices, ensuring that you can find everything you need to recreate authentic Indian flavors in your own kitchen.

When buying spices, look for brands that have a reputation for quality and freshness. Check the packaging for any signs of tampering or damage, and opt for whole spices whenever possible to ensure maximum flavor and freshness. By sourcing your spices from reliable sources, you can be confident that you are getting the best ingredients for your Indian cooking.

Indian Cooking Tips and Tricks

Now that you have a better understanding of the essential spices and techniques used in Indian cooking, here are a few additional tips and tricks to help you master the art of Indian cuisine:

  1. Tempering: Tempering, also known as “tadka” in Hindi, is a technique used to release the flavors of spices and infuse them into the dish. It involves heating oil or ghee and adding whole spices, such as cumin seeds, mustard seeds, or curry leaves until they sizzle and release their aroma. The tempered spices are then added to the dish, enhancing its flavor.
  2. Balancing flavors: Indian cuisine is all about achieving a balance of flavors, including sweet, sour, salty, and spicy. To create a well-rounded dish, taste as you cook and adjust the seasoning accordingly. If a dish is too spicy, you can add a pinch of sugar or a squeeze of lemon juice to balance the heat. Similarly, if a dish is too salty, you can add a splash of coconut milk or yogurt to mellow the flavors.
  3. Layering spices: Indian cooking often involves layering spices to build depth and complexity. This can be done by adding spices at different stages of cooking. For example, you can start by sautéing onions and garlic with whole spices like cumin and mustard seeds. Then, add ground spices like turmeric, coriander, and chili powder to develop the base flavors. Finally, finish the dish with a sprinkle of garam masala or a handful of fresh herbs for that final burst of flavor.

The above cooking tips and tricks involve a heavy but measured use of all the spices used in Indian cooking. Each spice adds a unique flavour that enhances a particular dish to the best level of aroma, taste, and liking.

The super spices used in Indian cooking can be summarized by emphasizing the richness and diversity of Indian spices that elevate the flavors of traditional dishes. The exploration of these essential spices not only enhances culinary skills but also opens doors to a vibrant world of flavors.

Understanding the significance of spices like turmeric, cumin, and garam masala among others, allows for a deeper appreciation of Indian cuisine’s complexity and depth.

The journey through these spices unveils a culinary heritage that spans centuries, reflecting the cultural tapestry of India.

From the earthy notes of turmeric to the aromatic blend of garam masala, each spice contributes uniquely to the symphony of flavors in Indian cooking.

The use of these spices is not just a culinary practice but an art form that connects individuals to the essence of Indian culture and tradition.

In essence, the conclusion celebrates the magic of Indian spices, urging readers to embrace this flavorful journey and embark on a culinary adventure that promises not just delicious meals but a deeper understanding and appreciation of India’s gastronomic heritage.

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