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Flavor Up Your Food! Top 23 Indian Spices

Archana Das is a research enthusiast. She likes to write about Indian culture, tradition, epics and food.

This article will give you a brief information about Indian spices and herbs, their medicinal benefits and use.

This article will give you a brief information about Indian spices and herbs, their medicinal benefits and use.

Spices are an essential part of Indian food. In fact, it’s hard to imagine any food without spices. And why not? It adds zing to Indians’ lifestyle. Whenever the word “spices” comes to mind, “India” is the country the entire world remembers.

I feel so glad when my mother tells me the story of Indian spices and how they add flavor and color to food. And it’s a privilege that the Indian spices have shaped our history and lifestyle.

Indian Spices and Their Medicinal Uses

The Indian spices are not just known for their flavor and color, but it is also known for its healing properties.

Some spices are used as medicines to treat health issues, such as cardamom, turmeric, white mustard, sesame, cinnamon, ginger, pepper, and many more.

Many are used only in certain regions like garcinia and stone flowers. I have come up with this list of the top 23 Indian spices to spice up your food.


Indian masala dabba | spice box

Indian masala dabba | spice box

Indian Masala Dabba and Their Uses?

A circular spice box. It is often found in many Indian homes containing 6-7 basic masalas. Masala Dabba contains a mixture of spices, which are diverse not only from region to region but also from the kitchen to kitchen.

When I first stepped into the kitchen to learn how to cook, my mother showed me the spice box with seven spices and made me understand how it makes a simple food into a delicious meal.

The box contains spices like mustard seeds, cumin, turmeric powder, red chili, garam masala panch phoron (a mixture of five aromatic spices: cumin seeds, nigella seeds, fennel seeds, wild celery seeds, fenugreek seeds). It is used in Bengali culture & the kitchen.

And my mother got this spice box from Sumeet Store. You may also want to have this stainless steel spice box, right?


Masala Box-Indian Spices and Their Benefits?

Asafetida | Hing

Asafetida | Hing

1. Asafetida (Hing)- It is a rock-like spice which is dried and powdered to use on the dishes. It is used for tadka or chaunk. It adds flavor to your oil. Hing's raw smell mellows into a musky scent by adding smooth taste to your curries. You can even use Hing to vegetables/dishes like beans, lentils, etc. Just a pinch of Hing adds zing and flavorsome taste to any dish.

Cumin seeds | Jeera

Cumin seeds | Jeera

2. Cumin Seeds- It is also called Jeera in Hindi. This spice is an integral ingredient in our cooking. Cumin seeds add an earthy and warm aroma to delicacies. It gives a simple food a delicious flavor. For that, you need to add cumin seeds to hot oil for tempering. You can even roast it to add later on the dishes. This spice also adds a muddy tone to soups, curries, and dals. Many people like to add roasted ground cumin to their drinks, yogurt, etc. for a nutrient boost & scrumptious taste.

Black mustard seeds | Sarso

Black mustard seeds | Sarso

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3. Black Mustard Seeds- In Hindi, black mustard seeds are known as Rai/Mohri. These pungent seeds are added into tempering to release flavor to dishes like curries, chutneys, salads and pickles.

In India, housewives often make pickles by using various vegetables, fruits, spices, especially chili & green mango. Black mustard seeds are used to add sourness and spiciness to the pickles. They put the mustard seeds on mustard oil and other main ingredients and then put the pickle gar under the sunlight.

The oil gets hot and they wait to see the seeds pop and crackle to release their flavor.

Whole turmeric | powder

Whole turmeric | powder

4. Turmeric- Haldi is a very famous spice in India and overseas. It is a bright yellow-colored spice widely known as healing spice. It adds deep golden color to your dishes and adds a peppery-woody aroma. Haldi has anti-inflammatory properties used to treat illness. You can even add turmeric to drinks and curries. We Indians like to add Haldi on hot milk and serve our kids for better health. Drinking haldi-doodh (turmeric-milk) regularly keeps you fit & ill-free. We also use this spice as face masks to treat pimples or blemishes.

Coriander | Dhania

Coriander | Dhania

5. Coriander- Also known as Dhania. It is used on almost every Indian dish because it adds earthy notes. The whole coriander seeds are lightly roasted. After that it is grounded with other spices to make a spice blend. Coriander ground or power adds taste and texture to dishes. Often the spice is twin with cumin for just the right texture and flavors of earthiness.

Kashmiri red chili

Kashmiri red chili

6. Kashmiri Red Chili Powder- Kashmir is an Indian state which is famous for its heavenly atmosphere covered with greenery, mountains, snow, and lakes, having beautiful people. However, the state is also famous for its two well-known spices, Kesar and Kashmiri Red Chili powder.

Kashmiri red chili is the hottest among all different chilies, and used in Indian cuisines. It adds a rosy red color and smoky flavor to dishes. However, when you use Kashmiri red chilies, be mindful to use because of its hotness.

7. Garam Masala-It is an Indian spice blend, often used on dishes like egg curry, chicken curry, plateful of mashroom dish, etc. It gives warmth and depth to your cuisine. It is often used with green or red chili for aromatic, hearty flavor. We, Indians, like to make our own versions of garam masala to use in veggies.

When I started cooking delicious dishes, I slowly bought whole spices to add a different color to my Masala Box. You can use these below-written spices to make your special dish to add zing to your meal.

I usually store my mixture of spices into glass mason jars as I frequently use them whenever I like to make scrumptious food in my kitchen.

Dalchini

Dalchini

Additional Indian Spices and Herbs

8. Cassia Bark- The Indian Dalchini, tree bark is an elegant, aromatic spice. It is exactly similar to cinnamon sticks and adds an earthy & sweet taste to curries. It gives a curry a thick and spicy flavor.

We also like to add it to tea, especially when someone in the family is ill or suffering from a cold. Dalchini also has healing properties like turmeric.

You can purchase cinnamon sticks to make your favorite recipes, but adding cassia bark gives your dish beyond aromatic and classy taste.

Green cardamom

Green cardamom

9. Green Cardamom Pods- Elaichi is an aromatic spice. It is often used in Indian desserts to give a finger-licking taste.

People in India use green cardamom pods to tea to add its healing properties so that when someone consumes it the problems like cold, cough, dry throat can be eradicated.

You can even use the pods for sweet dishes or meals. Many people remove the cover of the whole pod and use the seeds. However, many like to chew it with the meal. You can even grind the seeds into a coarse powder and then use them in your dish.


10. Ground Cardamom- The Elaichi powder adds instant aroma to any dish. It is often used in breakfast recipes and desserts. This spice increases one's hunger with its delicious fragrance and allows one to eat more.

This powder is super handy to use. You only need to grab a pinch of elaichi powder and sprinkle it over the dish or after cooking consume the delicious delicacies.

Black pepper

Black pepper

11. Black Peppercorns- These beautiful round seeds are known as Kali Mirch in India. They grow on climbing vines. They are famous for their spicy and hotness. The harvester of black peppercorns ripen when they turn red. After that, the seeds are dried under the sun and exported to companies to be stored in grocery stores for shopping.

You should use black peppercorns whole or ground in a small amount as it adds intense aroma, depth, and heat flavor to your dish. Though, it is a must-have spice in your pantry.


12. Dried Fenugreek Leaves-This dried herb has a slightly bitter taste. They are called Kasoori Methi in Indian territories. It adds complex thickness to your curries.

The best way to use dried fenugreek leaves is when you turn off your gas stove, add the leaves to the dish & wait to smell the aroma on that. You can even use them as a garnish in curry.

Saffron

Saffron

13. Saffron-Famously known as Kesar, is a must-have spice for Indian desserts. Saffron is found in reddish-orange color and harvested in Kashmir. They are crimson stigma from the saffron crocus, grown in the Kashmir Valley.

The saffron farmers handpick the spice as they are extremely delicate, and it takes hundreds of thousands of stigma to make only a pound of saffron. Thus, it is the most expensive spice in the world.

1-2 strands of saffron adds an intense aroma, a floral flavor, and a breathtakingly golden color to desserts, curries, and biryanis.


14. Nutmeg -Jaiphal is a seed of mace. It is an aromatic spice that adds warm notes & taste to sweet dishes. It releases its sweetness to any dish. They are mostly used on sweets with green cardamom and saffron, such as Besan Ladoo, Puran Poli, and Modak.

If you want to try your hands on making any sweets, you must add nutmeg for crunchy & nutty bites.

Cloves

Cloves

15. Cloves are also known as Laung. Cloves are aromatic flower buds that are harvested from the evergreen clove tree. They seem so beautiful when you hold, it is like a nose pin Indian women carry in their noses. Apart from their appearance, they are sweet yet pungent and offer you the best fragrance when you fry on oil while making Indian cuisines.

They are often found with black pepper and cinnamon for a perfect aromatic spice blend in an Indian kitchen.

Fenugreek seeds

Fenugreek seeds

16. Fenugreek Seeds are best known as methi dana in Bharat (India). These are small mustard-yellow seeds, famous for its healing properties, especially for treating dry skin and scalp.

Apart from skin benefits, it offers a bittersweet taste to your dishes.

Usually the seeds are dry-roasted or fried in ghee or oil to reduce its bitterness and add a soothing fragrance to food.

Fenugreek seeds have an undertone of maple syrup which works fantastic with coriander, red chili powder, and cumin. You can use a small number of fenugreek seeds to temper fish curries and lentils and enjoy your meal with family.

Black cumin

Black cumin

17. Black Cumin Seeds are like small pins. They are also called Shah Jeera. Its anise-like flavor is milder than regular cumin seeds. They make any dish flavorsome, rich and tasty.

Many get confused as they think black cumin seeds are nigella seeds. Their taste is earthy and smoky.

18. Indian Bay Leaves are a must when making sweet dishes, especially kheer (sweet rice with milk and dry fruits). They are Indian bay leaves that come into existence on the southern slopes of the Himalayas.

Indian bay leaves are an integral ingredient of Indian cuisines. The color of the bay leaves is similar to olive and different from European laurel bay leaves. They have a milder aroma, similar to cinnamon bark.

19. Fennel Seeds are sweet and anise-like flavored. You can fry them in hot oil for tempering your dish and also can eat after-dinner digestion.

While writing this article, I fell in love with spices and their varied forms. Here is my list of spices for even more complex flavors:

Cilantro

Cilantro

20. Cilantro (Coriander leaves)- They are green and lively, known as cilantro in the US and as coriander in India. The leaves of the cilantro are indispensable. The coriander leaves are used to garnish any dish whether it is Indian, Italian, American or else.

It adds rich and fresh flavor to dals.

Black cardamom

Black cardamom

21. Black Cardamom or Kali Elaichi are full of eucalyptus scent as green ones. It is one of the most essential spices in India.They are used on palao (fried rice)

If we differentiate it with green cardamom. The key difference is that they are dried over a fire. Therefore, they are black and smoky in flavor.

It is one of the most rich spices in India and famous for its unique and earthy taste.

Star anise

Star anise

22. Star Anise are similar to fennel in flavor. People in India call it Chakra Phul. But fennels are sharper and less floral. Star anise is basically used to make a delicious blend of Garam Masala, having sourness, hotness and earthiness in one spoon.

It is a delicious flavored frying spice used to make tamarind chutney. You can enjoy the chutney with chapatis, samosas, and other Indian street foods.

Mace/Javitri

Mace/Javitri

23. Mace is a leaf-like spice that wraps the nutmeg seed. This spice is famous as Javitri and has a musky, savory flavor than nutmeg. They are quite similar to nutmeg and can easily get confused by their flavors. You can use them to temper your oil to add aroma.

However, a leaf of mace is enough to give your dish a strong flavor.

Where to Buy Indian Spices and Condiments?

I often look for the best place to buy spices to add delicately delicious flavors to my dishes. That is why I often buy most of my Indian spices from local Indian grocery stores and online stores.

Recently, I have bought some spices from some of the most renowned online vendors. If you also want to add some aromatic flavor to your kitchen and dishes, visit Catch store.

I hope you find the information worthy!

So, write down your experiences with Indian spices and experiments in your kitchen.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Archana Das

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