Seven main spices of Indian cooking, and their uses

Rashi Bhattacharyya
·3-min read


Seven main spices of Indian cooking, and their uses
Seven main spices of Indian cooking, and their uses

01 Nov 2020: Seven main spices of Indian cooking, and their uses

Spices are the soul of an Indian kitchen.

From simple recipes to complicated dishes, the use of minimum one type of spice is almost guaranteed. Every spice has a unique flavor and when used together with other spices, the combinations are just fantastic, chef's kiss, to be honest.

Here are the seven essential ones that are found in the spice-box of every Indian household.

Coriander: Coriander or Dhania powder: Member of the parsley family

Coriander is a member of the parsley family, and its seeds are oval in shape, which turn from bright green to beige as they ripe.

These seeds are toasted and then grounded with other spices for many popular spice blends. Ground coriander is known for adding texture to dishes.

With a hint of citrus, this spice is widely used in sambar, and rasam dishes.

Turmeric: Turmeric or Haldi powder: Multi-purpose, most commonly used spice

Turmeric is the most common spice in Indian cooking.

Derived from the roots of Curcuma longa, a leafy plant native to India, turmeric has an earthy consistency, and it adds a warm aroma and taste to the food.

Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, it goes into drinks, curries, stir-fried vegetables and more. It is even used for beauty packs.

Cumin: Cumin or Jeera: Adds warm flavors and textures to dishes

An essential ingredient available in every Indian spice box, cumin adds warm flavors and textures to many dishes.

Dry roasting cumin seeds on a low flame brings out their real flavor. Lightly frying the seeds in oil also enhances the taste, as done while making daal.

Apart from used in regular curries, cumin seeds or powder also work well with yogurt dishes and lassi.

Mustard: Mustard seeds or Sarson or Rai: Yellow, black, or brown

Mustard seeds can be yellow, black, or brown in color and are used interchangeably.

The flavor of mustard seeds is released when they are crushed or allowed to burst when cooked in oil.

These pungent seeds add delicious taste to many dishes - from curries, chutneys, pickles to salads.

The oil extracted from mustard seeds is commonly used in the northern India.

Cardamom: Cardamon or Elaichi: One of the most expensive spices globally

Originating from India's Malabar Coast, cardamom is one of the most expensive spices in the world.

There are two types of this spice: The green one has a mild tone to it, and the black version is spicy and smoky.

While the green cardamom is used in savory and sweet dishes, especially masala tea, black cardamom is used in curries, daal and biryani.

Red Chilli: Red Chilli/Lal Mirchi powder: Reason behind reputation of Indian food

This fiery red powder made of ground red chillies is the reason behind the reputation Indian food has: Of being extremely spicy.

Being the hottest part of the chilli, this powder is exceptionally strong and thus, is used in small quantities.

From flavoring vegetable curries to sprinkling on raita, this powder is also used in its whole form in various south Indian cuisines.

Garam Masala: The mix of all the best spices, Garam Masala

Garam masala is the quintessential Indian Spice Blend.

It gives warmth and depth to dishes and pairs perfectly with red/green chilli. Interestingly, every region across India has its own version of this spice.

A mix that literally translates to 'warm spice mix,' garam masala can warm up our body and therefore, is used in many dishes including chana masala, meat items, pulao, etc.