Guide To Indian Spices

I Use a variety of spices and spice blends when creating my recipes, and they help give the flavor impact for all the recipes. I would advise that you visit your local international market or Indian grocery store where these spices are usually readily available.

They may seem intimidating at first, but once you start playing around with them, you will see how they enhance the flavors of your foods.


Most cooks are eager to expand their knowledge through personal experience, observation, and books and share their knowledge with others.

Before you resolve to explore new recipes, you must be inspired by at least a few of the following elements: a sense of adventure, history, health, pleasure, or convenience. The following is some information about a few of these Indian spices.


Curry powder: Generally referred to as masalas, regional spice blends are composed of ingredients grown locally. Resourceful cooks combine spice seeds, herbs, twigs, leaves in endless combinations.


CURRY LEAF: Known as meetha neem or kadhi patta, the powerfully fragrant small leaf. These look like miniature lemon leaves. Fresh curry leaves are sold at most Indian grocery stores. They keep well in an airtight container, refrigerated, for up to 2 weeks.


Cumin-CUMIN SEED: Known as jeera, The seeds are yellow-brown in color and slightly ridged and curved, like caraway. The seed—either whole, coarsely crushed, or ground—is almost always exposed to heat before use to bring out its rich, exceedingly agreeable flavor. Dry-roasted until they darken a few shades and coarsely crushed, cumin seeds are used as a flavor garnish on steamed vegetables, raitas, dals, and rice. 


Turmeric -Known as Haldi -Like the ginger root, it is dug up and can be used either fresh or dried.


anardana: The sun-dried kernels of wild pomegranate fruit, the dried seeds are an essential souring agent. Used either whole or ground lends piquancy to vegetables, karhis, and dals and is especially popular in Northwestern cuisines.


AMCHOR: A tan-colored powder made from sun-dried, tart, unripe mango slices. In several regional cuisines, primarily in the North, amchor is used, like pomegranate seeds, tamarind, or lemon juice, to bring pungency to a dish. 


Red Chile Powder -CAYENNE PEPPER: this red powder is made from sun-dried red chili peppers. The chilies are very hot, with few seeds and thin skins, and are often roasted lightly before being ground into a powder.


CARDAMOM -Large Black Pods: Large oval-shaped black pods about 1 inch (2.5 cm) long from a plant in the ginger family. The pods are rarely if ever, used in sweets. The whole pods are slightly crushed and added to rice pilafs to release a warm, aromatic flavor with eucalyptus overtones. 


CARDAMOM, Green Pods: The tiny brownish-black seeds are encased in oval pods, which turn a sandy to creamy-white color when sun-dried and a soft green when air-dried. Green pods are much preferred in a sweet dish, and it is an essential ingredient in Indian sweets.


BLACK SALT or KALA NAMAK: It is not black but reddish-gray due to the presence of small quantities of trace minerals and iron. Like pure sodium chloride, black salt is available either in lump form or ground and is best stored, well-sealed, in a cool, dry place. It is not used interchangeably with sea salt or table salt because it has a distinct flavor like hard-boiled egg yolks. It is a significant ingredient in the spice blend called chat masala, a popular blend usually sprinkled on snack foods, from cut fruits to fried nuts.


BAY LEAVES also called SWEET BAY -These aromatic leaves, fresh or dried, are robust and used sparingly in vegetarian cooking. 

Basmati rice: A long-grain scented rice that has been cultivated in the Himalayan foothills for thousands of years. The rice grains are milk-white, pointed at the ends, and four or five times as long as wide. Literally translated as the "queen of fragrance," many cooks consider well-aged basmati rice the world's finest.

Asafetida: Known as hing, asafetida is a dried gum resin, virtually odorless in its solid form. When the stems of the giant perennials are cut, a milk-like sap flows out, which is sun-dried into a solid mass. 



CINNAMON: Known as dalchini, the dried bark of the tree Cinnamomum cassia.


CHILIES, Dried Red: Sun-dried pods of various capsicum plants vary from red to blackish-brown in color and are 1–3 inches (2–8 cm) long. Numerous varieties are available, ranging from hot to volcanic. Much of the intense heat is concentrated in the seeds, and, once removed, the chilies are slightly tamed. Whole dried chilies are sometimes soaked before being used in a recipe. As a rule, crushed chilies are very hot. Whole and crushed chilies are often fried in oil with other spices and added to cooked dishes as a distinctive chaunk seasoning. Dried whole and crushed chilies are found in most supermarkets.


CHICKPEA FLOUR: Known as besan or gram flour and often sold under these names in Indian grocery stores. It is a finely milled, almost pale yellow flour made from roasted chana dal and is used extensively in batters for vegetable fritters (pakoras) and savories. The chickpea flour sold in health food stores has often not been roasted before milling and, therefore, has a raw taste, and a light pan-roasting will improve its flavor.

Chaat Masala (read more about this spice mix from this post!)


CORIANDER SEED: Known as dhania, the spherical dried spice seed. Used extensively in one of three ways (whole, ground, or coarsely crushed), the flavor complements many foods and never masks the presence of other ingredients. Before grinding or crushing, they must be slowly dry-roasted until brittle; otherwise, you get more roughage than powder after grinding. Ground and whole seeds are sold in plastic bags at Indian grocery stores.


Fennel seed: Known as saunf, this is the spice seed. The plants are large, something like dill, and are cultivated mainly for their seeds.

Fennel seeds are used to flavor numerous vegetables, dals, syrup pastries, and beverages. Perhaps its most important use is as an after-dinner digestive, offered much as we do thin dinner mints.


Dried Fenugreek Leaves-FENUGREEK LEAF: Known as methi sak, these are the edible green leaves. The greens possess a marked bitter taste but are much loved when combined with potatoes or spinach and used in wheat-based flatbreads, both minced and mixed into the dough or as an herbed stuffing. Sun-dried fenugreek leaves, called kasoori methi, are sold at Indian grocery stores and can be used, in a pinch, for flavoring cooked dishes.

Fenugreek seed: Known as methi, a small legume widely used as a spice seed. Brownish-yellow and rectangular, the seed is used both whole and ground. To develop its best flavor, it must be dry-roasted or fried, but only until lightly roasted. It should not be allowed to turn to reddish-brown shades because, at this point, the taste becomes intensely bitter. Whole, the seeds are used in dals and pickles and play an essential part in many spice blends. Both whole and ground fenugreek is available in Indian grocery stores.


GARAM MASALA: An aromatic blend of several dry-roasted and ground "warm" spices. Most households have a few favorite recipes, some only using three ingredients, others using twelve or more. Unless otherwise specified, garam masala is added toward the end of cooking, a concluding garnish of flavor like paprika or seasoned pepper. If you buy it ready-made in an Indian grocery store, purchase the type sold in vacuum-packed tins and, once opened, use it for no more than 4–5 months; when stale, it loses its impact.


TAMARIND: Known as imli, the pulp obtained from the hanging pods of the tamarind tree native to India.

SUNFLOWER OIL: The golden oil pressed from the seeds of the sunflower plant)is not only light and delicate but also an excellent choice for the health-conscious. It contains one of the lowest percentages of saturated fatty acids (about five percent) of any oil. It is a versatile oil, excellent for both cooking and salads.


DAL: In India, any type of dried bean, pea, or lentil is called dal. Like rice, it is sold according to color, uniformity, flavor, and processing. A high percentage of the dal eaten in India is split and husked—urad, moong, chana, or toovar—because it is quick to cook, easy to digest, and provides a valuable source of protein in the diet.


Unrefined cane and date sugar—jaggery and gur—have been used in India since Vedic times. American maple sugar granules and Columbian Panella are good choices when a recipe calls for "raw" or unrefined sugar.


Nuts and Seeds: whole almonds; blanched almonds; sliced and slivered almonds; almond meal; chopped almonds whole cashews; cashew halves; cashew bits or pieces; chopped cashews; pistachios; macadamia nuts; walnut halves, pieces and chopped; pecan halves, pieces and chopped; (pine nuts); peanuts nut and seed melon seeds; pumpkin seeds; sunflower seeds; sesame seeds; white poppy seeds

Oils: sunflower; sesame and toasted sesame; peanut; coconut; mustard; palm; poppy seed; canola oil, olive oils avocado; almond; walnut; grape seed


Grains and Cereals: STAPLES: The dry goods in this entry can be worked into any number of recipes in this book. To substantiate nutrition in a high-fiber, high-carbohydrate diet, add plenty of seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables.

 long-grain rice brown rice, cream of rice; puffed rice; rice flour, oat flakes; oat flour, corn flour; yellow cornmeal; white corn grits; whole hulled millet groats; puffed millet; millet flour, Quinoa (pronounced keen wah): whole seeds and flour potato flour; banana flour; tapioca granules and flour; arrowroot starch, tapioca flour, and other gluten-free flours

Sesame seed: Known as til, this is the flat, pear-shaped seed of the sesame plant. The seeds range in color from off-white to grayish-black, and, amazingly enough, light-colored seeds contain over fifty percent oil. They are also a good source of incomplete proteins, and when combined with rice, milk, or dal, the protein volume is strengthened—one reason the seeds are prevalent in so many regional cuisines. Gentle roasting brings out a nutty flavor in the almost tasteless seeds—a good idea before most usage.

SERRANO CHILI: About 1½ inches (4 cm) long—at first bright green but ripening to bright red—they are thin and narrow, even at the base. Though available at many supermarkets, they are smaller and hotter than jalepeño chilies and more time-consuming to seed. If you use them unseeded, cut down on the quantity considerably. If you use the smaller Indian serrano-type chilies, reduce the amount even more.

SALT and SEASONED SALTS: Common table salt (Sambar namak), sodium chloride, is the most important of many salts in seawater, though several other mineral combinations do exist. It is obtained in three principal ways: vacuum pan production, rock salt mining, and solar evaporation. Rock salt or halite is known as sendha namak and is most often mined in its crystalline state, much like coal is, from underground dry sea beds. Indian black salt or Kala namak is actually reddish-gray when it is mined but turns gray-brown when ground. The various minerals present in the salt faintly resemble the smell of hard-boiled eggs with noticeable calcium chloride.


Saffron: Known as kesar, the hand-picked stigmas, called threads, are collected from the flowers of the saffron crocus. Saffron is expensive no matter where you buy it because good quality saffron, adequately sealed, dated, and labeled to prevent adulteration, is packaged in small amounts—usually two grams or less.


GINGER ROOT-Fresh: Mature ginger root, available in nearly all supermarkets, should be purchased firm to the touch, with smooth, unwrinkled skin. Must peel its skin before use, then it is either minced, julienned, sliced, shredded, or puréed, as required. Many recipes in the book call for pureed, finely shredded, or chopped fresh ginger root. Once prepared for cooking, it can be kept refrigerated for several days:

  • Mix up to 1 cup (240 ml) of puréed ginger with a small spoon of oil.
  • Store it in a tightly sealed container.
  • Refrigerate.

Excellent in a fresh ginger chutney or as a relish, cut into paper-thin julienne strips and sprinkled with herb salt and lime juice, or used in cooking. 


Some techniques for spices __


Shallow-frying: To cook and brown foods that are one-quarter to one-half covered in hot oil. 


To Dry Roast, this technique refers to slowly browning whole spice seeds, split dals, nuts, and some types of flour. It is best done on a heavy cast-iron griddle that has been pre-warmed over low heat. The ingredients are stir-fried without adding any oil or liquid until lightly browned, releasing flavorful volatile oils and aromatic fragrances. 

Latest Comments

  • Neha's Vegan Kitchen on Aloo Paratha – Gluten free: “yes, hope it helpsMar 25, 01:27
  • Rayo on Aloo Paratha – Gluten free: “It tapioca flour referring to tapioca starch ? I’m excited to try these!Nov 12, 21:25
  • Neha's Vegan Kitchen on Vegan Kadhi: “Hello there! I include lemon when the vegan curd isn’t tangy enough—adding it to the blender when mixing works best.…Nov 9, 01:43