An essential Guide to Indian Spices

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Growing up in an Indian family, I have been taught to cook and use spices as the backbone for many dishes. Spices are also used traditionally as medicines and also they bring amazing flavors in simple foods.

These spices not only add wonderful flavor to the recipes but also provide health benefits such as anti-inflammatory properties etc. 

Using spices in Indian Cuisine

The spices have always been something we’ve depended on when cooking at home or even using traditional remedies with Ayurvedic medicine.

One common misconception with Indian cuisine is not knowing which spices go best together when cooking a recipe! But there’s no need for this concern!  As all spices have their own distinct flavor profiles and you could experiment endlessly to suit your tastes buds.

Indians have a long-standing tradition of using spices and herbs to flavor their food, so it should come as no surprise that they possess an elaborate system for preparing them. 

Essential spices list for your Indian Kitchen

Below I have listed out the spices that are most essential in any Indian Kitchen. These are the spices that are always needed at your hands reach when preparing any Indian recipe. Or you could say the Most wanted Indian spices for your Indian Cuisine.

These round-shaped peppers contain little heat but a less spicy aroma and give our curries and biryani delicious flavors. They grow into vines as berries, plucked out when they’re still green or red, and then turn black after drying them up.

The black peppercorn is used whole in dishes like curry or ground for powder form which can be found across many types of ethnic recipes such as biriyanis etc.

One way to treat a cold is by drinking black pepper tea or water. Black pepper has the natural ability to soothe and clear up congestion in your body, and in some cases, it can help you breathe easier when suffering from allergies (although, we suggest you consult your local doctor for professional advice before using this as a home remedy).

The aromatic and flavorful coriander seeds are often used in Indian dishes. They can be found as a seed or grounded form, but most commonly they’re ground for use with food to add an earthy aroma that’s irresistible. Coriander seeds are used in various blends to produce intense flavors.

Coriander is one of the oldest spices known to man. The seeds are citrusy and aromatic, making them a staple spice in Indian cuisine that is even more popular today than ever before.

In Indian cooking, a lot of dishes start with the addition of cumin seeds. They add an intense and nutty flavor to food that is often hard to achieve otherwise.

To create these heady aromas in our kitchen, we first fry them for just a few seconds before adding any other spices or ingredients.

Cumin seeds are also used in grounded form while preparing the dish to give it a delicious earthy flavor. The coriander-cumin flavors taste even better when dry roasted before grinding them into powder.

When you need a little spice and aroma in your dish, cloves are the way to go. Adding three to four pieces of this aromatic herb will give just enough heat without overpowering any other flavors in the dish.

Cloves are not only used in cooking, but also as a natural remedy. The flower buds of cloves are often found on the clove tree and can be ground up to make various spice mixes like garam masala or biryani masala.

Turmeric is a spice that has been around for centuries and continues to be popular in many cultures. Adding turmeric gives your food an orange-yellow tint. The flavor of turmeric is subtle, and it has an earthy character with a slight bitterness and spiciness.

Turmeric, the yellow spice in most Indian dishes and curries is linked to many health benefits including an improvement of brain function, enhancing the liver’s detoxifying, and relieving pain caused by arthritis (although, we suggest you consult your local doctor for professional advice before using this as a home remedy).

Red chili powder is an easy way to get that spicy kick in your Indian dishes. It’s made by grinding dried red chilies, which are a staple of many cuisines.

In India, there are many dishes with spice levels as diverse and varied as their regional cuisines; while some offer more mild flavors such as chicken tikka masala or biryani masala(rice dish), others will have you reaching for your water glass after just one bite.

Nearly every Indian dish has a dash of spicy red chili powder. The color and heat that it provides to dishes can’t be matched by any other spice, which is why so many different cultures use this as their secret weapon for making great food.

Coriander powder is always found in one of the containers of masala Dabba, a container used for daily Indian cooking.

Coriander spice has a unique flavor that can be used for many different dishes and it’s one of India’s favorite flavors. It has been known to help reduce gas buildup, which makes it great for anyone with stomach issues who needs some relief.

The coriander seeds are ground to make this aromatic, tangy spice which can be sprinkled on dishes or added during cooking.

What is a Spice Box or Masala Dabba?

Masala Dabba is a spice box that contains all essential spices that are necessary for the Indian kitchen. This keeps the spices organized, and can be used for cooking more often to make dishes that you love. A traditional Indian “masala” box contains 7 smaller round pots inside its outer container and comes equipped with a lid and spoon – all constructed from galvanized tin (or some other form of metal). 

For centuries, Indian cooks have been using a Masala Dabba to store their spices. The spice containers are typically cylindrical in shape and made from metal with lids that can be sealed shut. These boxes were traditionally used to store ground herbs and spices that would quickly lose flavor when exposed to air.

Masala Dabba’s are customizable and a great way to mix up your cooking routine. You can include whatever you like in the spice containers and try different spices on smaller samples of a dish for quick taste testing.

Modern Top Selling Masala Boxes on Amazon

Storing your Indian Spices

Even the simplest of Indian dishes need a diversity of spices, and storing them is always challenging! 

The number one concern for every cook is how to make sure the recipe doesn’t lose its rite flavor? And properly stored spices when used give you amazing flavored recipes…

There are many ways to store spices in order for them not only to last longer but also retain their flavor.

Keep Spices Away From:

1. Light

Light can cause the color and flavor of spices to change, so it is best not to keep them in a brightly lit area. Store your jars of spices away from light sources like windows so that they are not exposed too long before you need to use them. 

Storing fresh herbs and spices properly will help maintain their nutrition, taste, and aromatic properties while also preventing them from spoiling too soon; this means keeping these items in labeled opaque containers instead of letting light reach them through transparent containers.

Even though spice jars may seem safe if kept inside their original packaging, UV rays eventually breakthrough so that any light outside will affect what’s been sealed within the container’s walls.

2. Heat

I hear that spices are best kept in a cabinet away from the stove. This way, they won’t get overheated and lose their flavor. It’s a good idea for them on their own shelf in another room, but if you must put some next to your stove then keep it away from any open flame and heat vents.

Leave the spice jar on top of the hot stove while cooking- heat can build up and make humidity levels rise inside the jars so that they start losing out on flavor!

3. Moisture

Did you know that the moisture in our humid environment can spoil your spices?

To keep them fresh, store all of those masalas which come in jars or bottles, not with their lids on but instead inside a sealed container. This way they’ll stay flavorful and aromatic for longer.

Quick Tip: When you are cooking, try not to use the lid of your spice jars as a spoon. The steam from the food will cause moisture and can ruin all flavors inside that jar when it is in contact with any spices or herbs.

4. Air

Spices do not stay fresh for long if they are exposed to air, so keep your spice container tightly closed. Choose whichever spice container suits you best and remember that keeping the lid on tight is the key.

Spice up your kitchen with some innovative containers! Instead of buying individual spice jars, use glass jars or small plastic containers that can be reused.

Different ways of using Indian spices in recipes

Some dishes are heavily spiced with curry powder as well as other aromatics while others don’t include any spice at all. Spices have been used since ancient times to produce savory flavors.

Indian food is known for its lively flavors, and spices are the secret to good health. The mix of different herbs adds flavor to mealtime staples such as rice or curry dishes.

Spices are used in many ways during cooking. Below we have summarized different ways spices can be used in your recipes.

1. Marination with spices

Marination is the process of soaking meat in spices, curds, and lime juice to give it an extra tangy flavor. The marinade can also be used as a basting liquid for grilling or roasting; this adds more flavor to the dish over time while cooking.

For a flavorful meal, marinate your meat or vegetables before cooking. They will absorb the flavors into them and be more tender when you’re done.

The more time you let it soak, the better! If planning to do this for an hour or overnight before cooking, choose whichever will give off stronger flavors.

How to Marinate with Spices (Video tutorial)

Example Recipe: Chicken Tandoori

  • Add all spices, add ginger garlic paste, mix it well.
  • Let the marinade stay for at least 3 hours for best results. Usually, meats can be kept marinated overnight as well for great tastes.
  • Cooking Tip 1: Placing cuts into the chicken or any other meat helps the spices to go deep inside it and brings flavors to it.
  • Cooking Tip 2: Adding curd and lemon juice with the spices while marinating the meat will help to tenderize the meat and also reduce the meaty odor from it.

2. Dry roast & grind

The flavors of our favorite Indian foods come alive when we roast these spices over low heat. The oils and aromas that are released create the perfect base for any dish.

Let the spices cool down and then blend them with your favorite ingredients to make a delicious spice mix.

This dry roast spice blend can be used directly in the recipe or also can be sprinkled onto food before cooking. Alternatively, it could go into your favorite marinade to add an incredible flavor that’s delicious and aromatic.

How to use spices to Dry Roast & Grind while cooking (Video tutorial)

Example Recipe: Achari Chicken

  • Add all required spices to a frying pan. Dry Roast it or 2 – 3 min.
  • Take the roasted spices add them to a grinder and grind them into powder. Use the blended spices in your recipe.
  • Cooking Tip 1: While roasting always keep the frying pan flame on low.
  • Cooking Tip 2: Continous grinding produces heat that can heat up and give the spices a burnt flavor, therefore, take short 10 second breaks in between grinding to avoid spices getting burnt.

3. Frying in Oil

When cooking, sometimes we fry the whole spices before adding anything else into the pan. This is done to ensure that they release their flavors and aromas. Adding whole cloves and cumin seeds gives any dish an added depth of flavor. They release their oils and flavors into cooking oil to create a more delicious dish for you.

Make sure to keep the heat on low otherwise you may end up with burnt spices that will ruin your dish. Add your spices to the oil while keeping an eye on it so you know when they’re done. 

How to fry the spices in Oil while cooking to use it for recipes (Video tutorial)

Example Recipe: Apricot Chicken

  • Add all required spices to a frying pan in Oil.
  • Let the spices fry in oil for 3 – 4 minutes.

4. Adding ground Spices

Adding spice powders to our recipes is a great way of enhancing the flavors and giving it an attractive appearance. Spicing up dishes with different blends such as cumin and turmeric can add flavor and color to your recipe.

When it comes to the final touches of a curry, using spice powder can help keep the colors vibrant. Sometimes if you add too early in preparation, the spice powders could burn out and lose their flavors and aroma. Knowing the right time of when to add spices during preparation is essential to a great-tasting recipe.

Adding ground spices in between cooking (Video tutorial)

Example Recipe: Apricot Chicken

  • Add required ground spices in between cooking when required.
  • Stir in well.
  • Cooking Tip: If the spices become very dry while cooking, add a little bit of water to avoid it getting burnt to the pan.

5. Frying and Blending of Spices

Aromatic spices are blended into a paste and added to dishes for an extra zing of flavor. We have many different types of dishes that use this technique, such as Chicken kolhapuri and Chicken lababdar.

In order to prepare the most flavorful spice paste, first, fry your spices in oil on low heat. Once they are slightly roasted, add onions or coconut, or cashews to bring extra flavors and texture to it.

You can make a paste by blending all of the ingredients together. If you want your final product to be thinner, add some water and then blend it. The blended paste will give your recipe a great texture, flavor, and smoothness. It can also help make a gravy form of any recipe you’re cooking.

How to fry & blend spices while cooking (Video tutorial)

Example Recipe: Chicken Lababdar

  • Add all required spices to a frying pan in Oil.
  • Let the spices fry in oil for 3 – 4 minutes.
  • Take out the spices and blend them in a blender to form a paste.
  • Use the paste in your recipes.

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