Guide to Indian Spices


Spices and seasonings are in fact the soul of every Indian dish, so a guide to Indian spices can help you learn more about the heart of Indian dishes. Indians have a long and rich history when it comes to spicing their delicacies. From simple dishes to special dishes, almost every meal will consist of multiple spices. Contrary to popular misconceptions, spices are used to give dishes flavor and not necessarily make them hot. Every Indian spice gives a really nice special flavor, and more than one spice can be used to give a dish a unique blend of mouth-watering flavors.

Spices are more than just flavors as they can be used as medicines to preserve food, cure illnesses, and help in digestion. Spices, when used in meals, can ensure emotional, physical, and spiritual balance in individuals who take such meals. Sadly, many people shy away from using these spices because of their vast number. However, this shouldn’t be the case as these spices are simple and can really prove useful in your dishes.

In this article, we will be looking at some of the common Indian spices and seasonings that are used to give Indian dishes their unique and delicious flavors. After reading this article, you will become familiar with these spices and see how they can greatly improve the quality of your meals.

  • Dhaniya Powder or Coriander Powder

This special spice is prepared from the dried seeds of the Cilantro plant. This fresh spice or masala can be used in preparing saabzis or dals. It is more than just a spice that adds flavor to your meals. It also has medicinal value. This spice can be used to aid digestion, and it’s cooling property can also be useful.

  • Haldi or Turmeric Powder

This powder is popularly referred to as the ‘miracle spice’ because of its great medicinal value. Turmeric is definitely one of the best natural antiseptics that you can find anywhere. However, this powder is not just great because of its medicinal value. It can be used when preparing meals due to the peppery flavor it offers as well as its unique deep golden color. Many times, turmeric is mistaken for ‘curry powder.’ Your food won’t taste the same without a decent amount of turmeric powder added.

  • Garam Masala or Whole Spice Mix

The word ‘Garam’ when translated means ‘heat.’ This is rightly so because this special spice has a warming property which helps heat the body up. The Garam masala differs slightly in different regions. However, they all ensure the same warming property on the body. This amazing spice is often used in red meat dishes, pulaos/biryanis, as well as Chole/Chana masala. This is one spice you just have to try out.

  • Hari Elaichi or Green Cardamom

If there is a word that would best describe the sweet spice, it would definitely be ‘magical.’ Yes, this floral spice has a light fragrance that makes dishes taste magical. It can be used for different types of dishes such as desserts, makhani’s, chai, there, paneer dishes and many more. However, this awesome spice isn’t just all about its sweet magical fragrance, as it has some medicinal properties. It can be used to cure lightheadedness, nausea, and even indigestion. Talk about the best of both worlds!

  • Lai Mirchi or Red Chili Powder

The red chili powder is another ‘spice or kick’ that you can surely find in any Indian home. This spice gives your meal that spicy hot sensation. The red chili powder is made by grinding red chili pepper to spice different types of meals. This spice is responsible for the spicy reputation Indian meals are known for. The red chili powder can be used to marinate meats, to sprinkle on raitas, or to even flavor your rajma.

  • Jeera Powder or Cumin Powder

Made from ground cumin seeds, this smoky spice or masala can be found in most Indian homes and can be used in basically all dishes such as lassis and meats. Apart from giving your food that spicy flavor, the cumin powder can be used medicinally. It is really helpful for nursing mothers and is an advised spice for people who have an iron deficiency as it is very high in iron. It definitely isn’t all about the flavor.

  • Sabut Jeera or Cumin Seeds

An important part of every Indian cooking is Tadka or tempering. You can temper your dals or temper your saabzi’s lightly. Additionally, you can even temper your buttermilk drinks by applying head on cumin seeds in cooking oil and allowing the seed to sputter, ensuring the release of the desired flavor. Although this spice or masala is mostly used when making savory dishes, it can also be used as the main spice or masala.

  • Asofetida

This masala or spice is one of the most popular spices used in vegetarian dishes. This fragrance of this spice can be overwhelming especially for those who are not familiar with it. This strong, pungent scent of the Asofetida often lingers in the kitchen for a while even when you’re done with your cooking. This spice is predominantly used in vegetarian dishes in the Southern parts of India. It is important, however, that you keep the container of this spice tightly sealed when you’re not using it as the smell of the spice can permeate the whole kitchen if you leave the container open.

  • Saffron

This masala or spice has a sharp, musky and floral flavor and is commonly used in Indian Saffron rice. The flavor also has honey undertones that add to its appeal. This spice is really valuable as it can be very expensive. This masala is harvested by hand, and it gives dishes a beautiful yellow color when used.

  • Mustard Seed Powder

The mustard seed powder has a very unique color and has a strong flavor when used in Indian dishes. This unique masala can be used to flavor mayonnaise, dressings, rubs, as well as sauces. Additionally, the mustard seed powder can be used to add flavor to processed meats and sausages. This spice is truly worth adding to your meals.

  • Ground Star Anise

The ground star anise does have a strong flavor that is even more pungent than the anise seed. This spice is used mostly in cure powders and can also be used as an important ingredient when preparing ‘Garam’ Masala.

  • Basil

This Indian herb is one of the most important herbs in India used as spices for Indian meals. Often referred to as the ‘Queen of the Herbs,’ this special spice can be grown basically anywhere and everywhere. Many Indian families choose to grow their basil by their doorpost so as to maintain the pure energy of their household. It has a distinctive sweet and spicy flavor which makes it an ideal masala for Indian dishes.


Indian spices are just amazing, and they can add the much-needed flavor to your dishes. Explore the various spices mentioned in this article and give your dishes a blend of different appealing flavors. You can also use more than one of these spices to your meal to create unique flavors and aromas. These spices aren’t just about the flavors they offer. Many of them also have medicinal properties that you can explore. Add flavor to your meal with healthy spices.

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