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Indian Spices – The Backbone of Indian Cooking

Indian Spices is known for its flavorful and complex taste, fragrant aroma and vibrant colors. These complexities in the Indian cuisine is achieved through divergent spices found in Indian subcontinent.

Indian Spices

A mix of spices and herbs together is called “Masala” in Hindi/Urdu and these spices are ubiquitous in every Indian Kitchen. Indian Chefs take pride in blending these spices and herbs together to make their own spices.

Some also have their Grandma’s recipes passed down through generations. Sometimes, people get intimidated by the vast spices used in Indian cooking and without proper knowledge of the spices, it does get confusing also. Here is the list of Indian spices which are regularly used in cooking.


List of Top 14 Indian Spices Commonly Used With Their Indian Names


  1. Hing

    It plays a critical flavoring role in Indian vegetarian cuisine by acting as a savory enhancer. Not more than a pinch is required as it has a very strong smell.

  2. Cumin

    Cumin seed is used as a spice for its distinctive flavor and aroma. Popularly called as “Zeera it also has its sister spice “Shahzeera”. Both of the seeds produce a pleasant essence. Shahzeera is used in making “Pulaos” Rice dishes, as it has a very distinctive aroma and flavor.

  3. Chili powder

    An imperative spice, not only is added for taste but also adds an amazing color and flavor to culinary dishes. Known as “Lal mirch” it adds pungency to a dish. It is used according to the taste of individual. This is used as one of the most essential hot Indian spices.

  4. Coriander

    Coriander seeds, also known as “Dhania” is commonly found both as whole dried seeds and in ground form. Roasting or heating the seeds in a dry pan enhances the flavor and aroma. They are small circular seeds with ridged texture. Powdered corriander is the base spice for any curry.

  5. Turmeric

    Also known as “Haldi” although used subtly, not only enhances the tastes and color but its oil content called curcumin is known for its medical benefits. It is used mostly in savory dishes in the form of powder to impart a golden yellow color.

  6. Mustard seeds

    The seeds are usually roasted until they start splattering. These seeds are an important spice in many regional foods. Mustard seeds are commonly called “Rai” in India.

  7. Fenugreek

    Widely known as “Methi Beenj”, the seeds and leaves are common ingredients in dishes from the Indian subcontinent. Fresh fenugreek leaves are an ingredient in some curries.

  8. Fennel

    It is a highly aromatic and flavorful herb used in cooking. Commonly known as “Saunf”, it is used in powdered form and also in coarsely grounded form.

  9. Cardamom (Black/ Green)

    Black cardamom has a distinctly more smoky, though not bitter aroma. Green cardamom is one of the most expensive spices but very little amount is needed for the flavor. Green cardamom is used in making desserts and also iced drinks. Commonly known as “Elaichi”.

  10. Cloves

    Cloves are used in the cuisine in lending flavor to meats and curries. The common name for cloves in India is “Laung”. Due to its medicinal properties it also helps in healing sore throats, cough, cold and headaches.

  11. Black pepper

    Ground, dried and cooked peppercorns are used for enhancing flavors. Commonly known as “Kali Mirch” in india.

  12. Garam Masala

    is a blend of ground spices like Caraway seeds, Nutmeg, Black Cardamom, Green Cardamom, Cloves, Mace, Black pepper and is used alone or with other seasonings.

  13. Nutmeg

    Also known as “Jaiphal” in India is an expensive spice used to augment the aroma of Lucky Masale spice mixes.

  14. Mace

    Mace is popularly known as “Javitri” and comes from the family of Nutmeg.


Where to Find the Indian Spices?

It is easy to find these Indian spices online or at your local Indian grocery stores. Also due to the numerous medicinal properties you can find these Indian spices at health food store too. Lucky Masale uses some of the finest quality of these Indian spices that gives an unforgettable aroma and taste.


How to use Indian Spices in cooking

Indian spices plays a vital role in bringing the best flavors and aroma in Indian cooking. These spices though look complex but they are crucial in imparting the best taste to any dish. Indian spices can be used in different forms while cooking. Some spices are used in its whole form. These are like cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, cloves and cumin etc. Usually when spices are used whole they are the first ones to go in the oil. This helps in releasing their flavors and aroma. The other way of using Indian spices are by grinding them. Sometimes the spices are dry roasted and grounded and then added in the dish. This trick also enhances the taste. The other way of using the Indian spices while cooking is in their powdered form. Powdered spices are the base for almost all of the Indian curries.

How to store Spices?

The best way to store and preserve the freshness of Indian spices is to keep them in the air tight jars. These jars should be stored in a cold dry place away from direct sunlight. Make sure never to put your spice rack just above gas stove, as this would heat them up and they’ll lose their flavors and would turn bland. Always remember that fresh spices are the key for savory dishes.

Do Spices Expire?

The most common question comes to our minds while cooking is “do these spices expire?” Well the answer is – they do not expire like any dairy product would do OR any fresh produce would. But the spices can lose their aroma and color over a period of time. The freshness can be lost if they are sitting for a very long time. Here is the rough estimate for how long the spices can stay good. Whole Spices can stay good in the airtight jar for 3-4 years. Ground spices will be fresh for 2-4 years. Ground or whole dried herbs can stay usable for 1-3 years

Conclusion

Since India is a vast and diverse country, it boasts of diverse cuisines also. Different Indian spices come from different parts of India and the concoction of these spices make Indian cuisine as one of the best in the world. Though Indian spices look complex for a dilettante, but it’s no rocket science. Once you start showing interest in it and start experimenting with them, you are surely going to fall in love with them.