|September 26, 2022

DETAILING INDIAN SPICES

Indian spices or masalas add flavor and aroma to food and have various health benefits. All flavors are integral to Indian cuisine, whether sweet, salty, hot, or smoky. These spices help the body in different ways. Some spices act like a digestive aid, and others are great for different organ systems. There are many health benefits of including spices in your daily diet. All these spices are available in grocery stores along with spice blends. It is also easy to make them at home using unground whole spices. It will make a world of difference in the flavor of your cooking.

India is a hotbed of spices. As there are different geographies and climates in various parts of India, various spices grow here. There is a variety of spices in Indian cuisines. If we count the main ones, at least 40 spices are found in an average Indian store. Many of these are found in specific regions and are grown in this region e.g. Garcinia and stone flowers. Based on the age-old culinary traditions of the country, we can list down the vital spices that are crucial to Indian cooking. These are essential spices used in all Indian food.

When you combine the traditional and the advanced recipes, Indian spices play a vital role. There are many ways in which Indian food spices can produce gorgeous cooking. If you start exploring Indian food spices, it is possible to expand your cooking repertoire greatly. All you need to know is what is to be used and when. Any average Indian cookbook consists of a variety of spices.

BELOW WE LIST THE TOP INDIAN SPICES LIST THAT ARE AN INTEGRAL PART OF INDIAN COOKING-

indian spices

1.TURMERIC(HINDI: HALDI)

One of the basics of Indian food, turmeric is a ground spice. It has an earthy and supporting flavor. This is one of the top spices when it comes to health benefits. The spice has a great yellow color. A teaspoon of turmeric is enough to color and flavor a dish for a single serving. If turmeric is vital for health purposes, include black pepper in the recipe as well. Turmeric has other benefits too. It is an excellent anti-inflammatory. When turmeric is mixed with piperine from black pepper, its effects multiply.

2. GREEN CARDAMOM (HINDI: CHHOTI ILAYACHI)

One of the most flavorful spices, green cardamom is almost irreplaceable in Indian cooking. It is one of the more expensive spices and tastes like eucalyptus due to the compound called cineole present in them. It's a great ingredient in desserts also due to its great aroma. Two to six whole pods of cardamom can help to add immense flavor to a serving of a family.

3. CUMIN (HINDI: JIRA)

Cumin seeds or Jira is one of the staple Indian food spices with a brilliant flavor profile like caraway. It is a must-have for Indian cooking, especially curries. Cumin seeds give the best flavor when used as a whole spice. They get mixed into curries after frying in oil or at the beginning. Cumin seeds can burn at higher heat. Do not heat them for more than 15 seconds. Ground cumin powder is vital in India as an essential ingredient. It is one of the key ingredients when preparing the garam masala mix.

4. CORIANDER (HINDI: DHANIYA)

Coriander seeds are also known as the seeds of cilantro. They are also an essential spice that is a part of Indian cooking. The seeds have an aroma like citrus mixed with a woody or leafy note. It is vital in many dishes in the North and South of India. It is a whole spice but it can also be used in ground form. As they are ground into a fine powder, they can be added to a sauce or can be used to prepare the stuffing for some vegetables.

5. FENNEL (HINDI: SAUNF)

Fennel has a flavor resemblance to black liquorice. It is a whole spice useful in tempering. It is a key ingredient in the flavoring of curries. It is used in dry and powdered forms as well. Indian restaurants also use candied fennel seed. Fennel seeds are a part of after-dinner serving for guests at restaurants as a mint.

6. FENUGREEK (HINDI: METHI)

One of the spices that are not on the subtle side, Fenugreek seeds are bitter, but they have many health benefits. The leaves are aromatic spices and less bitter than is used for a few curries. The seeds have a delicious aroma and a strong flavor. It is an essential part of all curry preparations. A few tablespoons of methi seeds are enough for a family-size dish. It is usually added at the end of the cooking process. Fenugreek seeds have various health benefits. They also help in digestion.

7. ASAFOETIDA (HINDI: HING)

Asafoetida is a favourite of many. The spice is an Indian spice with powerful aromatic properties. Add to the frying pan after the oil is hot. It must sizzle for a few seconds. You can add all the other ingredients post this. Do not use much of Hing as it can give a strong bitter flavor. It is enough to use a half teaspoon in a regular serving. You must store Hing in a sealed and air-tight container to preserve the aroma of this expensive spice.

8. BLACK CARDAMOM (HINDI: KALI ELAICHI)

Black cardamom or Kali elaichi seeds have a similar scent as green cardamom but are a bit stronger. The main property of black cardamom is that they need to be heated well under fire.The process makes them smokey and blackened in flavor. There is a unique fragrance and aroma of smoky black cardamom. There is no other substitute for this spice. There are many dishes in which black cardamom is a must. One or two pods of black cardamom are enough for any dish. They are essential in a flavorful dish like Biriyani.

9. GINGER (HINDI: ADARAK)

Ginger is one of the key ingredients in any Indian cooking. It is a must for most curries. Usually, these are available in paste form with spice garlic. 

Ginger garlic paste is a part of the food of India. It can also be used as a dried spice. Some of the recipes call for a mix of ginger/garlic paste. You can also cut a small length of raw ginger and mince or grate it to cook with your garlic.

10. GARLIC (HINDI: LAHASUN)

Garlic is not a uniquely Indian spice but an essential part of Indian cooking. Use a few garlic cloves in a four-person recipe. It will give a strong garlic flavor. If you want a milder flavor, then you can also add it in beginning to give it more cooking time. Garlic is an integral part of Indian Ayurveda and has many medicinal properties for treating ailments like cough and cold. Garlic is a miracle ingredient that is used to cure lung diseases as well.

11. MANGO POWDER (HINDI: AMCHOOR)

This powder has its raw material in raw mangoes. Dried mango powder has a sour profile. It is a favorite spice for many as when added to a dish, it imparts a sour flavor. The seasoning is extremely sour, and it is full of acids. A little bit of amchoor powder goes a long way. You can use just a few teaspoons of raw mango powder in a family-size preparation and see the difference.

12. Bay Leaves (HINDI: TEJ PATTA)

Indian cooking consists of a few whole spices. The main type of spice is Tej Patta. It is used in the same way as European bay. It is cooked for the entire dish and is removed before the dish is served. It gives an aromatic flavor and it is reminiscent of clove and cinnamon. Tej Patta or bay leaves are added with cumin seeds, mustard seeds, cardamom pods, and other types of frying spices at the beginning and are slightly brown.

13. MUSTARD SEEDS (HINDI: RAI)

Mustard seeds are brown, black, or yellow and are an important component of Indian cooking. They impart a sharp and nutty note to different curries. Like the other whole spices, they are favoured for cooking at the beginning in the oil.

14. CINNAMON/CASSIA BARK (HINDI: DALCHINI)

Also known as Cinnamon Cassia bark or Dalchini is an important ingredient in Indian grocery stores. It is a part of many types of curries and rice preparations. Cinnamon and cassia bark can be whole fried at the beginning of the cooking in any Indian dish.

15. INDIAN RED CHILI (HINDI: LAL MIRCH)

Indian red chili is an essential ground spice. It has a heat similar to cayenne pepper. It can be milder or hotter depending on the origin of the chillies. The profile also changes as per the condition in which they are grown. The flavor of this spice is floral with a brighter red color. Red chilli is an ingredient to be added slowly at the end. You can use it in moderation or increase the quantity to adjust your dish’s heat.

16. CAROM (HINDI: AJWAIN)

Carom has a solid flavor and is a part of various Indian dishes. A carom fruit has a lot of thymol. It gives them a flavor like thyme. Carom seeds are stronger in their flavor profile. Carom is used in bread preparations mostly but when they are used in curries, they are used in moderation. They are first fried which imparts a smoky flavor. This balances well with cumin seeds and mustard seeds or cardamom.

17. STAR ANISE (HINDI: CHAKRA PHUL)

Anise star tastes much like fennel. It is a bit sharper and a part of Garam Masala. It is one of the most delicious frying spices. It is also a seasoning of tamarind chutney in restaurants. They are also a part of the side of the dipping sauce and other street foods.

18. NUTMEG (HINDI: JAIPHAL)

Whole or grated nutmeg is one of the common ingredients, particularly in the cuisine of south India. While using this spice, you can shave it with a knife. The spice can leave its traces in the curry or you can smash it into chunks. You can use it in the seasoning or the tempering stage. In South Indian cuisine and many other Indian dishes, nutmeg must be toasted or ground with coconut, poppy seeds, and sesame or mustard seeds. They can be a part of a mix with other spices to make spice mixes for Kerala curries.

19. MACE (HINDI: JAVITRI)

No Indian spices list can be completed without mace. Mace is a webbing or a leaf-like spice that wraps up the nutmeg seed. Mace is more savoury and has a musky flavor. Mace is much like nutmeg. Mace is fried whole, and one blade is enough for a strong flavor.

20. CLOVES (HINDI: LAVANG)

Cloves are one of the most popular spices in India. Cloves have a strong taste profile. If you add too many cloves, you can overpower the other subtle flavors. For a family meal, you should use four to ten whole cloves. It has a hot flavor. They are a very vital ingredient in Biryani and other rice dishes. They can also be a part of dishes like chicken and types of aromatic Indian curries.

21. BLACK PEPPER (HINDI: KALI MIRCH)

Black pepper is one of the most exported Indian spices. It has a flavor that is very well known. The sharpness of black pepper is unique. You can taste the heat of pepper before another ingredient. It adds a strong high flavor note. No spice can duplicate the flavor profile of black and white pepper.

22. CURRY LEAVES (HINDI: KADHI PATTA)

Curry leaves are a very significant part of Indian spice that is essential in tempering, It is an enigmatic Indian spice with a distinct aroma. Curry leaves are best when used fresh. They are a part of the first stage of cooking as they give a pungent and citrus aroma.

23. GARAM MASALA

Garam Masala is one of the most famous seasoning in all types of Indian preparations. Garam masala is a combination of different dried spices including cinnamon, pepper, cardamom, nutmeg, coriander, tej patta, cumin, pepper, fennel, and a few other spices. It is vital in all types of dishes like all masala gravies. Add a few teaspoons of this mix to the tempering and the hot sauce.

HOW TO USE SPICES IN INDIAN FOOD

indian spices

If you want to bring out the flavor and aroma of the Indian spices, it is vital to use them in the right way. Precautions are necessary to ensure the best taste. There are some steps to follow to cook a brilliant Indian curry. Another vital requirement is to ensure that you use whole and ground spices at the right time and for the preparations:

  • Whole Spices - These are the spices in their original shape like a whole stick of cinnamon. They are added to the hot oil first to save their essential oils and aromas. Once their aroma gets released it can intermingle with other ingredients. The whole spices provide subtle flavors and overall, they add a rounded flavor to the dish. Cinnamon or bay leaves are usually added to hot ghee for their aroma.
  • Ground Spices - Ground spices become delicate to handle. They come at a later stage in cooking. This prevents them from burning or altering their taste. After cooking the tempering, you can add ground spices before the next stage. After this add the liquids and sauces. They should be at low heat by reducing the temperature of the pan. The process helps the curry to receive the spices and remove their raw edge.

OTHER USES OF SPICES IN INDIAN FOODS

Indian spices

Spices are not just a part of the cooking process; they are also used in preparations. Some of these are pre-preparation for a dish; others can be added after the dish is finished.

  • Marinating - Marination is a crucial part of cooking meats and other such preparations. It usually involves the preparation of yoghurt or another acidic ingredient. This also includes some vital spices. This is a part of preparations like butter chicken, meat tikka, and other classic dishes that are associated with cooking in India. This also includes a perfect mix of ground spices turmeric, cardamom, garam masala, cumin, and coriander.
  • Spicing a Sauce - You can use spices to make a sauce with base ingredients like coconut milk, milk, cream, tomato sauce, or tomato paste. At this stage, more spices and other ingredients grace the curry. These include turmeric, red chilli powder, and paprika to balance these flavors that have been added so far.

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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

HOW DO I PREVENT MY SPICES FROM GETTING SPOILED?

You should always store your spices in an airtight container. Also, as a precaution, keep it in a cool, dry place to keep them preserved for at least 1 year. If you live in a region with a humid environment, add the precaution of storing the spices in the refrigerator. This will keep the flavors and aroma of the spices intact and keep it safe.

HOW LONG DO HOMEMADE SPICES LAST IN THE PANTRY?

Ground spices should be used within six months for the best quality. You can also make your masalas instead of buying from the store as they are fresh. If you want them to last longer, you can keep them without grinding until you are ready to use them. This will help the whole spices to keep their essential oils and they will taste fresh and more pungent. You can also store masalas in the refrigerator. This will keep the flavors and aroma of the spices intact.

HOW CAN I MAKE FOOD SPICIER?

Using certain types of spices like black peppercorns can increase the heat of your food. There are many spicier versions of peppercorns in Southern India. You can also add other spices like dry red chilis to make it spicier and hot. You can also regulate the quantity of these spices to increase or decrease the hotness

HOW MANY SPICES SHOULD I ADD TO FOOD?

People add spices during the regular cooking process, but they can also be added once the cooking is done. You can add the amount as per the recipe and as per your taste. The spice blend is much stronger in garam masala so you should always go by the “less is more” principle. You should avoid adding more spices to your dishes as the flavors may canabalise. Adding a little amount will work wonders and harmonise the flavor and fragrance of your meal.

WHAT KIND OF SPICES CAN BE ADDED TO MEAT PREPARATIONS?

If you are making a dish with poultry, lamb, beef, and pork, you should add aromatic spices. These spices curb the smell of the meat and help to bring out their flavor in the best way. These include cardamom, cloves, mace, cinnamon, and cloves.

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