|May 19, 2023


If you have ever had Indian food, one thing will surely strike you: the spices. However, people often need to realize that these spices are not just to make dishes spicy and hot. We also use these spices to infuse many different flavors in each dish. You can call masalas the "soul of Indian cuisine"!

Indian cuisine is famous for its various spices and herbs. Every main dish from India is complete only when it has spices in it. Indian homes may or may not have vegetables, but they will have a masala box to store their spices. That's how essential masalas are to Indian cuisine.

Every place in India reflects its culture through language, tradition, and food changes. Even the same language has several different ways of being spoken in a single state. The diversity is so vast. So, food being different from one region to another is no exception. Almost every Indian state has a predominant spice they use the most. 

Each place has its variety and range of spices. However, each sauce and food are an inseparable part of Indian cuisine. If Kashmiri households use the Kashmiri red chili, a South Indian house is incomplete without its tadka of curry leaves.

Indian cuisine has a distinct color, aroma, and flavor. Almost everyone knows about the legendary Chicken Tikka Masala curry from India. Spicy red curries are famous across the world. 

You can experience the boldness of flavors while trying out the different Indian curries. One will start noticing how certain curries have similarities in terms of taste. They are intense and typical. 

How many types of masalas are there in Indian cuisine? 


Using the right masala can make or break your dish. While we can buy most of these masalas in stores and online, some can also be made at home. 

Some of the most popular and used Indian masalas are:

  • Garam Masala: This iconic brown masala powder resides in almost every Indian household. It is usually roasted and has an intense taste. The ingredients for garam masala are roasted until brown and then ground into a light powder.
  • Chaat Masala: As the name suggests, it is a masala like Indian chaats – tangy and spicy. Chaat masala has a sharp flavor from dried unripe mango called Amchur. Chaat masala ingredients also are usually ground into a powder. Additionally, we add black salt to this mix.
  • Sambar Masala: This is available in shops, and you can also make it at home. It's most prevalent in South India. You roast the ingredients and pound them into a fine powder for sambar masala.
  • Tandoori Masala: This is a masala that's dominant in flavors. Indian homes make it using the most common spices in the Indian kitchen. 
  • Gunpowder: This is another very famous masala powder from south India. Many people eat their idlis using just this masala.

Most common dishes using Indian masalas

Indian cuisine

Most savory dishes in Indian cuisine have masala. However, each food item can be divided based on its core ingredients. 

Here are some famous vegetarian and non-vegetarian specialties you can enjoy using Indian masalas:

  • Chole: This chickpea dish also has a masala dedicated to it at stores. It is called the chana/chole masala. The gravy of this dish is packed with delicious flavors and spices. It's an absolute delight to have it with flatbread or some fried Indian bread.
  • Chaats: Be it samosa chaat or papdi chaat, every chaat has varying amounts of chaat masala, salt, red chili powder, and pepper added to it. These spices play a huge role in their essence. These elements are necessary for a chaat to be called chaat.
  • Paneer Tikka: This is a typical Indian vegetarian starter dish. Indian restaurants make it by marinating. Indian recipes make Paneer Tikka like kebabs. Indian recipes make this delicacy using several spices used to make tandoori masala.
  • Samosa: This conical spicy delight is a loved snack by all Indians. Although you can fry its outer surface in many ways, the filling makes all the difference. The mashed potato filling has many spices, from amchur powder to garam masala.
  • Butter Chicken Masala: Every Indian (and foreigners, too!) knows this dish. Even the ones who don't eat non-vegetarian food know about butter chicken. It's that delicious and popular. Butter chicken is also called Murgh Makhani. It is magically creamy and spicy. The dish is divine when eaten with some flatbread, such as naan.
  • Chicken Tikka Masala: Another chicken curry that needs no introduction. The marinated and grilled preparation before adding to the gravy brings out the chicken's authentic flavor. The marinade and the sauce are full of spices and herbs. These spices enrich its flavors.
  • Chettinad-style chicken curry: This spicy South Indian version of chicken curry is an explosion of spices. The garlic and ginger paste pack in even more flavor. The chicken's tenderness and intense flavor make this dish an irresistible combination. 
  • Chicken Biryani: Be it Mughal or Hyderabadi style, biryani is nothing without spices! The flavor of any plain rice is bland and ordinary. Therefore, any rice preparation is best with spices. And when it is any form of meat biryani, the herbs should focus more on the meat. And remember – biryani masala is a must. 
  • Kadhai Chicken: This recipe has plenty of flavors in a single dish. It is extra tangy and can be sweet-n-spicy in a single bite. Kadhai Chicken also gets a little taste from tamarind, jaggery, and lemon.


What are Masalas, and when are they used in Indian cooking?

Indian spices are crucial to authentic Indian cuisine. Masala means spice in Hindi. Masala also refers to a blend of spices that can be dry spices or a combination of dry and fresh ingredients (i.e., masala sauce or masala paste) used to flavor a dish.

What are the various ways of using spices in Indian cooking?

The three ways of using spices in Indian food are:

  1. Dry roast and grind
  2. Fry in oil and then pound
  3. Use them whole. 

Fried and dry-roasted spices can be ground into wet or dry masalas (i.e., spice mixtures) and used as per the requirements of the dish.

What is the importance of masala in Indian cuisine?

Indian recipes use masala to flavor both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. Masala is a crucial ingredient in most Indian curries. Masala is considered very important in cooking as it adds depth and richness of flavor to Indian dishes. Indian masalas are used to create both spicy and mild dishes, depending on the ingredients used.

What are the different masalas used in regional cuisine?

Different regional masalas used in Indian cooking are:

  1. Biryani Masala
  2. Chhole Masala
  3. Coastal Fish Masala
  4. Garam Masala
  5. Kala (Goda) Masala
  6. Meat Masala
  7. Pao-Bhaji Masala
  8. Rajma Masala.

How many spices are used in Indian food?

There are more than 40 Indian spices used in Indian recipes. These spices include several centuries-old culinary traditions from all over the Indian subcontinent. Some are obscure and used only in certain regions, like stone flowers and garcinia. Roughly 24 essential herbs are used in almost all Indian recipes.

Which Indian masala is best for daily use?

Garam Masala is best for daily cooking. It originates in North India. The term "garam" means "hot" in Hindi. The garam masala blend typically includes coriander, cumin, black peppercorns, fennel seeds, cloves, cinnamon, and cardamom.

What are the benefits of masala?

  • 9 Powerful Health Benefits of Indian Masalas
  • Helps With Digestion
  • Provides Strong Antioxidants
  • Regulates Blood Pressure & Improves Heart Health
  • Reduces Inflammation
  • Lowers Cancer Risk
  • Fights Oral Bacteria
  • Enhances Nutrient Absorption
  • Defends Against Diabetes.

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