Indian Spices

Indian Spices
  • Indian Spices


Indian spices include a variety of spices grown across the Indian. Spices are used in different forms – whole, chopped, ground, roasted, sauteed, fried.

Indian spices include a variety of spices grown across the Indian. With different climates in different parts of the country, India produces a variety of spices, many of which are native to the Subcontinent, while others were imported from similar climates and have since been cultivated locally for centuries.

indian spices

Spices are used in different forms – whole, chopped, ground, roasted, sauteed, fried and as topping. They blend food to extract the nutrients and bind them in a palatable form. Some spices are added at the end as a flavoring and are typically heated in a pan with ghee or cooking oil before being added to a dish. Lighter spices are added last, and spices with strong flavor should be added first. Indian cuisine that contains several spices blended together.

Below is a list of spices and other flavouring substances commonly used in India :

1, Aniseed (പെരുംജീരകം, perumjeerakam)

Anise is sweet and very aromatic, distinguished by its characteristic flavor. The seeds, whole or ground, are used in a wide variety of regional and ethnic confectioneries. It is taken as a digestive after meals. The essential oil has reportedly been used as an insecticide against head lice and mites.

2, Asafoetida (കായം/പെരുംകായം, kayam/perumkayam )

This spice is used as a digestive aid, in food as a condiment, and in pickles. It typically works as a flavor enhancer and, used along with turmeric, is a standard component of Indian cuisine, particularly in lentil curries, such as dal, as well as in numerous vegetable dishes.

It is especially widely used in South Indian and Maharashtrian cuisine, which is mainly vegetarian, and is often used to harmonize sweet, sour, salty and spicy components in food. It is used to hallmark the taste of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu sambar, a saucy dish made with cereals and lentils.

3, Black pepper (കുരുമുളക്, kurumulaku )

Pepper is also the worlds most commonly used spice. It is cultivated primarily in Vietnam, India, Indonesia and Brazil. The fruit of the Piper Nigrum vine, pepper is the fruit processed in three varieties.

Black pepper is obtained from drying unripe berries with the skin on resulting in a powerfully pungent product.

White Pepper is the result of removing the pungent outer skin and then drying the berries. Unripe berries are processed retaining their colour to get Green Pepper and are piquant in flavour.

Piperine is the compound that gives pepper its characteristic heat.

Pepper, also known as Black Gold was traded in the ancient world and even used as currency to pay rent, dowry and trading goods. There is not a dish in the modern world that does not call for a pinch of this delicious spice.

4, Black salt (ഇന്തുപ്പ്, inthuppu )

Black Salt is considered a cooling spice in ayurvedic medicine and is used as a laxative and digestive aid. It is also believed to relieve intestinal gas and heartburn. It is used in Jammu to cure goiters. This salt is also used to treat hysteria, and for making toothpastes by combining it with other mineral and plant ingredients.

5, Mustard (കടുക്, kaduku)

Small but mighty, this seed of thunder is a key ingredient in most Indian dishes, the starter to the tempering in many a curry.  In tempering it imparts a mild nutty flavour but crushed to a paste it let out its pungency. References in ancient texts from the bible and the Buddha refer to its widespread use. Antioxidant and medicinal properties make it a sought after cure for stomach ailments and muscular pains.

6, Carom/thymol seed ( അയമോദകം, ayamodakam )

It has a bitter and pungent taste, with a flavor similar to anise and oregano. They smell almost exactly like thyme because it also contains thymol, but is more aromatic and less subtle in taste, as well as slightly bitter and pungent. Even a small amount of fruit pods tend to dominate the flavor of a dish.

The fruit pods are rarely eaten raw, they are commonly dry-roasted or fried in ghee, clarified butter. This allows the spice to develop a more subtle and complex aroma. In Indian cuisine it is often a mixture of spices fried in oil or butter, which is used to flavor lentil dishes. It is considered to be an anti flatulent, a spice which reduces the gaseous effects of beans and other legumes.

7, Cinnamon (കറുവപ്പട്ട, karuvapatta)

Cinnamon bark is widely used as a spice. It is principally employed in cookery as a condiment and flavouring material.

It is used in the preparation of chocolate. It is also used in many dessert recipes as well as spicy candies, coffee, tea, hot cocoa, and liqueurs.

Cinnamon is often used in savoury dishes of chicken and lamb. Cinnamon can also be used in pickling. Cinnamon powder has long been an important spice used in a variety of thick soups, drinks, and sweets.

8, Cloves (ഗ്രാമ്പു/കരയാമ്പു. grampu/karayampu )

Cloves are used in the cuisine, lending flavour to meats, curries, and marinades, as well as complement to fruit such as apples, pears, or rhubarb.

Cloves are used in Indian Ayurvedic medicine and dentistry where the essential oil is used as an anodyne (painkiller) for dental emergencies. Cloves are used as a carminative, to increase hydrochloric acid in the stomach and to improve peristalsis.

9, Coriander (മല്ലി, malli)

All parts of the plant are edible, but the fresh leaves and the dried seeds are the parts most traditionally used in cooking. Coriander, like many spices, contains phytochemicals which may delay or prevent the spoilage of food seasoned with this spice. Its citrusy aroma was cherished for its freshness.

10, Cumin seed ( ജീരകം, jeerakam )

It is commonly used in recipes all over the world. When roasted it even gives out a nutty flavour. Cuminaldehyde is the compound that gives cumin its warm aroma and distinctive flavour. The warm soothing effects of cumin are used in carminative mixtures. It is believed to be used in ancient times to keep chickens and lovers from wandering and in wedding ceremonies for conjugal bliss!

11, Curry tree or sweet neem leaf ( കറിവേപ്പില, kariveppila)

The leaves are highly valued as seasoning in southern Indian cooking, especially in curries, usually fried along with the chopped onion in the first stage of the preparation. They are also used to make thoran, vada, rasam and kadhi. In their fresh form, they have a short shelf life and do not keep well in the refrigerator. They are also available dried, though the aroma is largely inferior.

The leaves are also used as an herb in Ayurvedic medicine. They are believed to possess anti-diabetic properties.

In the absence of tulsi leaves, curry leaves are used for rituals and pujas.

12, Dried ginger (ചുക്ക്, chukku)

Dried ginger is used to spice tea and coffee, especially in winter. Ginger powder is also used in certain food preparations and ayurvedic medicines.

13, Fennel seed (ജീരകം/പെരുംജീരകം, jeerakam/perumjeerakam)

Dried fennel seed is an aromatic, anise-flavoured spice, brown or green in colour when fresh, slowly turning a dull grey as the seed ages. For cooking, green seeds are optimal.

Fennel seeds are sometimes confused with those of anise, which are similar in taste and appearance, though smaller. Fennel is also used as a flavouring in some natural toothpastes. The seeds are used in cookery and sweet desserts.

14, Fenugreek (ഉലുവ, uluva )

Fenugreek is used as an herb (dried or fresh leaves), spice (seeds), and vegetable (fresh leaves, sprouts, and microgreens). Sotolon is the chemical responsible for fenugreek’s distinctive sweet smell.

Cuboid-shaped, yellow- to amber-colored fenugreek seeds are frequently encountered in the cuisines of the Indian, used both whole and powdered in the preparation of pickles, vegetable dishes, daals, and spice mixes such as panch phoron and sambar powder. They are often roasted to reduce bitterness and enhance flavor.

15, Garam masala (ഗരം മസാല, garam masala)

The composition of garam masala differs regionally, with many recipes across India according to regional and personal taste and none is considered more authentic than others. The components of the mix are toasted, then ground together.

A typical Indian version of garam masala contains:

  • black and white peppercorns
  • cloves
  • Cinnamon or cassia bark
  • nutmeg and mace
  • black and green cardamom pods
  • Bay leaf

Some recipes call for spices to be blended with herbs, while others for the spices to be ground with water, vinegar, coconut milk, or other liquids, to make a paste. In some recipes nuts, onion, or garlic may be added. Some recipes also call for small quantities of star anise, asafoetida, stone flower or Dagadphool and Kababchini (Cubeb). The flavours may be carefully blended to achieve a balanced effect, or a single flavour may be emphasized. A masala may be toasted before use to release its flavours and aromas.

16, Cambodge (കുടംപുളി, kudampuli)

It is used in cooking, including in the preparation of curries. The fruit rind and extracts of Cambodgespecies are called for in many traditional recipes, and various species of Cambodge are used similarly in food preparation. In the Indian Ayurvedic medicine, “sour” flavors are said to activate digestion. The extract and rind is a curry condiment in India.

Combodge is used commercially in fish curing, especially in  South India.

17, Garlic (വെളുത്തുള്ളി, veluthulli)

Garlic is a fundamental component in many or most dishes of various regions. The flavor varies in intensity and aroma with the different cooking methods. It is often paired with onion, tomato, or ginger. The parchment-like skin is much like the skin of an onion, and is typically removed before using in raw or cooked form. An alternative is to cut the top off the bulb, coat the cloves by dribbling olive oil (or other oil-based seasoning) over them, and roast them in an oven.

Garlic may be applied to different kinds of bread to create a variety of classic dishes, such as garlic bread, garlic toast, bruschetta, crostini and canapé.

Oils can be flavored with garlic cloves. These infused oils are used to season all categories of vegetables, meats, breads and pasta.

18, Ginger (ഇഞ്ചി, inji)

Ginger has always meant many things to many people. A taste- maker. A flavorant. An appetizer. A drug. Ginger produces a hot, fragrant kitchen spice.

In Indian cuisine, ginger is a key ingredient, especially in thicker gravies, as well as in many other dishes, both vegetarian and meat-based. Ginger also has a role in traditional Ayurvedic medicine. Ginger is also an ingredient in traditional Indian drinks, both cold and hot, including spiced Masala chai.

19, Green cardamom (ഏലക്ക, elakka)

The green seed pods of the plant are dried and the seeds inside the pod are used in Indian and other Asian cuisines, either whole or in a ground form. It is the most widely cultivated species of cardamom.

Cardamom pods as used as spice. Ground cardamom is an ingredient in many Indian curries and is a primary contributor to the flavour of masala chai.

20, Chilli  (മുളക്, mulaku)

Chilly is an essential ingredient of Kerala curry. Curry is characterized by tempting colour and titillating pungency. Both are contributed by chilly.

In curry, chilly is used as a paste, powder, broken split or whole form. There are Kerala pickles, especially with tender mango in which chilly powder is added lavishly to form a thick paste with biting sensation at the end of curing.

21, Mace; Nutmeg ( ജാതിപത്രി, jathipathri ; ജാതിക്ക, jathikka)

In Indian cuisine, nutmeg as well as mace is used in many sweet as well as savoury dishes. It is also added in small quantities as a medicine for infants. It may also be used in small quantities in garam masala.

22, Mint (പുതിന, puthina)

The leaf, fresh or dried, is the culinary source of mint. Fresh mint is usually preferred over dried mint when storage of the mint is not a problem. The leaves have a warm, fresh, aromatic, sweet flavor with a cool aftertaste, and are used in teas, beverages, jellies, syrups, candies, and ice creams.

23, Poppy seed ( കസകസ, kasakasa )

In India poppy seeds are considered highly nutritious, mostly added in dough while baking bread, and recommended for pregnant women and new mothers.

24, Saffron (കുങ്കുമ പുവ്, kunkumappuvu)

Saffron is widely used in Indian cuisines. Confectioneries and liquors also often include saffron. Saffron has also been used as a fabric dye and in perfumery.

It is used for religious purposes in India, and is widely used in cooking in many cuisines, ranging from the biryani to various meat accompaniments.

Saffron also has a long history of use in traditional medicine.

25, Sesame seed (എള്ള്,ellu)

Sesame seed is a common ingredient in various cuisines. It is used whole in cooking for its rich nutty flavour. Sesame seeds are sometimes added to breads, including bagels and the tops of hamburger buns. Sesame seeds may be baked into crackers, often in the form of sticks.

26, Star anise (തക്കോലം, thakkolam)

It is used as a spice in preparation of biryani and masala chai all over the Indian subcontinent. It is widely used in Chinese cuisine, and in Indian cuisine where it is a major component of garam masala.

27, Tamarind (പുളി/വാളന്‍പുളി,puli/valanpuli)

The hard green pulp of a young fruit is considered by many to be too sour, but is often used as a component of savory dishes, as a pickling agent.  It is used to make rasam, amtee, sambhar, vatha kuzhambu, puliyogare and chutneys and pickles.

Tamarind is added to fish curry masalas, with ground coconut for flavoring. It is also used extensively as preservative and in pickles .

28, Turmeric (മഞ്ഞള്‍, manjal)

Turmeric is sometimes used as an agent to impart a rich, custard-like yellow color. It is used in canned beverages and baked products, dairy products, ice cream, yogurt, yellow cakes, orange juice, biscuits, popcorn color, cereals, sauces, gelatins, etc. It is a significant ingredient in most commercial curry powders.

For instance fresh parsley has been linked with cancer prevention due to its antioxidant content and spicy food is much more appealing than a vitamin pill. Besides herbs and spices don’t have any kilojoules or fact, so you can eat them to your heart’s content.

indian spices 1

You can buy fresh Spices and Curry powders from here






  1. chandra June 23, 2015
  2. raja sree October 10, 2015

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