Spices! Ah the smells and aromas of traditional Indian seasonings and spices rack that conjure up emotions of happiness of enjoying a well cooked curry.
Spices form the backbone of every Indian kitchen! Right from the more traditional Indian food spices like cumin and turmeric to the unusual (yet widely used) ajwain or carom seeds, we have collated a complete list of the top 20 most popular Indian seasonings and spices list with pictures that you can use to cook a storm in your kitchen, all the way from the easy daal tadka to the more complicated baigan bharta or aubergine mash.
Asafoetida or Heeng – This strong, pungent spice is derived from the resin of a tree. Only a pinchful is plenty to start a curry.
Cumin Seeds or Jeera – These delicious nutritious seeds are used as a starting point of any Indian vegetable. Ground, roasted cumin is also be added to Indian street food.
Coriander Powder or Dhaniya – This roasted powder is added in spoonful to pretty much every Indian curry for that quintessential aromatic Indian flavour.
Turmeric or Haldi – This bright yellow powder derived by drying the turmeric root is a powerful anti-inflammatory and antibiotic and is added to food for its colour and healing properties. They are also used as preservatives in pickles.
Chilli or Mirch – Even though used widely across Indian food, chilli was brought to India by the Portugese in 1640. Used for flavour and heat. Check out our Japanese Shichimi Togarashi that is a Japanese Spice blend using Japanese chilli powder
Carom Seeds or Ajwain – These nutty flavoured seeds are a brilliant digestive and used to flavour parathas or naan breads.
Fennel Seeds or Sauf – These sweet and aromatic seeds are again a great digestive. They are used extensively in chutney and pickle recipes. Check out our 14 allergen free Dukkah that used crushed fennel seeds that use fennel seeds.
Bay Leaf or Tej Patta – This strong flavoured leaf is used as a starting point for curries and rice dishes like pulav. Once they render their flavour, they are picked out from the dish.
Curry Leaves or Curry Patta – These nutritious leaves are often used fresh in most dishes in the southern regions of India. From sambhar (spicy lentil soup), to potato filling for dosa.
Cardamom or elaichi – Cardamom are a very versatil spice that is used all the way from savoury dishes like pulav, to sweet dishes like kheer and drinks like masala chai.
Black Cardamom or Badi Elaichi – This spice has a very strong taste that is used in pulav, biryani and chana masala. It is also roasted and ground to make garam masala.
Cloves or Laung – This spice has many healing properties and used for toothaches and coughs. It is also used to flavour rice dishes and in garam masala
Black Peppercorn or Kali Mirch – Peppercorns are the original Indian spice for making food “hot” before chilli made it’s way to India. It can be used whole in pulav and biryani or ground for garam masala
Mustard Seeds or Rai Dana – Used for tempering daal, sambhar and all vegetables in the central and southern regions of India
Fenugreek Seeds or Methi Dana – This nutritious seed has a strong bitter flavour and is used sparingly in dosa batter and also some pickle recipes.
Fenugreek Leaves or Sukhi Methi – Leaves of the fenugreek plant are dried and used as a herb for finishing off curries like paneer butter masala or bombay aloo.
Mace or Jaimitri – Mace is used for flavouring rice dishes like pulav and biryani. It is also sometimes roasted and used in garam masala preperation
Saffron or Kesar – These delicate strands of the saffron flower are used to render a beautiful golden colour and mild sweet flavour to milk based desserts like kheer (rice pudding), rasmalai and sweet almond milk
Nutmeg or Jaiphal – This warming spice is only used sparingly in curries or biryani and in small proportions in the garam masala mix
Nigella Seeds or Kalunji – This extremely nutritious and superfood onion seed or black seed is used in pickles.