10 Essential Indian Spices You Need in Your Kitchen

indian spices

Indian cuisine is renowned for its wide range of exotic spices which give unique flavour and aroma to the dishes. Spice enriched dishes are an integral part of Indian regional cuisines and transform a simple dish into something delectable and extra tasty. Indian spices are well known for their fascinating aroma, taste, colour and texture. Spices are used extensively in Indian cuisine – without them, Indian cooking is incomplete.

Here is a list of 10 essential Indian spices you need in your kitchen cupboard.

Coriander

Coriander is a herb used to flavour most of the savoury dishes. Both leaves and stalk are edible, it is best to add to the dish just before serving to enhance the flavour.

Coriander seeds are technically dried berries found on fresh coriander that have a highly fragrant, nutty, mild citrus aroma. These seeds are an essential spice used in most of the Indian masala such as garam masala, curry powder, sambar masala, and tandoori spice mix.

Coriander is one of the most popular Indian herbs and spices widely used in almost all regional cuisine. Fresh coriander can be found in most supermarkets and any Asian grocery stores. Coriander seeds are available as whole and ground.

At Sanskruti, we use fresh coriander in a chutney on our chutney tray, and coriander seeds in our onion bhajis.

Cumin

A very popular spice that has an earthy, warm flavour and strong aroma. This is the key ingredient used in tempering or ‘Tadka’ and in the famous Bombay spice blend.

Sanskruti use cumin seeds in our Tarka Dal and cucumber mint Raita.

Ground cumin is a common spice used in most of the spice blends. It is also used to flavour traditional dishes such as raita, masala lassi, and jaljeera.

Cumin is available as whole seeds or as ground.

Mustard

Small round seeds from mustard plants that are predominantly used in south Indian regional cuisines. The whole mustard seeds are used in tadka to add a depth of flavour to the wide range of dishes.

Mustard is one of the typical south Indian spices used in dishes such as lemon rice, coconut rice, sambar, dal, rasam, chutneys, and upma which are incomplete without mustard.

We use mustard seeds in our Dhokla, Sambhar, Coconut chutney and Kela nu Shaak.

Black Pepper

The dried berries of a tropical climbing shrub that is native to South India. Black pepper is one of the most traded spices in the world and it is considered “king of spices”.  It adds a subtle heat to the dish. Available as whole, crushed and ground.

Black pepper not only imparts heat to the dish but also infuses intense flavour and aroma. It is an essential spice used in spicy Indian food and spice blends from regional cuisines such as chettinad masala, and madras paste.

In our restaurant we use black pepper in our Tandoori mushrooms and Uttapam.

Cardamom

There are two varieties of cardamom, small green and large black.

Small green cardamom is a versatile spice that is widely used to flavour food and drinks. These pods are highly fragrant and have a strong, distinct taste with notes of menthol flavour. This spice is considered the third most expensive spice in the world.

Black cardamom has an extremely unique taste profile, smoky mint almost camphor-like flavour. Unlike green cardamom, black cardamom is not usually used in sweet dishes, as the complex smoky flavour doesn’t complement desserts. These pods are used to flavour biryani and in spice blends such as garam masala and tandoori masala.

Green cardamom is available as whole pods or as ground but black cardamom is available as whole pods.

Cassia Bark

An aromatic bark from the cinnamon family that is often known as ‘cinnamon bark’.  This is thicker, darker, slightly coarser wood and has a rougher texture than true cinnamon and is cheaper than true cinnamon. Unlike cinnamon it is not rolled like quills, it really does look like bark.

Our Pilau rice and Masala chai contains cassia bark.

Whole cassia is one of the most essential spices used in spice blends and a wide range of curries and rice dishes. Ground cassia is mostly used in certain desserts. The taste between cassia and cinnamon is slightly different with cinnamon having a delicate sweet flavour and a less intense flavour. Cassia can be described as having a strong aroma, with warm spicy flavours that actually complements Indian savoury dishes and spice blends.

Cassia is available as unrolled bark and as ground.

Cloves

The unopened flower buds of a clove tree, with an overpowering peppermint flavour. Whole cloves are generally used to flavour rice and curry dishes. It is also used in most of the spice blends.

Here at Sanskruti we use cloves in Ringan Tameta and Vaghareli Khichdi.

Nutmeg and mace

These two Indian spices are obtained from the fruit of the nutmeg tree. Nutmeg is a pit of the fruit and mace is the outer covering of the pit.

Mace has a more pungent and spicier taste but nutmeg has a more delicate sweet and warm flavour than mace. Due to the pungent and strong flavour, mace is generally not used widely in everyday cooking but in biryani and a few spice blends. It is always wise to remove this spice from the dish before serving as it tends to be unpleasant to bite into.

Nutmeg is generally used in certain sweet dishes to impart its delicate sweet flavour and in some spice blends. Nutmeg as whole lasts forever but ground nutmeg loses its aroma and flavour over a certain period of time. Hence it is better to buy whole nutmeg and grate it whenever required than to buy a ground nutmeg.

These spices feature in our Rasmalai and Pista kulfi.

Turmeric

A traditional medicinal spice often referred as ‘golden spice’ due to its distinctive bright yellow colour, fresh turmeric has a striking appearance.  It is used in most of the curry, rice and spice blends. It is popularly known for its antioxidant content, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and medicinal properties. Benefits of turmeric are incredibly vast and it is believed to be the most powerful spice to combat many diseases.

You can enjoy this spice in our Turmeric Latte and Masala Dosa.

Fennel seeds

Dried fruits of the fennel herb that has a warm and sweet aniseed flavour used in both sweet and savoury dishes. These seeds resemble cumin seeds but are greener.

Fennel seeds are usually used as breath fresheners and are believed to aid digestion. They are used to flavour curry and in a few spice blends such as panch poran.

Fennel seeds are used in Sanskruti’s Tamarind chutney and Mango chutney.

We can’t wait to see you at Sanskruti so you can try our delicious dishes featuring these wonderful Indian herbs and spices! Book a table today by clicking the Reservations button in the website menu.