A convenient downloadable A-Z list of 29 Indian spices with images, purpose of use and their Indian names that are commonly used for cooking Indian food.
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How Many Spices Are Used In Indian Cooking?
The different Indian spices used to make Indian food may be overwhelming and confusing for those new to cooking Indian food at home.
An average Indian dish will include anything from 2 – 15 types of spices depending on the complexity of the recipe.
Thankfully you do not need to have all the cooking spices to make an Indian dish.
There are a list of 29 most common spices for Indian food.
If you wish to start with basic Indian spices for curry cooking then these 5 essential Indian spices is all you need.
For those looking to expand their spice collection, this list of best Indian spices will serve as a helpful reference guide.
The spice list describes each Indian spices name in Hindi and the purpose of using them in food.
You can read more about how to cook with the spices, benefits, spice substitutes of each spice by clicking on the orange texts.
If you wish to get hands on practice on using spices for cooking and go above and beyond following recipes then join me in one of my interactive online Indian cooking class.
Simply download the list of Indian spices by clicking on the button below and a printable pdf will be sent directly to your inbox.
Although the types of spices used for cooking Indian food are many there are some standard spices in Indian curry that is commonly used across the sub continent for making different types of traditional Indian dishes. Below are the most common spices used for Indian food.
Top 29 Most Popular Indian Spices
|A strong and aromatic gum resin, asafoetida or hing is used during the cooking process or tempered in oil as the first step before adding other ingredients. It is a flavouring agent.|
|A leaf spice or herb, it is mildly aromatic used in curries, rice and spice blends. The Indian bay leaf is different to the bay leaves found in other countries.|
|Smoky, woody and aromatic, this spice is less popular outside the subcontinent but a regular feature in all Indian kitchens. Whole black cardamom pods are tempered in oil to make curries, lentils and rice dishes.|
|Sharp and pungent, black peppercorn are perhaps the most used spice in the world. It is used to enhance the taste and flavour in many dishes especially in south Indian preparation and to make spice blends.|
|A miracle spice with many underlying heath benefits. It is a added to dough, dry and gravy based dishes to enhance flavour and taste. Especially used for fried savoury dishes and in breads.|
|Zesty, tangy Indian spice seasoning mainly used for street style food and snacks. It is a taste enhancer sprinkled on top of finished dishes.|
|Cinnamon also known as cassia is perhaps the world's most celebrated spice with a sweet woody aroma. It can be used both as whole sticks in warm oil or in liquid or as a powdered spice in many dishes to add taste.|
|Enhances flavours and taste of dishes it is added to. Temper in warm oil or add to boiling liquid. Popular ingredient used in numerous Indian spice blends and many dishes.|
|Whole seeds used as base ingredient for different type of tadkas (tempering) and spice blends. Enhances taste and flavour in the dishes it is added to.|
|An essential Indian spice used whole seeds tempered in oil for cooking curries, rice, lentils and many other dishes. It is used in base sauce and spice blends.|
|Not to be confused with a curry dish, Curry leaves are aromatic herb used for tadkas (tempering) to enhance flavour. It is fresh, cirtusy and an indispensable herb in Western and South Indian cuisine.|
|Another Indian herb known for it taste and flavour enhancing properties. Crushed and added to finished dishes such as sauce based dishes and dry dishes, it is popularly used in Punjabi or North Indian cuisine.|
|Similar in appearance to cumin seeds but of a completely different flavour profile, fennel seeds is fresh, aromatic and liquorice in taste. You can add them whole, eat them raw or grind into powder in dishes and spice blends.|
|Aromatic, nutty with a slight sweet bitter taste. It can be used to make curries, stir-fries, casseroles, and also as a pickling spice. You need to be careful when cooking with them as they can turn bitter if burned in oil.|
|The mother of all Indian spices, this is a traditional spice blend that is a must have in every Indian kitchen made with a combination of aromatic spices. It can be used both during and at the end of cooking to enhance flavour.|
|Green cardamoms adds freshness to any dish it is added to. With citrusy undertone you can use them whole tempered in warm oil or boiling liquid or use the powdered version in dishes to enhance flavour in curries, pulaos, biryanis, desserts and drinks.|
|Ground coriander has a different use than whole coriander. It is used directly in dishes during the cooking process to add taste. Used in most Indian dishes in the base sauce and also in many spice blends.|
|Another powdered spice that tastes different to the whole seeds. Added during the cooking process to dishes for making gravies or in stir fries. Also used as one of the main base spice for blends.|
|A typical Bengali spice blend made with 5 whole spices, it is used to temper in warm oil to release nutty aromatic flavours. It enhances the flavour and taste in curries and stir fires.|
|Made with special Kashmiri chillies, milder in heat it adds a vibrant red colour to the dishes as opposed to just heat. Unique to Indian cuisine it sure is a must try chilli powder.|
|The flower that encases a whole nutmeg, mace is an aromatic spice used as a taste and flavouring agent. Used for making special regional dishes such as biriyani, dum alu and kormas, a little goes a long way.|
|A must have spice in the Southern and Western Indian cuisine, this is a nutty pungent spice used to temper in oil as the first step. You can also use mustard seeds paste in many dishes for heightened pungency and sharpness.|
|Base ingredient for tadka (tempering), black seeds as it is popularly known has many health benefits apart from adding nutty aroma to the dish. It can be used in making snacks, breads and savoury dishes.|
|Intense flavouring agent for speciality dishes. Whole nutmeg can be grated and added to dishes . You can also use ground nutmeg while cooking or also at the end. Commonly used in North Indian spice blends.|
|Small nutty, poppy seeds are used mainly in paste form in Indian dishes to add thickness and taste to the base sauce. You can also add them whole in breads and snacks for crunchiness.|
|Saffron strands add exotic floral aroma to dishes and lends a bright orange colour to the dish. Used in very special dishes especially in kormas. rice, desserts and drinks this is considered a special occasion spice.|
|Aromatic and flavourful, star anise is primarily used whole in special dishes such as pulaos, and heavy gravy based dishes. It is also used to make spice blends.|
|A popular fruit spice with a sour sweet taste. Tamarind pulp is added in dishes such as chutneys or other sauces to give it a tang. Very popular ingredients for making sweet pickles, chutneys and in South Indian cuisine.|
|Perhaps one of the world's most popular spice, turmeric is known as a colour enhancer with exceptional health benefits. It can be used in any dish including drinks and spice blends. It is mildy flavoured with versatile uses.|
Other Useful Spice List
Apart from this list of Indian spices or as they say in Hindi ‘Masala List’ there are other lists or spice charts that you may find useful to keep your spice drawer organised.
Here is a one glance shelf life of spices chart that recommends how long to keep spices for.
In case you have old spices refer to these tips to revive stale spices and how to store them properly.
For combining spices with other foods to make new meals, you can refer to the best spice combinations chart.