April 11, 2019

28 Most Common Indian Spices List and Their Uses At a Glance

Post by Admin

The first word associated with Indian cooking is Spices!! Knowing and adding the right spices to food can be a bit daunting for those new to cooking with spices.

Most of us are familiar with common Indian spices like cumin powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder; but it gets a bit challenging when it comes to more complex spices listed in a recipe.

Few questions that pop to mind when reading about the spices listed for making a particular dish may be:

Where do I buy the spices from?
How do I use it for cooking and when do I add them?
What is the purpose of the spice so that I can reuse it again?
Maybe knowing the Indian name will help source the spice from an Indian store.

This handy list of the most frequently used top 28 Indian Spices may help in answering most of these questions.

Use this list of Indian spices with the picture of the spices as a quick reference guide that clarifies different spices and their use in cooking, ie, does it add flavour, colour or taste.

Inside the Indian Spice Cabinet

If you have had the opportunity to step into an Indian kitchen, you may feel like being transported to a tiny spice world seeing the display of spices in the cupboard.

Just the mere sight of them sends question signals, ‘do you actually use them all?’.

And the answer to that is a merry, jolly, spicy ‘YES’, and that too without requiring a spice list for a guide.

Spices are at the very heart of Indian cooking and in any Indian household. That’s what gives most dishes that delectable flavour and depth of taste.

The 28 Most Common Indian Spice List That Solve Your Spice Confusion

Over the years of teaching Indian cooking, the one common query I get asked most often is about buying and using spices. I present the attendees with this list of Indian spices which has proved to be helpful.

Spices come in many different forms. Each form has a different purpose of use and renders different taste to the dish.

The purpose of this post is not to confuse you further with the forms and use, you can read my Stepwise beginners guide to using spices for cooking Indian food to help you understand better.

For many, cooking with spices can be rather confusing and overwhelming. This either makes them buy a lot and not know what to do with them or not buy at all and play it safe.

To get over your spice dilemma, here is a spices list of top 28 commonly used spices in alphabetical order. Consider this as a bucket list to help you begin with your spice collection.

There are hundreds of spices, but for starters, I am listing the most popularly used spices for cooking Indian food. You surely do not need all of them but do go through the spices list for future buys.

You can also use the commonly used spices for adding additional flavour to your pies, stews, broths, soups, marinades and many more. This post on the best spice combinations will give you ideas on how to reuse your spices to make different meals.

Take a print out of this list and pin it on your fridge for a quick go-to spices list.

A Selective Indian Spices List and Its Use


Spices List

English Name

Spices List

Indian Name

(for Shopping purpose)

Purpose for Use 



Hing Flavouring agent for the dish.

Bay Leaf

bay leaves - Indian spices

Tej Patta Aromatic ingredient for rice and other Indian dishes. Also used as part of spice blend.

Black or Brown Cardamom


Moti Elaichi/Badi Elaichi/Kali Elaichi Aromatic and flavouring agent for many Indian dishes. Also used as part of spice blend for gravies, rice and dessert dishes.

Black Pepper

black pepper

Kali Mirch Important taste and flavouring agent in majority of Indian dishes especially south Indian preparation and to make spice blends.

Cardamom (green)

green cardamon

Elaichi/Choti Elaichi Important taste and flavour enhancer for Pulaos, Biryanis and sweet dishes. Also used as an aromatic agent for certain dishes. Used for making special spice blends
6 Carom Seeds
Ajwain Flavouring and taste enhancing ingredient for different dishes. Especially used for fried savoury dishes and breads.


cinnamon bark - Indian spices list

Dalchini Taste and Flavouring ingredient. Imparts a sweet aroma to the dish. A basic spice used in different masalas and spice blends. Sticks can also be used in some rice and curry dishes.



Laung Important flavouring and taste enhancing ingredient for different dishes. Popular ingredient used in numerous Indian spice blends.

Coriander Seeds

coriander seeds

Sabut Dhaniya Base ingredient for different type of tadkas (tempering). Taste and Flavour enhancer for various dishes. Popular ingredient used in numerous Indian spice blends.

Coriander Powder

coriander powder

Dhania powder Taste and flavour enhancer for various dishes. Used in most Indian dishes for the main base sauce.

Chat Masala

Chaat masala

Chat Masala Taste and flavour enhancer for various savoury street food style Indian dishes and snacks.

Cumin Seeds

cumin seeds - Indian spices

Sabut Jeera Base ingredient for different type of tadkas (tempering).Flavouring agent for many Indian dishes and rice preparations. Used in most Indian dishes for the main base sauce. Also used in numerous spice blends.

Cumin Powder

cumin seeds

Jeera powder Taste and flavour enhancer for various dishes. Used in most Indian dishes for the main base sauce.

Curry Leaves

curry leaves

Kadi Patta Base ingredient for different type of tadkas (tempering).An aromatic herb used to enhance flavour for mostly vegetarian dishes. Highly used in Western and South Indian cuisine.

Dry Fenugreek Leaves

fenugreek leaves

Kasuri Methi Dried herb used to enhance flavour and tatse to the dish. Used commonly in Punjabi or North Indian cuisine.

Garam Masala Powder 

Garam masala

Garam Masala POwder Very popular Indian spice blend made with many differen spices. Used in most Indian dishes.

Fennel Seeds

fennel seeds

Saunf Aromatic and flavour enhancer for dishes. Important spice in many spice blends

Fenugreek Seeds

Fenugreek seeds

Methi Dana Base ingredient for different styles of Tadkas (tempering). Can be used in spice blends.


Mace - Indian spices

Javitri A very aromatic spice used as a taste and flavouring agent. Commonly used ingredient in most North Indian spice blends. Used for making special regional dishes such as biriyani, dum alu etc.

Mustard Seeds

Mustard seeds

Sarson/Rai Base ingredient for different styles of Tadkas (tempering). Also used to make mustard base sauce. Very commonly used in Eastern and Southern Indian dishes.

Nigella Seeds

Nigella seeds

Kalaunji One of the base ingredient for different styles of Tadkas (tempering). Flavour enhancer for many Indian dishes. Used in Indian snacks, breads and savoury dishes.



Jaifal A very intense flavouring agent for speciality dishes. Commonly used ingredient in most of North Indian spice blends.

Poppy Seeds

Poppy seeds

Khas Khas Used in some regional blended masalas for its taste and flavour. Also used as paste to thicken sauces. Very commonly used in Eastern region of India.

Red Chili Powder

Red chili powder

Lal Mirch Most important spice to add heat to dishes. Large amounts also imparts a subtle red colour to the dish.

Saffron Strands

Saffron strands

Kesar/Keshar Colouring and flavouring agent to speciality savoury dishes and desserts. Imparts an aroma to the dish.

Star Anise

Star Anise

Chakra Phool/Badiyan Aromatic and flavourful spice mostly used in various spice blends. Can be used in Pulaos and other special gravies. Imparts a delicate flavour to dish.


Taramind paste

Imli A sour taste and flavour enhancer mainly for gravy based dishes and chutneys.

Turmeric Powder

Turmeric powder - List of Indian spices

Haldi Powder Colour enhancer and Anti-Bacterial ingredient in different marinades. Used in many spice blends.
Do you have a favorite spice that you like to use, is it listed here? If not then let me know so that I can make the change.