April 9, 2019

How To Substitute Indian Spices – A Spice Substitute Chart

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Don’t let the lack of the right spices stop you from making your favourite Indian curry. Use the right spice substitute instead.

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How To Substitute Indian Spices – A Spice Substitute Chart

When it comes to cooking any regional cuisine the right ingredient is what makes a dish authentic. But what if you are unable to get those ingredients? Is there no way to make that lovely Rogan Josh recipe?!!

Do you skip making a dish after going through the list of ingredients just because you don’t have it?

Do you ever wonder what the possible spice substitute would be in case your nearest supermarket does not stock them?

The good thing about working with spices is that they are not always a MUST have ingredient. There is a way around it, yet maintaining authenticity.

Why Do You Need to Look For Spice Substitutes

It is given that the base of Indian cuisine is the use of spices. After all, can it be an Indian curry without cumin powder, coriander powder or turmeric?

Would you not then make a curry because you don’t have one of the spices listed or may be intolerant to a spice or simply dislike a particular strong spice?

The average Indian dishes have a minimum of 7-9 ingredients, out of which 3-4 may be just spices.

Given that there are different ingredients that go to make an Indian dish, it effectively gives you the flexibility to use alternative spices.

This can only be possible if the ingredient, in this case, the spice to be substituted is not the key or the main element of the dish such as pepper for making pepper chicken or mustard for a mustard-based gravy.

As long as the spice substitute has some of the characteristic elements of the listed spice it is absolutely safe to either alternate the spices or omit them completely from the dish.

It is, however, important to note that few spices have a characteristic flavour profile which may be a challenge to replicate. In this case, the dish will tend to lose a degree of its authenticity.

What is The Right Amount of Spice Substitute That Should be Used?

Although I am stating that you have the option of going for an alternative substitute for the spice, but should you be replacing the exact amount?

This question is a bit tricky to answer since there are many factors that depend on what should be the correct replaced amount.

Few things to consider when it comes to looking for a spice substitute are:

1. The type of spice substitute

Not all spices have the same level of taste or flavourSome spices have a stronger flavour profile compared to others.  If your chosen substitute is stronger to the actual spice then you will need to use that in less quantity while a spice with subtle taste may need larger quantities to be added.

Understand the taste and the flavour quotient of the spice you will be using as a substitute before you add to balance the taste.

2.  Using fresh spice substitute instead of powder

Sometimes similar flavour can be derived from using fresh ingredients such as onions, ginger, garlic or fresh herbs.

Not all spices can be substituted with another spice. When you do use fresh ingredients, you are likely to use them less in quantity to the dish to balance the required taste.

3. The quantity you are cooking

We do have a tendency to overlook the proportion of the number of heads we are cooking for when following a recipe.

The quantity of raw material used should represent the number of people you are making the dish for.

Ensure that the amount of raw material to spice replacement is in proportion.

4. Health and personal reasons to look for suitable alternatives

Few may also need to look for spice substitute because of an eating lifestyle, intolerance/allergy or simply a personal dislike to a particular spice.

Having the alternatives and substitute works in their favour so that they do not have to compromise on the taste or try the dish.

It is a good idea to choose alternatives which suit your purpose.

A Spice Substitute Chart For Popular Indian Spices

Keeping the tips of substituting spices while retaining the originality of the recipes, here is a list of spice substitutes for some of the most commonly used spices.

Thanks to the convenience of online shopping, you can easily buy the original spices in a  click.

I have made it even easier for you to buy the spices just by clicking on the images in the table below:

Name of Spice Type and Usage Substitute Option 1Substitute Option 2

Substitute for Asafoedita 

Asafoedita-image- hing-image buy Indian spices online Spiceitupp


It is a gun resin with a very strong flavour. Use sparingly in dishes.Onion and Garlic powderShallots, Fresh Garlic or leeks

Substitute for Cardamom 

green- cardamom-elaichi-image-indian-spice buy indian spice online spiceitupp

Floral, citrusy with robust flavour. A very popular spice in Indian dishesCinnamon and ClovesCinnamon and nutmeg (just a pinch)

Substitute for Caraway Seeds

Caraway - seeds - shahi -jeera -image buy indian-spices-online spiceitupp

Belongs to the cumin seeds family, mild and sweet in flavourRoasted cumin seedsDill

Substitute for Carom Seeds

ajwain-seeds-carom-seeds-whole buy-spices-online - Spiceitupp

Similar to caraway seeds with liquorice undertonesDried ThymeRoasted cumin seeds

Substitute for Chat Masala

Amchur_powder- dry -mango -powder-image buy Indian spices online Spiceitupp

A street food seasoning that is sour in tasteDry mango powder/Lemon juiceSumac powder

Substitute for Chilli powder

red -chilli-indian-chilli -powder-image buy indian spice online spiceitupp

Spice that renders heat and sometimes colour to the dish Omit from the dish or use paprikaGreen chilli/ pepper powder

Substitute for Cinnamon

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Woody smoky undertones used in savoury and sweet dishesNutmeg/Allspice Mace

Substitute for  Cloves

Nelken-ganz-Gewuerzland-com-2 Cloves7 Buy Spices online Switzerland


A bud with a robust strong flavourNutmeg/AllspiceCinnamon

Substitute for Coriander leaves

fresh -coriander leaves-image buy indian spice online spiceitupp

Fresh herb added for extra depth of freshness to the dishOmit completely

A small mix of Parsley, tarragon and dill leaves


Substitute for Coriander powder

Popular ground spice with a mild tasteCumin powder – If not already used in the dishCurry powder

Substitute for Cumin Powder

Ground- cumin-powder-image-jeera -powder-indian-spice buy indian spice online spiceitupp

Mild ground spice to add taste to the dishCoriander powder – If not already used in the dishCurry powder

Substitute for Fresh Curry Leaves 

Indian- fresh-curry -leaves-image buy indian spice online spiceitupp

A very important Indian herb with a lemony flavourLemon zestKaffir lime leaves

Substitute for Curry Powder 

Indian-curry-powder-image-indian-spice-blend. buy Indian spices online spiceit upp



Popular Indian spice blend made with different ground spicesGaram Masala powder A mix of coriander powder, cumin powder and turmeric

Substitute for Fennel Seeds

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Liquorice in taste. Adds a distinctive flavour to the dishDillStar Anise/ caraway seeds

Substitute for Fenugreek Seeds

fenugreek- seeds -methi-image buy indian spice online spiceitupp

A popular whole spice used in many Indian dishes. Has a slight bitter tone.Mustard seedsCurry powder

Substitute for Fresh Ginger

Fresh-ginger-paste-indian-cooking buy online

A popular aromatic used for making sweet and savoury dishesGinger powderAllspice powder

Substitute for Garam Masala

Indian- garam- masala-powder-image buy indian spice online spiceitupp

Popular Indian spice blend used in most Indian spices.Curry powderAllspice and cumin

Substitute for Mace

Mace-whole-javitri-image-indian-spice buy indian spice online spiceitupp

Robust and strong pungent spice. Use sparingly in the dish.NutmegAllspice

Substitute for Mustard paste

mustard-powder- for-mustard-paste-indian-spice Buy Indian mustard paste online

Pungent and sharp. introduces heat and smoothness to a dishDijon mustard sauceA small portion of horseradish or wasabi paste

Substitute for Mustard Seeds 

whole-mustard-seeds-image-indian-spice buy indian spice online spiceitupp

Normally used as a tempering or pickling spiceCaraway seedsNigella Seeds

Substitute for Nutmeg

nutmeg -whole-jaiphal-indian-spice buy indian spice online spiceitupp

Strong yet delicately flavoured spice with a sweet woody tone MaceCinnamon

Substitute for Poppy Seeds

white-poppy-seeds-khus-khus-indian-spice image buy indian spices online spiceitupp

Used whole or as a paste to give texture to the dishChia seedsMelon seeds (for paste only)

Substitute for Pomegranate seeds

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Souring agent to add tartness to dishSumac powderLemon juice

Substitute for Saffron

saffron-spice-image buy indian spice online spiceitupp

A flavouring and colouring agent with a strong sweet tasteRose essence and turmericCardamon

Substitute for Star Anise

star anise image buy indian spice online spiceitupp

Woody and earthy it adds a distinctive flavour to the dishChinese five spice powderCinnamon/ fennel seeds/ Aniseed

Substitute for Turmeric

turmeric-powder-haldi-image-indian-yellow -spice buy indian spice online spiceitupp

Mainly used as a colouring agent to give the dish a yellow appearanceTomato pasteCurry powder


Indian spice substitute for difficult to find spices


How To Find the Best Spice Substitute For Hard to Find Indian Spices

A way of understanding if you like a recipe or a particular substitute or not, is by giving it a try.

Before you give up on making a dish because you do not have a particular ingredient, I would suggest finding a suitable alternative.

You will realise that the alternative does the job as long as you follow the rules of replacement mentioned above.

Start with a substitute you think is the best match.

Trying new combinations will widen your culinary skills making your kitchen life so much easier.

It may not work each time but from my personal experience of using substitutes, I can guarantee that it will not be catastrophic as long as you have the right balance of taste and correct amount used.

Use the Spice Substitute chart above as a starting point as most of the substitute mentioned are easily available in your local supermarket.

Here is a pinnable image with the list of Indian spice substitute for your instant reference.

A useful list of Indian Spices with their best spice substitute Chart when you find it hard to find the Indian spices. #justspices #indianfoodblogger #spicelist #indianspicelist #substituteforcardamom # substituteforchatmasala #spicesubstitute #cookingwithspices #spicepantry #foodofindia #tasteofindia #spiceologist #spiceitupp #indianfoodtips

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Do you have any spice substitute?

Spices are indeed a flexible cooking ingredient to work with which makes them easy to either omit or replace if needed.

What are some of the alternatives or food substitutes you have tried using? It’s always so good to learn from each other.

And if you think that the post and the spice substitute list will help others then I would really appreciate a share by clicking the share or save button below.