Spice Box Essentials

In Indian cuisine, spices play a very important role in every dish and their pairing is what gives flavour and balance to a dish. You should NEVER skip any spice that a recipe calls for. I’ve created a list of all the essential spices you should have at home when making Indian food, use this as a spice box essentials guide.

  • Cumin Seeds – Rich, warm, earthy, bittersweet. Toast to bring out its flavour.
  • Ground Cumin – Earthy, spicy taste with bitter undertones and a warm aroma.
  • Ground Coriander – Nutty, floral and citrus taste.
  • Brown Mustard Seeds – Nutty, enhances curries and dals.
  • Red Chilli Powder – Used to add pungency, flavour and piquancy to dishes. Kashmiri Red Chilli Powder, in particular, it’s less spicy and it’s used for the red vibrant colour it adds to the dishes.
  • Turmeric – Bitter, gingery aromatic and earthy flavour, the starting point for many curries.
  • Garam Masala – Hot spice mixture, see the recipe.
  • Dried Fenugreek Leaves – Also known as Kasoori Methi, it deepens the savoury notes on tomato based gravies.
  • Black cardamom – Earthy, smoky flavour and green cardamom aftertaste.
  • Green Cardamom – Part pungent and smoky in flavour, part mellow, lemony and floral. Used in sweet and savoury dishes.
  • Indian Bay Leaf – Warm, musky aroma with a citrus undertone, reminiscent clove flavour.
  • Cloves – Warm, peppery aroma and fruity, sharp, hot taste. Use sparingly to not overpower a dish.
  • Asian Cinnamon Sticks (Cassia) – Cinnamon aroma but sweeter and sharper.
  • Curry leaves – musky, nutty spiciness aroma and lemony tangerine-like and faintly bitter taste. Widely used in Indian cuisine especially for tempering. Fresh leaves can be stored in a plastic bag in the freezer to last longer.
  • Asafoetida – Also known as hing, it has a potent fetid smell, to use in very small quantities, has fried onions and garlic scent when added to hot oil.
  • Amchur – Dried young green mangoes powder, it works as a citrus seasoning to give a tangy flavour.
  • Fennel Seeds – Warming, sweet, earthy aroma. aniseed-like flavour, used in most of the pickles.