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Authentic Indian Cuisine: Indian Spices You Need to Add to Your Spice Rack

by Dorothy Jones

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Spicy Indian dishes and cuisines have long made their presence felt all across the globe. Indian food lovers would agree that its distinctive character lies in the use of various kinds of herbs and spices for its unbeatable tantalizing flavors.

India has been known as the land of spices from historical times and the spice trade was a major source of income for many Indian people. There was even a time when spices were valued similarly to gold! Along with being heavily used in Indian cuisine, spices also have medicinal value. Moreover, they are used as preservatives as well as in perfumes and fragrances.


variety of spices


It is interesting to note that Indian dishes use both whole spices as well as ground spices in them. These offer unique taste as well as flavor to the food. While the whole spices are mainly used for tempering and flavoring, the ground spices significantly enhance the taste and the color of the food. Try incorporating authentic Indian spices and use them when cooking Indian food to get a better understanding of their delectable effects.

Essential or basic Indian spices


There are some basic spices, which are used in almost all Indian dishes. Some of them are listed below:

  • Turmeric – Turmeric is one of the most common spices used in almost all Indian recipes. The gorgeous orange-yellow color of the spice gives a lovely hue to the dish. Usually, powdered turmeric or turmeric paste is used in the dishes. Along with adding color to the dishes, turmeric also has medicinal properties and helps in successfully treating liver and stomach related issues.



  • Cumin seeds – This is one of the basic Indian spices. Cumin seeds are used in the whole form for tempering as well as in powdered form in many dishes. The use of cumin is extensive in North Indian dishes. Roasted cumin seeds give a nice aroma and can be grounded and used in different recipes. A mild flavor is added to the dish with the use of this spice.
  • Chili powder – The Indian chili powder is hotter than any variant of chili powder available in various cuisines  in Europe and America. Spicy ground chilies are used, which have a hot and pungent aroma and offers a ‘punch’ once you’ve had a bite. 


chili powder


  • Black mustard seeds – Black mustard seeds are preferred in Indian cuisine when compared to the yellow mustard seeds. The black mustard seeds are used as a whole for tempering and they can be made into a paste and used in different dishes. There is a strong flavor in these seeds. Mustard seeds are extensively used in pulses, pickles, and many vegetables.
  • Garam Masala – Also known as the mixed spice powder, there are different kinds of spices which are used in the making of garam masala. Some common spices include cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, black peppercorns, mace etc. Sometimes all these spices are grounded together and put in the dish. Again, in many recipes, all the mentioned whole spices are added. Whole garam masala is used in the beginning of cooking; while the powdered version is used at the end for flavoring.


Garam Masala


If you are seeking genuine Indian spices and you are not currently living in India, you can find many of the common Indian spices in neighborhood specialty food stores. These spices are pure and natural and usually packed in a manner so that their true flavors and textures are maintained.


Interested to find out how these spices are used to create authentic and mouthwatering Indian dishes? There’s no better way to do so than to go on a culinary vacation in India!

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