Magic of Indian Spices

The spices that we use in our kitchen are really magical and each produce different taste and in combination of the spices the food is prepared. Along with the taste each spice has some medicinal value when taken in moderation. We all must know some or the other home remedies from our grand-mother and mother which were using the spices and herbs from our kitchen. E.g. if you have cough cold drink turmeric milk in night, have ginger n honey. Tropically also applied on wounds as it has antibiotic, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. If you have gastric problem then asafoetida (hing) is useful as it cures digestive disorder. Cardamom is useful for bad breath. The hot flavor of chili adds to increased metabolism. Cumin is rich in iron & helps in liver detoxification and beneficial for digestive system. Coriander is an excellent source of minerals and an antioxidant. Mustard rich in omega 3 fatty acids helps in performing cellular metabolism efficiently. Cinnamon is very helpful in controlling insulin level and helpful in controlling diabetes. The list of medicinal properties of these spices is unending and still area of research for science. So these spices not only useful in culinary in enhancing the taste but also plays significant role with their unique and distinct medicinal properties.


The spices are not only colorful but also these are beneficial in thousand ways and have been used since ancient ages. If you refer to our history the spices are of high value and are center of trade from medieval period. E.g. Britishers referred Black pepper as Black Gold because these have high value in European countries and were produced and exported from Indian states. Many parts of country has been acquired by East India Company as they were rich source of spice and helped them to trade on it easily and profitably.


Top 12 essential spices for daily cooking:

  1. Cumin Seeds

Cumin seeds are most essential part of our daily cooking because of its strong and punching aroma. It’s full of medicinal properties as well. Cumin seeds are used both in curries, dry fried vegetables, in all tadka/ tampering used as well as dry roasted form which are used as additional seasoning. Both forms give little different taste. However the course powder form of dry roasted cumin gives strong aroma and nutty flavor.

Cumin powder is often found with other blended spice mix e.g. Garam Masala, Curry powder, Chili powder, Barbeque sauce and into many pickle making spice. Also its used in bakery products. But the quantity is less as compared to other spices because of its strong and dominating aromatic oils.

Apart of vastly used in Indian Cuisine, it gets well incorporated to variety of cuisines. Cumin powder loses its flavor if kept for long. So while buying keep in mind the quantity used over a time. However store them in freezer to intact their flavor for a long period. This increases the cell life of all spices in fact.


Recipes: Find recipe of cumin seeds: Jeera Rice, Dal Tadka, Aaloo Jeera, Raita

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Coriander Seeds

Coriander seeds are also essential part of Indian cuisine because of its mild taste. Apart from Indian cuisine this is major part of Latin American, Middle Eastern and Asian cuisine. This is one of the oldest known spices of world. If you are making powder form of it at home then sun dry or lightly dry roast on medium flame and grind this using mortar & pastel or mixer grinder. This will enhance the flavor. The powdered form will lose its flavor quickly. So store it in airtight container or inside freezer. The seeds are warm, mild with a citrus undertone just like orange peel.

In case of coriander both leaves and seeds are used in almost all dishes except for the desserts. It’s also major part of many blended spice mix like garam masala, curry powder, sambar masala, and many more including pickle making spice mix. Because of its mild taste its used in handful amount. Again it has medicinal properties like carminative, refrigerant, diuretic, aphrodisiac and hence used as home remedy to many diseases.


Recipe: Find recipe of coriander: Green Chutney, Bottle Gourd

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  1. Turmeric

Turmeric, botanically known as Curcuma longa is the root of this perennial plant. It is native to Indian subcontinent and south-east Asia. This is the most commonly used spice in every kitchen. It has pungent, earthy aroma and slightly bitter flavor. It’s yellow in color and plays major role in giving perfect color to the dish.  Turmeric leaves are also used in steaming items and thus adds flavour to it. This super spice has numerous health benefits as dietary supplement and also used for beautification since ancient age. We all must have got some beauty tips from our Grandmas’ with turmeric as its main ingredient. Isn’t it wonderful!! Yes, nature has stored many wonders for us. Turmeric is has antiseptic, antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, anti- inflammatory properties. It reduces lever toxins and helps in weight-loss as well. The most famous “Golden Milk” i.e, Turmeric Milk has numerous health benefits.


Recipe: Find recipe with Turmeric: Dahi Kadhi

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  1. Red Chilies/ Paparika

This is the hot spice again used widely in Indian Cuisine majorly. Red chili powder is made by grinding the dried red chilies to fine powder. This makes the preparation spicy and hot. The major heat is concentrated in its seeds. India is the major producer of red chilies.  They are excellent source of vitamin C. But however excess consumption can cause damage to the intestine and gives burning sensation in stomach and intestine. It’s also used in preparation of sauces, pickle other than the regular curry in Indian Cuisine.


Recipe with Red Chili: Spicy Potato Dry, Schezwan Sauce, Chili Pickle

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  1. Fenugreek Seeds

Fenugreek, commonly known as methi is native to Middle East and Indian subcontinent. The leaves are also edible and full of nutritional values. However both leaves and seeds have very bitter taste. Also because of its bitter taste its considered as anti-diabetic and helps in reducing the glucose level in blood and controls diabetes mellitus. The seeds are widely used in many pickles and in other curry preparation. The leaves can be dried and used in dried form gives different aroma and flavor. This is specially used as seasoning in raita and curries of Indian cuisine. This plant is rich in all minerals, vitamins, protein and dietary fibers.


Recipe with Fenugreek: Stir fried Fenugreek Potato (Methi Aaloo), Methi Matar Malai

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  1. Mustard Seeds


These are small tiny balls ranging from yellow to black. They are important spice with a strong and hot flavor. Both black and yellow mustard seeds when grinded with water form a yellowish paste. But be careful while adding mustard paste as it gives slight bitter taste if used in large quantity.

The greens (leaves) of the plant are also edible and have a special place in northern part of India (e.g Sarson ka saag) whereas the seeds are widely used in eastern India. Especially the fish curries are cooked in mustard oil and that gives a strong pungent and spicy flavor to the curry. Also the seeds are mostly used in many preparation of Maharashtra e.g. Onion Poha (Flattened rice with tampering of mustard seeds and turmeric as major ingredient) and many more.

The oil extracted from the seeds are used in cooking and considered healthier as compared to other cooking oils. Raw mustard oil can also be used in many dishes. India and Pakistan is the major player in production of mustard plants because of the climate condition.


Recipe with Mustard: Sarson ka saag, Onion Poha

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  1. Carom Seeds

Carom, known as ajwain in Hindi is known for its peculiar flavor. These are highly fragrant and the aroma is used in treating cold and flu in toddlers. It’s full of essential oil and flavonoid. It has antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral properties and hence been used as best home remedy for treating various diseases. It tastes great in combination of flours. Hence ajwain is a vital ingredient for Poori, Paratha, Pakoda, and many snacking items. This is also used in preparation of curries but not as widely as cumin seeds because of its bitter taste.


Recipe with Carom seeds (Ajwain): Ajwain Palak Poori

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  1. Cloves

This is an intense spice with very strong aroma. These are unopened flower buds of a tropical tree. It comes in dark reddish brown color. This blends well with bakery products, savory dishes, meats and pickles. It is majorly used in North Indian Cuisine and South Indian Cuisine.  It gives rich flavor to curry when added with other whole spices as Garam masala. However it has very strong flavor so has to be used in moderation else it will dominate the taste.

The essential oil present in cloves has antibacterial and anesthetic properties. Because of this clove oil is very beneficial in treating tooth ache to large extent. It should be used in small quantity; else it might burn the area of application. Due to its essential oil it helps in preventing bad breath and used as mouth freshner.

This has also significance in Indian religious activities.

Recipe with Cloves: Vegetable Biryani, Jackfruit Curry

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  1. Cardamom

Cardamom is used extensively in Indian cuisine both in savory as well as sweet preparations. This is also used in beverages like in tea or cold coffee. This is an expensive spice comes in two varieties: Brown (Badi elaichi) and green (choti elaichi). Brown one is large in size and more aromatic whereas green ones are smaller in size with milder flavor and aroma. It plays important role in Indian as well as Middle Easter Cuisine.

These are basically seed pods with strong and sweet aroma. They get well incorporated to all dessert items and cakes and bakery products because of its sweet and strong aroma. It is main ingredient in all kinds of pudding and many baked dishes. It has a distinct flavor even if added and blended in garam masala. Freshly ground seeds are more aromatic than the powdered form available in market.


Recipe with cardamom: Rice Pudding

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  1. Black Pepper

Black pepper was commonly known as “Black Gold” during Britishers time because of its demand in European market. They had acquired southern part of India as it was main producer of black pepper and was profitable to trade in European countries. It’s grown in other countries as well. At present Vietnam plays major producer of black pepper and India is 2nd largest player. It’s a major ingredient in not only Indian cuisine but also in worldwide cuisine it’s used vastly.

Because of its spicy flavor it adds fierceness to the dish. For additional flavor it’s used as seasoning on top of all preparations including fried rice, curries, salads, soups, any form of curd. This is also used in making of tea and adds a spiciness in tea and very effective in treating cold and sore throat because of its heat. It’s used in many marinades. In Chinese cuisine it’s another essential component. However crush the require amount in mortar and pastel or crusher just before use to get maximum flavor out of it. It has numerous medicinal properties including treatment of digestive disorders.


Recipe with black pepper: Tomato Soul

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  1. Cinnamon

Cinnamon is native to Sri Lanka but grows in many countries like Indonesia, Bangladesh, India, China etc. This is also an important ingredient in all cuisine across the world. Cinnamons produced in Sri Lanka are known as “True Cinnamon”. This is derived from the bark of the tree. However it’s different from cassia bark slightly as it has sweeter flavor and fragrance than cassia bark though both belong to same family.

This is a versatile spice used both in savory as well as sweet dishes because of its aroma and flavor. It’s used in preparation of savory dishes, meat and poultry dishes, in bakery dishes, in beverages, in pulses and grains dishes. Apart from culinary uses it’s been used as home remedy for treating many diseases including controlling insulin secretion and treating cognitive disorders.


Recipe of Cinnamon:  Cinnamon Tea as medicine

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12. Asafoetida

This spice commonly called as hing is native to Iran and Afghanistan but mainly cultivated in nearby India. In India it’s basically cultivated in Kashmir. It has many medicinal properties for which it is used.

Its pungent smell adds a distinct flavor to the dishes. It’s a standard ingredient in vegetarian dishes such as dry fried vegetables or lentils. It’s used in tampering of lentil based dish such as Dal, Sambar, Rasam. It adds more flavor when used in curd based preparations like Dahi Kadhi, Gatte ki Sabzi etc. It’s healthy for digestive system hence used as a digestive aid in food and pickles. If not stored properly it loses its aroma and fragrance. Pure form comes in resin form and characterised by distinct strong pungent flavor. If it found in dried form then powdered and should be stored in air tight container.


Recipe with Asafoetida: Sambar

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