I’ve mentioned in a couple of my past posts that I want to start blogging more about Indian cooking, culture, etc.  Well, today’s the day!  When people learn that I am Indian, our conversations always turn to the food and local restaurants.  I love it when people love Indian food!!!  I started noticing that a lot of bloggers wrote about their Indian dining experiences, so I thought, why not share ways they can make some of their favorite dishes at home.  It’s really not as daunting as it seems…I promise!  My original thought was to just start adding Indian recipes to the recipes page, but when I actually started writing out some of the recipes, I realized that the first thing I needed to do was to introduce some of the key spices.  As those of who love Indian food know, it’s all about the spices!

So, let’s begin…

My grandmother actually bought this “spice holder” (I totally just made that up) for me in India when I told her that I was serious about learning how to cook Indian food. 🙂  I think you can find something like this in a local Indian store/market in the states.  Now that you’ve seen the big picture, I want to go through and identify each of the spices.



Nine times out of ten you will be using turmeric in your dishes.  You don’t have to use a lot to taste the difference either.  I love the bright yellow color!


Red Chili Powder

I think it’s safe to say that all Indian recipes call for red chili powder.  Heck, I even use it in some non-Indian dishes.  You may be tempted to substitute other chili powders, but the Indian kind really has a unique kick to it, so if you can find it, I would use this over others.


Mustard Seeds

Mustard seeds are one of the first ingredients used once the oil is heated.  Again, like with the other spices, you don’t need much to add a lot of flavor.


Cumin Seeds

Cumin seeds are also added at the beginning of the cooking process along with the mustard seeds.  The thing to remember with these two is that you have to make sure the seeds are “cooked” through and no longer raw.  I asked my mom how you would know, and she said, “with experience.”  LOL!  I’ve found that you are pretty much in the clear after about 2 minutes.  You just have to make sure the oil is hot before you add the spices.


Coriander and Cumin Powder

This spice is a combination of coriander and cumin seeds ground up into a powder.  It’s the spice you can (and should) use a lot of because of the rich, earthy flavor it adds.  And it’s usually added towards the end of the cooking process.



So, to be honest, I haven’t used this one yet.  I decided to include it because I am sure there will be a time when I refer to it in a recipe, and I don’t want anyone to be thrown.



No, salt is not an Indian spice!  BUT, I do keep it with the others because it’s a key seasoning in Indian food.

Two other spices that are worth mentioning are Garam Masala and Asatoetida.  Garam Masala is a very traditional spice that is used in many dishes.  It’s good to have on hand because it adds flavor and heat that is very different from the red chili powder.  Asafoetida is a powder that you sometimes add at the beginning with the mustard and cumin seeds.  I’ll be sure to highlight when to use this one in my recipes.

The thing I love most about Indian cooking is that once you have the basics down, you are free to be as creative as you want!  A little bit of this and a little bit of that!

Something I want to clarify is that my family is from the Indian state of Gujarat.  Every state/region has its own culinary specialities, so a lot of my recipes will be variations of ones that I grew up eating.  I personally also love Punjabi food (paneer makhani, saag paneer, etc.) and South Indian food (dosas, utappam, etc.), so once I start experimenting with some of those recipes, I will be sure to share!

I hope, if nothing else, this helps familiarize you with some of the key spices that most Indian recipes call for.  And don’t worry, my goal is to share recipes that are simple to make yet very delicious.  This is just the beginning!  🙂

By Parita

7 thoughts on “Indian Spices 101”
  1. Hi, Parita

    I myself love Indian food very much and Indian food has a reputation all over the world Indian food represents India to the whole world. and when you talk about Indian food the name of Indian spice comes first. and I think Turmeric, and Red Chili Powder is the most used Indian spice.

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