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Essential Spices in an Indian Kitchen

Indian household is known for its culture and food. India being a diverse country has lots of variety in food which includes masalas, chutneys, tempering, preserving, pickling, etc and the common ingredient for all the above mentioned list is Spices. Truly said “Variety is the spice of life”. And that makes Indian cuisine distinct from others as they enhance flavor and color of the dishes. Spices are dried parts of plant/herb namely buds, barks, roots, seeds and berries. So here are few essential spices in an Indian kitchen….

Spices are different from herbs as herbs are fresh flowers, leaves, stems of plants used for flavoring and garnishing. About 75% of world’s production of spices is done by India. In fact Ministry of Commerce and Industry even has a organisation devoted to spices of India, named as Spices Board India.

Spices are an integral part of Indian cooking, so let’s go to the spice land in an  Indian Kitchen.

Turmeric: It is an ancient spice, originated in Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. It is a flowering plant and has non woody stem above the ground. Turmeric has modified stems that send roots and shoots from the nodes. It has various names as Haldi in Hindi, Pasupu in Telugu, Haluda in Bengali, Arisina in Kannada.


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Dried turmeric powder is mainly used as one of the ingredients for tempering in dishes. Turmeric Powder has warm, bitter, earthy flavor and has golden yellow color. It is used mostly in dishes to give color. Lot of people make turmeric curry, sweet turmeric rice, pickles, etc.

  • Turmeric also helps in treating common cold, cough, indigestion, skin sores, etc.

Dry Mango Powder: As the name says, unripe mangoes are cut in thin slices and then sun dried. These sun dried slices turn brown which look like thin woody slices and are then grounded. It is produced in India. This spice is fruity and is added to give tangy flavor in the dishes.

Dry Mango Powder

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In Hindi it is called as Amchur, Ambya Pudi in Konkani, Mavinakai Pudi in Kannada, Mangai Thool in Tamil, etc. Amchur has many health benefits and is of medicinal value.

  • It is high in Vitamin A, E, C and antioxidants.
  • It helps in dig detoxification of skin and hair

Red Chilli Powder: This spice is dried, ground fruit or Red Chilli Pepper. It is traditionally made by sun drying red chillies and then grinding them. It has sharp, spicy and strong flavor. It is a very common spice in Indian cooking. Not only in Indian, but it is also used commonly in Chinese, Thai, Korean, Mexican, American and Portuguese cuisines too.

Red Chilli Powder

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It is also called Lal Mirch Powder in Hindi, Lal Mirchya in Marathi, Mulakupodi in Tamil, Erra Mirapa Kayalu in Telugu and Lal Marchu in Gujarati. This spice is commonly used in marinating vegetables, cottage cheese, meats, etc. In Indian cuisine it is added to make the dishes spicer as it adds spicy touch to tomato based curries.

Coriander Seeds: This particulate spice is the dried seed of Cilantro/Coriander crop. Seeds when crushed give lemony, citrus, nutty and warm flavor. These seeds then ground are used as a spice for tempering in many dishes. When roasted, the seeds’ flavor, aroma and pungency increases.

Coriander Seeds

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In Hindi it is called as Dhania, Dhanay in Marathi, Dhana in Gujarati, Dhaniyalu in Telugu, Kothamalliverai in Tamil and Kothamalli in Malayalam. Coriander seeds are the main ingredients of 2 major South Indian dishes Sambhar and Rasam. In many countries coriander seeds are used in pickling vegetables, soups, broths, etc.

  • Coriander stimulates appetite and helps lower blood sugar.
  • It also has anti inflammatory properties which helps in the treatment of arthritis.

Cardamom: This spice is native India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bhutan. Guatemala is the biggest exporter and producer of Cardamom followed by India. It is world’s 3rd most expensive spice by weigh, outstripped in market value only by Saffron and Vanilla. This spice is from the ginger family.


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The other names for cardamom are Elaichi in Hindi, Veldoda in Marathi, Elakkai in Tamil, Elam in Malayalam, Elaychi in Gujarati and Yallakullu in Telugu. It is of 2 types green and black. Green cardamom has strong, unique taste with intensely aromatic, pine or sap like flavor where as Black cardamom has smokey, though not bitter with aroma and coolness similar to mint like flavor.

Cardamoms are very common in an Indian kitchen. Green cardamom is generally used in traditional Indian seeds, teas, etc. Black cardamom is mainly used in masalas and often used as garnish in Basmati rice. Internationally it is used in Finnish breads, baking, etc.

  • Cardamoms help in digestion, detoxification, treating cold and flu, blood pressure, cancer, etc.

Cloves: Cloves are native to Maluku Islands in Indonesia. India, Indonesia, Bangladesh. Madagascar, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Tanzania mainly harvest cloves. They have warm, sweet, pungent with bitter astringent flavour. Cloves can be used as whole or ground. They pair well with cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, citrus flavours and all spice.


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Cloves are also called as Laung in Hindi, Kirampu in Tamil, Lavangalu in Telugu, Lavangagalu in Kannada, Grampu in Malayalam, Lavinga in Gujarati and Lavanga in Marathi. They are primarily used as a spice and flavour for soups, garam masala, sauces, rice dishes, etc. They are generally removed before serving.

  • They are widely used as a painkiller in dentistry.
  • Since cloves are warm they help in treating cold, flu, vomiting , stomach coldness and morning sickness.

Mustard Seeds: They are small, round seeds of Mustard plant. The colour varies from yellowish white to black. The yellowish mustard seeds are spicer whereas  black mustard seeds are pungent and spicer than the other varieties. The main producers of Mustard seeds are Canada, Hungary, Great Britain, india, United States and Pakistan.

Mustard Seed

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Mustard is one of the main ingredients used in tempering South Indian and Maharashtrian dishes. Also it one of the main ingredients of Panchphoran (5 spice) primarily used in Bengali cuisine. Mustard seeds are called Sarson or Rai in Hindi, Mohit in Marathi, Rai in Gujarati, Kadugu in Tamil, Aavaalu in Telugu and Kaduku in Malayalam. They are used for pickling and flavouring meats.

  • Mustard seeds are rich in minerals like Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium and Phosphorus. Scientific researches have shown that they are helpful in treating psoriasis and inflammation.
  • They also help in digestion, reliving cold, aches and pains, respiratory disorders.

Hope you all enjoyed reading about few common spices used in an Indian kitchen. But wait! We have more to know in coming articles.  As it is rightly said “Picture abhi baaki hai mere dost!” Till then enjoy the first trip to spice land. Ciao!!!




Written by Ekta Agarwal

Hello everyone!! I am Ekta Agarwal from Hyderabad, India. Welcome to my blog where I share my recipes (tried and tested), interesting write ups on herbs, spices, cuisines and dining experiences.

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