Spices can add flavour and aroma to even the most basic of dishes. Many distinct spices exist today, each with its own flavour and purpose. Spices provide various health advantages while also contributing to the delicious taste of food. Here we’ll explore all the essential Indian spices.

Is it possible to imagine a world without spices? It's the equivalent of eating food without salt. Spices are what elevate an ordinary dish to a new level of excellence.

Spices can add flavour and aroma to even the most basic of dishes. Many distinct spices exist today, each with its own flavour and purpose. Spices provide various health advantages while also contributing to the delicious taste of food. Turmeric, garlic, and ginger, among other spices, have antimicrobial and immunity-boosting qualities. Many Indian houses keep a "masala box" in the kitchen that contains all of the necessary spices for regular cooking.

Table of Contents

1- What are Spices?

2- The Brief History of Spices

3- Essential Spices-

  • 3.1- Turmeric Powder
  • 3.2- Coriander Powder
  • 3.3- Red Chilli Powder
  • 3.4- Dry Ginger Powder
  • 3.5- Peepramul Powder
  • 3.6- White Pepper Powder
  • 3.7- Black Pepper Powder
  • 3.8- Dry Mango Powder
  • 3.9- Cumin Seeds
  • 3.10- Fenugreek Seeds
  • 3.11- Thymol Seeds
  • 3.12- Fennel Seeds
  • 3.13- Sesame Seeds
  • 3.14- Mustard Seeds
  • 3.15- Cinnamon
  • 3.16- Cardamom
  • 3.17- Cloves
  • 3.18- Asafoetida
  • 3.19- Salt
  • 3.20- Curry Leaves

4- How to Store Spices?

What are Spices?

Spices are aromatic flavourings derived from plant components such as seeds, fruits, bark, and rhizomes. Spices have been highly valued as trade products for thousands of years and have been used to season and preserve food, and as medicines, dyes, and fragrances. The term "spice" originates from the Latin species that implies merchandise or wares.

Although spices are sold dried, this does not guarantee they will last permanently; their robust flavours will fade with time, especially if they are exposed to light and air. Spices come in a wide range of forms, including fresh, whole-dried, dried pre-ground, or blended.

A Brief History of Spices

Spices have a long and illustrious history, dating back practically to the dawn of civilization. It's a narrative of new lands being found, empires rising and falling, wars fought and lost, treaties signed and broken, new flavours being sought and provided, and the rise and fall of many religious practises and beliefs. In the ancient and mediaeval periods, spices were among the most valuable commodities.

  • Around 3500 BC, the ancient Egyptians employed spices in cuisine, cosmetics, and embalming.
  • Arab merchants dominated the spice trade for around 5000 years until European conquerors discovered a sea route to India and other spice-producing countries in the East.
  • The Great Age of Exploration and the Discovery of the New World began with the hunt for a cheaper method to purchase spices from the East. 
  • In 1492, Christopher Columbus set off from Europe to search for a sea path to the kingdoms of spices but instead discovered the Americas.
  • Vasco da Gama, a Portuguese explorer, found a sea path around Africa's southern point in 1497, finally reaching Kozhikode on India's southwest coast in 1498. On his voyage, Da Gama brought back a shipment of nutmegs, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, and peppercorns. 

Spices were as expensive as gold and jewels in Europe throughout the Middle Ages, and they were the single most significant force driving the global economy. The conquest of India and other Asian regions was fueled by a fierce struggle among European powers for control of the spice trade.

As spices became more readily available, their value began to drop. Individuals had discovered a method of transporting spice plants to other regions of the globe, and opulent monopolies began to disintegrate.

Essential Spices

Turmeric Powder:

Turmeric powder is one of the most common Indian spices that you can find in every household. No Indian cooking is complete without this spice.

Turmeric is a spice that has an earthy undertone flavour. This spice, in its natural form, is bright yellow.

Turmeric powder provides the most health advantages of all the spices used in Indian cuisine. Antioxidant, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-carcinogenic, anti-mutagenic, and anti-inflammatory capabilities are all present in it.

For health reasons, make sure to add at least a dash of black pepper to your dishes. Turmeric is an excellent anti-inflammatory, but its benefits are reduced without the piperine found in black pepper.

Related: What Makes Turmeric & Black Pepper a Powerful Combo?

Coriander Powder:

Coriander is a parsley family member and one of the most prominent spices on our list.

This spice has a sweet, tangy, somewhat citrus flavour and is among the world's oldest spices. Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh are the two states that cultivate it the most.

Coriander has a wide range of health advantages. They aid in producing digestive enzymes and fluids that aid in the digestion process. If you're suffering from indigestion, consider including coriander powder in your diet.

Red Chilli Powder:

The hottest portions of red chillies, the seeds, are used to make red chilli powder. As a result, the powder is highly potent and should be used in limited amounts.

This spice is a must-have in every kitchen and ranks high on the list of common names for spices.

Red chilli powder is one of the spices that is used in every Indian dish. It gives a meal a more fiery flavour and a lovely red colour. It functions as a natural food colour in the recipe and enhances its presentation. The only thing you should keep in mind is that each person's spice tolerance should be considered when adding red chilli to their meals.

When added to your diet, they can be a rich source of vitamin C, promote weight loss, decrease blood pressure, and alleviate congestion.

Dry Ginger Powder:

The flavour of ginger is known for being robust, aromatic, and sweet-spicy. Many people describe its flavour as peppery and sharp, with undertones of lemon.

Ginger is said to have originated in China, and it is used in a variety of traditional Chinese and Indian medicines.

Indigestion can cause stomach pain that can be relieved with dry ginger powder. The anti-inflammatory properties of ginger help neutralise digestive juices in the stomach and eliminate excess gas in the intestines.

Consume 3 grammes of dry ginger powder before each meal; it might aid digestion. Ginger is also a vital component of the traditional Kadha recipe.

Peepramul Powder:

Peepramul powder is derived from a rhizoid root that is linked to ginger root. Peepramul has a unique scent and flavour because it has volatile oils. The volatile oils in this blend are Zingerone, shogaols, and gingerols.

It can be used as a spice, an Ayurvedic medication, a medicinal herb, or a catalyst to boost the effectiveness of other plants. It has anti-ageing benefits as well.

Peepramul contains piperine, which stimulates insufficient blood circulation. It enhances the absorption of the other active compounds in the medicine or product when taken with other active components in the medication or product.

White Pepper Powder:

White pepper consists of simply the interior seed of the pepper berry, without the pericarp. The berry is harvested fully ripe to yield white pepper. The dried, greyish-white pepper interior is exposed once the exterior, shrunken skin, is brushed away.

When the chefs don't want the black specks floating in their dish, they generally use white pepper. This spice in its powdered form is used in white sauces, soups, salads, and potato dishes.

It has a subtler flavour than black pepper and is less complex. This white pepper is dried and supplied in whole and powdered forms in the commercial market.

Black Pepper Powder:

One of the most extensively used spices in the world is Black pepper. There's no denying that black pepper has made its way into every kitchen. It is also one of the few spices that are found in almost every cuisine.

The peppercorns, which are dried berries from the vine Piper nigrum, are ground to make black pepper. Black peppercorns are gathered when the berries are ready to ripen. These berries are sun-dried after harvesting, darkening their outer covering.

Antioxidants in black pepper fight free radicals and protect the body from significant health problems. Because of its anti-inflammatory characteristics, the chemical piperine found in black pepper provides numerous health benefits.

Dry Mango Powder:

In simpler terms, mango powder is Amchur Powder. At first, unripe mangoes are peeled away. They are then freshly cut into various sizes. After that, the slices are dried in the sun until they are dry. And lastly, they are ground into powder. 

Amchur powder has a variety of culinary purposes. It's added to curries, chutneys, soups, and marinades to give them additional flavour. It possesses sour traits similar to tamarind and tenderising properties similar to lime juice.

Because it does not require much cooking, amchur powder is usually added at the end of the process. Pregnant women are also given dry mango powder to aid with morning sickness and nausea.

Cumin Seeds:

Cumin seed is a spice that tastes like caraway or dill and is a common ingredient in Indian cuisine and curries. Cumin seeds are best-used whole and cooked in oil at the start of a recipe (the process is called "Taarka").

This seed has an earthy, warm, bitter flavour and is a common ingredient in Middle Eastern cuisine.

It can help with digestion, boost immunity, and cure skin problems, sleeplessness, and respiratory problems including asthma, bronchitis, and anaemia. Light cumin-flavored stews or a glass of zeera water have been used as a failsafe therapy for digestive problems in Indian families for centuries.

Fenugreek Seeds:

Fenugreek, which is most typically found in madras powder, gives Indian meals their distinct curry aroma and flavour. The bittersweet seeds sometimes have a strange maple syrup undertone that fades when fried.

This Indian spice "smells like curry," according to some. Because it's so strong, you should take it in moderation.

It aids in digestion, increases libido in males, enhances milk flow in mothers, helps with eating disorders, and lowers inflammation.

Ajwain Seeds:

Ajwain resembles cumin seeds in look, but it has a distinct aroma. It also has a herbal scent and a flavour that is similar to oregano and anise.

Ajwain is a powerful spice that may be found in a variety of Indian recipes. Each tiny carom fruit contains a large amount of thymol, which gives it a flavour similar to thyme but much stronger. In India, carom is commonly used in bread.

It is used sparingly in Indian cuisine, fried first to provide a smokey flavour, and pairs well with cumin seeds, mustard seeds, and other robust flavours like mustard, cardamom, or cumin.

Fennel Seeds:

Saunf is made from dried fennel seeds and is a member of the delicious and fragrant parsley family. It's a Southern European native, but now it is cultivated all across Europe, the Middle East, China, India, and Turkey.

Fennel and anise are both closely related to black liquorice. Candied fennel seed is a popular after-dinner mint in Indian restaurants.

Dietary fibre is abundant in this spice. Its potent antioxidants aid in the removal of damaging free radicals from the body and promote a healthy lifestyle. It also aids in the prevention of ageing and degenerative neurological illnesses.

Sesame Seeds:

The Sesamum indicum plant produces tiny, oil-rich seeds in pods, which are known as Sesame seeds. These seeds have a nutty flavour to it.

Sesame seeds have been used in folk medicine for thousands of years and offer several possible health advantages. They may aid in the prevention of heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis.

It contains cholesterol-lowering chemicals, aids hormone balance, and, most importantly, improves nutrition absorption.

Mustard Seeds:

Mustard seeds are an essential ingredient in Indian cooking, providing a nutty, biting tone to many curries. It is often preferred to fry in oil at the start of preparation during tadka.

Mustard reduces arthritic symptoms by reducing pain, stimulating appetite, and stimulating appetite. Mustard oil might be advantageous to your heart health if you include it in your daily diet.

Because it is high in MUFA, it lowers bad cholesterol in the body, lowering blood fat levels and improving circulation.


Cinnamon is a common household spice that has been used all over the world for ages. Dalchini has a somewhat sweet flavour.

For a pinch of spice, it's used in many traditional dishes and drinks like hot chocolate and coffee. It gives the holiday drinks a distinct intensity and makes them even more delicious.

It contains a high concentration of antioxidants, which protect the body from illness, as well as several anti-inflammatory compounds. Cinnamon is used in various unusual foods and is now popular due to its ability to alleviate bloating.


Cardomom, also known as elaichi, is a fragrant and savoury spice that comes in a pod. Although it is commonly used in sweets and curries, many people enjoy the flavour of elaichi in pulao. It is recommended to discard the outer pod and use the contents in powder form.

It is the third most expensive spice on the planet. Because it is abundant in vitamin A and vitamin C, calcium, iron, and zinc, it promotes heart health, helps digestion, improves oral health, aids diabetes, aids depression, aids asthma, prevents blood clots, and treats skin infections.


Clove has a strong fragrance, and you should use it in moderation. For a mouth-watering flavour, laung is frequently used with black pepper in recipes.

They're powerful. It will overpower other, more subtle flavours if you use too much of it. Depending on the recipe, four to ten whole cloves should be plenty for a family-sized lunch. They're another crucial ingredient in biryani.

Cloves are high in antioxidants, minerals, omega-3 fatty acids, fibre, and vitamins and minerals. Clove oil provides a high level of antioxidants.


The Indian spice asafoetida (hing) is one of our favourites. Cooking with hing means cooking with one of the world's most potent and fragrant spices.

Hing is an aromatic ingredient that is commonly added to heated ghee or oil for a raw and pungent flavour. It's ideal when you're making curries or lentils. This spice gives the dish a particular flavour, and the coolest thing is that just a pinch of hing is all you need!


Salt may enhance other flavours, such as aromatic notes, in addition to giving meals a "salty" flavour. It balances sweetness and assists in the suppression of unpleasant flavours like bitterness. Salt, or more specifically sodium chloride, is a nutritional source for sodium, an important component that the body requires in moderation.

Salt works as a texture enhancer as well. It affects the texture of meals by changing the structure of proteins and their interactions with other components such as water and fat.

Curry Leaves:

We can't talk about Indian spices without mentioning curry leaves, AKA, kadipatta. Curry leaves are one of the most enigmatic Indian spices. 

Curry leaves are the curry tree's leaves (Murraya Koenigii). The leaves of this tree, which is native to India, are used for both medicinal and culinary purposes. They have a strong scent and a distinct taste with citrus undertones.

Aside from being a diverse culinary herb, the potent plant elements they contain provide dozens of health advantages.

How to Store Spices Right?

1- Don't Put Spices Over a Hot Pot:

If you want your spices to last, make sure they're kept dry. Shaking a spice jar over a hot stove allows steam to enter the can, which can result in caked (or even mouldy) spices over time. When using ground spices, take the time to use a spoon, which means fewer mistakes and no tongue-singing chilli.

2- Store in Opaque Containers: 

Yes, we realise that displaying those lovely, colourful spices in glass jars is every home cook's dream—after all, spices are frequently offered in transparent containers, to begin with. If you want to preserve their flavour and freshness for as long as possible, put them in opaque containers with clearly labelled tags. 

3- Keep Spices Airtight:

Windowsill spice racks and displays near your stove and oven are clear no-no’s since heat and light both alter the flavour of spices and cause them to lose potency quickly. The best option is a cold, dark cabinet that won't be subjected to frequent temperature changes.

4- Don't Use Wet Utensils to Measure Spices:

This is related to rule #1: moisture is a no-no. It's tempting to grab any spoon off the counter to scoop out some cumin when you're simply trying to get dinner on the table, but it's crucial to spend the extra second making sure it's a dry tool. Spices are expensive, and having to throw out a whole jar because it has crystallised is a disaster no one wants to experience.

5- Check Your Spices Frequently:

You make sure your refrigerator is clean on a daily basis, but for some reason, we consider our spice cupboard a dark pit where we rapidly lose sight of what spices we actually own. Having well-organised, properly labelled containers will encourage you to use them on a frequent basis.

6- Don't Store Bulk Spices:

If you can get bulk spices on sale, this is a terrific option—but only if you use spices regularly. If you don't, only buy what you're certain you'll use in a reasonable amount of time. It's also worth noting that freezing isn't a good idea for ordinary storage. Instead, restock smaller counter containers with frozen spices, as the continuous freezing-defrosting process can result in a lot of condensation, which leads to clumpy, cakey spices that degrade rapidly.

7- Keep Track of Your Spices:

Spices have a variety of shelf lives, and there is no general consensus on how long they should last. But, with a one-to-two-year window of optimal taste, everyone believes that whole spices last longer than ground spices. Purchasing whole spices and grinding them at home right before use will provide the best flavour and freshness. Whether you buy it whole or ground, it's still a good idea to write down the date of purchase on the bottle for future reference.