These are the essential spices you will find in a typical Indian kitchen. They are the spices I cook with most and all my recipes located on this site
include at least one of them. They are the foundation of the Indian spice cabinet and apart from their amazing flavors, have wonderful
health benefits also, which I’ve briefly outlined*. I hope you will get to know them well enough to include them in yours too!


    These are the dried leaves of the Indian Cassia tree. They look similar to western bay leaves but are larger, olive in color and have deeper, more cinnamon-like flavor. Bay leaves are used to provide headache and menstrual cramping relief, as an antidepressant, manage blood sugar levels and blood pressure.

  • CARDAMOM (elaichi)

    An essential spice used both in sweet and savory dishes. There are 2 basic types: green and brown/back cardamom. The latter has a more peppery flavor and not used in sweet dishes as much. They are dry pods filled with tiny seeds that have a perfumy, pungent aroma. The seeds are used to make ground cardamom.


    A wide variety of chillies are dried and crushed to make chili posers. There are several different blends available depending on which region of India they come from. Some are used for their vibrant red color, whilst others are used for their heat level. The amount used can be varied to determine the heat of a dish.


    These hardy sticks are cultivated from the aromatic bark of an evergreen called the Indian Cassia tree. They are flatter and darker in color than traditional cinnamon sticks. It also has a stronger taste and is less sweet. Cinnamon has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and antioxidant effects, and is also considered to be a natural coagulant and is known to reduce blood sugar levels and cholesterol.


    These are the dried unopened flower buds of the clove tree. They are short brown sticks that have a pungent flavor and should be used in moderation. They are widely used in Indian cuisine, whole or ground.


    These tannish, round seeds are from the cilantro plant. They have a spicy aroma and also widely used in Indian cooking. They are used whole or ground.

  • CUMIN (jeera)

    Green, ochre or black elongated and ridged seeds of a plant form the parsley family. It has a peppery, slightly bitter flavor and is very aromatic. Also a staple in the Indian kitchen.

  • FENNEL SEEDS (saumph)

    The dried oval seeds of an originally Mediterranean plant that also have ridges and look like large cumin seeds are widely used in Indian cooking as an aromatic. They smell like licorice, are sweet-tasting and often confused with anise as they are similar in taste and appearance but are smaller. Fennel seeds aid digestion, are wonderful antioxidants, are used for bone health and promote healthy circulation.


    Technically dried legumes and not seeds, these yellow-amber almost-squarish bits have a groove down one side. They are a major ingredient in commercial curry powder and almost have a maple syrup-like flavor, with a distinct “curry” aroma. Fenugreek seeds are rich in protein, fiber, vitamin c and minerals. It is said to improve women’s and men’s health, reduce cholesterol, aid digestion and manage diabetes.


    A spice blend that can be found in many different versions. Traditionally, these mixes were tailored to suit each household’s kitchen. Used in most dishes in Indian cuisine and usually contains many of the spices listed on this page. The health benefits of garam masala is derived from the individual spices that create it. The only spice I have not outlined is black pepper which is commonly found in garam masala. Black pepper is an antioxidant, is antibacterial and anti-carcinogenic. It increases the body’s ability to absorb essential nutrients and is a natural metabolism booster. For my recipe, click here. 


    These are tiny round seeds that are either yellow, brown or black, depending on which mustard plant it comes from. They are usually added to hot oil to develop its nutty flavor at the beginning of a dish. They are also used widely in Indian pickles. Mustard seeds are loaded with phytonutrients which are important for a healthy GI tract. They are also an excellent source of selenium, magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids.


    Saffron is made from the dried stigmas of a crocus flower. They have an intense color of yellow-orange and exhibit a musky aroma. Usually steeped in oil or hot water before use, it develops a floral aroma and unique flavor, as well as imparts a beautiful hue to dishes. Use sparingly in dishes as this is the most expensive spice on earth, by weight! Saffron is used to relieve PMS symptoms, for vision health and as an antidepressant.


    This star-shaped fruit of an evergreen has a flavor very similar to anise, hence its name. It is dark brown, woody and is found in many spice mixes, as well as lends it’s warm flavor to many hearty dishes. Star anise exhibits antifungal, antibacterial and antioxidant properties.


    This fruit of the tamarind tree lends a sour profile to dishes. It is used widely in creating Indian condiments. It is sold in pulp form or whole, seeds included. More preparation is needed for the latter, as the fruit needs to be soaked in hot water to remove the seeds before cooking. Tamarind is a mild laxative and is used as a diuretic, lowers cholesterol and topically used as relief for swollen joints.


    This vibrant yellow root is a major player in Indian cooking. It’s the ingredient that gives curry its wonderful hue. Its distinct flavor – slightly bitter and very pungent – lends both color and flavor to all the dishes it’s incorporated into. It is sold in both root and ground form, the latter being more popular and easier to work with. Turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and antioxidant. It has also been known to help improve liver function, protect your heart and lower cholesterol.


* The information I have provided regarding the health benefits of the spices appearing on my website are for general information purposes only and do not constitute legal or other professional advice.It is your responsibility to ensure that you are not allergic to any of the ingredients listed on my site before consuming them. Please consult your doctor if you have any concerns.