Importance of Whole spices in Indian Cuisine

Indian spices and Indian food are inseparable. Indian food is not complete without these exotic spices. An assortment of spices are grown and produced in Indian subcontinent.

In the Indian cuisine, spices are added to the dish in various forms i.e. as whole spice, roasted, as grounded powder, stir fried, chopped or as a topping. Some spices are added to a dish in the blended form like garam masala, sambhar masala etc.

The spices used in Indian cuisine differ region wise according to the difference in climate. Those used in the Northern region are different from the ones used in the Southern region.

Different Whole Spices Used in Indian Cuisine:

Coriander Seeds (Dhania) – These light brown or golden seeds are hollow and crisp and they have a very nice nutty/lemony flavour. For tempering a dish these are used whole. As a flavouring agent, these are used in stews, sweet bread, cakes etc.

Coriander is rich in many minerals like iron, calcium, potassium, copper, zinc, and magnesium. It is an anti oxidant and contains vitamin C and B-complex.

Cumin Seeds – These add taste and a discrete strong flavor to the food. Since ancient times this spice has been used as a flavouring agent to cook meat dishes as well as vegetarian curries, rice dishes, dry vegetables etc. It is also used for tempering soups, dals and other dishes .

The cumin seeds are rich in iron, calcium, selenium, copper, manganese, zinc, magnesium, and potassium. These also have vitamin B-complex, vitamin E, A and C.

These help in digestion and avert diarrhea, nausea and help to cure common colds.

Asafoetida ( Hing )– It is also called ‘devil’s dung’, or the ‘stinking gum’ because of its strong pungent smell. This smell changes when you add it to hot oil or ghee for tempering or seasoning the food.

Asafoetida helps to lower blood pressure, it prevents constipation, reduces flatulence. Colic in infants can be cured if a small piece of warm hing is placed on the baby’s stomach.

Mustard Seeds –3 types of mustard seeds are used in cooking, black, white and brown mustard. When these are fried in oil, they impart a beautiful fragrance to the food.

Mustard seeds are used for cooking rice, salads, vegetables and for making pickles. These are fried in oil and used for tempering food items to add colour and flavour.

These seeds contain selenium which helps to reduce asthma, it is anti-inflammatory and has anti-cancer properties. The seeds contain omega-3 fatty acids, iron, protein, calcium, zinc, and manganese.

Sesame Seeds – These seeds have many nutritional, preventive and curing properties. The seeds have a slight nutty flavor which becomes stronger when the seeds are roasted.

It is used as a seasoning for many dishes. These are scattered over bakery products like cakes, biscuits etc. they are used for making Indian sweets, like gajjak, mixed with peanuts and jaggery, which is eaten in the cold season.

The seeds contain many essential nutrients, minerals, antioxidants and vitamins like B- complex, folic acid, calcium, iron, copper etc.


Thus, spices add flavor and aroma to a dish. Each spice has an exclusive flavor, but when it is blended with other spices the flavour it imparts is out of the ordinary. Not only the aroma, spices have many medicinal benefits also. So when these are used in the food they are beneficial to our health as well.

Indian Spices – Best of Healthy & Tasty Food

Spices are dried aromatic parts of the plants, normally the leaf, flower, roots, bark or nuts of a plant, pods, stalks or berries, which are dried, maybe roasted and ground to be added to the other ingredients. Spices add flavour, aroma and add therapeutic value to the food items. It is actually hard to imagine cooking without spices. With us having a huge variety of ground spices of the finest quality…..the potential for cooking and creating delicious recipes at home has never been better!

The enthusiasm for trying different flavours lies behind the availability of ready spices. Use of spices dates back centuries and encompasses both cooking and healing roles. Today, there also a revival of interest in the healing power of spices and are becoming popular for their mild therapeutic qualities.

People throughout the world flavour their foods and beverages with spices. The traditional dishes of Asia feature large quantities of cinnamon, cloves, ginger and pepper. Spices enhance the flavour and aroma of any dish. Each and every spice has its own merit. Pickling spices act as preservatives of meat and other foods which would otherwise spoil. Spices possess nutritional and medicinal merits as well. Today, there is a better understanding of the role spices play in our well-being. Ayurveda, the system of Indian medicine, inculcates a large number of spices in its combination of preventive and curative medicines. The extra zing that makes Indian food so popular all over the world is because of the spices used to cook Indian food dishes. The basis for Indian sauces is the ground masalas and spices. The popular Garam masala is used in many types of gravy and otherwise. The combinations of the different spices used in the Indian foods vary from region to region in India and this gives the unique flavour to the dishes. India is a vast country with many states. The spices are mixed together to make various combination spices which make the food more palatable and tasty. Spices add nutrients and flavour to the dishes without fat or calories.

Turmeric, an essential spice in Indian food, is used because turmeric inhibits blood clotting, reduces liver toxins, and helps the liver metabolize fats and so aids weight loss. . It is believed that turmeric could play a role in slowing down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Peppercorns have a pungent, woody aroma and are hot. The garam masala is a mixture of spices. Asafoetida is a resin taken from a plant, and is a distinctive and pungent spice. It is commonly found in the powdered form. Asafoetida is used mainly for its digestive properties, especially in the cooking of beans and lentils, as it is known to have anti-flatulence properties. All Indian spices offer significant health benefits and contribute towards a healthy life of the individuals. The five key Indian spices are cumin seeds, coriander seeds, ground turmeric, mustard seeds, and ground red chilli powder. All of these provide harmony in flavour of the food.

The Popularity of Traditional Indian Spices

India is known in the world for its beautiful traditions and its mouth-watering food. The food items and the recipes are famous throughout the world due to the spices used in them. These spices add aroma and taste to the food, they also possess certain medicinal values.

Indian food cannot be imagined without these spices. Indian spices like celery, coriander, cumin, and mint have been proved to cure a variety of diseases like common cold, cough, cancerous tumors etc. Now people are beginning to understand the significance of Indian spices in food and medicine. Spices are known to have a positive influence on the digestive process and the absorption of the food.

Spices not only enhance the flavor and aroma of the food they also provide color, and taste to a range of cuisines. Even the western countries have adopted the use of these spices in food preparations. These may be used whole or in powder form. Indian food and spices have been popular all over the world since early times.

The Romans and the Arab traders imported spices from India. Indian cuisine and spices became very popular all over the world by the Middle Ages.  India had active spice trade with major kingdoms in Asia and Europe. At that time many battles were also fought to get access to the spice route to India.

Some of the main and commonly used Indian spices comprise black pepper, turmeric powder, asafetida, cardamom, mustard, coriander, ginger, cumin, red chilli powder, fennel, cloves etc. The spices are also used to make a variety of medicines and cosmetics. Mustards and  cloves are used to preserve food for long period of time.

The spices are derived from different parts of the plants.

  • Roots – Spices like turmeric, ginger, garlic and onion are the roots of the plant. Turmeric has anti-bacterial and antiseptic properties. It is used in a variety of cosmetics and other beauty products. It is used for treating internal injuries. Ginger is used for treating stomach problems, ulcers, common colds and acidity.
  • Leaves – The leaves of peppermint, rosemary, curry leaves, coriander and  methi are very popular.  Mint leaves give a unique and distinctive flavor to the dishes. Coriander leaves have a refreshing aroma. These leaves have a number of medicinal benefits like improving digestion and the appetite.
  • Bark – Cinnamon, the most popular varieties of Indian spicy, is the bark of a tree. It has a rich aroma and a strong flavor. It is used in a number of dishes for its appetizing taste. It aids in lowering blood sugar and cholesterol and to improve the digestive system.
  • Flowers – Caper, rose and saffron are parts of the flower, and are  used in the Indian cuisine for their rich and unique fragrance.
  • Seeds – The seeds of cumin, coriander, cardamom, fenugreek etc. are some very popular Indian spices. Fenugreek is used for purification of blood, as a laxative, and as an antidote for various skin problems. Cumin is a popular seasoning, which is rich in iron and has antioxidant properties.

Thus, spices essentially add spice in life and to the diet. Using spices is a simple way to improve the food and to boost your overall health. This is the major reason for the popularity of traditional Indian spices.

Different Forms of Coriander Used in Indian Food Recipes

The spicy aroma flavors found in most of the dishes is the trademark of the Indian cuisine. The Indian food is flavored with different type of spicy ingredients which include a variety of herbs and spices. The basic Indian spices are cumin seeds, turmeric, coriander seeds, chili powder, mustard seeds and asafetida etc.

One of the basic spices used in Indian food is coriander. It is the seed of the cilantro plant and is also known as cilantro, Chinese parsley or dhania.

It is used as fresh green leaves, in seed form or in powder form. The seeds look like tiny, pale, creamy-brown peppercorns.

When they are dry-fried, the seeds have a stimulating, slightly burnt orange aroma which is very pleasing their scent and flavour  is lemony, with a hint of sage. The seeds should be stored in a cool, dry, dark place, in airtight containers. Coriander powder losses its aroma very fast, so it is always best to grind the seeds as per the requirement.

The ground seeds have a pleasing, mild and sweet taste that is enticing. Every Indian household uses huge quantities of ground coriander in curry powders, garam masala and a variety of other spice mixtures. Whole or ground seeds are used in chutneys. Coriander seeds contain many plant derived chemical compounds that have anti-oxidant, disease preventing, and health promoting properties

Its powder is used in baked goods like cakes and cookies and also in spicy foods like curries because its taste has a hint of cloves as well as pepper.

Coriander seeds and cumin seeds are often combined together, dry-fried and then ground (dhania-jeera powder) to form a powder. The strong, spicy, sweet aroma of cumin when combined with the flavor of coriander in a dish, lends a lovely fragrance to the recipe. It is an excellent blend and this combination is one of the essential spice blends used in Indian cuisine. 

Benefits of coriander

  • Coriander helps in proper digestion of food.
  • The seeds have low cholesterol properties.
  • It increases appetite and relieves indigestion, flatulence, nausea and diarrhea.
  • It helps to increase the body circulation and relieves the fluid retention.
  • It works as an appetite stimulant, which helps in the secretion of gastric juices in the body.
  • Coriander seeds are a rich source of vitamin C.
  • They are a storehouse for many vital vitamins and minerals.

Uses of coriander

  • Coriander is used in almost every Indian recipe.
  • It is used in sweet as well as spicy dishes of Indian cuisine.
  • It is the basic ingredient for a variety of gravy and curry recipes.
  • The coriander powder is used to flavor barbecue, grills and tandoori items.
  • It is an essential item for making vegetarian, non-vegetarian and tofu recipes.
  • It is used for marinating meat, chicken, fish and prawns.
  • Dhania  jeera powder is used for sprinkling over salads, fruit chaats, buttermilk or plain curd. It is also added in pickles, curries and chutneys.

Therefore, coriander plays an essential role in the Indian cookery. Very few recipes can be imagined without the use of coriander powder or the seeds.

3 Basic Indian Spices Without Which Cooking Indian Food Is Incomplete

First thing that attracts you to any dish is its appearance. Next comes the aroma and then the taste. One crowd puller quality of the Indian cuisine is its colourful look. It is the use of different spices in correct proportions that is behind the tempting look of the dish.

Though various different spices are used in different dishes, there are some spices which are the very base of Indian cooking. These are turmeric powder, chilli powder and cumin coriander powder.

Even though cumin seeds and coriander seeds are two different spices they are used together as cumin coriander powder since the aroma and flavour of the two compliment each other splendidly. Cumin adds a richness and depth to just about any dish and coriander gives cool lemony flavour. Both these seeds are ground together to get homogeneous powder that can hardly be omitted from any Indian dish.

A good amount of coriander cumin powder is added in curries to provide a crunchy texture to them. It blends well with stews, soups, smoked meats and gives them an extraordinary taste.

Coriander powder prevents non vegetarian dishes from early spoilage as it contains substances that kill meat-spoiling bacteria and fungi. As it sooths the stomach for both adults and colicky babies when it is added to the food it helps to increase digestion and solves the appetite problems.

Cumin powder is well known for its diuretic, carminative, stimulant, astringent, and antispasmodic properties and so it provides invaluable health benefits. It is very effective in treating dyspepsia, diarrhoea and hoarseness and it also provides relief from flatulence and colic problems. Its use improves digestion and stimulates the appetite.

Turmeric is greatly used in Indian cooking to give the Indian curry special flavour and its famous yellow colour. In fact an Indian dish without turmeric tends to look very insipid. Turmeric has antioxidant properties. It has natural antiseptic and anti bacterial qualities.

Turmeric was also used nearly 3000 years ago in the ancient Vedic culture of India. Today it is being used as an important spice, beauty product and in spiritual ceremonies. Turmeric adds zest to any dish and combined with other spices it adds a wonderful curry flavour.

When used in food it provides a lot of health benefits and healing properties. It acts as a tonic, blood purifier and an antiseptic.

The red chilli powder, produced by grinding dried chillies, is another important ingredient of Indian cuisine. It adds colour, spiciness and flavour to the dishes. Its odour is aromatically strong and the taste is distinctive, strong and spicy.

It is widely used as a stabilizer in curries and other dishes. It contains anti-bacterial, anti-carcinogenic, analgesic and anti-diabetic properties. It is also known to reduce LDL cholesterol levels in obese individuals. Good amount of minerals like potassium, manganese, iron, and magnesium and Vitamin, A, B, C and E are found in chillies.

Thus, to conclude Indian cooking is just incomplete without cumin, coriander, turmeric and chilli powder. Just use quality Indian spices to make your Indian food preparation extraordinarily tasty.

The Most Popular Whole Spices Used in the Preparation of Indian Food

Indian cuisine owes its popularity to the variety of spices used in the preparation of the numerous dishes.

Spices may be used fresh or dry, whole or powdered. The best option is to buy whole spices and grind them when required. Store the whole spices in suitably sized jars so that their essential oils don’t evaporate.

Spices lend flavour, colour and texture to the dish. Different Indian spices are used in different dishes due to the varied properties of the spices. Most common spices used in Indian cookery are cumin, coriander seeds, fenugreek, mustard, sesame, ajowan etc.

Cumin ( Jeera) seeds are oblong in shape and yellow-brownish in colour. Its flavour is enhanced when it is fried in fat, its use in dal tadka is well known. Cumin seeds are the main component in the Indian appetizers like jal jeera and beverages like lime – soda etc. due to its cooling property. It can be roasted, ground and sprinkled over any raita, dal or vegetable curry, meat, poultry etc. to make the dish more appetizing

Coriander ( Dhania ) seeds are round in shape and have lemony citrus flavour when crushed. Coriander seeds are added to hot oil before adding vegetables and meat to impart a very pleasant flavour to the dish. Coriander leaves are used to garnish dishes.

Fenugreek ( Methi) Fresh leaves have strong nutty flavour and are used to finish off many dishes like butter chicken, shahi paneer etc. Fenugreek seeds are small yellowish amber coloured and very hard. They are used in cooking potato, sambar, chutneys, pickles etc. The seeds are one of the main components of spice mixes like curry powder, sambar powder, panch phoron .

Mustard (Rai) seeds are very small round seeds. Three kinds are most common, white, brown and black.  White mustard seeds are milder in flavour and suitable for pickling. Black mustard is smaller in size and more pungent. The brown ones are small like the black ones but not as pungent in flavour. Mustard seeds have a strong pungent flavour that goes very well with many Indian dishes like sambar, poha etc. The seeds are fried in hot oil or ghee till they pop.

Sesame seeds ( Til ) are flat and small in size. They come in many colours and varieties including white seeds and black seeds. The hulled sesame seeds are used in confectionery products like cookies, burgers, breads, cereals etc. Sesame seeds have a slight crunch and delicate nutty flavour. The flavour becomes more pronounced when they are gently dry roasted or added to hot oil. They have heat producing effect and are thus consumed more in winters in the form of laddos, gajjak ( sesame brittle), and other Indian sweets. Sesame seeds have a high content of oil so should be stored in air-tight jars in cool dry places.

Ajowan, seeds are small, greyish green and striped like cumin. The flavour is like thyme but stronger. It is used in very small quantities as it has a strong dominant flavour. Ajowan tastes great in savoury dishes like spicy biscuits, naan, pakoras, dals vegetables, soups, sauces, drinks. It is extensively used in pickles due to its pungent aroma.

Great Indian Spices – Chilli Powder, Coriander, Cumin


Chilli powder – prepared from the different variety of mild to hot chillies, different types and brands vary in their degree of heat. Check the ingredients before buying, as some chilli powders may contain flavourings such as garlic, onion, cumin and oregano. For best results buy RAMDEV pure chilli powder prepared by seeding, drying and grinding the finest of chillies. If the dish requires other herbs and spices, you can add them individually to taste. Chilli powder is used in almost all parts of the world. Central and south America, West and East Africa, the whole of the Asian continent and most parts of the Middle East use chilli powder in a significant proportion of meat, vegetable and rice dishes. Even in those countries where chillies are less apparent, they still have a walk-on role, in the pasta sauces of Italy, for instance, and in pickles, chutneys and relishes.

Coriander – just as fresh coriander (cilantro) is one of the most important herbs of Indian cuisine, so are the seeds of the coriander plant also up there with the other great Indian spices. The seeds look like tiny, pale, creamy-brown peppercorns. When they are dry-fried, the seeds have a heady, slightly burnt orange aroma which is very appealing. The ground seeds give a pleasing, mild and sweet taste that is not overwhelming. Every Indian household uses huge quantities of ground coriander in curry powders, garam masala, and a variety of other spice mixes. Coriander seeds are frequently combined with cumin seeds, the two spices being dry-fried together before being ground (dhania-jeera powder). This combination is common in Middle Eastern dishes too, and coriander seeds also feature as flavouring in many South-east Asian recipes. Whole coriander seeds may be added to chicken and pork casseroles and they are one of the ingredients in basic pickling spice. Whole or ground seeds may be used in chutneys.

Cumin – native to eastern Mediterranean countries and upper Egypt, cumin is now grown almost anywhere where the climate is dry and warm. The spice comes from the seed of this plant, which grows to about 30cm/1 foot high and has flowers that range in colour from mauve or rose-pink to white. Black cumin has a smaller seed, and is occasionally confused with nigella. White cumin is the most available variety. Black cumin seeds have a slightly sweeter aroma and a more delicate flavour than the white ones. Cumin has a strong, spicy, sweet aroma with a warm, slightly bitter and pungent taste. These last two qualities are particularly noticeable in the ground spice, although this is counter-balanced when it is used with ground coriander. Dry-frying before grinding brings out a toasted, nutty flavour, making the spice less harsh. Cumin, with its distinct and strong flavour, is a hugely popular spice in India, the Middle-East, North Africa, Mexico and practically any country where highly spiced food is enjoyed. It is used in almost all Indian curry mixtures and in garam masala. The spice is added to soups and stews, Moroccan lamb dishes and Mexican meat dishes.

Coriander – Cilantro, Chinese Parsley, Dhania, Coriander Seeds


Coriander spice refers to the seed of the cilantro plant. Coriander (Coriandrum sativum), also known as cilantro, Chinese parsley or dhania, is an annual herb in the family Apiaceae. Coriander is tender hollow stemmed plant in the apiaceae family, of the genus coriandum. Pleasantly aromatic and spicy, the seeds have been in use since ancient times in cooking as well as in various traditional medicines. After ripening the small, round coriander seeds take on a scent and flavour that is lemony, with a hint of sage. Coriander finds mention in the Old Testament where it is compared with Manna, the heaven-sent food of the Israelites. Coriander was used by the Egyptians as far back as 5000 years ago. Its preservative properties were known to the Romans as far back as Julius Caesar’s reign, when Roman soldiers took it along with them during expeditions, to preserve meat. The Arabs introduced it to China and India, who readily took to its use as a flavouring spice. Curry powder is based on different spices, the most prominent of these being coriander. Coriander is also an important seasoning for many Mexican Salsas. Thai cuisine makes use of the Coriander root, crushed with garlic and pepper, as a very prominent seasoning.  The leaves are variously referred to as coriander leaves, fresh coriander, Chinese parsley, or cilantro. Continue reading