Various Spices used in South Indian Cuisine

India is a vast country with diverse geological regions, cultures and food. The food and the food habits of each region, East, West, North and South are completely different. The climate of each region influences the type of food eaten in that area.

In South India the climate is sultry and hot. They receive a good amount of rainfall and also fruits and vegetables are easily available. Their main food is rice, and the popular south Indian dishes are sambhar, rasam, dosa, idli, vadas, payasam etc and not to forget a range of chutneys.  The chief spices and ingredients are lentil, tamarind, curry leaves, chilies, and mustard, cumin, cinnamon, etc. Coconut oil is commonly used.

All the spices and ingredients used in South Indian cuisine have dietary as well as therapeutic benefits. The food is hot and spicy and it has a blend of taste, aroma, smell, and seasoning.

Tamarind – This is a commonly used spice in South Indian cuisine. It is rich in dietary fibre and helps to excrete bad cholesterol from the body. It is anti-oxidant and is rich in iron, calcium, copper, potassium etc. It is also rich in a number of vitamins.

Turmeric –The rhizome of the plant is dried and powdered. It is a part of almost all South Indian dish, it adds colour to the food. It is a natural antibiotic and when added to food its healing ability is beneficial to the body. It has calming effect on the stomach, it is anti –inflammatory and kills inner parasites and also purifies blood.

Coconut – Grown in large quantity, coconut is the main ingredient of South Indian cuisine. Fresh grated coconut or its milk is used to make the curry thick, to add flavor and taste to a dish.

Cinnamon – This is the bark of the tree. It lowers LDL cholesterol, is beneficial for diabetes, it gives relief to people suffering from arthritis. It is a natural food preservative so when it is added to food it averts the growth of bacteria and prevents the food from spoiling.

Asafetida ( hing) – This has a pungent flavor and a strong taste. It is beneficial for respiratory disorders, flatulence, impotency etc.

Black Pepper – When added to food it improves digestion, it reduces intestinal gas, it is an anti oxidant and prevents the growth of bacteria in the intestines.

Cardamom – It helps to offset acidity in the stomach and when the powder of cardamom is sprinkled on coffee it act as an aphrodisiac. When added in food it improves digestion and helps to lessen stomach gas.

Cumin seeds – Cumin has a strong discrete flavor, it improves digestion, helps to cure heart burn and stomach pain. The seeds are anti oxidants and anti- flatulent, these help in digestion. These are rich in vitamins and minerals like iron, copper, calcium, vitamin E, A, and C etc.

Mustard seeds – Mustard seeds are used in almost all dished in South India. These add a pungent aroma to the food. These are used in vegetarian as well as non vegetarian dishes, and also in pickles and chutneys.

Mustard seeds are rich in anti-oxidants, minerals and vitamins. They are a rich source of B-complex vitamins, and vitamin E. It helps to lower blood cholesterol and regulate the metabolism.


All the spices used in South Indian cuisine are of pant origin. These prevent diseases and promote health. They also increase the flavor of a dish.

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.

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.