Indian cuisine is defined by its use of powdered spices or masalas to give it a rich flavor profile and aroma. Depending on what part of the country you’re from, you will have a different combination of these powdered spices. Indian flavors are so loved cherished across the world because of these unique differentiators.
A lot of these masalas also have medicinal properties. Like haldi, for example, is excellent for the stomach and to develop your immunity. There are hundreds of spices and spice blends to wrap your head around and confuse yourself, but an excellent place to start is the basics as a rule of thumb. So let’s look at 10 spices common in every Indian household.
Garam Masala is the literal Hindi translation for the warm spice mix. It is a blend of plenty of whole spices, roasted together, cooled down, and then blended. Every household has its own recipe for making garam masala or a favorite retail garam masala they buy. Either way, it is a very personal flavor profile. Garam masala coupled with green or red chilies gives a nice tinge to a very wholesome aroma recipe.
Known for its nutty and warm flavor, cumin is an essential ingredient in Indian recipes. It has a rounded earthy flavor that works well both at the base layer of a dish or over the top in the end. It is used as a whole, it goes well as the first ingredient with mustard seeds to pop and give the recipe that first flavor. It also does well as a topping for beverages like spiced buttermilk and masala lemonade.
Turmeric or Haldi is one of the signature ingredients of Indian cuisine. Used in almost every recipe, turmeric brings a unique peppery and woody flavor to the mix. But more than its flavor, it is well regarded for all the healing abilities it contains. The bright yellow spice is a feature of every spice box in India.
Black pepper as a spice is more globally used than just in India, but its flavors go perfectly well with Indian cuisine. More than the powdered form, black peppercorns are widely used in Indian cuisine as whole spices or an essential ingredient of garam masala mix.
Red Chilli Powder
No Indian recipe is complete without the redness and spiciness of red chili powder. It is usually sold in different variations, such as Kashmiri red chili powder, a slightly less spicy but very colorful red chili powder used chiefly for adding color to the dish.
Chat masala is a hearty mix of spices that add a sparkly flavor to street-style food and fruit salads. It usually consists of a blend of amchur, dried ginger, coriander, salt, black pepper, and hing.
Hing or asafoetida is a dried tree resin that has a powerful sulfurous smell and flavor. It is one of the first aromatics to add in the hot oil or ghee when preparing a recipe. It’s a great ingredient to add in daals, curries, and even dry vegetable preparations.
Ginger is a highly used ingredient and flavor in the cuisine. Ginger cut and chopped into pieces or blended with onion paste is used commonly. It is even used with a blend of garlic in a lot of recipes. But ginger powder or saunth is used when the gravy has to be consistent and watery.
Dhania powder is, again, one of the most used dry spices in a typical Indian spice box. This spice adds earthy flavors to popular recipes, anywhere from curries to sambhar. It also adds some texture to recipes.
Amchur is dried mango powder used to add sour flavor to recipes when the flavor profile doesn’t add lemon or tomatoes to achieve the same result. Sometimes it is used either way for its unique mango-like flavor.
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