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This is by no means an exhaustive list of all of the spices used in Indian Cooking. If I forgot to list a spice that you’d like to know more about, just leave me a comment! Also, these are in alphabetical order, not in the order of what’s used most.
Amchoor Powder (Dried Mango Powder): Amchoor powder is made from unripe green mangoes. It adds a tart and fruity flavour to recipes.
Black Salt (Kala Namak): This pinkish-grey salt has a pungent, sulfurous flavour. It’s a spice that’s often used in chutneys and chaat.
Cardamom: Cardamom is warm, floral and very aromatic. It’s one of my favourite spices to use in sweets and also in savoury dishes.
Cloves: Cloves have a uniquely sweet and warm aroma, making them perfect for both sweet and savoury dishes.
Coriander: Unlike cilantro leaves, coriander seeds are mild in flavour. Even if you’re a cilantro hater, give the seeds a chance. I find that coriander seeds to be sweet and nutty with subtle notes of lemon.
Cumin Seeds: Cumin, a member of the parsley family, and has an earthy and smoky flavour. By first dry roasting the seeds in a cast iron skillet, you can intensify this flavour.
Curry Leaves: Curry leaves are from a plant and they provide dishes with a unique smoky and citrus-like flavour and aroma. You can find fresh curry leaves at most Indian grocery stores, or on Amazon. I typically store extra leaves in a ziplock bag in my freezer and use them as needed.
Curry Powder: Curry powder is a blend of spices that contains coriander, cumin, turmeric, red chilli powder as well as other spices. Curry powder does not contain curry leaves.
Dried Fenugreek Leaves (Kasoori Methi): This is the secret to getting homemade Indian food to taste restaurant quality. Dried fenugreek leaves (also known as kasoori methi) adds complex flavour to any curry or dish. It’s earthy, warm, sweet and bitter. You can find dried fenugreek leaves at any Indian store and also on Amazon.
Fennel Seeds: Fennel seeds are highly aromatic and have a sweet, licorice-like flavour.
Garam Masala vs. Meat Masala: You will see both of these spice blends used in my ebook are not interchangeable. The garam masala that you find in stores is typically a north Indian blend. My homemade meat masala is different in flavour and is primarily used in south Indian cooking.
Kalonji (Nigella Seed): Kalonji, also known as nigella seed or as onion seed, are small, black, triangular shaped seeds that look similar to sesame seeds. They’re nutty, peppery and pungent. They are often used in pickle or chutney recipes and some restaurants will even add kalonji to naan bread.
Kashmiri Chilli Powder vs. Cayenne: Cayenne is a spicy chilli pepper that will add heat to a dish. It ranges from 30k-50k Scoville units. Kashmiri chilli powder on the other hand is very mild and registers at around 2k Scoville units. The reason many recipes call for Kashmiri chilli powder is because it adds a nice red hue to dishes. If you want to substitute a spice for Kashmiri chilli powder then I suggest using paprika.
Mustard Oil: Mustard oil has a horseradish or wasabi-like flavour and is very pungent, so a little goes a long way. Mustard oil is very popular in Indian and South Asian cuisine, however, due to the erucic acid found in this oil, it can only be sold as “massage” oil in the United States. That said, this oil is becoming increasingly more popular, even among American chefs. You can purchase this oil in any Indian grocery store or on Amazon.
Brown/Black Mustard Seeds: Brown/Black mustard seeds are commonly used in Indian cooking and are more intense than yellow mustard seeds. Brown or black mustard seeds are typically first cooked in hot oil, until they begin to pop or splutter. They are pungent, slightly spicy and nutty.
Saffron: Saffron, one of the most expensive spices on the market, requires just a pinch to impart its flavour and beautiful golden colour onto any dish. Soak a couple threads of saffron in a tablespoon or two of warm water or milk before using.
Star Anise: This star-shaped spice has a licorice-like flavour. While star anise and fennel seed are somewhat similar in flavour, I find star anise to be savoury and slightly bitter whereas I consider fennel seed to be more sweet.
Turmeric: Turmeric, one of the most popular Indian spices, has a long history of medicinal use dating back thousands of years. It has has a warm, peppery, bitter flavour and will add a bright yellow colour to any dish.
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