Discover Your First 4 Best Spices For Indian Cooking (with images)

10September 2021

Discover your first 4 spices for Indian cooking to give your food the spicy edge it deserves, so you can begin using them today. These spices form the backbone of almost every tasty Indian dish.

Welcome to this Indian Cuisine Focus: First Bite Series article in which we examine the best spices for Indian cooking you’ll encounter when eating out.


Introduction – Discover Your First 4 Best Spices For Indian Cooking

From flavours to colours and aroma, there is no denying that Indian cooking entails a mixture of delicious species.

Even though spices are the soul of Indian cuisine, the long list of spices or masalas can be daunting when it comes to cooking. 

Whether or not it’s a unique dish, the correct type and amount of spice are vital in making the perfect meal. 

In addition, spices are not just there to add flavour or make the food spicy. Every ingredient has varying benefits when mixed in the food in harmony with the rest. 

Many spices used in Indian cooking bestow health benefits, including relieving indigestion and treating various conditions. 

Below is a list of 4 popular spices you should aim to eat more of in your next Indian dish: 


01: Indian Spice – Spice Turmeric

Turmeric powder
Composition with a bowl of turmeric powder on a wooden table.

Q. What is Turmeric?

Turmeric is a spicy powder used in many Indian dishes. This bright yellow, aromatic spice gets used to add a splash of colour and a punch of heat to served food such as biryani. 

Thai curries, for example, get their yellow colour from their turmeric content. 

Q. Where might I find Turmeric?

But you’ll also find it in noodles, soups, seafood, vegetables, meats, eggs, potatoes (combined sometimes with Rosemary), rice and other savoury dishes.

Q. What can I try with Turmeric?

Why not try quinoa, couscous and rice with Turmeric next? Many people have also praised it for its health benefits.

The health benefits are reasons alone to incorporate it into your cooking. 

Q. Why bother with Turmeric?

Turmeric gets lauded as helping to prevent Alzheimer’s disease and cancer. It has anti-inflammatory characteristics and helps with digestion and arthritis, not to mention guarding against heart diseases.

Q. Play It Safe With New Spices

It’s always sensible with any new spice or ingredients to wade in, slowly taking your time for your stomach to adjust.

That way, you avoid any commonly-encountered tummy side effects that can affect people differently.


02. Indian Spice: Cumin

Cumin Powder
Bowl of Ground Cumin

Q. What is Cumin?

Cumin comes from the dried seeds of a plant named Cuminum Cyminium. Cumin is known for its fragrant, rich and bitter flavour. Depending on the texture you’re after, you can use ground cumin or whole seeds. 

Cumin has a potent flavour and gets used chiefly in marinades. 

Q. From where did Cumin originate?

Cumin originated in Egypt and the Middle East and has made its way worldwide, notably into South American food, Mexican and Indian by the Spanish and Portuguese Europeans. 

Q. What are the health benefits of Cumin, if any?

It seems almost impossible to believe the stated health benefits of Cumin. The health benefits are numerous. 

Example: Cumin contains antioxidants that fight on your behalf with the free radicals that age you.

Cumin guards against cancer and is said to help lower cholesterol, has anti-inflammatory properties, controls blood sugar, is anti-parasitic and anti-bacterial, and speeds up the metabolism, helping, to a small extent, with losing weight. 

Did I mention that Cumin also promotes digestion?

Q. In what do people use Cumin?

Cumin is a standard part of Indian cuisine, so you can expect to find it in soups, stews, pickles, rice dishes, chutneys, BBQ sauces, bread and more.

Q. What kind of flavour does Cumin add to your food?

Flavour or taste is difficult to describe in words. Taste, after all, is wordless and relies heavily on smells and texture. 

Others describe the taste as earthy, warm and tangy with a musky scent. However, you won’t eat Cumin on its own, but it is said to add instant depth to any dish. 

Q. In what form does Cumin come?

Cumin comes in seed form or powder (ground) and usually forms part of Chilli powder. You can also buy soft gel black cumin seed oil supplements. 

Q> How much Cumin do you usually need for a dish?

Cumin, if you add too much, will overwhelm your food quite quickly. It’s therefore wise to add a little and adjust the quantity to taste.


03. Indian Spice: Paprika 

Paprika Powder
spices on a wooden table

Q. What is Paprika?

Paprika is made of dried and ground red peppers and comes in a wide array of flavours.

Made with milder peppers than chilli, Paprika ranges from sweet to spicy, depending on the blend you choose – smoked, sweet and hot.

Use sweet to avoid the heat!

Q. Where is Paprika typically found?

Paprika is available in India and Hungary, Mexico, Argentina, Spain, Serbia, China, and the United States, to name only a few.

Of course, you can buy Paprika in ground form these days from almost every corner shop or supermarket.

Q. For what does Paprika gets used?

Like most spices, Paprika gets used for seasoning, adding colour to dishes, adding spiciness, and acting as a garnish for foods and sauces. 


04. Indian Spice: Garam Masala 

Indian garam masala spice
Indian garam masala spice

Q. What is Garam Masala?

This name translates to “hot spice mix”, and you will find it in almost every Indian dish.

Garam masala is a blend of ground powders that Indians use to flavour their foods like typical spices.

Garam Masala comes in different blends, including cinnamon, coriander, cloves and Cumin. Garam means “hot”, while masala means “spices”.

Q. In what form does Garam Masala come?

Garam masala powder is used in Northern India, while Southern India prefers pastes combined with coconut milk, water and vinegar.

If you like the heat, add it to any traditional dish or sprinkle it on snacks such as chaat. 

Quote: “Food is What We Do Most And Do Best”


Conclusion – Discover Your First 4 Best Spices For Indian Cooking

So there you have it.

India is a vast country, so due to the enormity of what’s available, you’ll undoubtedly come across many other spices like Black pepper, Nutmeg, Coriander, Mustard seeds, Clove, Cardamom, Cassia bark, Fenugreek and Saffron.

These are just a few examples of the common spices you should seek when choosing your next Indian meal. 

Feel free to let us know what’s on your mind in the comments below.

The previous article in the series:  7 Tasty Indian Dishes You Can Make Yourself At Home.

The next article in the series:  Discover 5 of India’s Most Popular Desserts For Your Next Meal Out.

Don McDonald

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