Indian Pantry 101

Frequently seen spices in Indian pantries:

1.Garam Masala:


  • The word Garam means ‘Warm’ and Masala means ‘a mixture of spices’.
  • Garam Masala is made by grinding together a combination of spices such as Black Pepper, cardamom, coriander, etc.

2.Cumin Seeds/Powder:



  • 2 varieties: Brown and Black.
  • Strong smell;bitter taste

3.Coriander Powder/Seeds:


  • Aids in digestion;high in fiber and vitamin C



  • Said to be one of the most expensive spices in the world
  • come in 2 varities: Black and green
  • Green cardamon is frequently used in desserts and sweetmeats.



  • Cloves are commercially harvested primarily in Bangladesh, Indonesia, India, Madagascar, Zanzibar, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Tanzania.
  • Used in South Asian cooking it impart aroma, yet its not necessarily eaten.

6.Cinnamon Stick


  • Lowers blood sugar and is an antioxidant
  • Dried inner back of the cinnamon tree.
  • Frequently used in Biryanis to impart an earthy flavor

7.Black Pepper


  • Hard to grow and native to India
  • Was used in ancient Rome as a meat preservative.

8.Mustard Seeds


  • 3 varieties: Black,brown and yellow.Black/brown are used in Indian cooking
  • Mostly used in tempering
  • Have a sharp, nutty and slightly bitter in taste.

9. Fenugreek Leaves / Methi Leaves


  • Said to promote digestion and reduce blood sugar levels in diabetics.

10.Turmeric Powder:


  • Orange-Yellow, with earthy musky aroma
  • Mostly used in powder form, to impart slight bitterness
  • Made from the root of the turmeric plant.
  • Anti- inflammatory and has anti-oxidant properties.



  • Cultivated from the Saffron Crocus plant.
  • Said to have originated from Persia.
  • Grows in the India state of Kashmir.

12.Chili Powder:


  • Bright red, used to impart both heat and color.
  • Often made from red chili peppers of Kashmir
  • Aids in digestion

There are plenty more spices, but these are the ones most frequently used.The combinations of spices change from region to region depending on availability and preferences.

Frequently used herbs of Indian cooking:

1.Curry leaves


  • Leaves of the plant”Murraya koenigii“. Lots of India families grow this plant on their window sills/balconies and uses a few fresh leaves while cooking.
  • Can also be dried for easy storage.


3.Coriander/Cilantro leaves

4.Green chili/Thai chili or Birds eye chili

Pastes, Purees and other condiments:

1.Ginger garlic paste :Ginger and garlic is so frequently used in Indian cooking, that most people create batches of this paste in advance,store them in oil and refrigerate them.

2.Tomato Puree: Some dishes require a smooth consistency.Most dishes use diced tomatoes.

3.Tamarind Paste/Raw Tamarind:IMG_2527

Tamarind paste is used impart sourness to Indian cooking.Its high in Vitamin C and helps the immune system.

  • Raw tamarind can be soaked in water to create tamarind water.
  • Tamarind pulp can be diluted with some water to create tamarind water.