Quick Reference Indian Spice Guide

Spices and herbs used in indian cooking

Second to making cooking and recipes easy for every level of kitchen cook ability, is my love affair with spices. Spices are so rich in flavor and nutritional healing benefits, it puts any pharmaceutical and chemical flavoring additive to shame. While many people are familiar with Italian spices, they tend to shy away from other amazing spice opportunities, such as the delicious offerings of Indian spices. Keep reading to discover the amazing flavors and diversity of some common Indian spices.


Turmeric – Probably the best known Indian spice, this bright seasoning boasts a woodsy, peppery flavor and is incredibly versatile in both sweet and savory dishes and beverages. I’ve used this spice in dishes with just about every ingredient, and there isn’t one base ingredient that I couldn’t use this spice with, it’s that versatile. I’ve also used this to make turmeric tea, added it to veggie juices and the health benefits that turmeric has to offer are far too expansive to even begin to list. If you only try one Indian spice, make it turmeric.



Cinnamon – Many people don’t associate cinnamon as an Indian spice, but it very much is. Cinnamon has a mildly sweet, earthy flavor and also combines easily with both sweet and savory dishes as well as both hot and cold beverages, including smoothies.




Cumin – Cumin is related to its cousin spices, dill and parsley, and has a bitter nutty, woodsy taste that comprises the base ingredient for curry powders as well as garam masala (Indian spice blends). While I’ve used cumin as a single spice addition to dishes, I personally prefer it when combined in a curry or garam masala blend.



Cloves – A clove comes from a tree that is actually an evergreen tree, and twice a year it “blooms”. The flowers are called cloves. Cloves are an essential component to Indian spice blends, but when used independently, they should be used very sparingly due to their very sharp, pungent flavor. If using whole, remove before serving a dish, and if using powdered, never use more than a pinch or what a recipe specifically calls for.


Mustard Seed

Mustard Seed – I personally love mustard seed powder, and for most people, you will either love it or hate it. It imparts an earthy, nutty flavor without adding “heat” and is very versatile in savory dishes.





Nutmeg – This wonderful spice boasts a sweet, woodsy flavor and aroma and pairs well with both sweet and savory dishes, as well as hot and cold beverages. Nutmeg also pairs exceptionally well with cinnamon.





Coriander – This spice is the dried seed of cilantro, yet it tastes nothing like cilantro at all. This spice is sweet with a hint of burnt orange, and I feel that it pairs better with sweet dishes, but can be added to certain savory dishes such as roasted beets.



Star Anise

Star Anise – If you like black licorice, you’ll love star anise, which is the spice that gives authentic rye bread its unique flavor. It pairs especially well with sweet dishes and baked goods vs savory dishes, and is a wonderful spice I feel you should open your taste buds up to.


So, if you’re looking to expand your flavor horizons, why not awaken your taste buds to the delicious flavors of Indian spices.

Bon Veggie Appetit!

Gina “The Veggie Goddess” Matthews