Food & Travel

10 Spices You Need For Indian Cooking That Aren’t Curry Powder

Curry is probably the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Indian cuisine, but we assure you it’s only the tip of the spicy iceberg! Indian spices are as versatile as the country itself, ranging from onion-like asafoetida and zesty dry mango powder to aromatic cardamom and flavourful cumin. Some you’ll need to put in the very beginning of your cooking, while others are best to use towards the end when the meal is almost ready. And the best part? You can use all these wonderful spices in your own dishes, adding that flavorful Indian-esque boost to your meals. Here are 10 spices you need for Indian cooking that aren’t curry powder.

Black cardamom
If you’re into Indian cuisine you know all about green cardamom pods and what wonders they can do for a dish. But here we present you its darker brother – black cardamom! It has a heavy earthy flavour that goes really good with fried rice as well as sweet dishes like rice pudding. You can fully come to the dark side and use black cardamom with black rice to create a yummy kheer dessert. Don’t forget to use some bay leaves for additional flavour.

If you love nutmeg then you will also be fond of mace as it is part of the nutmeg plant and has a similar flavour, but a little bit different. It’s not as strong, much sweeter, and has hints of cinnamon which make it an ideal spice for sweet dishes. Nevertheless, you can use it for anything! Sweet cookies will taste great with mace, but you can also add this spice to an Indian-style potato curry.

Tamarind is vastly used in Southeast-Asian cuisine, but it’s also common for South Indian dishes. It has a distinct sweet-sour taste, which makes it perfect for creating mouth-puckering chutneys, sauces, and gravies for all kinds of dishes. Use it to make a creamy paste that can be added to your fried vegetables or prepare a savoury pumpkin curry with tamarind. The possibilities are endless!


Amchoor, also known as simply ‘mango powder’ is made from green dried mango and offers a taste that is zesty with hints of citrus in it. You can use it instead of that dash of lime juice or vinegar you’re so used to for a fruity tang and a bit of freshness in your dish. It also goes great with gravies and sauces, but we recommend you try it with the traditional South Indian parathas. It’s simply delish!

Black salt
If you aren’t afraid to experiment with powerful aromas, then black salt is the right ingredient for you. It rocks an unusual sulphuric flavour reminiscent of boiled eggs, which makes this type of salt an incredible ingredient for vegan eggless dishes to play tricks with your taste buds. This salt is part of chaat masala, a spice mix used for a variety of Indian snacks. Still, you can use it however you want! We urge you to sprinkle some over fried asparagus, pairing it with thin slices of parmesan.

Mustard seeds
We’re all used to yellow mustard seeds, but if you want to master Indian cooking then you should opt for the black ones, which offer a stronger flavour and can go into a variety of dishes that are not, well, mustard. Put some mustard seeds in hot oil and wait till they pop a bit, releasing their peppery flavour. You can then go on with your cooking and add vegetables, rice, or use this oil for soups and salads. We recommend you try the classic lime-turmeric rice recipe that goes really well with mustard seeds.

Coriander may be small in size, but it is incredibly flavorful, offering an unusual nutty and even fruity aroma. It is one of the most used spices in Indian cuisine, so you should definitely try using it with biryani, stir-fried noodles, or the staple Indian sauce – mint chutney. This yummy sauce goes incredibly well with all kinds of snacks and tastes especially great with South Indian dishes like masala dosa and idli.

Curry leaves
Curry leaves adds a very herby, lemongrass-like aroma to Indian meals. They are used with soups, curries, and green sabji. We encourage you to try them with a Goan-style shrimp curry with a bunch of other spices and classic Sambhaar.

If you want to get a truly Indian taste, then cumin is your best friend. This flavourful spice goes to most of Indian dishes, offering a strong earthy aroma that can be combined with many others. In fact, cumin is part of most spice mixes you can find in Indian spice stalls and supermarkets. That’s why it’s a must-try! Use cumin to cook dal, the traditional lentil soup that goes really well with rice and roti.

Yes, turmeric has been all the rage lately, but it doesn’t mean it’s any less important when it comes to Indian cuisine. It has a subtle, but very distinct flavour, packs lots of antioxidants, and will make any meal look and taste simply delicious. Try it with dishes like fried rice and fish curry and add to a hot lemon-ginger-honey tea for an additional health boost.

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