How many Indian spices do you need? The answer depends on how you cook, what recipes you follow, and who you listen to. Traditional Indian spice boxes (masala dabba) usually have room for seven spices, but of course, some families keep more than one box. A quick google search for Indian spices turns up between six and 23 must-have spice recommendations!
To start your adventure, we recommend perusing a few recipes and making a list of the common spices to help you decide what to keep on hand. You probably already have some of them in your spice cabinet. You can add from there as needed for a specific recipe or in some cases substitute with a different ingredient. Note that many recipes call for good quality whole seeds, dry toasted in a skillet, and ground yourself, which will provide the most intense flavors and aromatics. Just a few spices can create a whole variety of flavors or masalas (mixtures).
The spices below are those we use to make our own signature curry blends, as well as some hard-to-find ingredients. Our curries and masalas are pre-mixed blends. Enjoy!
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This powdered gum resin is used in Indian cooking. It has a foul smell, but when cooked it takes on an onion/garlic/leek flavor. Known as food of the Gods, it is also said to aid with digestion.
Asafoetida (Hing) is often used as an onion/garlic substitute in Indian dishes. Use sparingly–a little goes a long way. This blend uses Fenugreek as a processing agent rather than the more commonly found wheat.
Cardamom Pod, Green$22.00
Though India produces more Cardamom than Guatemala, it consumes most that it produces, making Guatemala the world’s largest supplier. The Cardamom Pod is typically transported in small batches from the mountainous regions in which it grows.
While cardamom seeds hold the flavor, once the pod is opened, that flavor begins to dissipate. For full cardamom flavor, use the whole pod (or a slightly crushed pod), in dishes like soups or stews.
Part of the ginger family, Cardamom means grains of paradise. Historically, Cardamom has been used to flavor foods, as an ingredient in perfumes, and even for medicinal purposes.
Known for its sweet and spicy taste, Cardamom seed is used equally in sweet dishes such as breads and cakes and in savory dishes such as meats and curries. Use in baked goods, sprinkle on oatmeal, ice cream, or iced melon, and add to curry. Cardamom has a sharp aroma and distinctive flavor that can be compared to anise or eucalyptus. For a Middle Eastern treat, sprinkle in your coffee.
Cinnamon ~ Indonesian Cassia$7.50 – $21.60
The Greek poet, Sappho, referenced Cassia in 7th century B.C. Though not the “true” Cinnamon, Cassia (also called Chinese Cinnamon) is often sold as Cinnamon in the U.S., where it’s preferred for its strong, spicy and lingering flavor.
Use in both sweet and strong savory dishes: candies, baked goods, meats, preserves, curries, and hot beverages. Cassia, with its intense aromatic qualities and taste, is the popular choice for Cinnamon Rolls.
Available whole in 6-inch quills (5 sticks per package) or milled to a powder.
Cinnamon ~ Saigon Cassia$6.50 – $27.00
Saigon Cinnamon (aka Vietnamese Cinnamon) is the strongest and sweetest species of Cinnamon available. Ours is freshly milled from organically grown quills to get the most intense flavor possible. Holds up to Vietnamese Pho and full-flavor meats; makes a great addition to yogurt; or ratchet up your baking with this powerful, nearly hot cinnamon flavor.
Although packaged by weight, the whole bulk bag contains roughly a dozen 2.75″ quills.
- Add 1-2 tsp Saigon Cinnamon to 1 cup Straus Family Organic yogurt.
Cloves$9.25 – $25.00
Despite attempts at clove monopolies, by the 18th century cloves were grown in many places including Brazil, Tanzania, and Madagascar. The whole Clove looks much like a nail, hence its French namesake, “clou” (nail).
Use in pastries, puddings, cooked fruits, and cakes, or sprinkle on oatmeal for a treat. Also yummy in stews and vegetables. Pairs well with nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger.
Coriander$7.25 – $19.60
Coriander is one of the world’s oldest spices and has been used for both culinary and medicinal purposes. It is reported that coriander can sooth the stomach and that coriander tea might give colicky babies some relief.
Coriander has a citrusy flavor. Use in curry, meat, fish, and chili recipes. For a little kick of flavor, add coriander to cream cheese and cottage cheese or rub on fresh pork before roasting.
Cumin$8.50 – $24.30
Native to the Mediterranean and South Asia, Cumin is also a signature flavor for Central American and European cuisines. As a symbol of love and fidelity during the Middle Ages, wedding guests carried Cumin in their pockets, and wives of soldiers added it to baked bread for their husbands. Our Cumin is hand harvested, and has a high percentage of essential oils, delivering more powerful aromatics, and a slightly astringent, citrusy quality.
Curry Gift Box$35.00
Curry, from the Tamil word Kari, meaning sauce, generally refers to a dish cooked in a blend of aromatic spices. Although originally from the Indian Subcontinent, Curries are culturally significant throughout Asia, Africa & the Caribbean.
To prepare a simple curry sauce:
Sauté chopped onions on medium heat until softened.
Add curry powder and chopped tomato, if desired; cook until soft.
Add liquid or combination of liquids, (coconut milk, stock, yogurt, tea infusions or water) and simmer to reduce. Pour over your preferred protein and/or veggies in a casserole dish.
Cover and place in a 375° oven until cooked, usually around 45 minutes.
Lovely striped Kraft gift box contains four unique curry spices (Bo Kaap, La Kama, Madras, Vadouvan) in our standard jars. Gift is complete with a tailored message (above) and tied with a Local Spicery bow.
Curry Leaf$7.50 – $20.25
The curry tree (Murraya koenigii) is native to India and Sri Lanka. The leaf of this tree, commonly known as Curry Leaf, also translated as “sweet neem leaf,” is a key ingredient to curry dishes.
Add to curries or to flavor Southeast Asian rice, vegetable, and meat dishes. [Curry Leaf]
Darjeeling Black Tea$16.00 – $17.00
Grown on the Southern Slopes of the Himalayan Mountains in the Indian province of Bengal, true Darjeeling can only come from one of 78 Tea Gardens recognized by the Tea Board of India.
To make Local Spicery’s Darjeeling, only the flowering tips of the Second Flush of the plant are harvested, and fermented for several hours to create the aromatic, sweet, and slightly astringent complex flavors of Darjeeling. No aromatic oils ~ Just pure Darjeeling Tea.