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Herbs and Spices in Indian Cuisine

Updated on July 1, 2011


Turmeric, often used in Indian cuisine
Turmeric, often used in Indian cuisine

Spices of Indian Cuisine

There are so many rich flavors in Indian cuisine, and the herbs and spices are what make that possible. Things of the earth, these spices and herbs are not only flavorful, but healthy as well. I want to share just a few of the Indian herbs seen in many dishes and recipes. Coriander seeds, Turmeric, Cinnamon, Chili powder, and Cumin seeds are just some I will touch on below.


Turmeric is a spice that is taken from the dried roots of a plant related to the ginger family. It is a tropical plant, and the roots are ground to produce a prized bright yellow powder. It does have a mild, and bittersweet type of flavor though, and can be found in pickles, mustard, and chutneys. While other countries such as Thailand, may use the roots as vegetables after boiling, India usually uses Turmeric for its strong coloring that it has. It is most often used with rice dishes.  The picture above, shows turmeric.



Cinnamon is used in Indian cuisine as well, though it popular world over. It is a bark like spice that is light brown in color, and has a wonderful and sweet aroma. I don't know anyone that doesn't like cinnamon, though I am sure they exist. There is an evergreen tree that grows in Sri Lanka, that produces cinnamon. It is used in stick or bark form, or ground up, and sprinkled into dishes. It combines well with many spices, and this is what Indian cuisine is so good at, combing spices in different ways that are very pleasing. You will find cinnamon used in soups, baking, liquers and oils, among many other things.

As with many of the spices here, cinnamon has proven to be helpful in regards to its health benefits.  I recall first being surprised by this, and it is very interesting information. 

For instance, did you know that some studies have linked using cinnamon daily to lowering cholesterol levels?  Even just 1/2 of a teaspoon is all that is needed, and for such a fun ingredient, this isn't hard to accomplish.

It may also be that cinnamon can help people's blood sugar levels, making it great for people with type 2 diabetes.  This is just barely scratching the surface of the many ways cinnamon can help us live healthier lives.

Coriander Seeds

Coriander seeds have a special lemony like flavor, and are versatile in the ways they can be used. Some people grind them up, and sprinkle into recipes, or used whole, or roasted to bring out deeper flavor. Curry powder is used so much in Indian cuisine, and coriander seeds are a very important ingredient in curry powders. You will also find these seeds in pickles, marinades and chutneys.

Cumin Seeds
Cumin Seeds

Cumin Seeds

Above is a picture of Cumin seeds.  In Indian cuisine, cumin seeds are used quite a bit as they are one of the most important spices.  You will see them used on many if not most dishes. 

The seeds of you find on the cumin plant are pale brown, and long but narrow.  They impart a very pungent flavor, and are very aromatic.  To bring out the most flavor, they often are roasted. 

Chili Powder

Chili powder is a combination of dried chile peppers and other seasonings.  its a beautiful dark red colored powder, with a nice peppery and spicy taste.  It is often used to flavor many chile dishes, like chile con carne.  Caution should be used, for its flavor is strong so use it sparingly.  

When you buy chile powder, its best to buy in small amounts as the shelf life is limited.  It can rapidly lose its flavor. 


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    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 7 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Thank you Phoenix!

    • PhoenixV profile image

      PhoenixV 7 years ago from USA

      Excellent hub!