Spices are the backbone of Indian cuisine. Just think of the times you have been to an Indian restaurant and your senses were transported to another place because of the rich aromas and flavors!

Sara uses a variety of herbs, lentils and spices to create the dishes passed down from one generation to the next. To keep spices organized most Indian homes assemble a spice box – or two – that contain the most frequently used spices in their family’s recipes.

Many of the spices shown here are common in Indian kitchens. And a good cook experiments to create the smells, tastes and textures their family enjoys. The cook in the household pretty much dictates how the spice box is filled and organized. So when Sara’s mother comes for an extended stay, the spice box takes on the look she prefers, because she takes over the kitchen and cooks the mouth-watering dishes they remember from home.


Asafoetida has a pungent, unpleasant smell when raw, but in cooked dishes, it delivers a smooth flavor, reminiscent of leeks. It typically works as a flavor enhancer and, used along with turmeric, is a standard component of Indian cuisine It is often used to harmonize sweet, sour, salty and spicy components in food. Asafoetida was used in 1918 to fight the Spanish influenza pandemic. In 2009, scientists at the Kaohsiung Medical University in Taiwan reported that the roots of Asafoetida produce natural antiviral drug compounds that kill the swine flu virus, H1N1.

BAY LEAVES (Tejpatta)

Bay Leaf refers to the aromatic leaves of several plants used in cooking. These include, Bay Laurel, California bay leaf,  Indian bay leaf, Indonesian bay leaf, west Indian bay leaf, and Mexican bay leaf.

Indian bay leaf is used in Indian cooking and has a fragrance and taste similar to cinnamon (cassia) bark, but milder. Bay Leaf is a spice that adds flavor and is never really eaten.


Black Gram Lentil or Urad Dal is one of the most widely used Indian Lentils. It is usually grown in southern parts of Asia. Ground into paste, it is used in South Indian preparations like Idli (rice dumpling), Dosai (rice and lentil crepe) and Vada (lentil doughnuts).  Black Gram Lentil is considered to be rich in fiber. 

Black gram dal is chafed and broken into white urad dal, which is also used widely as a garnish.


Black Cardamom pods are black to dark brown in color and  have a strong camphor-like flavor, with a smoky character derived from the method of drying. Black Cardamom is the main ingredient in India’s Garam Masala. It is primarily used in cuisines of India and certain regional cuisines of Pakistan. Black cardamom is often erroneously described as an inferior substitute for green cardamom by those unfamiliar with the spice; actually it is just not well suited for the sweet/hot dishes which typically use cardamom outside the plant’s native range. Black cardamom , by contrast, is better for hearty meat stews and similar dishes.

Black pepper


Black pepper is a flowering vine in the family Piperaceae, cultivated for its fruit, which is usually dried and used as a spice and seasoning. Black pepper is native to south India, and is extensively cultivated there and elsewhere in tropical regions. Black pepper is the world’s most traded spice.

Our parents swallowed Black Pepper as an appetite stimulant, or mixed black pepper and pinch of turmeric in hot milk as a nightly snack to ward off coughs and colds.



Carom seeds are pale khaki colored and look like a smaller version of cumin seeds. They are highly fragrant and smell and taste like thyme (with a stronger flavor).

Mostly used in Tadka (Chaunk) or Tempering , which is a cooking method in which oil is heated and spices are added to it.  Tadka is added to the dish at the end as a garnish.

Chana dal


Also known as Bengal Gram Lentil or Chana Dal, it is baby chick peas that has been split and polished. This lentil is also roasted and ground into flour (besan – see Gram Flour below) and this powder is widely used in all over India.  Chick Peas Lentil is often used in stir fry vegetables such as green beans, beets and stews  like Chayote Squash , Spinach. This lentil is rich in fiber and has low glycemic index.

Cinnamon sticks

CINNAMON (Dalchini)

Cinnamon is a spice obtained from the inner bark of several trees from the genus Cinnamomum that is used in both sweet and savory foods. Cinnamon when it is added to food, prevents food spoilage, which makes it a natural preservative. Cinnamon is known to have several health benefits. When combined with honey it is believed to relieve arthritis pain and help in reducing bad cholesterol (LDL).


CLOVES (Luong)

Cloves are the aromatic dried flower buds of a tree in the family Myrtaceae. Cloves are often used in Asian, African, and Middle Eastern cooking in adding flavor to meats, curries, and meat marinades. Considered a very strong spice due to the eugenol chemical that makes up most of the clove’s taste (85 percent), the quantity of clove used in recipes is usually small. 

Our parents used Cloves as breath freshener, chewing on a couple of cloves before heading out to social gatherings. 

Coriander seed powder


Coriander Powder is made from grinding Coriander Seeds. Normally the Coriander seeds are roasted before grinding them in a grinder. Coriander Powder is used in stir fry vegetables like Cauliflower, sauce-based vegetables such as Chana Masala and mixed rice varieties like Vegetable Pulao and Tomato Rice.

Coriander seeds


The fruit of the Coriander plant has two seeds and when they are dried, become dried spice. The seeds are yellowish-brown in color with longitudinal ridges.  The use of coriander can be traced back to 5,000 BC, making it one of the world’s oldest spices.

Garam Masala included in some Flavor Temptations flavor packs is made with roasted and ground coriander seeds and 6 other spices.

Cumin seeds

CUMIN (Jeera)

Cumin seeds are actually the small dried fruit of an annual plant in the parsley family. Native to the Mediterranean, cumin is hotter to the taste, lighter in color.

Cumin seeds are used in all Indian cuisine. It is usually toasted in oil and froths up and sputters when put into hot oil. 

All our flavor packs contain Cumin seeds.

Curry Leaf

CURRY LEAVES (Kari Pattha)

Curry Leaves are a herb native to South Asia and are an essential component of South Indian cooking. They are highly aromatic and typically added to hot oil as Tadka along with other spices.

Did you know? There is Curry Leaf, but there is no spice called Curry Powder! Curry Powder is just a blend of other spices like cumin powder, turmeric, cayenne, coriander powder, etc. and every Curry powder blend may taste different, depending on the proportion of the spices in the blend.  

Fennel - saunf

FENNEL (Saunf)

Fennel is native to Southern Europe and grown extensively all over Europe, Middle-Eastern, China, India, and Turkey. The seeds, which resemble to anise seeds in appearance, feature oblong or curved (comma) shape, about 3-4 mm long, light brown-color with fine vertical stripes over their surface. Antioxidants and other compounds in fennel seeds might offer protective benefits against certain forms of cancer, according to a tissue-culture study published in the September 2011 “Journal of Medicinal Food.”

Most Indians chew on fennel seeds after a meal - look for a bowl of fennel seeds mixed with rice candy during checkout at Indian restaurants.

Fenugreek seeds - Methi seeds


Fenugreek seeds are commonly used in cooking Indian curries. The taste of fenugreek seeds can be described as bittersweet, powerful, and aromatic, with a slightly bitter aftertaste.

Fenugreek leaves are cooked with Dals and also mixed into a dough with wheat flour to make Methi Rotis

Poha - flattened rice


Flattened rice (also called beaten rice) is a dehusked rice which is flattened into flat light dry flakes. These flakes of rice swell when added to liquid, whether hot or cold, as they absorb water. The thicknesses of these flakes vary between almost translucently thin (the more expensive varieties) to nearly four times thicker than a normal rice grain.This easily digestible form of raw rice is very popular across Nepal, India and Bangladesh, and is normally used to prepare snacks or light and easy fast food in a variety of Indian cuisine styles, some even for long-term consumption of a week or more. 

Garlic cloves - Lasoon

GARLIC (Lasoon)

Garlic is a herb and is best known for flavoring for food. It is an ingredient in most North Indian recipes, where it is chopped fine and sauteed in oil.

Many conservative South Indians like my grandma do not eat garlic, especially during auspicious festivals.

Ginger root - Adrak

GINGER (Adrak)

Ginger is an underground bulb of the Ginger plant. Its flesh is yellow, white or red in color depending on the variety and the skin is brownish. Ginger is very aromatic, and a pungent hot taste.

Ginger is also used widely in North Indian recipes. Ginger tea (ginger Chai) is very popular. 

Gram flour - Besan


Gram flour is a pulse flour made from ground chickpeas or Chana dal. It is also known as chickpea flour, garbanzo flour, or besan. Gram flour can be made from either raw chickpeas or roasted chickpeas. The roasted variety is more flavorful, while the raw variety has a slightly bitter taste.

When mixed with an equal proportion of water, it can be used as an egg-replacer in vegan cooking. Gram flour contains a high proportion of carbohydrates but no gluten. Despite this, in comparison to other flours, it has a relatively high proportion of protein.

Green cardamom - Choti Elaichi

GREEN CARDAMOM (Choti Elaichi)

One of the world’s ancient spices, green cardamom comes from seeds of ginger like plant native to southern India. Green cardamom has a strong, spicy-sweet taste: a warm and aromatic fragrance. It is one of the most expensive spices, and little is needed to flavor your dish.

Green gram dal - Moong dal (full)

GREEN GRAM (Moong Dal)

With skin removed and split, these lentils look flat and yellow in color. They are easy to cook and digest. Used to cook stews or soups, the Green Gram Lentils are a good source of protein and fiber. They are also low in fat, rich in B complex vitamins, calcium and potassium.   

Black mustard seeds - Sarson


Mustard seeds are the small round seeds of various mustard plants. The seeds are usually about 1 or 2 mm in diameter. They are important spices in many regional foods. There are 3 major types of Mustard plants from which Mustard seeds are made – black mustard (Brassica nigra), white mustard (Brassica alba) and brown mustard (Brassica juncea).

Mustard are good source of omega-3 fatty acids, manganese, magnesium. They are toasted in hot oil until they burst to release flavors and used as a garnish in most Indian dishes.

Red chillis - Lal Mirchi


Red Chillies add flavor to your dishes, if you are brave enough to risk its heat. This can put your tongue on fire and bring tears to you eyes. This food is not for everyone, even though it can make an outstanding contribution to your meal. One needs to be careful while handling red chilles because it cause burning sensation if it comes in contact with your skin.

Red chilli powder - Mirchi powder


Red Chilli powder (a.k.a Cayenne) is the dried, pulverized fruit of one or more varieties of chili pepper.  It is used as a spice to add pungency and flavor to dishes. It is used in many cuisines like Indian, Chinese, Thai and Korean.

This is the primary spice that adds heat to Indian dishes. All our flavor packs include a separate spice bag of red chilli powder (Cayenne) so you can add as much as needed to adjust the spiciness of the dish oyou make. Used in moderation, this spice gives lovely color and flavor to the dish without setting your tongue on fire.

Saffron - Zaffran

SAFFRON (Zaffran)

Saffron is a spice derived from by drying the the flower of Crocus sativus, commonly known as the saffron crocus. Saffron, long among the world’s most expensive spices by weight, is native to Greece or Southwest Asia and was first cultivated in Greece. Saffron is basically the pistils of saffron flower, which are painstakingly extracted by hand.

Saffron is widely used in Indian, Persian, European, Arab, and Turkish cuisines. This spice is used both as a coloring agent as well as for seasoning certain sweet dishes.

Turmeric - Haldi powder


Turmeric powder is used in many Indian recipes, in both North and South Indian cooking. Long known for its anti-inflammatory properties, recent research has discovered many benefits of Turmeric. 

Turmeric is never consumed directly, but usually cooked in oil as one of the steps in Indian recipes. This is believed that Turmeric works best when attached to a molecule of fat. Turmeric paste is also used as a skin conditioner by many Indian women.