If you’ve traveled to India and just love the food, you know that the rich dishes are more than just something to eat. Indian cuisine is the integration of regional culture, outside culinary influences like Persia and Portugal, and Ayurvedic teachings of mind-body-spirit equilibrium. The cooking methods, ingredient pairings, and choices of protein are all very purposeful yet differ based on region.
In East India, the abundant water sources and favorable climate influence their use of fish, veggies, and rice to create flavor packed Bengali dishes like Sorshe ilish, a fish and mustard dish. Travel to North India where wheat replaces rice with more familiar items like spicy dairy-based curries, creamy butter chicken, or stuffed samosas. Yum! South India’s vegetarian preferences result in flavorful coconut chutney’s paired with pancake-like dosas. With West Indian cuisine influenced by Hindu teachings, and a hot, dry climate lending to the heavy use of pickled veggies, lentils, and protein-packed chickpeas.
Regardless of regional differences, one thing that rings true of all Indian cuisine is the flavorful use of spices. These spices will turn your wanderlust into delicious creations!
We know that starting can be tantalizing with such a wide array of wonderful spices to pick from. But you just need six essential Indian spices before committing to a full pantry transformation. Whether you want the sweet coconutty flavors of Southern India or the spicy, curried dishes of Northern India, you--yes, you--can get it done with these six essentials.
Here are the six essential ingredients for Indian cooking that you should start with: turmeric, cumin, coriander, red chili powder, garam masala, and ghee.
6 Starter Indian Spices for Your Pantry
This bright yellow-orange powder has an earthy aroma with hints of citrus. When mixed into curries or dishes like chana chole, turmeric does more than just add a sharp peppery and earthy flavor. It also offers the power of Ayurvedic healing. Turmeric contains curcumin, a medicinal compound known for its anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, and antioxidant properties. Use this “wonder spice” to add bold flavor, protein, fiber, potassium, and Vitamins C, E, and K to your diet. Who knew one spice could do so much. Shop Now.
Cumin is a botanical relative to a spice you’re probably familiar with--parsley. Unlike parsley, it comes in two forms: seeds and ground spice. Both forms are a little bitter and the seeds taste great fried. Known for having a strong, fresh aroma, smoky yet citrusy flavor, and immune-boosting properties, cumin finds its way into a number of traditional Indian dishes such as onion bhajiya’s (fried fritters), lentils, or samosas. Shop Now.
Coriander comes from the cilantro plant and arrives on your plate as a spice and as a garnish. While the seed form has a harmonious nutty and citrus-like flavor, the ground spice tastes a bit more nuttier. It’s found in various Indian dishes, from curries to pulao rice plates. Coriander’s benefits stem beyond the kitchen too. This medicinal spice aids in digestion. Shop Now.
Red Chili Powder
Red chili powder packs a dose of mildly spicy and smoky flavor. It’s made from ground up red chili peppers, but its heat comes from the ground up seeds. This main Indian spice adds depth and flavor to a number of dishes. Rub it on grilled meats, mix it into curries, or sprinkle it on as a garnish. Use it sparingly if you’re still working up your spice tolerance. And did you know red chili powder can also naturally relieve pain and boost your Vitamin A and C levels? Oh yes. Shop Now.
When in doubt, add some Garam Masala. It’s a blend of common spices used in Indian cuisine. Think cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, and cloves all in one. Not all Garam Masala varieties are alike however. They can contain anywhere from 7 to 18 different Indian ingredients, but the mix is always rich in aromatics and spice. Mix it into curries, stews, chana chole, butter chicken, and more to create the flavors of India that you crave. Shop Now.
Think of Ghee as butter’s healthier Indian sister. They’re similar yet have distinct differences. Ghee is what you get when you heat butter, remove the floating milk solids, and wait until moisture evaporates. It has a nuttier, more buttery flavor and doesn’t burn as quickly. Ghee brings out the flavors of other spices and tastes great in curries, sauces, and other simmered dishes. Substitute ghee in for butter or vegetable oil. It’s healthier and is friendlier for those with lactose or casein intolerance. Shop Now.
Next-Level Indian Pantry Building
Ready to explore Indian cuisine further? Stock your pantry with next-level Indian cooking essentials like cardamom seeds, saffron, bay leaves, tamarind, cinnamon sticks, fenugreek seeds, and coconut milk. You may even have some of these in your pantry already. If not, our curated selection of offerings makes it easy to find what you’re looking for. Shop Now.
One Stop Shop for Indian Pantry Essentials
Diving into a new cuisine can be quite the experience itself, so we wanted to make the shopping experience as simple as possible for home chefs like ourselves. No more multi-store trips or confused waltzes through the aisles. Find the Indian ingredients you need to recreate the flavors your heart desires right here on Nomads Marketplace. Interested in traveling beyond India? We can help you navigate Thai and Middle Eastern cuisine, ingredients and recipes too. Shop Now.