The beauty of making Indian at home is that you've got the ultimate flexibility to make almost any dish you choose. But to do that, you will need to make sure that you are fully kitted out. Knowing the basic Indian spices to have means you can make a whole range of curries. I'm going to provide you with an Indian spices list (with picture) so that you can make practically any curry whenever you choose.
The Best Indian Spices to Have at Home
Ok, let's dive straight in. Get these spices, and you'll be able to create just about any Indian curry…
Now, I promised you an Indian spices list (with picture). But I'm sure for salt, you don't really need it!
Too much salt isn't good for you, but it is really essential in curry. A pinch of salt can really bring out the flavours of a dish.
Table salt is really cheap and is perfect. There's no need to go fancy with Maldon sea salt or pink Himalayan salt. The standard refined table stuff will do nicely.
The type of sugar that you use in your curry dishes is entirely up to you. I am a huge fan of keeping things simple, so I tend to use white sugar. However, there are different sugars you can use in your curry.
Jaggery is an unrefined brown lump that is often used in Indian cuisine. I find a great substitute for jaggery is palm sugar.
There are quite a few curry dishes that are aided by sugar. One of my favourites to make is king prawn pathia!
Cumin is actually a member of the parsley family. We aren't interested in the leaves. What we actually want is the seeds.
Cumin originates from Asia, so as Indian spices go, it is pretty authentic. You'll find Cumin used in many exotic spiced dishes, including Indian, Mexican and middle eastern cooking.
It's worth buying quite a lot of Cumin as it features heavily in quite a few curries. If you run out don't worry i suggest a few cumin alternatives just here
You can make your own garam masala, or you can go for a simple shop-bought. I prefer the latter. If you check the world foods section of your local supermarket, you'll be able to get a big bag pretty cheap.
Garam masala translates literally as 'hot spice mix'. While it is spicy, it isn't actually that hot.
It is a blend of other spices combined. You'll find that garam masala varies from place to place and chef to chef… It's one of the reasons that curries taste different depending on where you buy them from.
Garam masala is made up of a mix of ground coriander, Cumin, pepper, fennel, cloves, cinnamon and cardamom. If you want to see exactly what is in it, I've got a great homemade version right here.
Do you like a bit of heat in your curry?
This is how you get it.
Chilli powder is made by drying chillies (and their seeds) and then pulverizing them into a fine powder. It is normally a dark orange or deep red in colour.
Depending on the curry you cook, you may want a lot or none at all. A fiery Phaal uses heaps of the stuff, whereas a mild korma uses none at all
Coriander features heavily in Indian cooking—both the leaves and the seeds.
Coriander spice is actually ground up coriander seeds. These have a similar taste profile to the leaves. Ground coriander is especially nice when toasted. It turns really fragrant.
As with Cumin, you will be using a lot of coriander powder in your dishes, so it is worth buying quite a lot.
Garlic and Ginger Paste
Ginger and garlic paste forms the basis for about 90% of the curries you will cook at home. You can just chop and mash fresh garlic and ginger, but you'll save yourself quite a lot of time if you make a big batch.
It keeps for a long time and is another ingredient that you will be cooking with often.
It's really easy to make; see here for a detailed guide.
Mixed powder is a mild and delicate curry powder that you'll use in most of your curries. It forms a spice base, which you then supplement to bring out various elements.
There is no single recipe for mixed powder. Each chef has their own version.
I like to keep things simple, so I've created my very own simple mixed spice for curry. The recipe is just here. Provided you have got all of the ingredients in this list, you'll be able to make a huge batch in under 5 minutes!
Turmeric is a vivid yellow spice that is used often in curries. People say it's not really for flavour.
Try a curry with turmeric, and without… you'll definitely be able to taste the difference.
Aside from flavour, turmeric is really good for you!
Methi leaves are also called fenugreek. They are a little similar to bay leaves in that they give your curry a really nice rounded flavour. They are normally available as ground and dried leaves that look a little similar to Italian herbs.
The trick to using methi leaves is to use them sparingly. Add too much, and they can make the curry taste bitter.
Coconut flour is literally the flesh of coconuts, dried and ground into a powder. It has a slightly sweet taste and is used predominantly in milder curries such as kormas and tikka masala.
Coconut powder also works as a thickening agent. As the powder hydrates, it swells slightly, giving you a nice thick curry.
Spice pastes are optional, and it is actually possible to make your own. However, there are normally a few shops bought jars that you can use. They are quite high in oil content and last a long time.
My favourite brand is Pataks. Get the following, and you'll be covered for 99% of the curry you'll ever need to cook.
- Kashmiri paste
- Tikka paste
- Tandoori paste
Lime pickle is delicious as a dip for poppadoms, but did you know that you can also use it in curry?
You won't need much. I generally like to put about a half teaspoon in my curries at the end of the cooking process. Lime pickle is a little fiery and slightly sharp. I find it rounds off most curries quite well.
So, there it is! A list of basic Indian spices to have at home. You will save yourself a fortune. For the cost of one takeaway, you'll be able to get completely equipped with all of the spices used in curry. If you think I need to add any more to my Indian spice list (with picture), just let me know in the comments!