A Complete list of culinary spices and herbs. Specifically these are food or drink additives used in cooking to add color and flavor to dishes
Allspice or Pimento
- Allspice is the dried, unripe berry of Pimenta dioica, an evergreen tree in the myrtle family. It is not a blend of “all spices”. After drying, the berries are small, dark brown balls just a little larger than peppercorns. It is not frequently used in Indian Cuisine. Allspice is pungent and its taste and aroma does remind many people of a mix of cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Do not grind allspice in a grinder with plastic parts, because the oil in the spice can cloud the plastic which cannot be restored. It has been known to have digestive properties.
- A Royal nut ! Almonds are oval nuts with a mellow, sweet flavor, sold whole or cut into slivers or slices, and are available blanched (skinless). Almonds are used a lot in the Mogul style of cooking in North India. Almonds combine successfully with Indian savory dishes as well as in Indian sweets, like ice creams, halwas, confectioneries. Almonds are also used to thicken gravies and as a “special garnish”.
- It is a sacred plant for the Hindus. They plant it in their homes to bring happiness to the family. Basil has lots of medicinal properties. The leaves have a sweet aromatic smell. Its tender fresh leaves are used as garnishing. Dried and crushed the leaves are used mainly in Italian tomato sauces giving a sweet scented, minty aroma. It is also used to make very tasty cold drinks.
- Bay Leaves come from the sweet bay or laurel tree. The dry light green colored long aromatic leaves and have a sharp, bitter taste. Mostly used in flavoring pulaos and some curries. The whole leaves are used to impart a wonderful flavor only and are bitter and hard to chew. Removed at the time of eating.
- Black Cardamom pods are the larger brown pods. Essential to Indian cooking and native to southwestern India. This spice is coarser in flavor and larger in size than the green cardamom. It is used in flavoring meat, poultry and rice dishes. When using the whole cardamom for flavoring dishes, remove the cardamom before serving as it does not taste good when bitten into.
- Black pepper adds a different kind of hotness to any recipe. Fresh green peppercorns in bunches are used in pickles and for milder flavoring. Black peppercorns are the sun dried, hard, black, brittle seeds that are commonly used in many western and Indian recipes. This is perhaps the most popular & universally used spice, used whole or ground. Freshly ground pepper imparts a lot of flavor and taste.
- Dried black grapes are called black currants or Sultanas. The black raisins are generally used for many Indian deserts and Rice dishes and Kormas. Many Indian cooks prefer to use the golden raisins for some Indian sweets. They make a great low calorie snack and 2 tablespoons of black raisins can be used as one fruit serving.
- Cardamom is spice used in countries throughout the world but most prominently in India and Europe. In India, whole pods, green or brown are fried to extract the flavor and added to curries. In Europe the seed is used to flavor breads and pastries.
- Be conservative when using cardamom because it can be quite overpowering when over-used.
- It is a half round white nut with a brown thin shell which comes out readily on roasting. Available salted, unsalted, whole and in pieces. One can buy shelled cashew nuts also. Roasted, salted cashews are excellent with cocktails. A favorite nut not only in India but here in the US. it is a native of Brazil. Its flavor being mild goes very well with many sweet as well as savory dishes. Use the powdered form to thicken Indian gravies and Indian desserts.
- Chives give a mild onion-like flavor to many foods and often are blended with other herbs for salads, soups and omelets. They have beneficial effects on the circulatory, digestive and respiratory systems. Chives are usually served in small amounts
Cilantro / Coriander Leaf
- This member of the carrot family is also referred to as Chinese Parsley and Coriander. It is actually the leaves (and stems) of the Coriander plant. Cilantro has a very pungent odor and is widely used in Mexican, Caribbean and Asian cooking. The Cilantro leaves look a bit like flat Italian parsley and in fact are related.
- Native to Sri lanka, Cinnamon sticks which are the aromatic brown bark of the cinnamon tree and are made from long pieces of the bark that are rolled, pressed, and dried. Ground cinnamon is perhaps the most common baking spice. The Cinnamon sticks are used for flavoring Pulaos, Biryanis and Meat dishes but are removed at the time of eating. Cinnamon has a sweet, woody fragrance.
- Dried flower buds of the clove tree. Cloves are strong, pungent, and sweet. Cloves are used in many meat dishes, marinades, pickles and in many “garam masalas”. It is used whole or in powder form. When making your own clove powder take caution, clove oil can cloud some plastics. Clove oil can be has a lot of medicinal value. Many Indians chew on cloves to relieve toothaches and it is used also as a mouth freshener after a meal.
- Coriander is a memeber of the parsley family. The seeds are used as a seasoning. When sprouted the leaves are referred to as cilantro or Chinese parsley. Coriander is available ground or whole.
- Cumin has a distinctive, slightly bitter yet flavors any dish with a sweet aroma. These brown aromatic small seeds give out more aroma when roasted or added to hot oil. Cumin seeds whole or in powdered form are very commonly used in Indian cooking. They are used more in the North of India
- Curry leaves are available fresh or dried. These almond shaped dark green very aromatic leaves are used fresh in many Indian dishes. They are used to flavor mainly vegetables, lentils and breads or ground with coconut and spices to make a wonderful chutney. Curry leaves are added to hot oil for tempering. Like bay leaves, they are added for their flavor and kept aside while eating. To dry the fresh leaves, place leaves between two kitchen towels and microwave on high for a minute or two.
- Dill Weed is a tall, feathery annual in the parsley family. The weed is used to make Indian vegetables. In Western cuisines it is used to flavor herb vinegars, and shellfish, rice, bread, soups and stews. The Dill weed has aromatic leaves which are used fresh to flavor many South Indian dishes. Like bay leaves sometimes, they are added for their flavor and kept aside while eating.
- Dill Seeds are tiny, flat oval seeds; brown with lighter edge. The flavor is sweet, lemony, as well warm & slightly sharp, and reminds one of caraway. Dill has anti-flatulent properties and is used in “Gripe Water” that is still used to relieve stomach pain in babies. The seeds are used in flavoring many daals.
- These light green oval shaped seeds have been known to posses digestive qualities. In India, they are roasted, sometimes lightly coated with sugar and eaten after meals as a mouth freshener and to stimulate digestion. They are also recommended for nursing mothers, as they have been known to increase the milk supply. Used successfully in many curries and “indian pickles”. Today you will find sugar coated “green supari” mixtures containing “saunf” in Indian Grocery stores. Try it!
- Fenugreek Leaves are thin oval leaves which are bitter in taste and are eaten as tasty vegetable. You have to get used to the pleasant bitter taste. The leaves are rich in Vitamin A and C. Gujarati’s make wonderful Methi Thepla.
- Dried Fenugreek leaves are called “Kastootri Methi” These are used differently than the fresh leaves and the seeds. They are readily available in many Indian grocery stores.
- Fenugreek seeds are brownish- yellow rhombic shape seeds and are used as a spice in curries and Indian-style pickles.
- They have a strong and peculiar odor. They are an essential ingredient in South Indian curry powder and are widely used in South Indian cookery – batters, chutneys and lentils. It is one of the most powerful Indian spices that has a bitter and lingering taste.
- Sometimes whole garlic cloves are used and sometimes a recipe will call for chopped or minced or for garlic paste. Most stores or warehouses do have chopped garlic or garlic paste available.
- It is a very popular spice used in Indian cooking. It has a tan skin and a flesh that ranges in color from pale greenish yellow to ivory. The flavor is peppery and slightly sweet, while the aroma is pungent and spicy. If you feel a cold coming on a fresh piece of ginger in a hot cup of Indian tea usually does the trick. Fresh unpeeled ginger root, tightly wrapped, can be refrigerated for up to 3 weeks and frozen for up to 6 months. Please do not use dried ground ginger for dishes specifying fresh ginger as the flavors differ greatly.
- Saffron threads as they are also called are orange-red dried stigmas of a small purple flower called the Crocus Sativus. Saffron’s aroma is unique and there is no substitute for it. It is used in cooking to flavor and color the dish a wonderful golden yellow color. In Indian cooking it is highly prized and added to many Indian sweets and “special occasion” savory dishes like Biryani, Pulaos and even some curries.
- The leaf, fresh or dried, is the culinary source of mint. Fresh mint is usually preferred over dried mint when storage of the mint is not a problem. The leaves have a pleasant warm, fresh, aromatic, sweet flavor with a cool aftertaste. Mint leaves are used in teas, beverages, jellies, syrups, candies, and ice creams.
- In Middle Eastern cuisine mint is used on lamb dishes. In British cuisine, mint sauce is popular with lamb.
- These are tiny round reddish brown to black colored seeds. They are commonly used in Indian cooking. They are used whole or broken to pieces or made into a paste or even in powdered form. Its paste has a very pungent taste. In India, mustard seeds is commonly used to flavor vegetables, pulses and pickles while tempering (Tadka). In north India, mustard plant leaves are used as a vegetable (Sarsoon).
- Nutmeg is usually associated with sweet, spicy dishes — pies, puddings, custards, cookies and spice cakes. It combines well with many cheeses, and is included in soufflés and cheese sauces. In soups it works with tomatoes, slit pea, chicken or black beans. It complements egg dishes and vegetables like cabbage, spinach, broccoli, beans onions and eggplant. It flavours Middle Eastern lamb dishes.
- This popular herb whose name means “mountain joy” is available throughout the year. The warm, balsamic and aromatic flavor of oregano makes it the perfect addition to Mediterranean and Mexican cuisines. Oregano also has a large amount of antioxidants in its oil and leaves. It has 42 times the antioxidants as a medium sized apple, 30 times more than a white potato and 12 times more than an orange. Oregano is most commonly used as a seasoning in stews, pizzas and tomato based sauces. Fresh oregano leaves can enhance the flavor of salads and soups as well as Mediterranean dishes.
- Rosemary is widely used as a spice when cooking, especially in Mediterranean dishes. Its memorable flavor and unique health benefits makes it an indispensable herb for every kitchen. Rosemary contains substances that are useful for stimulating the immune system, increasing circulation, and improving digestion. Rosemary is often used in aromatherapy to increase concentration and memory, and to relieve stress.
- Star anise has the wonderful scent of licorice. It is the fruit produced by a small evergreen tree grown in Asia. As one might suspect, is star-shaped. Each of it’s eight points contains a star anise seed. Whole star anise has a long shelf life, but once ground, it should be kept in an airtight container in a cool, dark place for no more than 3 months. It is great to flavor biryani’s and other non-vegetarian Indian dishes.
- It is the fruit of tamarind tree. The ripe brown pods are cleaned and the brittle brown skin and hard seeds are removed. The deseeded tamarind is stored with salt.
- Thyme is one of the best known and most widely-used culinary herbs. Thyme fights several disease causing bacteria and viruses. It is a good digestive aid, helps menstrual cramps and is a great cold remedy. It is used to treat chest and respiratory problems including coughs, bronchitis, and chest congestion. Thyme is an excellent source of iron, manganese, and vitamin K. It is also a very good source of calcium and a good source of dietary fiber.
- Turmeric has a very intense, bright yellow-orange color and bitter taste. It is used in almost all vegetarian and non-vegetarian preparations in Indian cooking. It has been known to have antiseptic properties.