A Glossary of Indian Spices

Written by: Aditi Gupta



Time to read 5 min

The Mystique & Allure of Indian Spices

Remember the 2005 movie - Mistress of Spices? For those who are still uninitiated or were perhaps too young to remember the movie - here’s a gist. The Aishwarya Rai starrer movie is about ‘Tilottama’, an orphan who has acquired a deep knowledge about the benefits of the Indian spices and their effects on people. She runs a small store in Oakland California where she stocks all her paraphernalia. Throughout the movie, Tilottama deciphers her customers' innate troubles and without pressing on the matters directly she offers them solutions through the magical spices. The movie was an adaptation of Chitra Divakaruni’s 1997 book, a bestseller that focused on the mystique of feminine energy and nature’s miracles. The use of spices as detox agents, mood stabilizers and cures for ailments of the mind, body, heart and soul are now backed by scientific studies as well. Out of the world of fiction and facts, Indian spices and herbs were revered as naturopathic agents that helped prevent and in some cases treat and cure in the Charaka Samhita ( An ancient ayurvedic text). It’s been almost 20 years since the movie was released and 2000 years since the Ayurvedic text was written. The allure and mystery of the spices found scientific backing due to recent research. Turmeric has become synonymous with a cleanser, Ashwagandha is widely accepted as a mood booster and every Indian and Asian household knows the benefits of the sesame seeds. There is more to the Indian spices than meets the eye.
Each of these Indian spices have a distinguished flavor profile, a very distinctive taste and myriad uses that we have listed here for you.Read on and find the spices of your interest here in an alphabetical Order :

A- is for Aromatics in the Indian Spices

1.)Asafoetida (Hing):  

  • Flavor Profile: Strong, pungent, with sulfurous notes.
  • Benefits: Aids digestion, relieves gas, and has anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Uses: Used sparingly in lentil dishes, vegetable curries, and pickles.

2.)Ajwain (Carom Seeds): 

  • Flavor Profile: Strong, pungent, with thyme-like notes.
  • Benefits: Aids digestion, relieves indigestion, and may reduce asthma symptoms.
  • Uses: Flatbread, snacks, lentil dishes, and pickles.


 3.) Amchur : Dried Mango Powder:  

  • Flavor Profile: Sour, tangy, with fruity undertones.
  • Benefits: Adds acidity to dishes, aids digestion, and enhances flavor.
  • Uses: Used in chaats, curries, marinades, and chutneys.
Scenes from the movie : A mistress of spices  to show the uses of Indian Spices

B- is for 'Blends' that you create with Indian Spices

4.)Bay Leaf (Tej Patta): 

  • Flavor Profile: Aromatic, slightly bitter, with hints of menthol.

  • Taste: Earthy, herbal.

  • Uses: Adds depth to soups, stews, rice dishes, sauces, and marinades.

5.)Black Mustard Seeds:

  • Flavor Profile: Sharp, pungent, with a hint of heat.

  • Taste: Strong, spicy.

  • Uses: Used in tempering, pickling, spice blends, and vegetable dishes.

 6.)Black Pepper: 

  • Flavor Profile: Spicy, pungent, with earthy undertones.

  • Taste: Sharp, biting. 

  • Uses: Used in nearly all savory dishes, spice blends, marinades, and salads.

C- is for the 'Common Culinary ' ingredients.

 7.)Cardamom (Green and Black):

  • Flavor Profile: Sweet, floral, with hints of citrus and mint.

  • Taste: Sweet, slightly spicy.

  • Uses: Used in both sweet and savory dishes, including desserts, chai tea, and rice dishes.


  • Flavor Profile: Sweet, warm, with a hint of spice.

  • Taste: Sweet, woody.

  • Uses: Adds flavor to desserts, curries, rice dishes, and beverages.


  • Flavor Profile: Strong, pungent, with hints of sweetness and bitterness.

  • Taste: Strong, spicy.

  • Uses: Essential in spice blends, marinades, rice dishes, and desserts.

 10.)Coriander Seeds:

  • Flavor Profile: Citrusy, slightly sweet, with a hint of earthiness.

  • Taste: Warm, nutty.

  • Uses: Ground coriander seeds are used in curries, soups, and marinades.

11.)Cumin Seeds:

  • Flavor Profile: Warm, slightly nutty, with a hint of citrus.

  • Taste: Earthy, aromatic.

  • Uses: Essential in Indian curries, rice dishes, and spice blends like garam masala.

12.)Curry Leaves:

  • Flavor Profile: Aromatic, slightly bitter, with citrus undertones.

  • Taste: Fragrant, slightly bitter.

  • Uses: Tempering, curries, rice dishes, and chutneys.

F - is for the 'Flavourful' Indian spices

13.)Fennel Seeds:

  • Flavor Profile: Sweet, licorice-like, with a hint of bitterness.

  • Taste: Sweet, aromatic.

  • Uses: After-meal digestive, in spice blends, teas, and desserts.

14.)Fenugreek Seeds:

  • Flavor Profile: Bitter, nutty, with a hint of maple.

  • Taste: Bitter, slightly nutty.

  • Uses: Essential in curry powders, pickles, lentil dishes, and vegetable preparations.

G - is for balancing Gluttony & Gastronomy

 15.)Garam Masala:

  • Flavor Profile: Warm, aromatic, with a blend of spices.

  • Taste: Complex, spicy.

  • Uses: Adds depth to curries, stews, rice dishes, and roasted meats.

  16.)Ginger/ Shunthi (Fresh and Dry or Powdered):

  • Flavor Profile: Spicy, pungent, with a hint of sweetness.

  • Taste: Spicy, warming.

  • Uses: Fresh or ground in curries, soups, teas, and desserts. 

L - is for 'Luscious' textures and taste

 17.)Licorice ( Mulaithi) : 

  • Flavor profile : sweet, hints of aniseed and molasses

  • Taste : woody and sweet, licorice is a bark.

  • Uses :added as a natural sweetener to teas and used as a soothing ingredient in natural cough syrups. 

    Home Kouzina Masala with Licorice

 18.) Long Pepper ( Lendi Pipli) :  

  • Flavor profile : Sharp, Pungent, citrus and peppery

  • Taste : Warm complex chili taste 

  • Uses : Used to make spice blends and for medicinal mixes   

    Home Kouzina Masala with Long Pepper

M - is for Medicinal qualities that Indian Spices Have

 19.) Mace (Javitri): 

  • Flavor Profile : a mildly spicy and aromatic essence.

  • Taste :slightly sweet, and peppery taste

  • Uses : In aromatic dishes and as a blended ingredient in five spice powder.

  20.) Mustard Seeds :  

  • Flavor Profile : pungent, sharp, slightly bitter

  • Taste: tangy, with a subtle bitterness

  •  Uses: As a tempering in most Indian dishes, pickling

N - is for Naturally preserving & pickling

 21.) Nigella Seeds(Kalonji):

  • Flavor Profile: Bitter, pungent, with onion-like undertones.

  • Taste: Bitter, peppery.

  • Uses: Tempering, bread toppings, spice blends, and pickles.

P - is for 'piquance' that Indian spices lend to your food

  22.) Poppy Seeds ( Khus-Khus): 

  • Flavor Profile: Nutty, slightly sweet, with a faint bitterness.

  • Taste: Nutty, slightly bitter.

  • Uses: Breads, pastries, desserts & creamy textured curries

S - is for 'Scents' that emanate from them

 23.) Saffron: 

  • Flavor Profile: Floral, honey-like, with a hint of bitterness.

  • Taste: Fragrant, slightly bitter.

  • Uses: Flavoring agent in sweets, rice dishes, milk, and desserts. 

  24.) Sesame Seeds :  

  • Flavor Profile : Sesame Seeds have a bland creamy flavor.

  • Taste : Nutty and buttery

  • Uses : An oil seed and a tempering 

 25.) Star Anise: 

  • Flavor Profile: Licorice-like, sweet, with hints of spice.

  • Taste: Sweet, aromatic.

  • Uses: Essential in biryanis, curries, soups, desserts, and beverages.

  26.) Stone Flower ( Dagad Phool) 

  • Flavor profile : Earthy Woody and Smoky flavor

  • Taste : subtle sweet and bitter taste

  • Uses : Blended with cloves, cardamom and cinnamon, in meat based curries especially in the north and north west.

T - is for 'Tradition' that Indian spices hold up

 26.) Tamarind: 

  • Flavour Profile : Tartaric & sour 
  • Taste : sour with some varieties tasting slightly sweeter
  • Uses : Tamarind is used in curries, sauces & pastes to lend a sour taste also a popular acidic agent in sugar candies 

27.) Tukmaria Seed :  

  •  Flavor profile : slightly sweet and coarse in texture

  •  Taste : Bland with hint of sweetness and fibrous

  •  Use : As a thickening agent and a body coolant  

28.) Turmeric: 

  • Flavor Profile: Earthy, slightly bitter, with a hint of mustard.

  • Taste: Earthy, slightly peppery.

  • Uses: Widely used in curries, soups, rice dishes, and beverages like turmeric milk. Also used in disinfecting beauty masks.

India is such a diverse country with such a wide variety of cuisines and condiments that this glossary just keeps on expanding. Write to us at ask@homekouzina.com about any interesting herb or spice that you are using currently and how they have enhanced your cooking, kitchen and life in general.

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