In Ayurvedic Cooking the spices are your medicine. Spices as “wonder foods” has been a basis of the Ayurvedic system for thousands of years. Spices are a therapeutic and a flavorful way to keep your diet healthy and healing. The exotic colors and aromas of spices can change and ordinary dish into a divine one. [Learn More]
Also known as ajowan or bishop’s weed, this celery-sized spice seed (Carum ajowan) is closely related to caraway and cumin. The assertive flavor resembles thyme, with pepper and oregano over¬tones. It is popular in North Indian vegetable cooking, especially root vegetables such as potatoes, parsnips and radishes. It is also used in fried snacks. Ajwan tea improves memory, eliminates oily skin, calms a nagging cough, produces breast milk, serves as a natural antacid, and acts as an excellent deodorant. Dry roasted ajwan inhaled from a sachet relieves congestion in the nose, especially in small babies.
This is a tan-colored powder made from grinding small sun-dried green mangoes. Amchur is used in North Indian dishes to give a slightly sour, pungent taste. It is a predominant flavor in the spice blend chat masala.
These are the leaves of the sweet bay or laurel tree, Laurus nobilis, an evergreen member of the laurel family native to the Mediterranean region and Asia Minor. Used in fresh or dried form, bay leaves are quite pungent with a slightly bitter, spicy flavor. Bay leaf tea used as a rinse helps control dandruff. Bay oil is used for arthritic pain, muscle spasms and tendon swelling.
These are the small, round berries of the woody perennial evergreen vine Piper nigrum. They are characterized by a penetrating odor and a hot, biting and extremely pungent flavor. It stimulates appetite and reduces gas. It is rich in chromium and useful in preventing and alleviating adult diabetes.
Black Salt (Kala Namak)
This is a reddish-gray variety of salt with a distinct sulfurous flavor. It is a major ingredient in the spice blend chat masala.
This is the aromatic seeds of the fruit of the tropical plant Elettaria cardamomum, a member of the ginger family, which grows in the moist tropical regions of South India and Sri Lanka. In Indian cuisine, cardamom is used in rice dishes, milk sweets and halvah. It is also chewed as a breath freshener and digestive aid after a meal, and has a warming effect on the body. It is available in the pod, as shelled seeds, or powdered.
Chapati Flour (Atta flour)
This is a low-gluten flour derived from a strain of soft wheat popular throughout India. The entire wheat kernel, including the bran, germ and endosperm, is ground very finely, making nutritious flour. It is suitable for all Indian flatbreads, such as puns, chapatis, and parathas. Doughs made with this flour are velvety smooth, knead readily, and respond easily to shaping and rolling.
This spice combination is a traditional companion to freshly cut fruit in Indian cuisine. A light brown spice blend, it contains a number of ingredients, notably black salt, mango powder, and hing. Sprinkled on fruit with a few drops of lime juice, it makes a deliciously different dessert. It is also used in sauces and chutneys.
Chickpea Flour (Besan flour)
Also known as gram flour, this finely milled pale yellow flour is made from ground, roasted chana dal. It is used in Indian cuisine for making batter, as a binding agent, and in confectionery.
Chili Powder (Cayenne)
This spice is the red powder derived from small, sun-dried red chili peppers (Capsicum frutescens). A small amount of this bitingly hot condiment will add considerable zest and flavor to dishes. It helps in reducing body temperature, enabling people in hot climates to tolerate heat. It also boosts vitamin C levels and increases metabolism, enabling the body to burn more fat. It helps bring down blood sugar level, knocks out colds and flu, and lowers cholesterol.
Cinnamomum zeylanicum is a moderate sized, bushy evergreen tree of the laurel family. Its inner bark is dried and rolled into cinnamon sticks. It imparts a sweet, aromatic flavor to fancy Indian rice dishes, vegetables and dals. It is also a main ingredient in garam masala. It makes a good mouthwash in combination with cloves and helps in fighting colds and flu.
These are the dried, nail-shaped buds from the evergreen tree Eugenia Aromatica. They have a strong, pungent, sweet aroma and flavor, and can be used in fancy rice dishes, dals, sweet cooked fruits, as well as in various spice blends, including some North Indian garam masalas.
Coriander Leaves (Cilantro)
These are the fresh leaves of the annual herb Coriandrum sativum. It is also known as Chinese parsley and har dhania. Fresh coriander imparts a unique warm-bodied taste to vegetable dishes, dals, savories and fresh chutneys. It also makes a beautiful garnish. It has a pronounced cooling effect on the body.
Coriander Seeds (Dhania)
These are the seeds of the annual herb Coriandrum sativum, commonly known here as cilantro. They are almost round, brown to yellowish, with a warm distinctive fragrance and a pleasant taste — mildly sweet yet slightly pungent. It is available whole or ground, and complements the flavor of many savory dishes. It is very cooling to the system and alleviates gas and tones the digestive tract.
These are the seeds of the small annual herb of the parsley family Cuminum cyminium. They are oval and yellowish-brown, similar to the caraway seed but longer. They have a warm, strongly aromatic and slightly bitter flavor. In Indian cuisine, cumin is popular in vegetable dishes, yogurt based salads (raitas), dals, and savories. Cumin is heat producing and an excellent toner of the digestive tract. One teaspoon of cumin seeds steeped in one pint of water for one hour helps relieve muscle spasms.
These are the thin, shiny, dark-green leaves of the southeast Asian tree Murraya koegnigii. They are highly aromatic when fresh. Used especially in South Indian cuisine, they are generally sautéed with mustard seeds and hing and added to dals, fresh chutneys, or vegetable dishes.
The tall, hardy, aromatic perennial of the parsley family native to Southern Europe and the Mediterranean area, fennel (Foenicuium vuigare) is used as an herb and for its aromatic seed. The oval, greenish seeds emit an agreeable, warm, sweet fragrance, similar to that of anise. They are used in a variety of vegetable dishes, daIs and pastries, and are chewed as an after dinner digestive. It stimulates perspiration, as well as milk production in nursing mothers.
An erect annual herb of the bean family, Tngonella foenumgraecum is indigenous to western Asia and southeastern Europe. It is cultivated for its seeds, which, although legumes, are used as a spice. The seeds are small, hard, yellowish-brown, smooth and oblong, with a little groove along one corner, and possess a warm slightly bitter flavor, which is best extracted by light dry roasting or frying. The leaves are also popular in Indian cuisine, used in vegetable dishes, breads and savories. It creates heat in the body and helps in reducing blood cholesterol. The tea relieves hay fever. A general body tonic, fenugreek is rich in B vitamins and folic acid. It stimulates blood and hair cell development, and helps with weight loss. In ayurveda, fenugreek is used for stimulating digestion and alleviating chronic cough. It is very helpful for diabetic patients.
This is a blend of dry-roasted and ground spices often used in Indian cuisine. The spices used in this masala warm the body (garam means warm). Such spices include dried chilies, black pepper, cardamom, coriander, cinnamon, cloves and cumin. Other spices, such as ajwan, mace, nutmeg, fennel, bay leaves, ginger, white and green pepper, as well as other ingredients such as sesame seeds, coconut and saffron are also used, according to regional tastes. Garam masala is generally added toward the end of the cooking.
This is the thick, white, tuberous underground stems of the plant Zingeber officinale, which thrives in the tropical areas of the world. Fresh ginger root has a spicy-sweet aroma and a hot, clean taste. It should be peeled before use, and can be minced, shredded, or cut into fine julienne strips and used in vegetable dishes, daIs, savories, fried dishes, chutneys, rices, sweets and drinks. It stimulates appetite, calms indigestion, and has a cleansing effect on the body. It also acts as a diuretic and is useful in alleviating colds and coughs.
This is the aromatic resin from the root of the giant fennel, Ferula asafoetida. It is extracted from the stems of these giant perennial plants that grow wild in Central Asia. The gummy resin is sun-dried in a mass that is sold in solid, wax-like pieces, or in more convenient powdered form. It has a distinctive, pungent flavor reminiscent of shallots or garlic. Used in minute quantities, it adds a delicious flavor to various savory dishes. It counteracts gas created in the stomach, and is a must when cooking with beans.
Also known as nigella or black onion seed (nigelIa sativa), they have a peppery taste, and when heated, have an herbal aroma. They are an important ingredient in the Bengali spice combination panch puran.
This is a combination of herbs, spices or seasonings used in Indian cuisine. Some masalas, like Bengali panch puran, contain whole spices. Others, like chat masala, garam masala, sambar masala, or rasam powder contain numerous powdered spices combined together.
Of the many varieties of mustard, the three most prominent are the tiny round brownish-black seeds from the plant known as Brassica nigra, commonly known as black mustard; the purple-brown seed of Brassica juncea, commonly called brown mustard; and the yellow seeds from Brassica alba, known as white or yellow mustard. Black and brown mustard seeds are often confused with each other. Brown mustard seeds are commonly used as a spice in Indian cuisine, where they are known as rai. In South Indian cuisine they are fried in hot oil or ghee to extract their nutty, pungent flavor before being added to soups, chutneys or vegetable dishes. It is mildly diuretic and creates heat, stimulates digestion, and helps in dispelling gas. Ayurvedic medicine values mustard seeds for gout, arthritis and fever.
This is the fragrant nut found in the center of the fruit of the evergreen tree Myr/st/ca fragrans. It has a sweet, warm and highly spicy flavor. It is occasionally used in milk-based sweets in Bengal and Gujarat as well as in garam masala. It helps in alleviating gas, nausea, vomiting and other stomach problems. A pinch added to warm milk helps in relaxing, and provides sound sleep for adults and babies.
Pomegranate Seeds (Anardhana)
This spice is the dried seed of a variety of wild pomegranate, Punica Granatum. Native to the foothills of Kashmir and Jammu, daru, or wild pomegranate, has a distinct sour rather than sweet taste. When fresh, the sun-dried seeds are somewhat sticky to the touch, with a blackish-wine color; when old or stale, the seeds are dry and shriveled. They are popular in some North Indian dishes: karhis, pakoras and stuffing for parathas or kachoris.
Poppy Seeds (Kus Kus)
There are two varieties of poppy seeds, black and white. Both are the seeds of the poppy plant Papaversomniferum. White poppy seeds are much used in Indian cuisine. They are smaller than the black ones, have a similar flavor, and are creamy-white. When ground, they add special flavors to Bengali dishes. They are especially used as a thickener for sauces and gravies.
This is the slender, dried stamens of the flowers of Crocus sativus, grown commercially in Spain, Kashmir and China. Saffron has a pleasantly spicy, pungent, slightly bitter honey-like taste, and one pinch is sufficient to color a whole dish with a deep yellow hue. Saffron is used in making milk sweets, halvah, exotic rices and curries. It is good for warming the body in cold weather, but it should be avoided in summer. It helps induce sleep when taken with warm milk. Used in creams, it gives the skin a beautiful glow.
A zesty, South Indian spice combination, it is always added to the famous hot-and-sour dal called sambar. Different varieties may contain ground, roasted red chilies, dried curry leaves, roasted and ground coriander, cumin, mustard and fenugreek seeds, black peppercorns, turmeric, sesame seeds, and toasted and finely ground channa dal, toor dal, and urad dal.
This is the dried, hard, brown, star-shaped fruit of the small evergreen tree Illicium verum. Star anise has a licorice-like flavor and odor.
This is the pulp extracted from the brown pods of the tamarind tree, Tamarindus indica. The fresh pulp has a sour, fruity taste and is popular in Indian cooking. It is available in different forms commercially. Whole dried pods and blocks of partially dried, unseeded or seeded pods must be soaked in hot water to extract the sour brown juice. A concentrate, which can be used straight from the jar, is more convenient. Tamarind makes excellent sweet-and-sour chutneys or sauces, and can be used in vegetable dishes and curries.
Also called ahar dal, toovar dal, or pigeon peas, these cream-colored split lentils are widely used in northern and southwestern lndia. They have a delightful, slightly sweet flavor. They warm the body and are easy to digest.
This is the rhizome, or underground stem, of the tropical herb Curcuma longa. The short, waxy, orange-yellow rhizomes are boiled, cleaned, sun-dried, and then ground to a fine, aromatic, yellowish powder that is used as an essential ingredient in Indian cooking. It adds a brilliant yellow color and warmth to cooked dishes and imparts a slightly bitter, pungent flavor. An ideal addition to high protein dishes, it stimulates complete digestion of the proteins, prevent¬ing the creation of toxins. It also possesses antiseptic qualities, and is used externally on cuts and burns. Slightly astringent, it is an excellent blood purifier and anti-inflammatory. It helps in healing the liver, counteracting liver fat and lowering blood cholesterol.