Your Guide To Curating The Ultimate Indian Spice Box

Trying to categorise ‘Indian food’ is always a problem. Across the vast expanse of the subcontinent, there are an unbelievable number of different regional cuisines to take into account. For example, in the North East, spices are rarely used, preferring to let the ingredients speak for themselves. But move further south and you’ll find the spice levels rising and adapting to local tastes, customs and availability. 

The purpose of a spice box is simple. All your day-to-day needs are neatly contained in one place so there’s no fumbling around in your cupboards while the ingredients in the pan slowly char. But beyond that, a spice box is an identity. It embodies the nature of your cooking, the influences and your family’s legacy. Quite a bit to pack into a small steel box isn’t it? 

Although there are likely to be a lot of variations in the spices used in each state, there are a few basic spices that every Indian chef (or budding chef) should have in their arsenal. But be sure to play around depending on what you like to cook to curate a spice box that is uniquely you!

1. Salt

Ok, so technically salt isn’t a spice, but no dish is complete without it, so it makes sense to have it within easy access right?

2. Cumin Powder

Earthy and deep cumin is one of those spices that seems all lowkey and irrelevant until it’s not there. It can add a whole dimension to a dish and most Indian dishes feel incomplete without it.

3. Turmeric

Bright in every sense of the word, turmeric is one of the most commonly used ingredients. Sometimes all you need for seasoning perfection is some turmeric, chilli and salt. 

4. Chilli Powder

Speaking of, why not add a little...spice to it. Be it the milder, redder Kashmiri chilli powder or the more pungent Lal Mirch powder, chilli powder is a must-have in an Indian kitchen.

5. Coriander Powder

We all love fresh coriander, but let’s be honest, it’s always a struggle to use it all up before it wilts. That’s where coriander comes to the rescue with a hint of citrus and earthiness to save the day.

6. Mustard Seeds

With a slight nuttiness and a unique crunch, mustard seeds add a little something extra to any recipe they feature in. 

7. Garam Masala

This may seem like cheating, but when you have the option for convenience, take it! Garam Masala is made up of cinnamon, peppercorns, cardamom, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, cloves, mace, and nutmeg so you can pack in even more flavours with just one spoon.