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7 Essential Spices for Indian Cooking

Variety is the spice of life, as the saying goes. And spices in Indian food are absolutely essential to bring out the best possible flavors in every dish. Little India serves delicious Indian food in Denver and we want you to understand the spices we use to make your every meal with us an authentic Indian dining experience.


As Indian cooking spices go, saffron is one that isn’t quite common, but is certainly a necessity for certain dishes. Its earthy and bitter flavor requires careful application, and too much can ruin a dish very easily. When added in the right proportions, it adds a distinct kick to all sorts of dishes from biryani to rice pudding.


An antiseptic rhizome similar to ginger in appearance, turmeric is usually ground up, giving a rich yellow coloring and very peppery flavor to all manner of foods.  It’s probably one of the most common Indian spices out there. Care should be given when handling turmeric, as it stains fabrics, skin and porous surfaces easily.


Used either as whole seeds or as a powder, cumin adds a smoky flavor, making it ideal for various meat dishes and several different types of curries. It’s a basic Indian spice that no chef should be without.


Another one of those spices where a small amount goes a long way. Nutmeg can be used in desserts like kheer, as well as savory dishes and in concert with cheeses. Additionally, no garam masala (spice mix) would be complete without at least a little nutmeg in it.

Red Chili Powder

As the name implies, this spice is essentially dried red chili peppers ground up into powder. It’s useful not only for adding a degree of heat to a dish, but also adds some color as well.


Another spice that can be used either as whole seeds or powdered, coriander is used to bring a nutty flavor to different dishes and body to garam masala.  Unlike some of the other spices listed here, coriander powder has an incredibly short shelf life, so it’s often recommended to grind coriander right before cooking with it to ensure freshness.


A very lightly flavored spice, cardamom is often found in chai, paneer and curries. Like coriander, it has a strictly limited shelf life, so fresh grinding right before use is recommended.

Little India

Little India invites you to come by and enjoy the variety of spices of Indian cuisine with us today at one of our two convenient Denver restaurants. We can also bring our delicious food to you with our free delivery service within a five mile radius of both of our locations. Simply place your order online and we’ll bring it right to your door!

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