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The quintessentially Indian spice cupboard

  • Can I cook with Indian spices that are readily available in supermarkets or do I have to source all of them elsewhere?

  • Are these spices available in smaller quantities?

  • What is the shelf life of these spices?

Yes, these are some of the questions that I get asked and surely come to your mind when you see Indian recipes and think to yourself whether I have a particular spice or is there an alternate available or is the list overwhelming.

The happy news is that you only need a handful of whole spices and powdered spices for most Indian recipes and most are available in most supermarkets in the UK. I was pleasantly surprised to see how many of these small spice jars are available in Morrisons and Waitrose.

So, in this article is my essential list of whole spices and powdered spices that you need for most Indian recipes and those that are available in smaller jars in supermarkets.


Whole-spices for your cupboard


Available in most supermarkets:

Ø Green Cardamoms: Whole or ground into a powder

Ø Cloves: Whole or ground into a powder

Ø Cinnamon: Whole or ground into a powder

Ø Black peppercorn: I suggest you grind these into a powder

Ø Dried curry leaves: An alternative to fresh curry leaves which are not available easily


Not available in most supermarkets but can be ordered online or bought in an Indian spice shop:


Ø Bay leaf: Used as a whole spice and can be removed from the sauce at a later stage.

Ø Kashmiri dried red chilies: Used sparingly depending on how much spice you prefer.

Ø Black Cardamom: Used as a whole and can be removed from the sauce at the later stage

Ø Fenugreek dried leaves: Available in Indian stores and online portals and an essential spice!


Seeds for your cupboard


Available in most supermarkets:


Ø Cumin seeds: Used both as whole seeds and can be ground into a powder

Ø Coriander seeds: Bought as whole seeds and can be ground into a powder

Ø Mustard seeds: Bought as whole seeds

Ø Fenugreek seeds: Bought as whole seeds


Not available in most supermarkets but can be ordered online or bought in an Indian spice shop:


Ø Carom seeds

Ø Fennel seeds


Indian powdered spices for your cupboard


Available in most supermarkets:


Ø Turmeric powder: Available

Ø Coriander powder: You can also buy the seeds and grind them into a powder

Ø Cumin powder: You can also buy the seeds and grind them into a powder

Ø Garam masala: You can buy the whole spices, dry roast them and make a powder or you can buy the powdered version

Ø Fenugreek powder: An alternate to dried fenugreek leaves, to be used sparingly.


Not available in most supermarkets but can be ordered online or bought in an Indian spice shop:


Ø Kashmiri Mirch red chili powder: This powder adds beautiful colour to the dishes and is not spicy. This spice should be should in your cupboard!

Ø Asafoetida: It is the dried gum of a plant from the celery family called ferula and once added to the dish being cooked, its raw, pungent fragrance vanishes.

Ø Degi mirch red chili powder: Spicy red chili powder

Ø Dried mango powder: Available in Indian stores, it is used along with other powdered spices to add tanginess.

Ø Ginger powder

Ø Chaat Masala: Usually used as a garnish in street-food


Please post any questions in the comments section below and I will try and answer them to the best of my ability!


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