I recently received an email from a reader, who asked if I would do a post on “essential Indian spices”.  I wrote a similar post about Essential Equipment for Indian cooking and it is high time I do one for spices.

I love the idea of a quick-start guide to Indian cooking.  I have had many people tell me they haven’t tried Indian cooking because the list of spices is too intimidating, and it can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be.

To show you how easy it really is, I would like to share with you a picture of my mother-in-law’s spice box.  This box contains only three spices:  1. Salt   2. Turmeric  3. Garam masala

Salt, turmeric and garam masala are the only spices my Mummy-ji uses on a day to day basis. Occasionally she uses red chili powder for color (such as in her chole recipe).  These same three spices make a wonderful array of dishes, all with their own unique flavors.

Of these three spices, salt and turmeric are the most available.  It should be easy to find turmeric in the spice isle of most mainstream grocery stores (much cheaper at the Indian store though).

If you are just starting out with Indian cooking, you are probably less familiar with garam masala.

I‘m including garam masala as one spice on my essentials list, when in actuality garam masala is a blend of spices (about seven spices, depending on the recipe).

The easiest way to get garam masala is at an Indian grocery store but if you don’t have one of those around, try looking for it at a natural foods store (I’ve seen it at Whole Foods).

You may want to try your local neighborhood stores, as Indian spices are becoming more and more widely available.

If you don’t have an Indian grocery store and you cannot find it at any of your local stores, you can make your own garam masala at home using commonly available spices.

Many of the recipes on this site use an array of spices. However, if you want to keep things real simple, you could cut out all the other spices and just stick to these three.  I personally love my spice cabinet, which is stocked full of colorful and great smelling spices, but I only use turmeric and garam masala for day to day cooking. For anyone who like it short and simple, just keep the “essential three” on hand.

How To Simplify Any Recipe On This Site:

To simplify any recipe on this site, you can replace the spices in any recipe with a ratio of:

  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric.

Taste and adjust before serving.  These are the amounts I’ve observed Mummy-ji using in the recipes we’ve made together.

To start cooking right away, take a look at the cooking videos Mummy-ji and I have made together, all of which use only the “essential three” spices (except the chole, which includes some red chili powder for color).

Easy Indian Recipes

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