Whole Spices 101: How to Use Whole Spices at Home

What are whole spices? Where I can buy them? What are they used for? These are some of the questions that came to mind when I first heard the term “Whole Spices”. Whole Spices (or Sabut Masala) are just spices in their natural dried form, before they're ground into powder for easy use. Most of these spice powders are ones we use in our daily cooking already, but never thought how this spice looked before getting powdered. Whole Spices are most commonly used in Asian and Indian Subcontinent Cooking, and often give curries and rice dishes their aroma and flavor.

How to Use Whole Spices from Fun, Food, and Frolic

In India, most cooks prefer to buy whole spices from grocery stores and grind their own Garam Masala, Curry Powder, or Tea Masala out of the whole spices for better taste. Sometimes spice powders available in the market are not as high quality as homemade powders, so it's always wise to ground whole spices at home. All it takes is 10 to 15 minutes once in a month to do, and the flavors you can achieve make it well worth it!

There is a whole variety of whole spices available all over the world, but these are a few that you'll likely find in every Indian household! We start from the top row extreme left moving towards right:

How to Use Whole Spices by Fun, Food, & Frolic

Star Anise - As the name suggest Star Anise it is of the shape of a star, now commonly used worldwide as the substitute of Anise or aniseed.

Coriander Seeds - Coriander leaves are popular herb for garnishing salads, soups and entree dishes. In Indian subcontinent called Dhania or Dhania Seeds, has a warm, nutty and spicy flavor.

Dried Red Chili - Chilli Pepper or simply chilli is mostly used in powdered form to season and color dishes. India is the largest producer, consumer and exporter of red chilli in the world.

In second row from left:

Cloves - Mainly used in Indian, African and Middle Eastern cuisines to flavor meats, curries and marinades, due to strong aroma 2 - 3 pieces of whole cloves are enough for a curry.

Green Cardamom - World’s third most expensive spice after Vanilla and Saffron, native to India, Nepal and bhutan, they are recognised by their small seed pods, aroma and green colored papery outer shell.

Black Peppercorns - The most common spice added to European cuisine often paired with salt either in crushed or powdered form, widely grown in Southern part of India, world’s most traded spice is sometimes referred to as Black Gold.

In third row from left:

Cinnamon Sticks - Pungent taste and nutty scent of Cinnamon is in no need of introduction among cooks all over the world, whether it is soups or deserts a pinch of cinnamon always gives new dimension to flavors of the dish.

Mace - Mace forms the outer shell of nutmeg of nutmeg seeds with a flavor similar to Nutmeg with a hint of pepper, widely used in powdered form in savoury dishes and desserts.

Cumin Seeds - In different cuisines used either in whole or powdered form, whether it is Mediterranean or Indian dishes roasted cumin powder is used to add a nutty flavor to dishes. Cumin is seed of dried herb from Parsley family.

How To Use Whole Spices, written by Fun, Food, and Frolic

Apart from above mentioned spices some other whole spices are also used but in very lesser quantity because of strong flavor of these whole spices such as a tsp of nutmeg is sufficient to add a nutty flavor to the dish or 1 - 2 bay leaf is enough for a pot of Asian curry.

  • Nutmeg
  • Black cardamom
  • Black cumin seeds
  • Bay leaf