18 Essential Ingredients for Indian Cooking

March 4, 2016
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    Cooking different cuisines really is a matter of putting together a few key elements. To help you master the perfect curry, here are our 18 essential ingredients for Indian cooking. 

    Print this out and hang it up in your pantry, and Hey Presto! You’ve got the lineup for any classic Indian dish. Add a few in season veggies, your favourite protein (we love lamb or tofu),and before you know it your kitchen will be smelling like the neighbourhood’s best curry house in no time.




    An ingredient most of us are familiar with, cloves add a heady, fragrant hit of aromatics, and an almost sweet counterpoint to the savoury of many Indian dishes.


    Lentils have been part of human diets since the aceramic Neolithic period. Aceramic literally means before pottery, so we’ve been enjoying lentils since before we had bowls to enjoy them in!
    They’re very rich in protein (second only to soybeans out of any legume) and dietary fibre. Lentils are also versatile and delicious, which is why they’re so often in your HelloFresh box. They’re filling and tasty and add a beautiful silkiness to soups and of course dahls, one of our favourite dishes.

    black sesame seeds

    Nutty and crunchy, need we say more?


    This is one you may not have heard of before. Popular in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Iran, Nepal, Bangladesh, Argentina, Egypt, France, Spain, Turkey, and Morocco as well as India, fenugreek is an annual crop of plant that produces amber yellow seeds. It’s flavour is undeniably Indian!

    coriander seeds

    More mellow than the fresh herb variety, coriander seeds add a pungency that carries through to hold its own among even the fiercest of chillis.


    Chickpeas are from the same family as fenugreek, and are an essential legume to many cultures around the world. They’re fabulously nutrient dense, rich in protein, dietary fibre, folate and iron. Kept whole and firm they add tasty bulk to all manner of vegetarian dishes, and when cooked until they break down, their creaminess is delectable as well.


    Tamarind provides a hit of umami (the pleasant savoury taste found in tomatoes, soy sauce and miso pasta) to curries and dahls, but it also has a beautiful, almost caramel hint of sweetness. It’s that duality that makes it so delicious.


    Guys, if you’re not starting every savoury dish with at least 2 cloves of garlic, I’m really not sure how I can help you.


    Onion, second in necessity only to garlic. Whack it in, friends.


    Cardamom, and it’s buddy saffron, might just be my favourite Indian ingredients. Another beautiful aromatic, it’s spicy, cirtusy aroma is perfect in Indian dishes both sweet and savoury.


    Famous for its rarity (each red saffron stigma is harvested from flowers which produce only 3 apiece), just one frond of saffron transforms white rice into a blissful sunflower yellow. Indian cooking just wouldn’t be the same without it’s distinctive colour.

    palm sugar

    Palm sugar adds depth of flavour as well as sweetness. Like using dates instead of sugar in a dessert, the rich deep flavour is delightful!

    mustard seeds

    Pungent heat is to be found from the addition of mustard seeds in South Asian cooking. Perfect for adding spiciness that isn’t devoid of flavour.


    Cinnamon originated in Sri Lanka, and was quickly adopted into many national cuisines, Indian chief among them. Woody, sweet and aromatic, it’s seriously underused by Westerners in savoury cooking.

    curry leaves

    Well, duh. You knew about this one already, but it bears repeating that a proper curry should contain curry leaves!

    coconut milk

    Perfect for adding a cooling element to a hot and spicy curry, coconut milk also lends a luxurious creaminess to favourites like butter chicken.


    The big mild ones, the red ones, the little evil ones, the wild looking green ones – There’s a chilli for every Indian dish under the sun! Fresh chillies create a juicy, zingy hit which tingles on the tongue, while the dried variety acts more like a baseline, humming along under other flavours with an undeniable heat.

    rice flour

    Rice flour is gluten free (those afflicted by dietary restrictions rejoice!), and provides the amazing textures for dough based recipes with dosa or rooti.

    18 Essential Ingredients for Indian Cooking

    Have a great weekend filled with delicious food!

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