April 9, 2019

A Complete Spice Substitutes Chart & Guide For Hard To Find Indian Spices

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Don’t let the lack of the right spices stop you from making your favourite Indian curry. This list of 26 commonly used Indian spice substitutes chart makes it easier for you to find an alternative spice. 

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Spice substitute chart

TABLE OF CONTENTS


When it comes to cooking any regional cuisine the right ingredient is what makes a dish authentic.

But what if you are unable to get those ingredients? Is there no way to make that lovely Rogan Josh or pasanda recipe?!!

Do you skip making a dish after going through the list of ingredients just because you don’t have it?

Does the question of ‘What can I substitute for ……. ?’ comes to your mind in case you run out of the ingredient or your nearest supermarket does not stock them?

The good thing about working with spices is that they are not always a MUST have ingredient.

There is always a spice substitute to replace it with or omit it completely from the dish as long as it is not the main spice used to make the dish.

There is a way around to finding the right spice, yet maintaining authenticity without compromising the taste.

Why Do You Need To Look For Spice Substitutes

Indian cuisine is synonymous with the use of spices.

After all, can it be an Indian food without cumin powder, coriander powder or turmeric?

Would you not then make a curry because you don’t have one of the spices listed or may be intolerant to a spice or simply dislike a particular strong spice?

The average Indian dishes have a minimum of 7-9 ingredients, out of which 3-4 may be just spices.

The good news is that you DO NOT need all the spices to cook a curry.

You can start by keeping just these 5 essential Indian spices that can also be used to make other dishes and not just Indian.

In fact you will only need the essential spices to make a basic Indian base sauce. 

Given that there are different ingredients that go to make an Indian dish, it effectively gives you the flexibility to use alternative spices.

This can only be possible if the ingredient, in this case, the spice to be substituted is not the key or the main element of the dish such as pepper for making pepper chicken or mustard for a mustard-based gravy.

As long as the spice substitute has some of the characteristic elements of the listed spice it is absolutely safe to either alternate the spices or omit them completely from the dish.

It is, however, important to note that few spices have a characteristic flavour profile which may be a challenge to replicate.

In this case, the dish will tend to lose a degree of its authenticity.

List of Spice substitute chart for Indian spices

How To Substitute Spices & Herbs Correctly Without Compromising Taste?

Although I say that you have the option of going for an alternative substitute for a particular spice, but

how do you substitute the amount and type of spice correctly?

Or what is the correct way of finding the alternative spice substitutes?

This question is a bit tricky to answer since there are many factors that depend on what should be the correct replaced amount.

Few things to consider when it comes to looking for a spice substitute are:

1. The type of spice substitute

Not all spices have the same level of taste or flavour

Some spices have a stronger flavour profile compared to others.

If your chosen substitute is stronger to the actual spice then you will need to use that in less quantity while a spice with subtle taste may need larger quantities to be added.

Understand the taste and the flavour quotient of the spice you will be using as a substitute before you add to balance the taste.

2.  Using fresh spice substitute instead of powder

Sometimes similar flavour can be derived from using fresh ingredients such as onions, ginger, garlic or fresh herbs.

Not all spices can be substituted with another spice.

When you use fresh ingredients, you are likely to use them less in quantity to the dish to balance the required taste.

3. The quantity you are cooking

We do have a tendency to overlook the proportion of the number of heads we are cooking for when following a recipe.

The quantity of raw material used should represent the number of people you are making the dish for.

Ensure that the amount of raw material to spice replacement is in proportion.

4. Health and personal reasons to look for suitable alternatives

Few may also need to look for spice substitute because of an eating lifestyle, intolerance/allergy or simply a personal dislike to a particular spice.

Having the alternatives and substitute works in their favour so that they do not have to compromise on the taste or try the dish.

It is a good idea to choose alternatives which suit your purpose.

A Spices Substitute Chart For Popular Indian Spices & Herbs

Keeping the tips of substituting spices & herbs while retaining the originality of the recipes, here is a list of spice substitutes for some of the most commonly used spices.

Thanks to the convenience of online shopping, you can easily buy the original spices in a  click.

You can buy most spices from the online store The Spice House.

I have made it even easier for you to buy the spices just by clicking on the images below.

So here is the detailed description of  substitute spices that are most commonly used in cooking Indian food.

  1. Substitute for Asafoetida 
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Type of Spice and Use in CookingAsafoetida is a gum resin with a very strong flavour. Use sparingly in dishes.

Spice Substitute Option 1 – Onion and Garlic powder

Spice Substitute Option 2 – Shallots, Fresh Garlic or leeks

Read post on what is Asafoetida and how to use it for cooking

2. Substitute for   Cardamom 

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Type of Spice and Use in Cooking – Floral, citrusy with robust flavour. A very popular spice in Indian dishes.

Spice Substitute Option 1  – Cinnamon and Cloves

Spice Substitute Option 2 – Cinnamon and nutmeg (just a pinch)

3. Substitute for Caraway Seeds

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Type of Spice and Use in Cooking – Belongs to the cumin seeds family, mild and sweet in flavour

Spice Substitute Option 1 – Roasted cumin seeds

Spice Substitute Option 2 – Dill

Learn the difference between caraway seeds and cumin seeds and how to use them for cooking

4. Substitute for Carom Seeds or Ajwain

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Type of Spice and Use in Cooking –Similar to caraway seeds with a liquorice undertone.

Spice Substitute Option 1 –Dried Thyme

Spice Substitute Option 2 –Roasted cumin seeds

Read post on what are carom seeds and how to use them for cooking

5. Substitute for Chat Masala

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Type of Spice and Use in Cooking –A street food seasoning that is sour in taste

Spice Substitute Option 1 –Dry mango powder/Lemon juice

Spice Substitute Option 2 –Sumac powder

Read why is chat masala one of the most interesting spices in Indian cuisine

6. Substitute for Chilli powder

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Type of Spice and Use in Cooking –Spice that renders heat and sometimes colour to the dish

Spice Substitute Option 1 – Omit from the dish or use paprika

Spice Substitute Option 2 – Green chilli/ pepper powder

7. Substitute for Cinnamon

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Type of Spice and Use in Cooking –Woody smoky undertones used in savoury and sweet dishes

Spice Substitute Option 1 –Nutmeg/Allspice

Spice Substitute Option 2 –Mace

8. Substitute for  Cloves

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Type of Spice and Use in Cooking – A bud with a robust strong flavour

Spice Substitute Option 1 –Nutmeg/Allspice

Spice Substitute Option 2 –Cinnamon

9. Substitute for Coriander leaves

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Type of Spice and Use in Cooking – Fresh herb added for extra depth of freshness to the dish

Spice Substitute Option 1 – Omit completely

Spice Substitute Option 2 – A small mix of Parsley, tarragon and dill leaves.

10. Substitute for Coriander powder

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Type of Spice and Use in Cooking – Popular ground spice with a mild taste

Spice Substitute Option 1 – Cumin powder

Spice Substitute Option 2 – If not already used in the dish Curry powder

11. Substitute for Cumin Powder

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Type of Spice and Use in Cooking – Mild ground spice to add taste to the dish

Spice Substitute Option 1 – Coriander powder

Spice Substitute Option 2 – If not already used in the dish Curry powder

12. Substitute for Fresh Curry Leaves 

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Type of Spice and Use in Cooking – A very important Indian herb with a lemony flavour.

Spice Substitute Option 1 – Lemon zest

Spice Substitute Option 2 – Kaffir lime leaves

Read what are curry leaves and how to use them for cooking

13. Substitute for Curry Powder 

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Type of Spice and Use in Cooking – Popular Indian spice blend made with different ground spices

Spice Substitute Option 1 – Garam Masala powder

Spice Substitute Option 2 – A mix of coriander powder, cumin powder and turmeric.

Using Garam Masala as a substitute for curry powder? Learn how to use it correctly

14. Substitute for Fennel Seeds

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Type of Spice and Use in Cooking – Liquorice in taste. Adds a distinctive flavour to the dish

Spice Substitute Option 1 – Dill

Spice Substitute Option 2 – Star Anise/ caraway seeds

Confused about Fennel seeds and Aniseed? This post clarifies the difference

15. Substitute for Fenugreek Seeds

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Type of Spice and Use in Cooking – A popular whole spice used in many Indian dishes. Has a slight bitter tone.

Spice Substitute Option 1 – Mustard seeds

Spice Substitute Option 2 – Curry powder

Why is fenugreek one of the most healthiest spices. Read on to find

16. Substitute for Fresh Ginger

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Type of Spice and Use in Cooking – A popular aromatic used for making sweet and savoury dishes.

Spice Substitute Option 1 –Ginger powder

Spice Substitute Option 2 – Allspice powder

17. Substitute for Garam Masala

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Type of Spice and Use in Cooking – Popular Indian spice blend used in most Indian spices.

Spice Substitute Option 1 – Curry powder

Spice Substitute Option 2 – Allspice and cumin

18. Substitute for Mace

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Type of Spice and Use in Cooking – Robust and strong pungent spice. Use sparingly in the dish.

Spice Substitute Option 1 – Nutmeg

Spice Substitute Option 2 – Allspice

19. Substitute for Mustard paste

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Type of Spice and Use in Cooking – Pungent and sharp. introduces heat and smoothness to a dish.

Spice Substitute Option 1 – Dijon mustard sauce

Spice Substitute Option 2 – A small portion of horseradish or wasabi paste

20. Substitute for Black Mustard Seeds 

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Type of Spice and Use in Cooking – Normally used as a tempering or pickling spice.

Spice Substitute Option 1 – Caraway seeds

Spice Substitute Option 2 – Nigella Seeds

What are the different types of mustard seeds used for cooking 

21. Substitute for Nutmeg

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Type of Spice and Use in Cooking – Strong yet delicately flavoured spice with a sweet woody tone.

Spice Substitute Option 1 – Mace

Spice Substitute Option 2 – Cinnamon

22. Substitute for White Poppy Seeds

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Type of Spice and Use in Cooking – Used whole or as a paste to give texture to the dish.

Spice Substitute Option 1 – Chia seeds

Spice Substitute Option 2 – Melon seeds (for paste only)

What are the different types of Poppy seeds 

23. Substitute for Pasanda Seasoning

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Type of Spice and Use in Cooking – This is a popular spice blend that is used to make pasanda style dishes.

Spice Substitute Option 1 – A mix of Garam Masala powder and caraway seeds

Spice Substitute Option 2 – Use a mix of ground cinnamon, cloves and cardamom

The 5 best Indian spice blends for Indian good lovers to keep on hand

24. Substitute for Pomegranate seeds

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Type of Spice and Use in Cooking – Souring agent to add tartness to dish

Spice Substitute Option 1 – Sumac powder

Spice Substitute Option 2 – Lemon juice

24. Substitute for Saffron

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Type of Spice and Use in Cooking – A flavouring and colouring agent with a strong sweet taste.

Spice Substitute Option 1 – Rose essence and turmeric

Spice Substitute Option 2 – Cardamon

25. Substitute for Star Anise

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Type of Spice and Use in Cooking – Woody and earthy it adds a distinctive flavour to the dish.

Spice Substitute Option 1 – Chinese five spice powder

Spice Substitute Option 2 – Cinnamon/ fennel seeds/ Aniseed

26. Substitute for Turmeric

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Type of Spice and Use in Cooking – Mainly used as a colouring agent to give the dish a yellow appearance.

Spice Substitute Option 1 – Tomato paste

Spice Substitute Option 2 – Curry powder

Why should you be using Turmeric for a healthy body

Here is a pinnable image with the list of Indian spice substitute chart for your instant reference.

A useful list of Indian Spices with their best spice substitute Chart when you find it hard to find the Indian spices. #justspices #indianfoodblogger #spicelist #indianspicelist #substituteforcardamom # substituteforchatmasala #spicesubstitute #cookingwithspices #spicepantry #foodofindia #tasteofindia #spiceologist #spiceitupp #indianfoodtips

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Indian spice substitute for difficult to find spices

Use the Spice Substitute chart above as a starting point as most of the substitute mentioned are easily available in your local supermarket.

Why Find a Suitable Alternative For Uncommon Spices

A way of understanding if you like a recipe or a particular substitute or not, is by giving it a try.

Before you give up on making a dish because you do not have a particular ingredient, I would suggest finding a suitable alternative.

You will realise that the alternative does the job as long as you follow the rules of replacement mentioned above.

Start with a substitute you think is the best match or easy to find.

Trying new combinations will widen your culinary skills making your kitchen life so much easier.

It may not work each time but from my personal experience of using substitutes, I can guarantee that it will not be catastrophic as long as you have the right balance of taste and correct amount used.

You can join an Interactive online cooking session and learn many tips and tricks that I share during the class to make cooking Indian food easy for you.

Do you have any spice substitute?

Spices are indeed a flexible cooking ingredient to work with which makes them easy to either omit or replace if needed.

What are some of the alternatives or food substitutes you have tried using? It’s always so good to learn from each other.

And if you think that the post and the spice substitute list will help others then I would really appreciate a share by clicking the share or save button below.


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