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Cooking with Spices and Seeds
Centuries ago, spices were the treasures of kings, as much cherished and sought after as gold. Today, you don’t have to sail the Seven Seas to find them-they’re available at your supermarket. What are spices, exactly? Most consist of the seeds, shells, buds, fruit or flower parts, bark or roots of plants that grow in the tropical regions of the world.

If you want to crush or blend the seeds of spices, use a mortar and pestle, spice grinder or small electric grinder. Some cooks like to toast spices and seeds because toasting intensifies the flavor. Spices that are good for toasting include cumin, coriander, fennel seed, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon sticks and mustard seed. To toast, spread a thin layer of spice or seed in an ungreased skillet, and shake or stir over low heat. Watch so they don’t burn! When the aroma really strengthens, take the skillet off the heat and pour out the spice or seed. Let it cool, then store in a container with a tight-fitting lid.

Tips for Seasoning Mixes
– Seasoning mixes and rubs are highly concentrated blends of dried herbs and spices that flavor the outside of the food as it cooks.
– Store seasoning mixes tightly covered in a cool, dry place for up to 6 months. After 6 months, they begin to lose their flavor or the flavor may actually change.
– Rubs, a dry or wet concentrated blend of spices, are a great way to give food more flavor than just sprinkling it with seasoning. Start by moistening poultry, meat or vegetables with a little vegetable or olive oil or even water. Then rub a seasoning or mix onto the food. Cook immediately, or for a more intense flavor, cover and refrigerate the food from 1 to 24 hours.

A mixture of dry or wet seasonings rubbed completely over meat, using your fingers, before cooking. Rubs traditionally were used for barbecued meats cooked in dug-out earth pits, where the pitmasters had their own “secret rub.” You can add a rub and immediately cook or grill the food or, for more flavor, cover and refrigerate about 1 hour.

Rubs may contain sugar or salt or even ground nuts. The “wet” seasonings get their name from added liquid, such as oil, mustard and reduced liquids such as wine, mixed with the dry seasonings and creating a paste.

You can easily mix together seasonings from your spice cabinet, or purchase ready-to-use rubs at the super-market. Rubs also can be used to flavor a wide range of dishes such as condiments, soups and stews.

From “Betty Crocker’s Complete Cookbook, Everything You Need to Know to Cook Today, 9th Edition.” Text Copyright 2000 General Mills, Inc. Used with permission of the publisher, Wiley Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

This COOKING WITH SPICES AND SEEDS recipe is from the Betty Crocker’s Cookbook, 9th Edition Cookbook. Download this Cookbook today.

This COOKING WITH SPICES AND SEEDS recipe is from the Cook’n recipe organizer recipe collection

Seeds, Nuts, Herbs, & Spices

Just as food absorbs the flavor of spices, it absorbs the attitude of those who cook and serve it.

Seeds, nuts, herbs, and spices have their own special places in food production. They all improve food value with respect to nutrition and fibers. They bring medicinal value to the food. They are the food additives that bring flavors, enhance taste and aroma, and increase beauty of the food.

Culinary Seeds

Seeds are used for making gravies and an important ingredient in cakes, desserts, and candies. Seeds provide variety of uses such as seasoning, baking, and pastes. Seeds are also used for preparing various sauces.

Introduction to Seeds

The following seeds are generally used for culinary purpose −

Caraway (Dark brown 3-4mm long ridged grains. Also called Shah Jeera.)

They are often used for seasoning.

Serbia − Used to sprinkle on breads.

India − Used in rice dishes.

Europe − Used in cake.

Middle East − Used in Caraway pudding.

Carom/Royal Cumin (Greyish brown colored, 2mm long, pointed oval shaped, ridged, and spicy seeds. Also called Ajwain.)

Coriander (Yellowish green colored, Oval round 3-4mm long, 2-3mm diameter seeds. Also called Dhaniya Beej.)

Cumin (Light brown colored, 2-4mm long, ridged seeds. Also called Jeera.)

In India, they are roasted and powdered, and used in tangy foods to enhance flavor. It is also one of the five ingredients of Chhonk.

It is also used in curd based salad and other Indian cuisines.

Fennel (Green/Olive green colored 3-4mm long, 1-2 mm wide, ridged, sweet and spicy seeds. Also called Saunf)

Mostly used for flavoring all over the world. Used in Italian sausages, risotto, and Indian gravies from Gujrat and Kashmir. Eastern Indian states use it in five spices mix called Panch Poran.

It is consumed as after meal digestive and mouth freshener.

Fenugreek (Dark yellow colored, twisted cylinder shaped matt finished 2-3mm long seeds. Also called Methi Danaa.)

Sprouted seeds and Microgreens are used in Indian Salads named Pachhadi. Also used on Chhonk. Powdered fenugreek seeds are used in crispy tea time Indian snack called Mathhri.

Turkey − Paste is used in preparing Pastirma, a dish of air-dried and cured beef.

Egypt & Persia − Used in Pita bread.

Flax (Dark brown or yellow glossy, oval shaped pointed at an end, 3-4mm long flat seeds. Also called Alsi.)

Mustard (Black/Brown/White with husk and dark yellow without it, round seeds of 2mm diameter. Also called Sarson.)

Used as a main ingredient in Chhonk. Mustard leaves are used in vegetable preparation or stews in North India. Its oil is used in cooking and pickles.

Europe − Used in Mustard sauce.

Nigella (Black seeds of 1-2mm length. Also called Kalaunji.)

Pomegranate (Pale red/brown colored dried seeds with juicy coat that brings tangy taste. Also called Anardana.)

Poppy (Small creamy white or black colored kidney shaped seeds of 1mm size. Also called Khaskhas.)

Pumpkin (Creamy White with husk and Light Green meat inside, flat oval shaped 6-8mm long pointed seeds.)

Sesame (Light brown colored 2-3 mm long, 2mm wide, oval shaped pointed flat grains. Also called Til.)

They are used as toppings on buns and breads.

Japan − Unhusked seeds are used in Gomashio, a seasoning for rice.

India − Roasted seeds are mixed with jiggery, rolled into balls or stuffed in flatbread, mixed with paprika to make Malagai Podi. Sesame oil is used in cooking and pickles.

Middle East Cuisine − Ground into paste named Tahini.

Mexico − Used as a food additive.

Water Melon (Black or Brown colored oval shaped flat seeds when unhusked, creamy white when husked.)

Culinary Nuts

Nuts are the edible seeds covered with hard kernel. They are used in preparing gravies, salads, and sauces. They are an important ingredient in cakes, desserts, chocolates, ice creams, and confectionery. Nuts have high amount of oils and high fat contents.

Introduction to Nuts

In the following table, we have discussed some commonly used culinary nuts −

Almond (Cream colored with shell and deep brown without shell oval shaped flattish nut. Also called Badam.)

Can be consumed roasted, salted, or spicy as a snack. They are blanched to remove the coat and are used in Indian royal gravies and biryanis. Also used on Falooda, a dessert made of vermicelli cooked in milk and Shreekhand, a dessert made of hung curds. Used as an additive to cereal, cakes, ice creams, and pastries.

Greece − Used in wedding sweet called Amygdalota.

Iran − Sea salt dipped and dried almonds are consumed as snacks.

India − Used extensively in Mughlai cuisine.

Italy − Almond macaroons.

Cashew (Light Brown with coat and Creamy white colored without coat, kidney shaped nut. Also called Kaju.)

Consumed roasted, plain, salted, or spiced as snack. Also used in preparing Kaju Katli, a dessert made of cooking cashew powder in milk and sugar.

India − Cashew powder is used as a base of various sweets and desserts named Suji Halua, and Modak. Used in gravies and curries such as Khoya Kaju and Kaju Usal. Also used in preparing Cashew vinegar and Feni, an alcohol.

Chestnut (Green hairy shell outside and a dark brown glossy, half onion shaped nut inside.)

Dried and milled into flour to add into breads, pancakes, pasta, and polenta. Used as a thickening agent in soups and sauces. Can be eaten candied, boiled, steamed, deep-fried, grilled, or roasted.

Croatia − Used in fritters.

Hungary − Used in dessert named Gesztenyepüré.

Swiss − Along with Kirsch, used to make a dessert called Vermecelle.

Coconut (Green when tender, brown when ripe, two shells-outer with coir, inner very tough kernel. Bigger than tennis ball without outer shell. Filled with sweet water. White fruit meat is seen when broken. (Also called Nariyal.)

Coconut is grated, dried, and powdered to use as ingredient in cakes, swiss rolls, and biscuits. Also used for presentation of food.

India − Used in preparing sweets called Coconut Burfi and Modak. Also used in gravies and chutneys, the dip made of grated fresh coconut with herbs and chilli ground to paste.

Hazelnut (Onion shaped, reddish brown, hard outer shell. Light brown fruit meat inside.)

Macademia (Milk chocolate colored shell of around 3 cm diameter with a white spherical seed of ½ to 1 inches.)

Peanut (Light brown ridged thin shell contains 1-4 peanuts. Light pink or deep crimson pink nuts inside arranged in a row. Also called Ground Nuts.)

Used in peanut butter spread. They can be consumed raw, roasted, spiced, or salted as snack. First press oil is used in cooking.

India − Used as an important ingredient in Sabudana Khichri, a snack made of soaking Sago, and Chikki, a sweet toffee. They are added to snacks named Poha and Chiwra, the wet and dry snacks made of beaten rice. Powdered or pasted peanuts are used in thickening gravies and chutneys.

Pistachio (Creamy white smooth and hard shell containing light olive green and violet colored seed meat inside. Also called Pista.)

Walnut (Spherical hard and rough shell of around 3cm diameter. Dark brown brain shaped nut meat inside.)

Used chopped in cakes, cookies, pralines, pie toppings, and brownies. Halves are used for salads, dressings, and food presentation.

Middle East cuisine − Used in preparation of chicken.

Italy − Pesto sauce.


Herbs infuse unparalleled aroma and flavors that enhance the taste of the food preparation. A hint of herbs is just enough to arouse the sense of hunger. They also bring medicinal value to the food. Knowledge and use of herbs brings glamour to the cookery and the dish itself.

Introduction to Herbs

Here are some popular herbs with culinary use −

Cilantro (Fresh Lush green colored glossy leaves of frilled round shape on greenish white or purple soft stem plant. Also called Dhaniya.)

Parsley (Leaves are similar to Cilantro except they are pointed instead of round.)

Basil (Lush green colored oval shaped and roundly pointed, thin glossy leaves. Also called Tulsi.)

Water Cress (Leaves are round, lush green and glossy.)

Lemon Grass (Long dull green matte finish leaves originating from portion of stem near ground. Also called Gavati Chaha.)

Mint (Dark green colored leaves of little rough surface are connected to deep purple colored stem. Strong herb. Also called Pudina.)

Oregano/Pizza Herb (Spade-shaped, olive-green leaves on purple brown stalk.)

Sage (Grayish-green colored, long oval shaped leaves with a silvery covering. Strong herb.)

Tarragon (Long, narrow pointed, flat, green leaves with licorice flavor.)

Used in mainly in Béarnaise Sauce for steaks or eggs Benedict. It goes well with mayonnaise to dress various veg and non-veg dishes. Used in preparing tarragon vinegar.

Slovenia − Used as a cake condiment.

Iran − Used to flavor in Sabzi Khoran, a side dish.

Persia − Used in pickles.

Thyme (Small lush green paired leaves on the pinkish-purple stem. Medium flavored herb with 300 types.)

Rosemary (Dark green needle shaped leaves)


Spices are used in cuisines mainly in South Asian cuisines such as Indian, Sri Lankan, Pakistani, Indonesian, Malaysian, and Bangladeshi. They are also used in Mediterranean, European, and American cuisines. A spice can be any part of the plant from a seed, fruit, root, bark, bud or vegetable substance, which is especially used to flavor and color the foods. Spices bring in exotic aroma to the cooked food and also promise health benefits.

Introduction to Spices

Let us now know about the commonly used spices −

Asafoetida/Stinking Gum (Dried gum acquired from a tap root of the herb found in Iran and mountains of Afghanistan. Also called Hing.)

Bay leaves (Aromatic leaves of Bay tree with bitter, sharp taste. Also called Tez Patta.)

Cardamom (Seeds of a plant named Amomum, comes in light green/ brown colored ridged pods with dark brown or black seeds with intense aroma and sharp taste. Two types: Green and Black. Also called Ilaichee.)

Mostly used in Asia. Widely used in both sweet and savory dishes. Black and Green, both cardamom seeds are important components in spice mixes, such as masalas and curry pastes.

Green cardamom is used in sweets and spiced tea. Seeds are also used in mouth fresheners and in confectionery.

Cinnamon (It is a light brown colored bark of a plant named Cinnamomum Casia with sweet and hot sharp taste and aroma. Also called Daalchini.)

Cloves (Dark brown colored aromatic buds of the flowers of a plant named Syzygium Aromaticum. Also called Laung.)

Dry Mango Powder (Pale yellowish green colored fine powder made of sun dried raw mangoes. Also called Aamchur.)

Mace (Yellow/orange colored covering of the Nutmeg seed having delicate flavor as Nutmeg. Also called Javitri.)

Nutmeg (Egg-shaped seed around 20-30 mm long and 15 to 18 mm wide. Also called Jaiphal.)

Chili/Paprika (A long, thin, pointed fruit of the plant. Often comes in various colors and contains Capsaicin that produces intense burning sensation. Also called Mirch.)

Saffron (Crimson red colored fragrant stigmas of the saffron flower from a plant named Saffron Crocus. Also called Kesar.)

Star Anise (Flower like looking dry brown colored fruit with cluster of 8 sections each containing a seed. Also called Chakra Phool.)

Turmeric (Tuber of turmeric plant that induces deep yellow color and sharp hot taste and aroma. Also called Haldi.)

Vanilla (Long dark brown drumstick-like ridged pods derived from an orchid named Vanilla. It has sweet mild aroma.)

Seeds, Nuts, Herbs, & Spices – Just as food absorbs the flavor of spices, it absorbs the attitude of those who cook and serve it.