The UK LOVES a good curry, Indian varieties especially. Have you ever wondered what goes into them? From the simplest of curry dishes to the most exotic chef specialities, there’s a wide spectrum of different subtle spices, pulses and vegetables used. We thought we’d show you some of the more common and popular core ingredients which you’ll find are used the vast majority of the time. It’s always interesting to see what goes into your food, so read on for our quick-fire guide to Indian ingredients. If reading gets you feeling hungry, head on over to to sample these fine ingredients for yourself in many of your favourite dishes!


Garlic – Starting with an obvious one! This herb has seen thousands of years of human consumption and is used often in a curry base sauce.

Fenugreek – A lesser known spice, but a common one. If you’ve ever had any Indian dish with the word “Methi” in it’s name then you’ve had fenugreek, because that’s just the English translation! It’s used in countless dishes, from dhals to curries.

Saffron – Strings of saffron are said to be worth more than gold! Taken from the flower known as the saffron crocus. The crimson threads are dried and used as a seasoning and colouring agent. Delicious in a biryani.

Onion – We all know this one, surely? An extremely versatile vegetable used in vast array of Indian cuisine. Special mentions go to the Dopiaza curry (meaning two onions) and the legendary onion bhaji!

Cinnamon – A key ingredient in garam masala. It’s mainly used as an aromatic condiment and flavouring additive, and not just in Indian food!

Cardamom – Used a lot in sweet dishes, including a good pilau rice, This exotic spice belongs to the ginger family. In comparison to its relative whose roots are the important part, cardamom is best known for the flavours found in its fruits and seeds.

Coconut Milk – Classic in South Indian dishes. South Indians and Sri Lankans like to use the whole coconut – the oil, the water, the flesh. An essential ingredient of one of the UK’s favourite dishes, the Korma!

Lentils – There are so many different types of lentils which can be used in Indian cooking. Commonly used to made delicious side dishes such as dhals, but also has it’s uses in several popular main dishes.

Mustard Seeds – Very popular for use with vegetable dishes. The flavour of mustard seeds is released when they are crushed or cooked in oil. Their smoky, nutty flavour is a staple in curries and curry powders, and mustard oil is commonly used in the North of India.

Tamarind – A seed pod from the tamarind tree that is used extensively in South-East Asian and Indian cooking to flavour curries, chutneys and sauces. Tamarind has a unique, tangy, sweet and sour flavour and comes in different forms such as seeded or as a paste.

Chillies – How hot do you like it!? These legendary little peppers come in many different varieties and are used for adding flavour and heat to your favourite dishes. Common chillies used in Indian cuisine include the classic red and green varieties, plus the bird’s eye chilli and the super hot naga chilli.

Chickpeas – Called chana in Hindi, and used in an almost endless list of dishes. Chana masala is one such popular one. In 2018, India accounted for 66% of global chickpea production.

Curry Leaves – Fresh curry leaves have a delicious aroma, they’re often added to lots of different curry sauces to give them an extra bite.

Cloves – Another key ingredient of garam masala. You can also flavour dishes by frying cloves in the ghee or oil you will use for the dish. Many parts of India also add cloves to their rice, like pilau, to add extra flavour when cooking.

Coriander Seeds – Carrying an aromatic and citrus flavour, the seeds are available both in dried seeds and grounded form. This is one of the essential ingredients that you find in Indian cuisine, especially in South Indian cooking.