Five Hot Spices To Warm Up Your Winter

Everyone knows that Indian foods use spices, sometimes one, sometimes many. But, I bet you didn’t know that well-made Indian dishes often take the seasons into account. Did you know that specific spices are included in seasonal dishes to help the body cope with the elements? Yes, indeed.

Many commonly used Indian spices are now readily available in the market and can be easily used in a variety of cuisines. Here are five simple must-have winter spices for your holiday gatherings. These are not only spicy to taste, but warm up the body from within, making them ideal for a wide variety of winter dishes.Here are five culinary gems that are sure to bring a long lasting warmth to your holiday festivities.

Black Mustard Seeds:

These are actually more grayish brown in color, than black. Black mustard seeds have a slightly bitter nutty taste. This taste is best highlighted as part of mildly flavored dishes. Black mustard seeds are best introduced into a dish early in the cooking method and the gentle cooking process coaxes their flavors into the dish. Many Indian dishes that require a stand-alone finishing tempering, or bagar (or tadka) at the end of the dish typically include black mustard seeds. Use them in vegetarian preparations such as sautéed green beans, cauliflower or broccoli and add it into the pan with the butter or oil. Watch them pop and season the oil before adding your vegetables and enjoy the flavors that develop.


This ubiquitously popular spice is common in both sweet and savory preparations. Use whole cinnamon sticks to sustain the flavor longer in a dish, for example, if the preparation involves braising, sautéing or boiling. If you have cinnamon powder, high heat will most likely weaken the flavor, so use it as a finishing touch. A simple dash of cinnamon perks up even the a humble sweet-potato hash.

Cloves: Dark black plump cloves are very popular in cider but most people don’t venture farther than a making a clove smoked ham or in a pineapple chutney. Cloves are warm to taste and very fragrant. Use cloves in braising liquids, at the beginning of a sauté process for meats and vegetables or in powdered form in marinades. I frequently add it to meat sauces and chutneys to give it an extra bite and a layer of flavor.

Nigella seeds: Often mistaken for onion seeds, nigella seeds are tiny, almost the size of sesame seeds, angular and coarse to touch and charcoal black in color. They have a nutty flavor with a distinct bite and can be added early in the preparation of a dish. The best time to add them into a dish is when the oil or butter is warming up as they release their flavors gradually. It is difficult to know when they have overcooked, as they are inherently black in color, but they start to pop as their flavors are being released. Continue with the cooking as per the recipe and these will have added a unique simple new flavor to your dish.

Pepper: Short of sprinkling it here and there, most people do not take full advantage of warmth of flavorful whole black peppercorns. For a mild flavor add whole black peppercorns to your stews, as part of the bouquet garni or drop it in using a tea ball. For a full bodied flavor, add them in the early tempering or as part of the braising liquid for dense meats. It does wonderful things to oil-based marinades and pickling liquids as well.

Surely your kitchen might have one or more of these spices. If not, add them to your shopping list. If you do, then gather up the ingredients for this delicious, crunchy and crispy Holiday favorite, Nigella Spiced Verts with Almonds & Goat Cheese.

Until next time, from my hearth to yours, Nandita

This post was originally crafted by Nandita for BuzzFeed


Nandita Godbole

Once a botanist & landscape architect.

Now a personal chef & author, an artist, graphic designer, blogger & poet. 


Loves freshly brewed chai, the crisp salty ocean breeze, watching monsoon rains & walking barefoot through cold mountain streams. 


Believes in the strength, positivity of the human spirit. Is spiritual but not a fanatic. 


Mom of one. Two, if she counts her husband.

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