10 Essential Spices Found in Pakistani Cuisine


The existence of spices can be dated back almost 3,500 years which means that they hold a fundamental role in the foundation of a dish. In fact, Pakistani cuisine is built around the implementation of a variety of essential spices that have the power to alter the entire flavour and texture of a dish if they are omitted. Here at Royal Nawaab, all of our dishes are made with authenticity in mind and that is why our team understand the complex but vital role that spice places within Pakistani cuisine. Read on as we go over 10 essential spices that should always be on hand when cooking famous Pakistani dishes…

  1. Red Chilli Powder

Known for its heat, red chilli powder is the spice that should be added based on preference and heat tolerance. It has a red yet almost orange colour which means that it is commonly mistaken as the spice that gives curry its signature tinge, however, red chilli powder is primarily used in order to affect the spiciness of a dish.

  1. Turmeric Powder

With a bitter yet aromatic taste, turmeric is a mustardy-yellow spice that has a very long shelf life. After all, a little goes a very long way when it comes to cooking with this powder and Pakistani cuisine tends not to cook with turmeric in large quantities.

  1. Cumin Powder

Cumin powder is a spice that is made by grinding roasted cumin seeds and it is used in Pakistani cuisine in order to bring out aromas. In fact, it is used in rather large quantities in comparison to other spices and has an unmistakable fresh and nutty taste to it.

  1. Coriander

Used in order to bring out the flavour of a dish, coriander powder is a staple spice used within Pakistani cuisine and is used lavishly within a variety of dishes. With this said, it is hard to describe the actual taste that it has due to its versatile palette of flavours.

  1. Garam Masala Powder

It is impossible to complete any Pakistani dish without implementing garam masala powder in some way, shape or form. In fact, Garam means ‘hot’ in Urdu which means that it increases the heat of a dish without overbearing the taste buds.

  1. Bay Leaves

With a flavour that us very similar to cinnamon, traditional bay leaves are used in a variety of dishes, such as Biryani and other spicy sauces, in order to add flavour. In fact, traditional bay leaves are often crumbled and blended with other spices in order to create complex combinations.

  1. Caraway Seeds

Caraway seeds are native to the content of Asia and can also be found in Northern and Central Europe. They have a close relation to cumin but the flavour is significantly milder as caraway does not dominate the flavour of a dish.

  1. Cardamom

This type of spice is commonly found in the form of a ‘pod’ and it is possible to cook with brown or green ones, however, brown cardamom pods tend to be larger than the green ones. They have a very strong yet aromatic smell and the pods are often opened slightly before being placed into a dish so that the seeds can provide their flavours effectively.

  1. Asafoetida

Pronounced ‘a-suh-feh-tee-duh’, this traditional spice is a yellow mustard powder that is obtained from the gum of a tropical plant. The smell that is has is distinctly powerful, however the flavours that can be obtained when it is fried alongside other spices are able to replicate the taste of onions, eggs, and even meat. With this said, asafoetida should be used sparingly due to its strong flavour.

  1. Saffron

As the most expensive spice in the world, saffron can be found in long, thin strands and has an orange tinge. It should always be purchased in these strands because the powdered varieties are not able to provide the authentic sweet yet pungent flavour. With this said, saffron should never be considered a substitute for turmeric as the spices are distinctive in their own right.

Here at Royal Nawaab, we believe that a dish without flavour is a dish that isn’t worth eating! After all, there are books, businesses and television shows built upon the enjoyment of food and this means that spices should never be omitted from cultural dishes out of convenience or else the chef risks spoiling the finished product. To try the authentic Pakistani dishes made fresh by our team of highly experienced chefs at Royal Nawaab, get in contact with the best halal restaurant London has to offer and book a table today!