What are the basic spices needed for a curry?

Do you love a home-cooked curry, but feel a little intimidated at the thought of creating it yourself?

You’re not alone. Many people who love good, authentic curry shy away from cooking it at home. Often, this is because the classic curry recipes you’ll find in cookery books read more like an encyclopaedia of spices and ingredients, and the process seems long and laborious. At the other end of the spectrum are the stir-in sauces you find in supermarkets, but – let’s be honest – while they might pass muster for a speedy midweek meal, they really don’t cut it if you want to savour the delight that is proper curry!


But don’t despair – there is a middle ground. 


It’s true that, traditionally, curry-making is a labour of love; one that involves many ingredients, a fair bit of trial and error and a variety of cooking processes. But today we have access to many recipes that have been perfected over generations, not to mention quality curry spices that are ready to use – you don’t need to dry-roast whole spices or even touch a pestle and mortar unless you really want to!


It’s also true that when it comes to the spice blends used in Bangladeshi and Indian cooking, there really are no hard-and-fast rules. Each region and even each family will have its own signature blends, its own twist on classic recipes. It’s a huge part of what makes the culture and cuisine so rich and intriguing. 


If you’re keen to experiment with your own curry creations, you should feel free to improvise, strip things back, try different flavour combinations and come up with your own signature dishes. But keep in mind there are a few spices that are considered ‘the basics’ – keep these in your kit of spices and you won’t go far wrong.


Turmeric, chilli, cumin and coriander: the staple curry spices


You’ll find this quartet of spices together in many a Bangladeshi and Indian dish: biryanis, dhals and parathas, to name just a few. They bring so much flavour and depth to curry dishes that it feels wrong to describe them as ‘basics’ – I prefer to think of them as the superheroes of the spice world! Here’s why…


Turmeric

A well-known nutritional powerhouse, this vibrant, aromatic spice has a subtle peppery taste. It provides a deep, earthy background that elevates all the flavours in your curry dish. Word to the wise – use too much turmeric and it can taste rather bitter, so approach with caution!


Chilli

It will surprise no one to read that chilli is the spice that gives curry its heat. This powerful ingredient won’t really alter the taste of your dish, but it will determine the level of spiciness. How hot do you dare to go?


Cumin

Nutty and aromatic, cumin adds a sweet, earthy warmth to curry recipes and is the perfect complement to chilli, which can be a bit one-dimensional if left to its own devices.


Ground Coriander

Ground coriander seed has a more mellow flavour than the plant’s green leaves. When added to your curry it delivers subtle warmth with a hit of citrus. Pro tip: coriander leaves make a delicious garnish for your finished curry!


Creating your own curry can be as simple as combining these staple spices along with onion, garlic and ginger – these are the fresh ingredients no curry should be without. Add your choice of meat or vegetables and a ‘sauce maker’ if you’d like a bit more body (tinned tomatoes, coconut milk and/or yoghurt work well) and voilà – you’re a curry chef in the making!


Want to get more adventurous with your curry cooking?


If you’ve got the hang of the basics and want to get a bit braver with your flavours, you might like to build a more varied spice kit to select from. Cardamom, fennel, nutmeg and paprika are all regular players in Bangladeshi curries, for example, but there are many more you can experiment with to create your own unique spice fusions.


Of course, if you’d prefer to skip the experimenting but still want to cook real curry with real spices, BANG! curry kits are the answer. Inspired by three generations of family recipes, our signature spice blends make it easy to bring the authentic taste of Bangladesh into your kitchen. Use them in a variety of meat, vegetarian or vegan curry recipes, or simply follow the three steps on the box to whip up a crowd-pleasing curry in no time – without having to negotiate an A–Z of spices to achieve it!


Head this way to browse our complete range of curry spice packs and bundles.