Difficult to find spices with alternative substitute to work with
Do you skip making a dish after going through the list of ingredients just because you don’t have it? Do you ever wonder what the possible spice substitute would be in case your nearest supermarket does not stock them?
The good thing about working with spices is that they are not always a MUST have ingredient.
The average Indian dishes have a minimum of 7-9 ingredients out of which 3-4 may be just spices. So this in effect gives you the flexibility to use alternative spices as long as its not the key or main spice used in the dish, such as mustard gravy or pepper chicken!
What amount of alternative spice substitute should you be using?
Although I am telling you that you have the option of going for an alternative substitute for the spice you either do not have or have run out of. But does that mean that you can use and replace the exact same amount of it?
This question is a bit tricky to answer since there are many factors that depend on what should be the correct replaced amount.
The quantity you are cooking
The quantity of the raw material used will have a direct relation to the amount of spice substitute you need. Ensure that the amount of raw material to spice replacement is in proportion.
The type of Spice Substitute
Not all spices have the same level of taste or flavour. Few spices are stronger which means you will need less of it while others may have a subtle flavour content so you may need to use double the quantity compared to the actual spice.
Understand the taste and the flavour quotient of the spice you will be using as a substitute before you add to balance the taste.
3. Using fresh spice substitute instead of powder
Not all spices can be substituted with another spice. Sometimes similar flavour can be derived from using fresh ingredients such as onions, ginger, garlic or fresh herbs. When you do use fresh ingredients, you are likely to use more in quantity to the dish.
4. Health and personal reasons to look for suitable alternatives
Few may also need to look for spice substitute because of an eating lifestyle, intolerance/allergy or simply a personal dislike to a particular spice. Having the alternatives and substitute works in their favour so that they do not have to compromise on the taste or try the dish.
Therefore choose alternatives which suit your purpose.
Keeping these tips and factors in mind lets find what spices work best in case you are looking for options.
A Comprehensive Chart of Best Alternative and Spice Substitute for popular Indian Spices
Name Of Spice
Substitute Option 1
Substitute Option 2
It is a gun resin with a very strong flavour. Use sparingly in dishes.
|Onion and Garlic powder||Shallots, Fresh Garlic or leeks|
Floral, citrusy and with robust flavour. A very popular spice in Indian dishes
|Cinnamom and Cloves||Cinnamom and nutmeg (just a pinch)|
| Caraway Seeds
Comes from the cumin seeds family, mild and sweet in flavour
|Roasted cumin seeds||Dill|
Similar to caraway seeds with licorice undertones
|Dried Thyme||Roasted cumin seeds|
A street food seasoning sour in taste
|Dry mango powder/Lemon juice||Sumac powder|
| Chilli powder
Spice that renders heat and sometimes colour to the dish
|Omit from dish||Green chilli/ pepper powder|
|CinnamonWoody smoky undertones used in savoury and sweet dishes||Nutmeg/Allspice||Mace|
A bud with very robust and strong flavour
| Coriander leaves
Fresh herb mostly added to add extra depth of freshness to the dish
|Omit completely||A small mix of Parsley, tarragon and dill leaves|
|Coriander powder||Cumin powder – If not already used in dish||Curry powder|
|Cumin Powder||Coriander powder – If not already used in dish||Curry powder|
| Curry Leaves
A very important Indian herb with lemony flavour
|Lemon zest||Kaffir lime leaves|
|Curry Powder||Garam Masala powder||A mix of coriander powder, cumin powder and turmeric|
Liquorice in taste. Adds a distinctive flavour to the dish
|Dill||Star Anise/ caraway seeds|
| Fenugreek Seeds
A popular whole spice used in many Indian dishes. Has a slight bitter tone.
|Mustard seeds||Curry powder|
| Fresh Ginger
A popular aromatic used for making sweet and savoury dishes
|Ginger powder||Allspice powder|
| Garam Masala
Popular Indian spice blend used in most Indian spices.
|Curry powder||Allspice and cumin|
Robust and strong pungent spice. Use sparingly in dish
| Mustard paste
Very pungent and sharp to introduce heat and smoothness to a dish
|Dijon mustard sauce||A small portion of horseradish or wasabi paste|
| Mustard Seeds
Normally used as a tempering or pickling spice
|Caraway seeds||Nigella Seeds|
Strong yet delicate;y flavoured spice with a sweet woody tone
Used whole or as paste to give texture to dish
|Chia seeds||Melon seeds (for paste only)|
Souring agent to add tartness to dish
|Sumac powder||Lemon juice|
A flavouring and colouring agent with strong sweet taste
|Rose essence and turmeric||Cardamon|
| Star Anise
Woody and earthy it adds a distinctive flavour to the dish
|Chinese five spice powder||Cinnamon/ fennel seeds/ Aniseed|
Mainly used as a colouring agent to give the dish a pale yellow appearance
|Tomato paste||Curry powder|
Experiment with the substitute before you say No
One way of understanding if you really like a recipe or a particular substitute or not, is by giving it a try.
Before you give up on making a dish because you do not have a particular ingredient, I would suggest finding a suitable alternative as in most cases you will realise that the alternative does the job too!
Start with substitute you think is the best match and become adventurous. Trying out new things even without the right kind will widen your culinary skills making your kitchen life so much easier.
It may not work each time but from my personal experience of using substitutes, I can guarantee that it will not be catastrophic as long as you have the right balance of taste and correct amount used.
Use the list above as a starting point as most of the substitute mentioned are easily available in your local supermarket. You do not need to find and make a trip to an Indian store for it.
Do you have any spice substitute
As I said at the very beginning spices are very flexible ingredient to work with which makes them easy to either omit or replace if needed.
Would really like to hear your experimentation with alternatives and spice substitute as we all benefit from learning and sharing more!
And if you think that the post and the spice substitute list will help others then I would really appreciate a share by clicking the share or save button below.