Herbs Used in Indian Cooking

Herbs Used in Indian Cooking


Indian cuisine is renowned for its rich flavors and aromatic spices. Herbs play a crucial role in creating the distinct taste profiles of Indian dishes. In this post, we’ll explore the essential herbs used in Indian cooking, their culinary uses, health benefits, and some traditional recipes that showcase these flavorful ingredients.

1. Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum)

Description: Cilantro, also known as coriander leaves, is a vibrant green herb with a fresh, citrusy flavor. It’s widely used in Indian cuisine for its refreshing taste and aroma.

Culinary Uses: Cilantro is used as a garnish for curries, dals, and salads. It’s also a key ingredient in chutneys and marinades.

Health Benefits: Cilantro has detoxifying properties and is rich in antioxidants. It’s known to support heart health and aid in digestion.

Recipe Idea: Cilantro Mint Chutney

  • Ingredients: Fresh cilantro, mint leaves, green chilies, lemon juice, salt, and a pinch of sugar.
  • Instructions: Blend all ingredients until smooth. Serve as a dip or accompaniment with Indian snacks.

2. Mint (Mentha spp.)

Description: Mint is a hardy perennial herb with a refreshing, cool flavor. It’s commonly used in Indian cooking for its aromatic and cooling properties.

Culinary Uses: Mint is used in chutneys, raitas, and biryanis. It adds a fresh flavor to beverages like lassi and mint tea.

Health Benefits: Mint has digestive benefits and can help alleviate symptoms of indigestion and nausea. It also has antimicrobial properties and is rich in vitamins A and C.

Recipe Idea: Mint Raita

  • Ingredients: Fresh mint leaves, yogurt, cucumber, cumin powder, salt, and black pepper.
  • Instructions: Chop the mint leaves and cucumber. Mix with yogurt and spices. Serve chilled as a side dish.

3. Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum)

Description: Fenugreek, known as methi in Hindi, is an herb with a slightly bitter taste and a unique aroma. Both the leaves and seeds are used in Indian cooking.

Culinary Uses: Fresh fenugreek leaves are used in curries, parathas, and dals. The seeds are often used in spice blends and tempering.

Health Benefits: Fenugreek is known for its anti-inflammatory properties and can help regulate blood sugar levels. It’s also rich in fiber and iron.

Recipe Idea: Methi Aloo (Fenugreek Potato Curry)

  • Ingredients: Fresh fenugreek leaves, potatoes, garlic, cumin seeds, turmeric, chili powder, and salt.
  • Instructions: Sauté cumin seeds and garlic. Add potatoes and spices, cook until tender. Stir in fenugreek leaves and cook until wilted.

4. Curry Leaves (Murraya koenigii)

Description: Curry leaves are an aromatic herb with a distinctive flavor, commonly used in South Indian cuisine.

Culinary Uses: Curry leaves are used in tempering for dals, curries, and rice dishes. They add a unique flavor and aroma to the dishes.

Health Benefits: Curry leaves are rich in antioxidants and can help reduce cholesterol levels. They also have antimicrobial properties and support digestive health.

Recipe Idea: Curry Leaf Rice

  • Ingredients: Fresh curry leaves, cooked rice, mustard seeds, urad dal, red chilies, turmeric, salt, and oil.
  • Instructions: Temper mustard seeds, urad dal, and red chilies in oil. Add curry leaves and turmeric. Mix with cooked rice and salt.

5. Holy Basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum)

Description: Holy basil, known as tulsi in Hindi, is a sacred herb in India with a peppery flavor and clove-like aroma.

Culinary Uses: Holy basil is used in herbal teas and Ayurvedic remedies. It’s also used in some Indian dishes for its unique flavor.

Health Benefits: Holy basil has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It’s known to reduce stress and boost immunity.

Recipe Idea: Tulsi Tea

  • Ingredients: Fresh holy basil leaves, water, honey, and lemon.
  • Instructions: Boil water and add basil leaves. Steep for a few minutes, strain, and sweeten with honey and lemon.

6. Dill (Anethum graveolens)

Description: Dill, known as sowa in Hindi, is an herb with feathery leaves and a fresh, slightly tangy flavor.

Culinary Uses: Dill is used in pickles, curries, and dals. It adds a fresh flavor to salads and yogurt-based dishes.

Health Benefits: Dill is rich in vitamins A and C and has digestive benefits. It’s also known for its anti-inflammatory properties.

Recipe Idea: Dill Dal

  • Ingredients: Fresh dill leaves, yellow lentils, garlic, cumin seeds, turmeric, salt, and ghee.
  • Instructions: Cook lentils with turmeric and salt. Temper garlic and cumin seeds in ghee. Add dill leaves and cook briefly. Mix with cooked lentils.

7. Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)

Description: Fennel, known as saunf in Hindi, has a sweet, anise-like flavor. Both the seeds and fronds are used in Indian cooking.

Culinary Uses: Fennel seeds are used in spice blends, pickles, and teas. The fronds are used in salads and garnishes.

Health Benefits: Fennel is known for its digestive benefits and can help reduce bloating and gas. It’s also rich in vitamins C and fiber.

Recipe Idea: Fennel Tea

  • Ingredients: Fennel seeds, water, honey, and lemon.
  • Instructions: Boil water and add fennel seeds. Steep for a few minutes, strain, and sweeten with honey and lemon.


Herbs are an integral part of Indian cooking, bringing unique flavors and health benefits to the dishes. From the fresh taste of cilantro and mint to the aromatic curry leaves and holy basil, these herbs enhance the culinary experience. Experiment with these herbs in your cooking to discover the rich and diverse flavors of Indian cuisine. Happy cooking!

Herb Summary Table

Herb Culinary Uses Health Benefits Recipe Idea Ingredients
Cilantro Garnishes, chutneys, marinades Detoxifying, antioxidant, supports heart health Cilantro Mint Chutney Cilantro, mint, chilies, lemon juice, salt, sugar
Mint Chutneys, raitas, biryanis, beverages Digestive benefits, antimicrobial, rich in vitamins A & C Mint Raita Mint, yogurt, cucumber, cumin, salt, pepper
Fenugreek Curries, parathas, dals, spice blends Anti-inflammatory, regulates blood sugar, rich in fiber & iron Methi Aloo (Fenugreek Potato Curry) Fenugreek leaves, potatoes, garlic, cumin, turmeric, chili
Curry Leaves Tempering for dals, curries, rice dishes Antioxidant, reduces cholesterol, antimicrobial Curry Leaf Rice Curry leaves, rice, mustard seeds, urad dal, chilies, turmeric
Holy Basil Herbal teas, Ayurvedic remedies, some dishes Anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, reduces stress, boosts immunity Tulsi Tea Holy basil, water, honey, lemon
Dill Pickles, curries, dals, salads Rich in vitamins A & C, digestive benefits, anti-inflammatory Dill Dal Dill leaves, lentils, garlic, cumin, turmeric, ghee
Fennel Spice blends, pickles, teas, salads Digestive benefits, reduces bloating, rich in vitamins C & fiber Fennel Tea Fennel seeds, water, honey, lemon