Difference Between Spices and Herbs

How are Spices and Herbs different from each other?

Posted on: July 18th, 2022 01:24 PM

What do you think of when you hear the word "Indian food"? If you think of an exotic flavour, fresh veggies, and delectable, complex cuisine that takes time and effort to prepare at home, then you're correct!

Indian food is a culinary experience of spices and herbs used in the Indian kitchens. Herbs and spices are essential components of most Indian dishes.

You might have heard that traditional cooking creates its own natural flavours; this is true because many herbs and spices release their fragrant oils when they get cooked which contribute to a recipe's unique flavour profile. But how to identify the difference between these two?

This blog will help you understand the difference between these two ingredients and how each one of them is beneficial for you. 

What are Herbs and Spices?


Herbs are a type of plant that are used for their medicinal, aromatic or flavourful properties. They can be used fresh or dried. Popular herbs used in Indian dishes include basil, mint, oregano, thyme, sage and rosemary. 

They are an important part of Indian cooking and can be used in a variety of different ways. Some common ways to use herbs in Indian cooking include adding them to spice up dishes, using them as a garnish, or using them as a flavouring agent.

Each herb has a unique flavour. When cooking with herbs it is important to use them judiciously as some can be quite strong. A little goes a long way!


Spices are the dried, ground leaves, roots, berries, or other parts of plants that are used to flavour food. They come from all over the world, and many different spices have been used in Indian cuisine for centuries.

There are hundreds of different spices available, and each one has a specific purpose in Indian cooking. The most common Indian spices are cumin, coriander, cardamom, ginger, turmeric, fennel seeds, cloves, black pepper, mace, and cinnamon.

There are many different ways to use spices in Indian cooking. Some spices are used for flavour, while others are used for colour or to create a particular taste

Difference between Spices and Herbs.

In Indian cuisine, the terms “herbs” and “spices” are often used interchangeably. However, there is a difference between the two ingredients. Though, both are used to add flavour and depth to dishes, here are a few differences between them: 

  • Herbs are the leafy parts of plants. Spices, on the other hand, are typically made from the seeds, bark, or roots of plants.
  • Spices are dried and ground, while herbs are usually fresh.
  • If you want a subtle flavour, then herbs are your best bet. If you want a more robust flavour, then spices are what you should use. Experiment with both herbs and spices to find out which flavours you like best.
  • When substituting one for the other, you should use about three times as many herbs as you would spice.
  • Spices are mostly added at the beginning or in the middle of cooking, while herbs are added at the later stage.
  • Herbs are typically used to add flavour to dishes, while spices are used to add both flavour and heat.
  • Common examples of herbs used in Indian cuisine include cilantro, mint, and basil. Popular spices include cardamom, cloves, and pepper.

How Spices and Herbs can be helpful in cooking?

We all know that Indians make extensive use of both, spices and herbs and that too for good reasons. Let’s know how these ingredients aid in making delicious dishes. 

Benefits of Herbs.

  • Herbs can add flavour and aroma to recipes.
  • Herbs can enhance texture. For example, rosemary adds depth of flavour and a woodsy aroma, while sage enhances the flavour and texture.
  • They can add versatility to your cooking. For example, rosemary can be used in bread, pasta, and sauces.
  • Herbs can be used to add colour and complexity to dishes.
  • They can help in preparing thick or smooth sauces or soups.
  • They can also be used in stuffing or as a topping for pizzas or burgers.
  • Herbs can improve the flavour of your food. For instance, adding lavender to tea makes it more refreshing and soothing.
  • Herbs are also a natural source of nutrients.

Benefits of Spices:

  • Spices add flavour and accent to the food.
  • They can help to create a cohesive flavour profile in dishes.
  • They can bring out hidden flavours in ingredients.
  • They can elevate a dish from simple to sensational.
  • Spices add health benefits to your dish. They can improve digestibility and gut health, among other benefits.

Tips for using Herbs and Spices in cooking.

Indian cuisine is all about using spices and herbs in the right proportions to add flavour to your food. And there are countless ways to do this - whether you're cooking Indian food at home or taking it to a restaurant. Here are some tips on how to use herbs and spices in your Indian kitchen: 

  • Start with basic flavours: Many spices and herbs have a strong smell and flavour, so start by adding them to dishes that will mostly contain other ingredients with milder flavours. For example, try using cumin to add a savoury flavour to lentils, or cardamom for a spicy flavour in rice dishes or naan bread.
  • Experiment with different combinations: One of the great things about Indian cuisine is that there are so many different combinations of flavours that you can experiment with. For example, try combining turmeric with cumin for a bright yellow colour, or ginger with garlic for a strong taste. 
  • Go bold:  If you like your food spicy, go ahead and add more chilli peppers, cayenne pepper or other hot spices. If you’re looking for a more delicate flavour, try adding mint, basil or dill instead. 
  • Use them in desserts too: Herbs and spices can give any dessert a unique twist that will tempt even the pickiest eaters. Try adding cinnamon, or cardamom to make traditional Indian sweets like laddoos (a type of sweet puff) or pithy rabdi (a type of pudding).

Summing it up:
Spices and herbs, the two most popular ingredients of Indian cooking are commonly perceived to be the same. But they are different in many ways. Their presence in the dish offers a unique and delicious experience.

So next time you're wondering whether to reach for the fresh herbs or the dried spices, remember these key differences!


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