DIY Spice Blending

DIY Spice Blending

An Ayurvedic diet seeks to incorporate all six tastes at mealtime. These six tastes—sweet (madhura rasa), sour (amla rasa), salty (lavana rasa), bitter (tikta rasa), pungent (katu rasa), and astringent (kashaya rasa)—play a vital role in our health. In Ayurvedic thought, everything in the manifest universe is composed of the five elements. Each of the six tastes are also comprised of a combination of the elements, which in turn has an effect on the doshas. For example, the sweet taste is comprised primarily of earth and water. Consuming more foods with the sweet taste is said to increase kapha dosha, as kapha is also comprised of the earth and water elements. Similarly, the sour taste is made up of earth and fire, the salty taste of fire and water, the pungent taste of fire and air, the bitter taste of ether and air, and the astringent taste of earth and air. When consumed, each of the six tastes will either increase or decrease vata, pitta, and kapha dosha. With this in mind, crafting meals that contain all six tastes can help to balance the doshas and support proper digestion.

Spices are an incredible way to bring the six tastes into a meal. Not only do they make a dish more richly interesting, but the intentional use of spices can also have a medicinal effect on the body and mind. Making your own spice blends gives you the opportunity to engage the senses and nourish the doshas through each unique season, as our appetites and energetic needs will change from one season to the next. Certain spices can help to warm or cool the body (see the spice chart below). While most spices have one dominant taste, some can have two. Cardamom is a great example of a spice that is both sweet and pungent, having a cooling and slightly warming effect. Or fresh ginger, depending on its growing conditions, can taste very sweet and mild, or burn your mouth with its strong pungency! So, it’s important when cooking that you use your tongue to discern the tastes of your ingredients and adjust as needed.

I’ve included a few of my favorite seasonal masalas, along with tips on purchasing, storing, toasting, grinding, and blending spices at home.

Heating and Cooling Spices

Heating Cooling
  • Allspice
  • Ajwain
  • Anise
  • Asafoetida
  • Basil
  • Bayleaf
  • Black pepper
  • Caraway
  • Cardamom (sweet & pungent)
  • Cayenne
  • Celery seed
  • Cloves
  • Curry leaf
  • Ginger, dry (sweet & pungent)
  • Horseradish
  • Marjoram
  • Mustard seed
  • Nutmeg
  • Oregano
  • Paprika
  • Parsley
  • Pippali
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Salt
  • Tarragon
  • Thyme
  • Turmeric (pungent & astringent)
  • Black cumin
  • Cardamom (sweet & pungent)
  • Cinnamon
  • Coriander
  • Cumin
  • Dill
  • Fennel
  • Ginger, fresh (sweet & pungent)
  • Neem leaves
  • Peppermint
  • Rose
  • Saffron
  • Spearmint
  • Turmeric (pungent & astringent)
  • Vanilla
  • Wintergreen

Purchasing

When purchasing spices, look for organic and, when available, whole seeds. By storing your spices in airtight glass jars out of direct sunlight, they’ll retain their freshness longer. I prefer to fresh grind whole spices in a mortar and pestle or a coffee grinder. The bright aromas and flavors will remind you of the importance of cooking with ingredients that are rich with life.

Toasting

Before you grind your seeds, you may opt to toast them first for additional flavor. Certain seeds like coriander, cumin, and mustard are wonderful when toasted. To toast, heat a dry pan (no oil) over medium heat. Add the spices and, to avoid burning, stir with a wooden spoon to keep them moving. A quick toast for 1–2 minutes is all you need. You want these lightly golden, not dark or burnt. Once done, remove from the pan and allow to cool for a few minutes before grinding.

Grinding

There are two methods for spice grinding. The traditional method uses a mortar and pestle. This way of spice grinding is actually a truly beautiful meditation in motion. The mortar represents the female primordial energies and the pestle represents the male lingam. Maya Tiwari shares in her book The Path of Practice that when we grind our spices, we bring feminine and masculine into a state of balance. In this action, the three doshas are satisfied—the rhythmic motion of grinding soothes vata; the movement of the hands transforming the seeds into a new form satisfies pitta; and the oils that are worked from the seed invoke kapha.

In the modern kitchen, you may use a coffee grinder or high-speed blender to grind whole spices into fresh, fine powder. The meditation here can come as you connect with the tactile and olfactory experiences in the spice preparation.

 

diy ayurvedic spice blends

Blending

When spices are ground and ready, the combinations become innumerable. You can mix and match different spices to create seasonal masalas for your dishes, both sweet and savory. Below are a few of my favorite blends that can be made and stored for seasonal use.

Fall/Winter Masala

Ingredients:

Directions:

Heat a pan and toast the coriander, ajwain, and mustard seeds until lightly golden. Remove from heat. Once cooled, transfer them to your mortar and pestle or coffee grinder. Add the turmeric powder and fresh grated ginger. Grind together into a powder or until well ground. Store spice blend in an airtight glass jar.

Spring Masala

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons coriander seeds, toasted
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds, toasted
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom seeds

Directions:

Heat a pan and toast the cumin, coriander, and mustard seeds until lightly golden. Remove from heat. Once cooled, transfer them to your mortar and pestle or coffee grinder. Add the peppercorns and cardamom. Grind together into a powder or until well ground. Store spice blend in an airtight glass jar.

Summer Masala

Ingredients:

Directions:

Add the spices to the mortar and pestle or coffee grinder. Grind together into a powder or until well ground. Store spice blend in an airtight glass jar. Do not toast this blend.

Basic Kitchari Spice Blend

Ingredients:

Directions:

Toast the seeds and add all of the spices to the mortar and pestle or coffee grinder. Grind together into a powder or until well ground. Store spice blend in an airtight glass jar.

Agni Booster

Ingredients:

Directions:

This is a great blend to take while traveling. To use, stir 1 teaspoon of the mixture into ½ cup of warm water, and drink after meals to support your digestion.

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