There are 3 main ways in which we can grind Indian spices. These are using a Mortar and Pestle, grater or a spice grinder. When you need a small batch(around a spoonful) of spices to be grounded use a mortar pestle. If in need of a large batch or very fine grinding then use a spice or coffee grinder. For very hard spices like nutmeg, turmeric you can use the grater.
Freshly grinded spices take Indian cooking to the next level. It is always better to use freshly grinded spices when cooking but honestly not always possible. I try to freshly grind my ginger and garlic for that extra punch but grind other spice mixes in batches that last me a month or so.
- Method 1 : Grind whole Indian spices using a Mortar and Pestle
- 2) Method 2: Grating whole Indian spices
- Method 3: Grind whole Indian spices using a Spice Grinder
- Can you grind spices in a food processor?
- How to grind spices without a grinder?
- Is dry roasting spices mandatory before grinding?
- Which is the best way for grinding Indian spices?
- Related Posts
Method 1 : Grind whole Indian spices using a Mortar and Pestle
A Mortar and Pestle is common across all the world kitchens and is not just limited to Indian kitchen. There are high chances that you already own one.
It took me a while to find the right one. I had a metal one that I hated and never used until I found the right one. Have shared my pointers below as well if you are looking to buy one.
When to use a Mortar and Pestle?
A Mortar and Pestle should be used when you need spices to be grinded/crushed in very small proportions – around a spoonful.
We usually use ours to crush ginger and garlic when making curry or to grind ginger for the masala tea.
What to look for in a good Mortar and Pestle?
A good mortar and pestle should be heavy, it should be hard and its interior should be rough. The same is true for the pestle as well. The smooth, glazed pestle are not of much use.
Make sure that the pestle fits snuggly in the mortar. If not, then it will make crushing and grinding more difficult.
Using a smooth finish and light wood mortar and pestle can lead to little bits skidding as you are trying to grind.
The best mortar and pestles are the ones made with marble. The ones made with wood retain the aroma and create an unwanted addition to aroma of other spices.
How to use grind spices using a Mortar and Pestle?
There are 2 motions involved when grinding the whole Indian spices using a Mortar and Pestle-
To break down large chunks, crushing very hard spices or for crushing very small amounts.
Circular Grinding Motion
This motion is more effective , especially when you are aiming for a fine grind.
How to grind if you don’t have a Mortar and Pestle?
The sturdy rolling pin comes to rescue. I have used it many times, put the spice in between a plastic sheet or bag and then crush it by rolling it over with the rolling pin repeatedly.
2) Method 2: Grating whole Indian spices
Although most spices are grounded, some of the larger spices are better to grate. A spice grater is like any other grater but much more sturdier.
When to use a Spice Grater?
When working with very hard spices like nutmeg, cinnamon, dried ginger and turmeric you can use a grater.
However, grating only works for small batches. If you need a big batch of these hard spices grounded then you can either buy them premade or if you have a sturdy spice grinder then grind them yourself.
I usually grind my own turmeric because of its health benefits, to ensure we are getting unadulterated stuff.
Nutmeg and Cinnamon I buy grounded because they are too hard to grind and might break my grinder.
What to look for in a Spice Grater?
As we are going to grate hard spices, the spice grater should be very sturdy and sharp. The best ones are Microplane graters or similar hyper sharp, hand held graters.
Method 3: Grind whole Indian spices using a Spice Grinder
A spice grinder is not very different than a coffee bean grinder. In fact you can use a coffee grinder for grinding your spices as well as coffee.
If you want to get rid of spice odor from the machine then simply grind some sugar or rice and the smell should disappear.
When to use a Spice Grinder?
If you need a finely grounded spice or making a big batch of ground spices then spice blender is the best choice.
Do not use spice blenders on very hard spices like nutmeg, cinnamon and turmeric as these can cause damage to the blades.
What to look for in a good Spice Grinder?
A good spice grinder should have a very powerful motor to be able to finely ground the spices.
I have owned 2 mixers and grinders and both of them are 500W.
I have used them to grind even hard spices like turmeric which might break a less powerful spice or coffee grinder.
If you are looking to buy one then it might be best to invest in a ‘Wet and Dry Spice Grinder’. I have an Indian version and use it every day.
Can you grind spices in a food processor?
No, most food processors cannot grind spices as fine as the spice blenders. If you are looking for a fine smooth blend then you might be disappointed.
However, you might get better results when trying to grind less hard spices like chilis and also herbs.
A food processor will grate them into fine pieces for you but it will not grind them as fine. I have chopped that has reverse blade mechanism for grinding but it does not grind as well as my spice grinder.
Another challenge with food processor is that some food processor blades do not reach all the way to end of the jar. This leads to uneven grinding of spices.
How to grind spices without a grinder?
If you want to do small quantities then you can use any one of the following-
- Mortar and pestle
- Place spice in a plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin
If you need more quantity then you can use a food processor or coffee grinder.
A coffee grinder should work as well as a spice grinder. In case using food processor make sure it has a strong motor and know that it will not grind as well as a spice grinder.
Is dry roasting spices mandatory before grinding?
No, spices do not HAVE to be roasted before being grinded. Its is perfectly fine to use spices raw. I do that myself when in pinch of time.
It is advised to roast spices before use because it
- Reduces the moisture content
- Makes the spices crisp
- Reduces the raw flavor
- Makes spices easy to grind
But if you are going to cook the spices in hot oil before adding other ingredients and they are not going to be stored for long duration then you can skip dry roasting and grind directly.
Which is the best way for grinding Indian spices?
Using a mortar and pestle is the best way as the crushing action brings out more flavors and essential oils compared to the slicing/dicing motion of spice blenders.
Even though its the best way, don’t think its practical in today’s day and age to use it for all the spices. It can be very time consuming.
You can pick and choose the flavors you like more and crush them in a Mortar and Pestle. I use mine for crushing ginger and garlic and love the flavor it adds to any dish.