Unique Underrated Spices in my Cupboard

Following my spice basics post, I thought I’d share a few other spices that might be lesser known, but are staples in my cupboard.

I like to use these quite often, but I don’t think everyone cooks with these as frequently. They offer a great flavour boost that can really help a dish standout. They are all readily available at my local Asian grocer, but can also be ordered on Amazon. And don’t worry, over the next few weeks, I’ll share a few recipes to get you cooking with these spices too!

Have you have tried any of these? Do you have any other spices that you like to use frequently that are underrated? Let me know in the comments below!

Curry leaves

Curry Leaves – adds that distinct ‘curry’ flavour

These leaves have a distinct ‘curry’ smell to them, if you will. They are a great addition to daal (lentils) or, well, curries. Store them in an airtight container at room temperature, or in the fridge or freezer. It doesn’t really effect the flavour and they should keep for months either way.

Amchoor (Dried Mango Powder)

Dried Mango Powder – also known as amchoor – adds a great tangy flavour – try it on roast veggies, or on fries in place of salt

This tangy powder is amazing on anything fried or roasted, basically anything that would taste good with a squeeze of citrus, will taste good with a sprinkle of this stuff. Try it on fries, fried eggplant, fried fish. Yum! If you don’t have any on hand, you can substitute with lemon juice or dried lemon powder. But the flavour will not be quite the same.

Dried Pomegranate Powder

Dried pomegranate powder – a great sweet tangy flavour – try it on salad or ice cream!

Another great tangy-sweet flavour enhancer. Try this on yogurt or sprinkle over your next salad to add a tangy sweet kick. Or try sprinkling some on your ice cream! It has its own unique flavour that is worth a try.


Saffron – one of the most expensive spices – which is frequently counterfeit – make sure to buy from a reputable source.

Saffron comes from the stigmata and styles of a saffron flower that are hand picked. It is one of the most expensive spices since you literally can only get a few threads of saffron from each flower and it is a labour intensive process to retrieve them.

For this reason, you also have to be careful when buying saffron. Many spice merchants will cut real saffron with fake saffron, or just straight up counterfeit the whole batch. They might take stigmata from different flowers and dye them with food colouring to give them that distinct red-orange hue.

A few ways to check if you have the real stuff:

  • smell test – it should smell sweet, but if you taste it, it will taste bitter.
  • colour test – put a pinch of saffron in a glass of water. If they turn the water yellow they are real. If the water turns more red, then it is fake. Also when you take it out of the water real saffron will not lose any of its original colour.
  • price test – if it is cheaper than others in the market – most likely you are being duped. This is one of those spices that you want to pay a little bit more to get it from a reputable source.

I love using saffron sparingly in dessert or making saffron rice, like this:

Saffron Rice

Take basic white rice to the next level with a pinch of this fragrant spice.
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time20 minutes
Total Time25 minutes
Course: Main Course
Keyword: gluten free, Vegan, Vegetarian
Servings: 2


  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 pinch saffron
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 cups water


  • Start by rinsing the rice a few time till the water runs clear. This will help the rice get nice and fluffy in the end.
  • Mix the rice with the remaining ingredients in a saucepan that has a tight fitting lid. Bring to a boil, uncovered. About 5 mins.
  • Keep an eye on the rice, once the water evaporates, and the rice starts to have dents appearing on top, turn the heat all the way down and cover. Let the rice steam for at least 10 mins. Turn off the heat and let it sit for another 3-10, undisturbed.
  • Fluff the rice with a fork and serve warm with an extra sprinkle of saffron and cumin seeds.


You have to be careful when buying saffron, since the high price tends to make it susceptible to counterfeit. Real saffron will have a pleasant sweet smell, but will taste almost bitter. And when soaked in water should give off a yellow-orange colour. Not red.Β 

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