My Summer Spice Box

I’ve already shared my love of the masala dabba {spice box} with you all here on the blog, but one thing I’ve never mentioned is the fact that I change the spices I cook with seasonally. While I’m not 100% sure of the science behind it, I was raised by a mom and grandma who both believe deeply in the Indian concept of “taseer”. Taseer basically means that certain foods have cooling properties and others have warming properties, and it doesn’t always make sense. For example; chai is hot, but the taseer of chai is cold – that is why people in India still drink it on a hot day to cool down. summer spice box: cooling spices to cook with in summer

Following this principal of hot vs cool foods, we also switch up our spice box seasonally to include cooling spices in the summer. Today I’m sharing a peek into my summer spice box!

Quick note: I’ve included some fresh herbs in the list because I use them a lot on in summer cooking so I guess it’s your summer spice & herb box!

1. Saunf/Fennel Seeds
Along with helping your body cool down in the heat, fennel seeds also aid in digestion. (That’s why you find them right by the exit in Indian restaurants!) Not sure how to use fennel? I add it to my chai, or just take a spoonful after a meal. 

2. Kesar/Saffron
The king of spices, saffron is pretty temperamental. Don’t keep it near your stove; keep it in a cool dark place – it’ll stay fresh longer that way. My prized spice box possession are these little containers of Kashmiri saffron I bought in Dehli earlier this year. You can drop a few strands in a biryani (or any rice dish), add it to a meat marinade, or top a sweet dish with it. I love to add a little to warm milk at night. 

3. Pudina/Mint
Fresh mint is basically the ultimate heat busting spice. My favourite way to use pudina is in pudina-imli chutney, the only thing is imli (tamarind) has a taseer that is garam (hot), so you don’t want to overdo it with this chutney! You can easily add it to lemonade – try my Rooh Afza mint lemonade – or a green salad, or even certain meat dishes. I try to avoid cooking the mint though because it kills a lot of the nutritional value. my summer spice box: cooling spices to cook with in the summer

4. Sabja/Basil Seeds
Basil seeds (also called tukmuria) don’t get a lot of attention in the “health media” but are a pretty powerful ingredient. You have to soak them in water for about 1/2 an hour before using, but then you basically drop them in any drink – lemonade, rooh ahfza, or a sherbet, and they are kind of like the tapioca pearls in bubble tea. Sabja seeds are naturally cooling, and pretty much taste like nothing, so my kids will even eat them. The texture is a bit gelatinous though & some people don’t like that.

5. Jeera/Cumin Seeds
Cumin is pretty much a permanent fixture in most desi spice boxes, but in the summer, your treatment of cumin should change. To get the cooling effects from jeera, dry roast is just slightly and add it to a salad or drink, it’s not the same when you fry it for tempering in a tadka!

6. Elaichi/Cardamom
Cardamom is another year round staple in our house for chai, but in the summer I try to add it to the kid’s food too. I’ve recently started putting a few pods into my butter chicken or dal makhani, because the flavour plays well with cream. If you have any other ideas for using cardmom so the kids will eat it, please share in the summer spice box: cooling spices to cook with in the summer

7. Sabut Dhania/Corriander
Corriander seeds are actually one of the most used spices in Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine and have a whole host of health benefits. I remember that as a kid when I would get blisters in my mouth in the summer, my mom would say I had ‘garmi’ and suggest that I should chew some dhania seeds because they were thande ‘cool’. For that reason, I make a point to use corriander seeds all summer in spice rubs for the BBQ. {Sorry not all my tips are backed by science – sometimes they are just Mom & Bibi’s wisdom!}

8. Dhania Patta/Cilantro
The fresh version of a corriander seed, cilantro is also extremely cooling and refreshing. Use it as a garnish on your cooked dishes, add it to salsa, or even make a quick pesto out of it. 

I hope you found this post helpful. I’d love for you to share it with a friend that you think might benefit from you Mom’s spice box wisdom, and do leave me a comment and let me know if you have any questions or thoughts for future posts!

PS: Here are some tips for storing and preserving cilantro, what I keep in my regular masala box, and my chai recipe!



  1. May 27, 2015 / 6:49 pm

    I’ve never thought of changing up my spices with the season but I guess it makes sense. Thanks for the tips on Saffaron… I’m always tempted to buy it, but afraid that it will get spoiled easily.

    • May 28, 2015 / 6:25 am

      Thanks Reshma! If you ever have a spice question, I’m happy to help!

  2. May 28, 2015 / 9:59 am

    This was so enlightening!! Thanks for posting. Great tip on the cardamom in curries! Also, I use coriander year round— has to be my favourite fresh herb- we use it lots in the caribbean!!

  3. salmadinani
    June 1, 2015 / 10:20 pm

    I need to start using these spices more!

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