Spice aromas

Maximise spice aromas: oil frying

When walking into a room, one sense which you cannot stop is your smell. Immediately, you are enticed in by the aromas and scents of any room, any dish, any perfume. So when you’re cooking, you can unleash the aroma of spices to elevate your dish and its fragrance to another level. In Indian cooking, the aromas of a curry are integral to its taste, with their distinctive spices being responsible for it. Indian cuisine is renowned for its complexity, and the aromatic spices are no exception. Read our top 3 ways to release different aromas and flavours of your spices.

Why you should oil fry your spices

The aromas of all different spices evolve throughout the whole cooking process. Frying your spices in oil will give an entirely different flavour and aromas in comparison to dry roasting. In general, choosing to oil fry your spices will enhance the original flavours. This makes them bolder and more intense, whilst keeping a bright a fresh aroma. However, as it creates a wet masala, oil fried spices do not last for long.

There are three main methods to release the flavours and aromas. They can be fried in a little bit of oil, and then ground after. Spices can also be fried by bhunooing, which is when they’re slowly fried with an onion. The final method is make a tadka. With this, the spices are quickly fried in very hot oil and used to finish a dish.

Ground oil friend spices

To fry your spices in a small quantity of oil to release spice aromatics, heat vegetable oil in a thick pan. When hot, add large spices which are more robust and need coking for longer such as cinnamon, peppercorns and died chillies. Once you’ve added in your tougher spices, you can add the finer spices such as cumin. This spice mix should then be ground to make the perfect base of your curry dish with aromas you can’t ignored! With this technique, you must be very careful not to burn your spices, especially the small seeds, as one charred seed will ruin your whole mix.


Bhunooing your spices creates a completely different scent and flavour. Bhunooing helps to build the flavour and the spice bouquet gradually. To start this process to unleash the aromatics of your spices, heat a large amount of oil until it is smoking. Then, lower the heat and add in all of the whole spices you are using, such as cardamom or cloves. By turning down the heat, your spices get a hit of the oil and then gradually fry. Add your onions just after your spics to create a deep, rich base. The marriage of sweet onions and the hot essential oils of the spices is hard to resist and adds a depth to your curry.


A tadka is essentially a mix of tempered spices. The aroma of a tadka is the most arresting out of the methods. The other two methods of releasing the the spice bouquets take place as the curry base, however, a tadka is the finishing touch to a dish. The tadka is based around heat. Heat your oil until it is smoking, and in small quantities add the whole spices. Keep the oil hot and allow the spices to dance around the pan as their aromas are released into the fat. Then, pour this directly onto your prepared dish to add a finishing flourish of aromas.

Try out these techniques with your spices to unlock great flavours and aromas into your dishes!