A New Method to Step Up Your Spice Game

Cook spices first to infuse your food with delicious flavors and aromas.

Our bodies appreciate variety in the kitchen as well as in the gym. If I don’t spice things up, my meals get stale and stop providing the best of what I need to fuel my body and workouts.

Our bodies appreciate variety in the kitchen as well as in the gym. If I don’t spice things up, my meals get stale and stop providing the best of what I need to fuel my body and workouts.

Many times I only have a few ingredients on hand but lots of spices. A while back, I began to wonder how food would taste with fewer ingredients and more spice. Spices are such a huge part of my paleo lifestyle, as well as my Italian culture. Little did I know I would discover a technique that delivers an amazing flavor impact, as well a lot more fun in the kitchen.

How to Fry Spices

In Indian cuisine, it is common to cook spices before adding other ingredients. Most, if not all, traditional Indian dishes include some form of spice cooking. Where most cultures add the spices directly on the food and then cook, spice cooking entails cooking the spices separate from the food.

There are several different ways to accomplish spice cooking. It really depends on the usage, but all three are easy to accomplish:

  • Frying spices: Exactly as the title describes. You take small batches of whole or ground spices and heat in oil. I prefer to use whole or fresh spices rather than dried as often as possible. If a recipe calls for whole spices (such as cardamom pods or cumin seeds) or fresh herbs with ground spices, add the whole spices or fresh herbs to the heated oil first, followed by the ground spices. The process of heating the spices takes about five minutes for oil flavor infusion to happen. You can also grind the dried whole spices after heating to gain an even more aromatic outcome.
  • Bhunooing: Slow cooking spices in oil allow the essential oil and flavor of the spices to slowly seep out. You can also add chopped onion to the mixture. Quickly heat the oil until you reach a smoking point, then lower the heat to allow for slow cooking. This is when you would add the onions, cooking until they turn a golden color. I do this for about 30 to 45 minutes, turning the mixture occasionally. The smell of this is mind blowing, so be ready for a sensory nirvana.
  • Tadka: This technique is as fun as the name sounds. When your food is done, heat a pan to high heat with desired fat and add only whole spices. Watch as the spices come alive in both smell and sound. After cooking for about five minutes, add the spices as a garnish to your food and enjoy. Traditional spices used in tadka are cumin, black mustard, dry red chili peppers, cinnamon, and cardamom. I also like to add star anise and fennel seeds.

These techniques are wonderful for preparing fish. I have always been a bit limited in my recipes for fish, but this new way of cooking has helped me make cooking fish fun. And of course, every athlete can benefit from the wonderful omega-3s that fish delivers.

Remember, you can use these techniques with any spices and even fresh herbs, not just Indian ones. This simple recipe adds a Mediterranean twist. Fry your spices first to infuse your fish of choice (I used halibut) with the amazing flavor of fresh rosemary.

Herb-Infused Halibut

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 2 Servings


  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup assorted olives
  • Pink Himalayan salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 Alaskan wild-caught halibut
  • Coconut oil or oil of choice


  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Heat cast iron or desired ovenproof skillet to medium heat, covering pan with oil.
  3. After about 5 minutes, add 3 fresh rosemary sprigs and peeled garlic cloves. Cook for 3 minutes.
  4. Add olives and salt and pepper to taste, cooking for another 5 minutes.
  5. Add halibut and cover. Set a timer for 5 minutes.
  6. Flip after 5 minutes and put the entire pan in the oven with no lid for 3 minutes.
  7. Take out of oven and let sit with lid on for another 2 minutes.
  8. Remove lid and serve, adding rosemary and olives to garnish. Enjoy!

You’ll Also Enjoy:


Denise D’silva Sankhe, “Indian Spices 101: The Benefits of Frying Spices.” Serious Eats. Accessed March 1, 2016.

Headline photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Photo courtesy of V. Capaldi.

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