Indian Pantry 101: Aarti's Spice Essentials

Not sure where to start when it comes to cooking Indian food? We asked Aarti to share her top five spice-rack staples — plus how and when to use them.

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"In India, most cooks use ground red chiles (various varieties) both for their color and their heat," says Aarti. "Since some of those chiles are hard to come by here, I use paprika, primarily for the color it gives our food; then, if I want to add heat, I use cayenne pepper or serrano chiles."

Aarti uses paprika in her Sloppy Bombay Joes (pictured), a recipe she recommends as a great introduction to cooking with Indian spices.

Read on for more of Aarti's favorite spices.