How To Check Common Spices For Adulterants
adulteration of spices

How To Check Common Spices For Adulterants

Spices are the most important aspect of Indian cuisine and our food relies heavily on them for a flavour, aroma and appearance. However, due to their high demand, manufacturers may add certain adulterants that can lower the overall quality of the product. Here’s a list of simple tests and checks to find the purity of your everyday spices like turmeric, cumin, hing and black pepper.

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Spices are common additions to your meal and are responsible for enhancing the taste and color, thus making it more appetizing. And not just flavor, spices make your food healthier too. Amongst the most common benefit of spices is that they make food easier to digest. Spices such as cumin, asafetida, fennel, and turmeric, boost digestion and keep issues such as bloating and gas away. Spices also contain useful micronutrients and minerals like iron, magnesium, and manganese that provide support to several body functions. A factor that could bring down all the benefits associated with the consumption of spices is adulteration. Spices are often adulterated in a bid to make them cheaper to produce. This not only brings down the efficacy of the spice, but the continued consumption of adultered spices can lead to health scares. However, an adequate knowledge of finding out these adulterants can help you lower the risk of getting any disease that could be adversely linked with these adulterants.

Here are the names of a few common spices and the adulterants that you can find in them.

Turmeric: How To Check For Adulterants

Turmeric, also known as Haldi, is a flowering plant that consists of an active compound called curcumin. This compound is responsible for its bright yellow color, and it also contributes to most of turmeric’s benefits such as its antioxidant property and its immunity strengthening properties. In addition to that, Curcumin is also the reason for turmeric being considered a key figure in Ayurveda, an ancient Indian medicinal practice that involves natural ingredients.

Related Reading:

Mishry Reviews: Best Turmeric (Haldi) Brand

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adulteration in spices
Turmeric is regarded as a powerful antioxidant and it is healthy for digestion.

Also Read: Turmeric (Golden) Milk Benefits: 10 Healthy Reasons To Drink Up Turmeric Milk

Test For Checking Adulterants In Turmeric

As turmeric is one of the most in-demand spices around the world, its adulteration is a common phenomenon that many manufacturers may resort to. The adulteration in turmeric’s powdered form is higher as compared to its natural form. There are various ways, in which the turmeric powder can get adulterated; in fact, its reasons are common for other spices as well.

  1. Accidental
  2. Incidental

However, knowing how turmeric powder is adulterated would not be sufficient for you to know if the packet that you have bought is adulterated or not. Well, fortunately, there is a much better home-based experiment that you can do to find it your product is of high quality. Just follow the steps given below:

  1. Add a spoonful of turmeric powder in a glass of water.
  2. Carefully note the reaction of the powder.
  3. Natural turmeric powder leaves a certain light yellow color after settling down, whereas, an adulterated turmeric powder leaves a strong yellow color in the water while settling down.

Cumin Seeds

Cumin powder is yet another popular spice derived from a flowering plant that is a native of the Middle East and India as well. Ground cumin is known for its very distinctive taste that is a mixture of nutty, earthy, and spicy flavors. With a warm penetrating aroma that has a hint of lemon; cumin is indeed one of the best spices that you can add to make your meal flavorful. However, powdered cumin is as prone to adulteration as turmeric powder, and as for cumin, it can easily contain a few fennel seeds somewhere in the mix.

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Test For Checking Adulteration In Cumin

The only way to remove the fennel seeds from cumin is by visual inspection. Take a handful quantity of cumin seeds, and upon close examination, fennel seeds could be extracted. The fennel seeds would appear longer and lighter in color.

Also Read: Health Benefits Of Fennel Seeds (Saunf)

Mustard Seeds

Mustard seeds are often linked with a certain warm-nutty taste with a pungent aroma. These little yellow-colored seeds seek to enhance your meal’s overall taste and impart a more appetizing aroma. A certain quantity of mustard seeds can have a few argemone seeds present as adulterants. It is a common practice followed by many manufacturers as both of these seeds look very similar.

adulteration in spices
Mustard seeds are responsible for giving warmth to the overall taste of your meal.

Test For Checking Adulteration In Mustard Seeds

The way of checking for adulteration in mustard seeds is to observe them closely. Mustard seeds tend to have a certain light tone of yellow pigments and are much lighter in appearance as opposed to argemone oil, which is instead darker.


With a golden-yellow color, cinnamon has a very hot aromatic taste that is also distinctive and difficult to replicate. As it ages, with the help of a reaction with oxygen, cinnamon turns darker in color. Cinnamon would be the only condiment that can be used as a flavoring additive in a wide variety of cuisines, including sweets.

adulteration in cinnamon
Cassia bark is usually used as an adulterant in cinnamon, as they both have a similar structure.

Also Read: Benefits Of Cinnamon: 12 Healthy Benefits Of Cinnamon (Dalchini)

Test For Checking Adulteration In Cinnamon

Cinnamon is usually mixed with cassia bark, which has a similar color and texture as the spice itself. However, upon close examination, these adulterants can be easily visible. Cassia bark has more layers and a different aroma altogether.

Chili Powder

Chilli powder is a mixture of various other condiments that are used for adding a spicy-twist to your meal. On the other hand, as it is a combination of different powdered spices, chili powders from different manufacturers can have different tastes, which makes it quite tough to find adulterants present in it.

adulterants is chili powder
Chile powder usually comprises of various other condiments, thus contributing to its variable taste.

Also Read: Substitute For Chili Powder

Test For Checking Adulteration In Chili Powder

The main adulterant that is added to a chili powder is red food coloring, which often makes it appear more genuine. However, to test if your packet is adulterated with this adulterant, you have to follow the same procedure as that of turmeric. Add a pinch of chili powder in a glass of water and note its dispersion. If it is adulterated with food coloring, it will change the color of the water. 

Black Pepper

Black pepper, though not as popular as other spices present in the list, has a certain hot taste that can be associated with it. In addition to its taste-enhancing quality, black pepper is also considered to be a powerful antioxidant and effectively improves digestion.

Also Read: Green Peppercorn | Cayenne Pepper Substitute

Test For Checking Adulteration In Black Pepper

Papaya seeds are a very common adulterant present in a packet of black peppercorns. However, the process of separating them could be considered easy. All you have to do is add a handful of black pepper over water, as the papaya seeds are much heavy, they sink, whereas the black pepper will continue to float.

Hing (asafoetida)

Though hing has a pungent flavor, when cooked in dishes it produces a rather smooth taste. As a condiment, hing is a very popular flavor in Indian cuisine and is often considered to be good for aiding indigestion. In its pure form, it is solid that contains a few chunks of resins. Its smell is so strong that it can contaminate other spices that are kept close.

Test For Checking Adulteration In Hing

Before we talk about how you can find the adulteration in hing, you need to note that hing itself can act as an accidental adulterant for other species if they are kept close. However, as for hing itself, you have to burn it to see if it is pure or not. Take a spoonful of hing and carefully heat it. A pure product would burn like camphor, whereas an adulterated product would not produce bright flames. 

The checking of adulterants in your spices must be a common practice among our households, as it would ensure that you buy good quality and pure products. Especially for cuisines that heavily depend on spices for their taste and aroma, these practices would result in the overall satisfaction of every customer.

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