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The Complete Guide to Tadka Tempering

If you love to spice things up and enhance the authentic taste and aroma of your cooking, then this technique will definitely take the flavours of your dish to the next level.

Tempering (tadka) is one of the oldest Indian techniques used in cooking to unlock the hidden flavours of blended spices and infuse a blooming celebration of fragrances all over your home.

As you read through the rest of this article, you’ll discover what tadka is, how it’s done, what utensils you need and more.

What is Tadka?

In a nutshell, tadka describes the process of adding spices to hot oil or ghee, releasing the essential oils and extracting the maximum flavour and aroma.

While spice tempering is commonplace across India, the type of fat used varies by region – coconut oil is popular in the South, with ghee more prevalent in the North.

Both whole and ground spices can be used in a tadka.


How to Make a Tadka

The process of tadka tempering has a few steps that need to be followed carefully to achieve the desired flavour and aroma.

Although the selection of ingredients may vary depending on the dish you’re preparing, the fundamental steps you’ll need to master will not.

  1. Prepare your tempering ingredients, as you need to act quickly during the whole process, so they don’t burn.
  2. Heat the oil of your choice or ghee in a tadka pan on medium heat.
  3. Once the oil is hot enough, add the spices one or two at a time, they should sizzle at this point. Start with the whole spices first, as they take longer to cook than the ground ones.
  4. Stir or shake the spices constantly until they cook evenly.
  5. It takes only a few seconds for most of the spices to bloom, so you should know that it is ready as soon as it starts to unlock its fragrance and sizzles. But beware, if the tadka gets burnt you’ll need to discard it because it’ll impart a bitter taste that will ruin your dish.
  6. Pour the tadka into your dish.

Make a Tadka

Ingredients of Tadka

The ingredients used in a tadka vary depending on the recipe you’re cooking, but here are some of the common spices you can use:

  • Cumin
  • Turmeric powder
  • Curry leaves
  • Coriander seeds
  • Red chilli
  • Mustard seeds
  • Fenugreek

The ingredients are also partially influenced by when you’re adding the tadka.

Ingredients of Tadka

Onion, garlic and ginger are common additions to tadkas that form the base of a dish, whereas seeds, nuts and lentils are sometimes included for texture to tadkas added after cooking.

Examples of recipes that require a tadka at the beginning include aloo gobhi, aloo ki sabji and cabbage poriyal.

Dishes where a tadka is poured on top before serving include tarka dal, gujarati kadhi and coconut chutney.

The Best Utensils for Takda Tempering

The equipment and utensils you need for a  tadka depend on when and how you intend to use it.

If you’re planning on using your tadka at the end of your dish, it’s best to use a small saucepan or a tempering pot. If you’re making a tadka at the beginning of your recipe, you can use any type of pan that you’ll be cooking the rest of the meal in (typically a karahi).

Utensils for Takda

How to Store Tadka

It must have crossed your mind that you may need to store tadka after making it. The good news is that it can be stored in the refrigerator or freezer. However, each storage method has its own steps to keep your tadka tasting fresh. Bear in mind if you do this, you’ll inevitably lose some of the aroma, so make it fresh wherever possible.

Refrigerating Tadka

Tadka stays good for two to three days in the fridge. Once cooked, let it cool down, then store it in an airtight container and put it in your refrigerator. To use your tadka again, just take it out and reheat it.

Freezing Tadka

If you make double the amount, you can freeze the rest for later and it will stay good for up to three months.

After cooking, let it completely cool down and then store in an airtight container or freezer bag.

Once you need to use your frozen tadka, transfer it from the freezer to the fridge the night before and let it thaw slowly overnight. Then simply take it out and reheat it.

Reheating Tadka

Tadka will be a tad thicker when it’s cool. To reheat it you can just put it in the microwave or a saucepan on the stove with an added splash of water.

Pro Tips to Master Tadka

Here are some tips to perfect your tadka technique:

1. Timing is Crucial

Make sure to prepare and measure the ingredients and keep them close before starting, as the process is so fast, and you don’t want to burn one ingredient while you grab another from the pantry. A masala dabba (spice box) will come in handy in this situation.

2. Use the Correct Order of Ingredients

Knowing what to add first is important. Add whole spices first, as some ingredients cook faster than others. For instance, Curry leaves burn quickly, so you need to add them after letting the Mustard seeds pop and sputter.

3. Use the Right Fat Type

The most suitable fat to use for tadka is one with a high burning point.  Ghee, coconut oil and vegetable oil are all good choices; olive oil will give a terrible taste because it burns easily.

4. No Moisture

Moisture is the biggest enemy of tadka because of the hot oil. It is essential to always keep your pan and ingredients dry, as the tiniest drop of water can cause a fire when introduced to the hot oil.

5. Use the Right Heat

Tadka needs to be cooked at high temperatures to let the spices release their essential oils.