Panch phoran

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Panch Poran is a mixture of five types of spice seeds used in an equal proportion. It is equivalent to the Chinese five spice powder.

Why should I be aware of this?

  • Panch phoran is an integral part of Bengali cooking and its flavour.
  • Panch phoran not only compliments the main ingredient, it enhances the taste, makes it more exciting and lends it richness.
  • Though panch phoran is utilised in other parts of northern and eastern India, It is almost impossible to imagine Bengali food without them.
  • Panch phoran should be used in small quantities as it has a very powerful aroma and flavour.
  • It is added to hot oil before adding vegetables, lentils or other spices.
  • It gives a unique flaour when it is added to mustard oil as is generally done in Bengali cuisine.

How does this affect me?

Panch phoran literally means 'the five spice mix' or condiment. It is excellent for flavoring when used in vegetable dishes, but can be used in dal (lentil) or fish recipes also. The spices used in panch phoran boast of significant health benefits.

All about panch phoran

Panch phoran is made up of a blend of whole seeds containing cumin, fenugreek, fennel, mustard and black onion seeds (kalonji). This seasoning mix is excellent for flavouring when used in vegetable dishes, chutneys or dal (lentil) or fish recipes.

In the tradition cuisine of Orissa and Bengal, one usually first fries the panch phoron in cooking oil or ghee, which causes them to start popping immediately. Vegetables (especially potatoes), lentils, or fish are then added to the oil-and-spice mix sputtering in the cooking vessel so as to coat them with the spice mix.

  • It has a unique aroma often associated with Bengali cuisine.
  • It is usually used as whole seeds, but it can be ground to a fine poder also.
  • It has a bittersweet flavour
  • It has a pungent aroma

Panch phoran and health

Apart from imparting a unique flavour and taste, the five types of spices used in panch phoran have significant health benefits too.


Cumin seeds have a beneficial effect on the digestive system.

  • Research in animals has indicated that cumin may stimulate the secretion of pancreatic enzymes, important factors in proper digestion and nutrient assimilation. As with other carminative spices, cumin's digestive stimulating effects are due to its content of volatile oils.
  • Cumin seeds may also have anticancer properties.
  • Cumin has shown to enhance liver's detoxification enzymes.


  • Mustard is a good source of selenium and magnesium. Selenium helps people with asthma and rheumatoid arthritis while magnesium lowers high blood pressure, reduces migraines and also prevents heart attack.
  • Mustard seeds are also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids as well as iron, calcium, zinc, manganese, magnesium, protein, niacin and dietary fiber.
  • The essential oil Tocopherols present in mustard inhibits growth of certain yeasts, molds, and bacteria, enabling mustard to function as a natural preservative.


  • The seeds of the fenugreek plant are known to be great cleansers of the system.
  • They are have a beneficial impact on the digestive tract, stomach, respiratory infections, blood sugar and diabetes.
  • It also reduces [[cholesterol].
  • Traditional Chinese Medicine recommends fenugreek for treating arthritis and asthma.
  • When looking for this, it may be labeled as Methi.


  • Fennel acts as a digestive, appetite enhancer.
  • It is considered very marginally diuretic.
  • The seeds are supposedly laxative and an aphrodisiac.
  • Fennel seed is also lends itself to excellent respiratory tonics.
  • Fennel is very effective in acidity.
  • Fennel is very popular spice in india available at any indian spice shop.

Kalojni Seeds/ Black Onion Seeds

  • Kalonji seeds have been know to have many healing properties including migraine, chronic colds, palpitations, alopecia, asthma, bee stings, paralysis, amnesia, skin disorders, facial palsy, earache and respiratory diseases.
  • It is also known to benefit the stomach because of its anti-bacterial properties.

What can I do?

Nothing can beat the flavour and aroma of freshly prepared panch phoran mixture. Here is a recipe for preparing it for immediate use at home.

Panch phoran for immediate use

  • 1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1/4 tsp kalongi or kalogeera (onion seeds)
  • 1/4 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1/4 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp fennel seeds

If you want to prepare a mixture and keep it for future use, use two tablsespoon of each ingredient. Mix all of the above spices together. Save the spice mixture for use in your Bengali dishes. Most recipes call for about a teaspoon of the mixture. Pre mixed Panch Phoran can be purchased at your Indian Grocer or online.

See Also


  • Panch phoran
  • The spice of life