Panch Phoron is a blend of five spices popularly used in Eastern India, Bangladesh, and Nepal.
Unlike most other seasoning blends, the five spices in this mixture are whole seeds (not powdered or crushed). Before using this spice mix in dishes, seeds are either dry-roasted or oil-fried to draw out maximum flavor and aroma.
This article reveals all the important facts about panch phoron; details of its ingredients, taste, use, recipe, and substitutes.
What Is Panch Phoron?
Panch phoron is a whole spice blend commonly used in eastern parts of South Asia. This seasoning blend is a regular ingredient in Bengali, Odisha, Assamese, and Nepali cuisines.
From place to place, this spice mix is pronounced and spelled in different names such as panch phoran, panch poran, paanch phoron, panch phoran masala, or panch puran. Panch phoron is a Bangla name that refers to “five spices seasoning”; it’s known as pancha phutana in Odia, padkaune masala in Nepali, pas puron in Assamese, and painch phoranah in Maithili. In English, it’s often referred to as the Bengal five-spice seasoning.
In Bengali, panch means “five” and phoron means “tempering or seasoning”. In definition, panch phoron is a mixture of five spices in whole seeds forms used for seasoning or tempering dishes. It contains seeds of 5 common Indian spices such as nigella, cumin, fenugreek, mustard, and fennel.
Most groceries have premixed panch phoron spice mix on sale; you can also buy it from online vendors. Generally, home cooks prefer to assemble their own blend by simply combining the five different spice seeds in equal amounts.
Panch Phoron Ingredients
Panch phoron is made of whole seeds of five spices. The ingredients in it are nigella seeds, fenugreek seeds, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and fennel seeds in equal parts. In some traditional Bengal recipes, radhuni (wild celery) is often used instead of cumin seeds.
Some home chefs prefer to use a smaller portion of fenugreek seeds because they can be overwhelmingly bitter. Also, radhuni, and kalonji (black cumin/nigella seeds) taste bitter when used in large amounts. Thus most families have customized variations in the amount of each ingredient used in panch phoron according to their taste orientations.
What Does Panch Phoron Taste Like?
The panch phoron masala tastes predominantly like anise or licorice but it isn’t spicy like most other seasoning blends. It’s moderately sweet and highly aromatic. Fenugreek seeds taste bitter and for this reason, many home cooks prefer to use a smaller amount of fenugreek in this mixture than other ingredients.
Roasted cumin seeds add a warm, earthy flavor and aroma with a bit of both sweetness and bitterness. Nigella seeds add a mild peppery flavor with a gentle smoky taste to panch phoron.
Overall, this mix of five spices has a nutty flavor with a good bit of bitterness. Panch phoron is a useful spice mix that can add a wonderful depth and flavor to any dish.
Panch Phoron Uses
Panch phoron has several uses in Bengali cuisines but it is traditionally used for flavoring the oil or ghee (clarified butter) used for roasting the vegetables. Usually, this spice mix (whole seeds) is fried in oil till the seeds start crackling. The spices tempered in the oil are then added to vegetable or meat dishes.
Panch phoron works great in most dishes like chicken or mutton curries, fish, cooked vegetables, savories, stews, pickles, and chutney. Often, coarsely ground panch phoron is used as a marinade or rub for meat and root vegetables. Bengali five-spice mix is also often incorporated into wheat bread before baking.
Panch Phoron Recipe
This simple blend of five common spices is easy to prepare by yourself. Perhaps, there is no other seasoning blend of spices that is simpler than this, so to say, you don’t even have to grind the seeds. All the ingredients used in this spice mix are common spices usually stored in every home; if you don’t have then you can easily buy them from any nearby grocery.
In the panch phoron recipe, usually, equal quantities of five spices are used, but you may customize the quantity of ingredients according to your taste preferences. For example, some would like to have fenugreeks in less quantity for they taste bitter.
- 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
- 1 tablespoon brown mustard seeds
- 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
- 1 tablespoon nigella seeds
- 1½ teaspoons fenugreek seeds
Combine the properly cleaned dry seeds in a small bowl. If required, you may quickly wash and dry the seeds before combining them. Store the blended spices in an airtight container and keep it in a dry cool place or refrigerator. Usually, panch phoron is dry-roasted or fried in oil before adding it to any dish; frying increases its flavor and aroma.
Panch Phoron Substitutes
If you don’t have the premixed panch phoron or some of the ingredients are readily not available to you, then consider using a panch phoron substitute. Here are three easy alternatives for this five-spice seasoning:
Berbere, an Ethiopian spice mixture, contains cumin and fenugreek, two primary ingredients in panch phoron. However, the berbere spice mix contains chili and paprika which makes it hot. Use berbere as a substitute for panch phoron in dishes that also call for chili peppers in addition to the five spices.
2. Garam Masala
Garam masala is a popular Indian seasoning blend that contains all the ingredients in panch phoron except the nigella seeds. Plus, garam masala has a few more ingredients in addition. Garam masala is hot and flavorful than panch phoron. It works well in poultry, fish, all savory dishes, soups, stir-fries, and stews. Undoubtedly, garam masala is a great substitute for panch phoron, but use it in far less quantity.
3. Curry Powder
Curry powder is another good alternative to panch phoron, especially in spicy recipes and savory dishes. Curry powder is spicy and flavorful for its ingredients like pepper, chili powder, and ginger. Cumin is the only common ingredient that you can find in both these spice blends. Curry powder can be easily integrated into most vegetable dishes that call for panch phoron but use it in less quantity.
In summary, Panch phoron, a staple in Eastern South Asian cuisines, is a fragrant blend of five whole spices: nigella, cumin, fenugreek, mustard, and fennel seeds, offering a unique balance of sweet, bitter, and nutty flavors.
This versatile mix, known for its anise-like taste and moderate sweetness, is used for tempering oils in various dishes, from curries to pickles.
Easily prepared at home, it can be customized to taste, with substitutes like berbere, garam masala, or curry powder offering alternative flavors for different culinary needs.