Spices In Sri Lanka

Credits to the country's quite diverse flora and microclimates, Sri Lanka is home to several most celebrated culinary spices in the world with many of them endemic to this tropical island. Several other spices imparted from the nearby South Asian countries like India have been cultivated here as it were they first sprout out of the Sri Lankan's soil. Spices of many flavors and varied functions range in the category.

The unique spices of Sri Lanka were famous even in the old days and that is what made the overseas trade ever more lucrative and stabilized its economy. The trade route maps of centuries-old lend credence to the fact that almost all marine trade routes have touched Sri Lanka. In ancient times, its relation with Greeks, Romans, and Arabs was mostly due to these spaces which turned out to be the primary attraction for the colonial forces that came later.

No wonder the cuisines and the culinary culture of the country is popular around the world, especially for its spicy content. Its spicy curries with thick coconut milk and seafood varieties have distinguished taste for any taste bud and the right combination of them shall be a pleasing aroma to your nose as well. Here we would like to introduce to you some of the most popular spices in Sri Lanka, that are commonly used in preparing its regular staples.


Cinnamon is both an aromatic condiment and flavoring agent used in a wide variety of sweet and savory dishes here. There are two varieties of cinnamon that are prevalent in Sri Lanka. Ceylon cinnamon, the endemic one, possesses a bit more fresh taste than Cassia variety which was originated from other South Asian countries. The Ceylon cinnamon has a good reputation around the world and was the much-traded spice in Sri Lanka in ancient times. Cinnamon is sometimes used to enhance the aromatic and flavor quality of desserts and chocolates. It is extracted from the inner bark of the cinnamon plant.


Although native to Indonesia, Cloves yield in Sri Lanka just like a domestic variety of the country. It is the aromatic flower buds of a tree in the family Myrtaceae and the harvest is possible is round the year. In Sri Lanka, cloves are mostly used as a flavoring agent in rice staples, curries, meats and marinades. While preparing rice, you just need to drop a few buds to the boiling water. It is an indispensable part of Asian, Mexican, African and Middle Eastern cuisines. While possessing several medicinal qualities, Cloves are used to obtain fragrance for various things including cigars.


Sri Lanka is home to one of the most wanted confection agent in the world. Cocoa or cocoa beans are the seeds seen inside the fruit of Theobroma cacao plant. They are not legumes as msitaken for, but belong to fruits. The seeds shall have a bitter taste. So the extracting process includes fermenting them to develop the flavor. After that, the beans are dried, cleaned and roasted. Nibs shall be taken out by removing the shell and ground.

Cocoa is the key ingredient of wide varieties chocolates and other confections in our market - milk chocolates, dark chocolate, liquid chocolate, cakes, chocolate bars, choco chips and bittersweet. Never confuse with the coffee beans though. According to the color of cotyledon, there are three major varieties of Cocoa in Sri Lanka - Criollo, Forastero, and Trinitario. Criollo boasts of having even finer flavor.


Coffee, with its charming fragrance and taste, has always been one of the popular flavoring elements around the world. The raging coffee culture is truly rivaling the tea drinking in many places. Thanks to its ideal soil and landscapes, Sri Lanka is among the leading exporters of fine coffee in the global market. Coffee beans are seeds, not nuts, seen inside its small cherry-like fruits, spotted on branches in bunches.

Once ripened, the cherries are harvested and its fruity pulp is removed leaving only the seeds for use. Coffee powder is made simply by grinding the roasted coffee beans to the very fine form of powder in the coffee grinder. Hansa Ceylon coffee is a widely appreciated specialty among coffee enthusiasts in the country.

Apart from incredible refreshment, drinking coffee shall also give you several healthily advantages due to its caffeine content, helping you with the skin, brain, heart, and sexual life.


Herassa is a less-known tropical plant seen in the endemic flora of Sri Lanka. The plant has got several medicinal purposes that are quite stable and without any side effects. The leaves have some fleshy gel inside like aloe vera. From the gel, an oil called red oil is extracted that can be used for curing rheumatism, joint pain, and muscular pain.


Jungles in Sri Lanka are blessed with the abundance of pepper vines to the extend of believing the country is the originator of this spice. The black pepper is the second most-produced spice commodity in the country after Ceylon cinnamon. The pepper has a potential pungent flavor with a highly noticeable aromatic quality. Since the Sri Lankan is cuisine is largely about spicy flavor, black pepper is an indispensable ingredient while cooking, especially in curries.

Peppercorns are the fruit of the pepper plant. There are several variants according to the stages of ripeness and processing. Black peppercorns are hand-picked when almost ripe and sun-dried so that outer layer shall turn black. It has a sharp and pungent aroma and flavor. White pepper, which is hotter and mildly fermented, shall have their outer layer removd before drying, leaving only the innder seed. Green peppercorns simply mean the under-ripe peppercorn berries that have milder flavor but a fresh taste.


Pineapple is one of the largest exported corps in Sri Lanka with steady growth in production as well. It is usually cultivated as intercropped with coconut palm trees and much of the production comes from the coconut triangle of the country - namely, districts of Kurunegala, Puttalam, Gampaha, and Colombo. Among locals as well, Pineapple is a much-enjoyed fruit variety. The common variety grown in the country is "Mauritius", known as 'queen' type with golden-yellow flesh color pf the fruit, nice fragrance, and spiny leaves. Weather and soil of the country are highly supportive of this type. Yummy smoothies made of pineapples and other spices are sold across the streets of the country.


Native to Indian subcontinent, Sandalwood is an evergreen aromatic tree of high commercial value. They grow in the forest regions. Sandalwood is known for its unbelievable fragrance quality. The woods are of high prices since they are perfect for carving and furniture making. Sandalwood oil is extracted from the woods and used om incense, perfumes, soaps and cosmetics. As for the culinary purpose, sandalwood oil has been being used as a flavoring agent in various foods items including candy, ice cream, baked food, and puddings, and alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages.


Thiappali is a perennial herbal plant with high medicinal uses belonging to the family of black pepper. It is a creeping shrub that largely grows in the tropical climate and flora like that of Sri Lanka. It bears small spikes with each constituted by several minute darker-grey fruits, which is the medicinal or needed part of the plant. They are picked unripe and dried in the sun for further processing. In addition to its wide usage in Ayurvedic and herbal medicines that are taken orally, Thippali is used for giving flavor and pungency to beverages.


In South Asian culinary culture, like that of India and Sri Lanka, turmeric is an indispensable spice for all sorts of curries. Even though you skipped most other spicing agents, this one shall make your ingredient anyhow. It shall give your dish a yellow color and by default take your dish to an extent where it shall be regarded as containing a spicy look. The taste shall be savory, bitter and slightly peppery. In Sri Lanka, it is grown across the island except for the hillsides. It is intercropped with coconut trees. The making simply includes boiling the rhizomes by turmeric plant and dry in the sunlight. Then you just need to grind it in the machine. Apart from its culinary involvement, turmeric has a lot of herbal medicinal applications like face masks and hair treatments.


Although native to Mexico, this costly vine plant has found balance in foreign soil and it grows with good results in the tropics like Sri Lanka. Vanilla, the second most expensive spice in the world, is a flavoring agent with a unique fragrance processed from the orchids of the Vanilla genus. Upon harvest, the vanilla beans shall be flavorless and odorless; only the curing and fermenting processes of months shall bring the qualities to Vanilla extract. It is used to impart flavor to products and many dishes of several cuisines around the world.

According to the extraction and the types of orchids, various sorts of Vanila are available in the market, namely Mexican, Boruborn, West Indian, and Tahitian. Sri Lanka cultivates Bourbon Vanila. Vanila is sold as powder, extract or the whole pods. Since countries except Mexico have to do hand pollination, it leads to high labor required, hence such high prices.

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