I'm new to cooking and I just find some trouble understanding these two terms (probably because english is my second language ?).

I have tried google but I couldn't find something that would give a clear and concise definition.

  • 1
    What is your first language? And as a start, do a google image search for "whole pepper" and "ground pepper".
    – Stephie
    Apr 24, 2016 at 5:25
  • Or start here, at "2. Pepper".
    – Stephie
    Apr 24, 2016 at 5:52
  • 1
    Ground is the past tense and past participle of grind. Maybe that was why you had trouble looking for definitions? Also, image search is really helpful for this kind of thing (though not 100% perfect in this case): whole spices vs ground spices.
    – Cascabel
    Apr 24, 2016 at 15:19

2 Answers 2


Spices are vegetable products which add flavor to food. These are mostly fruits/seeds (mustard, cumin, poppy, coriander, fennel, pepper), roots (turmeric, ginger), tree bark (cinnamon) or flower buds (cloves). If it is used to flavor food and it is leafy and green it is a herb, otherwise it's a spice.

Spices are often dried to preserve them and concentrate their flavor. They can be used whole or ground. Ground spices are simply the whole spice turned into a powder. Whole spices keep their flavor longer than ground, but ground spices are easier to cook with as they take less time for the flavor to go into the food.

  • Garlic (from the bulb) is often called a herb, and hardly ever called a spice. Onion bulbs are right of as vegetables, the only real difference being the quantity. That isn't to criticise your answer but to point out how illogical English can be, not least when it comes to food.
    – Chris H
    Apr 24, 2016 at 13:37

There are so many spices few of which being cinnamon, cloves, fennel, star anise, fennel, etc. Now whole spices mean you incorporate the spices in their entire form. Alternatively you can use the spices in their powdered form , which can either be the sole spoce or a blend of different spices to make a spice powder. You can simply prepare a spice powder using a mortar and pestle. The taste is strikingly different between the different usages. You need to understand the recipe , and decide which suits it the most, the whole or the powdered form. Your taste buds can also help. You can always choose one over the other. No harm. But only by trying out many dishes using both whole spices and spice powder, you can understand it much more. And it will be easier for you to decide . Happy cooking!

  • Taste, and also texture/presentation/color - eg adding ground cinnamon or cardamom tends to discolor food, while using the whole spice avoids that. Sep 27, 2016 at 12:42
  • Ya. But depending on the requirements of the dish we can add either. I use to add ground cardamom for many of my Indian desserts which highlights the flavor abundantly and takes the dish to new level. But not necessarily tampers with the color of the dish. But it may be true with other dark colored spices when added in large quantities.
    – Vanpram P
    Sep 27, 2016 at 13:13

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