The sheer number of different herbs and spices you can find in grocery stores these days is enough to make any home cook’s head spin. In fact, I think that most home cooks have a very small comfort zone when it comes to seasonings, and that many of us could stand to branch out a little!
And I hope to make that a little easier for you with today’s blog post! :-) Today I’ll be sharing a list of 21 essential spices and herbs every home cook should have in their kitchens, along with descriptions of their flavors, aromas, and how they’re typically used.
By the end of this post, you’ll not only have a deeper understanding of the spices in your kitchen cupboards, but hopefully you’ll feel motivated to start utilizing them more often!
Essential Herbs & Spices
Parsley is a great herb for everyday use! It adds color and a tangy, slightly peppery flavor that complements other flavors.
Sage has a distinctive flavor that brings breakfast sausages to mind. Its musky flavor pairs well with apples and onions and as a seasoning for poultry and pork.
Aromatic rosemary often has a pine-y quality to it. It goes well with poultry, lamb, and pork, and pairs well with other herbs like type, parsley, and oregano.
As far as herbs go, thyme has an earthier flavor and aroma than most. Its warm and camphorous flavor (sharp, cooling, slightly woody) pairs well with rosemary, especially for seasoning poultry or lamb.
For most Italian dishes and many Asian dishes too, you can’t go wrong with the complex sweetness of basil. It’s perfect for seasoning vegetables, pastas, pizzas, cheeses, tomatoes, and more.
Oregano is also at home in most Italian dishes, and many Mexican dishes too. It has a warm, slightly bitter flavor that adds savoriness and a slight kick to a dish.
7. Bay Leaves
These aromatic leaves have a woodsy aroma and flavor profile. Just one or two leaves will add complexity, richness, and depth of flavor to soups, stews, and braised meats.
8. Italian Seasoning
A good Italian seasoning blend combines several classic Italian herbs, like basil, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, and thyme. Use this blend to season pasta dishes, pizzas, and poultry. Make your own homemade Italian seasoning blend!
(Here’s how to dry fresh herbs in the oven!)
9. Onion Powder
Powered onion makes it easy to incorporate the flavor of onions in situations where you wouldn’t necessary want to use a real onion. Use it in rubs, dressings, marinades, and more.
10. Garlic Powder
Garlic powder is useful for all the same reasons as onion powder, and many homemade spice blends use both!
11. Curry Powder
This popular spice blend is typically made up of turmeric, coriander, cumin, fenugreek, and other seasonings often found in Indian cuisine. Its earthy flavor adds complexity and richness to savory dishes.
Ground mustard adds a tangy kick to sauces and rubs without adding too much heat.
Cumin is often used in Mexican recipes, adding a warm and smoky quality to stewed beans and meats. It can easily dominate other flavors, so use sparingly.
▶︎ Baking Spices
Cinnamon is sweet, warm, and woodsy, and it’s a staple in many baking recipes. It’s versatile enough to work well in savory applications too.
Cloves have an assertive aroma that’s both peppery and camphorous, fruity and hot. A little bit goes a long way!
Nutmeg has a warm, sweet aroma, and adds depth and complexity to baked goods and creamy concoctions of all sorts. Pairs well with other baking spices, as well as cardamom, ginger, and mace.
Ginger is an essential flavor profile in many Asian cuisines, lending its characteristic peppery and pungent taste. Complements dried fruits, nuts, and other baking spices.
▶︎ Hot Spices
18. Red Pepper Flakes
Red pepper flakes make it easy to add a spicy kick to any dish without changing the overall flavor profile or adding additional moisture. You can incorporate them early in the cooking process, or sprinkle some on top as a garnish before serving.
The flavor and aroma of paprika can vary widely, from warm and delicate to hot and smoky. It’s great on most meats, vegetables, and legumes.
Cayenne is the most common ground chili worldwide, beloved for its slightly smoky flavor and heat-boosting abilities. It’s a staple in many chili powders, curry powders, jerk seasonings, and other spice blends.
21. Chili Powder
Chili powder is typically just a blend of popular spices used in Latin-American cooking, like ground ancho chilis, paprika, cumin, coriander, and cayenne. Great in chili, enchiladas, and many other recipes.
Use Rice To Learn Your Spices!
- To deepen your understanding of the spices and seasonings in your cupboards, start serving plain rice as a side dish as often as possible.
- Every time you serve yourself a scoop of rice, sprinkle a small amount of a new spice or seasoning over the top.
- Tasting unfamiliar spices on rice will teach you more about their flavor than any written description ever could, and in time, this practice will make you a veritable spice expert!
Which spices or seasonings do you use most frequently when you cook?
CategoriesFood & Recipes