Spices are aromatic flavorings derived from plant parts such as seeds, fruits, bark, rhizomes, and other plant parts. Spices have been highly valued as trade items for thousands of years, and have been used to season and preserve food, as well as medicines, dyes, and fragrances.
In a lot of supermarkets, you’ll find hundreds of different spices and spice blends to choose from. But have you ever wondered which spices you should keep on hand? This list of 15 Spices You Should Have In Your Kitchen is the ultimate guide to completing your pantry, whether you're just starting to build up your spice cabinet or wanting to cut things down.
Although dried basil has little in common with fresh basil in terms of flavor, it is an important dry herb to keep on hand. It's a must-have herb in the kitchen because it can enhance a variety of dishes. It enhances the flavor of soups and tomato sauces and goes well with Italian dishes. When cooking with dried basil, make sure to use it at the beginning to enable the flavors to develop. You may also briefly sauté it in butter before adding it to salads and soups or prepare your own tomato sauce for a quick pasta dish. When in season, try keeping fresh basil on hand as much as possible.
Dried Bay Leaves
Bay leaves, a member of the laurel family, are one of the most common dried herbs you’ll find in kitchens. Dried bay leaves are a fragrant herb with a woodsy aroma that is commonly used in stews, soups, long-simmered foods, meat dishes, and vegetable dishes. The majority of recipes call for 1 to 2 pieces of dried bay leaves, as adding too many can make the meal sour.
Many cooks feel bay leaves have little flavor, while others say the herb provides a delicate depth of flavor. While bay leaves do not add overpowering and distinct flavors to any meal, they are often regarded as a "supporting actor" in that they assist to bring out other flavors and spices.
Cayenne pepper, like red pepper flakes, imparts spice to a wide range of meals. This versatile spice, created from ground chilies, is popular in Mexican, Cajun, Southern, and Indian cuisines and is commonly used in hot sauces. Cayenne pepper is great in any cuisine that calls for a kick of heat, but it also pairs nicely with sweet ingredients like honey and maple syrup, which can help to balance out the heat. Cayenne pepper allows you to achieve the desired level of heat whether you’re cooking chili or buffalo wings.
This versatile spice blend, which is often made up of a variety of ground chilis, garlic powder, paprika, oregano, and onion, can be utilized in a variety of spice-infused foods. For a quick hit of heat, sprinkle it over roasted vegetables, or include it in sauces, soups, and chilis.
The spice sold as cayenne pepper is simply ground cayenne pepper and it is not a chili powder substitute. Ground cayenne pepper is eight times hotter than chili powder. If you use 2 tablespoons of cayenne pepper instead of 2 tablespoons of chili powder in a recipe, you won't make the same mistake repeatedly since cayenne pepper is pure heat. Your food will be scorchingly hot, but lacking in other flavors.
Cumin is the dried fruit of a parsley plant that occurs in both seed and ground form, although the ground is included on this list due to its convenience.
The rich flavor of this warm, fragrant, nutty, somewhat bitter spice has made it popular all over the world. Cumin is a spice that may be found in anything from Indian curries to Mexican chili sauces. Cumin is a key ingredient in many ethnic cuisines, and it works well in meat dishes, beans, and soups, adding depth to any dish. Many chili powder blends, as well as taco and enchilada seasonings, contain cumin as one of the spices and flavors.
Garlic is one of the most commonly used aromatics in cooking, and you'll need the powdered form in the kitchen.
Garlic is an essential component of any kitchen. Fresh garlic is ideal, but we don't live in ideal times, so having granulated or powdered garlic on hand to add that zingy, spicy garlic taste when you can is a terrific idea. When fresh garlic is in short supply or a recipe would be overpowered by fresh garlic, Garlic Powder is a perfect alternative. This spice is significantly sweeter and more delicate than the fresh alternative, because of its concentrated flavor.
Granulated garlic is the dried form of fresh garlic. It has a rougher texture than powdered cornmeal and is more like fine cornmeal when it comes to consistency. When opposed to powdered spices, granulated spices are significantly less likely to clump. Granular spices are easier to add to sauces, dressings, and soups since they mix well with liquids. Granulated spices also seem to mix well with other spices when preparing homemade spice rubs and seasoning blends.
Both sweet and savory foods benefit from nutmeg. Bechamel sauces and other cheese recipes require it. However, you'll most likely use it in sweet foods that also contain cinnamon.
Many savory meals, such as creamy bechamel sauce or cheese fondue, benefit from the addition of nutmeg. Nutmeg is frequently combined with cinnamon in sweet foods, and the two spices form an excellent olfactory duet. Nutmeg is the seed of an evergreen tree native to warm, tropical islands. Although ground nutmeg is convenient, the alluring perfume of freshly grated nutmeg tells you there's no turning back.
While you may buy nutmeg already powdered, grinding fresh nutmeg with a Microplane keeps the toasty flavor fresh. It has a lot more taste than pre-ground stuff and is ideal for preparing a double batch of spice cookies. Freshly grated nutmeg has far more flavor than pre-ground nutmeg.
Oregano is an essential ingredient in any Italian dish. It offers any tomato dish, pasta, pizza, soups, salad dressings, and cream sauces with the perfect flavor blend.
Oregano is one of the most popular spices in the world. Common oregano, an Italian and Mediterranean spice, has a moderate flavor and a strong scent that adds a powerful punch to any meal that requires Italian ingredients. It has a pungent earthy, fragrant flavor that goes well with everything from Italian to Mexican food. Oregano is one of the rare herbs that is often preferred in its dried form over fresh, so this dehydrated ingredient is a fantastic addition to any pantry.
While fairly tame compared to other pepper-based spices, paprika adds warmth and earthiness to a dish. You’ll find that there are many different versions, some with a smokier or “hotter” flavor than others.
Paprika is the ground spice from sweet bell peppers. There are at least three kinds of paprika: sweet, smoked, and hot. These are all created from the same peppers, but the heat is added by smoking or mixing with fiery chili pepper. Depending on the variation you use, the flavor might range from sweet earthy to smokey earthy to spicy earthy.
Aside from its bright red color, smoked paprika may give a dish greater depth. It's created with ground smoked and dried chiles and gives whatever you're preparing a rustic flavor. Sprinkle a bit on top of an over-easy egg for a lovely presentation.
Black pepper, the perennial companion of salt, is the second most vital seasoning to have on hand at all times. While pre-ground pepper can save you time and effort, nothing beats the powerful flavor of genuine black peppercorns ground in a pepper mill.
The fruits of the black pepper vine, Piper nigrum, produce black, green, and white pepper. The flavor of the black variety is the strongest. White peppercorns are just black peppercorns with their outer husks removed and are generally used for aesthetic purposes, such as in white sauces. Immature green peppercorns, either dried or brined, are gentler than black peppercorns and are used in Asian cuisine.
Red Pepper Flakes
Red pepper flakes are the greatest for adding a fiery kick to your cuisine without affecting the entire flavor of the dish, whether you're cooking homemade marinara sauce or topping a take-out pizza. Sprinkle them directly on top of your plate for a finishing touch, either early in the cooking process or as a garnish.
Red chili peppers that have been dried and crushed are known as crushed red pepper flakes (as opposed to ground). Red pepper flakes are formed from dried and crushed hot chile peppers and have a powerful and spicy flavor. (Cayenne peppers, which are about 12 times hotter than a jalapeno, are the most common.) This is the spice you need in your kitchen cupboard if you like your food fiery and hot.
Dried rosemary adds a robust peppery flavor and a rich pine scent to a variety of foods, from light Mediterranean salads to herb-laced baked products. Use caution when using this herb, since its strong flavor can quickly overpower a meal.
Rosemary is a versatile herb your spice rack needs. While you can cultivate your own plant at home, dried rosemary is more convenient to use and store. Rosemary is delicious in dry rubs for roasts, marinades, and fresh bread loaves. It also smells fantastic, which is a plus.
Saffron is the dried stigma of the Crocus sativus flower. These autumn-flowering perennials produce flowers within six weeks. It must then be harvested early in the morning as the sun degrades the quality of the flower and harvesters have to move fast to make sure they pick it all in time. Because the flower stigmas must be painstakingly hand-harvested in a procedure that requires around 200 hours of effort per pound of dried saffron, it is the most expensive spice on the planet.
Saffron is simultaneously smoky, heady, flowery, earthy, sweet, and brilliant. Despite its intricacy, saffron pairs exceptionally well with a wide range of other cuisines, from rice and pasta to vegetables, meat, and even dessert. Saffron is used in bouillabaisse and paella because of its bitter, pungent, haylike scent and golden hue.
In Jamaican cuisine, allspice is one of the most important spices. It's commonly used in Jamaican jerk spice, pickling, sausage making, and curries, among other things. It's also a common ingredient in many Middle Eastern dishes, where it's used to flavor stews and meat meals.
This warm, fragrant spice, which tastes like a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, is actually the result of one dried and ground berry, rather than a blend of "all" spices. The brown dried fruit of the tropical Pimenta dioica tree, a clove relative native to the West Indies and Central America, is used to make allspice. Allspice got its name when Europeans in the seventeenth century thought it tasted like a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove, with which it shares its primary aromatic compound, eugenol.
Allspice complements savory foods such as poultry, beef, and vegetables. Curries, sauces, stews, soups, and marinades all contain it. Allspice is commonly associated with pastries such as cookies, pies, and cakes in the United States and Europe.
Cinnamon is a fragrant spice that many people associate with sweets. Cinnamon is created from the inner bark of the Cinnamomum tree and has been around for thousands of years. The cinnamon bark is dried until it curls into rolls known as cinnamon sticks.
Although cinnamon is most frequently associated with sweet delicacies such as pastries, sweets, and other sugary foods, this aromatic spice can also be used to balance out savory dishes by adding a subtle sweetness.
Ground into an aromatic powder that is pungent, warm, and sweet, cinnamon can be used in a wide variety of popular sweet dishes such as cinnamon rolls, French toast, bread pudding, lattes, pumpkin treats, and Snickerdoodle cookies.
Turmeric is well-known for its bright color, but it's also worth having around for its flavor, which is slightly bitter and spicy. It comes from the underground stem of Curcuma longa, a ginger relative first domesticated in prehistoric India. Its sharp, earthy flavor is reminiscent of pepper and mustard, lending it well to Moroccan tagines and Indian dal.
Thyme has a more earthy flavor and aroma than most other plants. It is woody, citrus, and mild. Its warm, minty flavor accompanies rosemary well, making it ideal for cooking poultry or lamb. It's most commonly used to flavor meats and stews, but it can also be used to zest up vegetables.
Salt, the king of all seasonings, is an essential component in almost every recipe. However, with so many different types of salt available, choosing one to keep on hand can be challenging. Kosher salt is a coarse, flaky salt that can be used in any recipe that asks for savory minerals.
Kosher salt's shape gently salts and enhances the flavor of meals, and it contains no iodine, which can be bitter. In comparison to table salt, kosher salt contains larger, coarser grains. The broader grains are gentler on the food than table salt. Instead of making foods taste salty, kosher salt enhances their flavor.
Cloves have one of the most potent flavors of any spice or seasoning, so use them sparingly. This pungent, sweet-and-spicy ingredient, when used correctly, can provide a significant depth of warmth and sweetness to any dish. The medicinal flavor of these dried flower buds is important in dishes like roasted ham, Chinese five-spice, apple crumble and mulled wine.
Onion powder, like garlic powder, makes the list for the same reason. It's ideal for busy nights or when fresh onions aren't available. Powered onion also makes it easy to include the flavor of onions in cases where a real onion isn't needed. It's a great addition to curries, soups, stews, and other savory foods. It also adds a pleasant aroma to sauces, gravies, meats, and spreads.
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