I have a love of spices. They can transform a dish from blah to wow. The right combinations can take the same ingredients and give them the taste of a handful of different cuisines.
Spices are the easiest and most cost-effective way to add flavour to any dish. They last a long time, so you don’t have to worry about using them up quickly. Plus, a little goes a long way. I routinely stand in front of the spice aisle in stores, looking for new spices I’ve yet to try or trying to search for a new spice that’s popped up on my radar. I am that person who will bring back spices from any overseas trip or get someone to bring them back for me.
At present, my spice drawer is on the verge of excessive. But not really because variety is the spice of life and spices are the life of food, so can you really have too much?
Behold I present a list of every spice currently sitting in my drawer, excluding salt and pepper. Firstly, salt and pepper can hardly be considered spices – they’re seasoning and essential. Secondly, the topic of salt needs its own article – one type of salt in a kitchen is inadequate.
Fresh herbs are great and, in some recipes, (dips, sauces) cannot be replaced with dried. In other cases, like dressings, soups, stews and roasting veggies, dried herbs work perfectly and are good to have on hand. Mixed Herbs consists of a blend of “essential” herbs, these being Marjoram, Oregano, Thyme, Rosemary and Parsley. I use this in almost everything from salad dressings, to soups, to sprinkled on pizza, pasta and over veggies for roasting.
A blend of herbs that complements Italian cooking. It includes marjoram, basil, thyme, rosemary and sage. It’s almost like mixed herbs and to be honest I use them interchangeably. I always have one of them on hand, sometimes both. I use them in the same applications.
Used mainly over roasted potatoes or in a herb blend for chicken. Occasionally in a carrot soup. It’s particularly good sprinkled over potato pizza (which is actual pizza with thin crisp potato slices on top and is divine). I do love some fresh thyme but it’s a pain to pick and I often end up with half a spoilt container. So I stick with dry, which is more economical unless a recipe specifically calls for fresh. I have the same thoughts about rosemary, which I appear to be out of at the moment.
I got this purely because of the description which declares “sweet and delicate with hints of oregano flavour”. I like dried oregano more than fresh and this is apparently a substitute, so why not. I use this as I do Italian / Mixed herbs. I can’t be certain it’s correct.
Herbes de Provence
It comes in a glass jar with an attached wooden spoon that is darling. The actual spice combines thyme, marjoram, savoury rosemary, sage and lavender. I have yet to use it as I have just procured it but I plan on using it to roast vegetables and in a spice rub for chicken or meat. Yes, it sounds awfully similar to the mixed and Italian herbs above but it’s fancier, there’s lavender in it and it comes in a fancy bottle. Reason enough to purchase.
One of the basics and you should never be without it. I add it to most of my tomato-based dishes and stews. It also makes a great fish or chicken rub. It’s also good in hummus.
Spanish Smoked Paprika
A smoky version of paprika. It works well in a fish rub with paprika, salt, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, olive oil and honey. You can also take that same rub and mix it into chickpeas, roast them and have yourself a delicious snack.
This is needed to bring heat into dishes but use sparingly, a little goes along way. A ¼ – ½ tsp a dish is fine unless you like to breathe fire. This is also what I’d use if I were making a chocolate chilli cake or cookie.
Another way to bring heat to dishes. It’s a combination of dried hot chilis, such as ancho, bell, and cayenne. It works well wherever you need some spice. I use it often in broth bowls, also sprinkled atop an avo, atop a piece of toast (or as millennials would call it, avocado toast with a fiery finish).
Smoked Chilli Flakes
It’s the chilli version of the smoked paprika spice. I got it because smoked sounds yum and I use it together with the smoked paprika.
This is like cayenne pepper but hotter. Use sparingly. I don’t know why I have so many chilli-based spices.
These are ground berries with a tart lemon like flavour. I got this for a specific recipe and it’s almost finished so I must like it. I do – it’s used as a seasoning, not a spice so you’ll usually finish a dish with it. I use it on hummus, sprinkled over roasted peppers and in a rub for chicken and fish.
Chilli Lime Seasoning Blend
This is one of my Trader Joes imports. As previously mentioned, I am their South African unofficial unpaid ambassador. Anyway, this spice is divine, it’s the spice version of their chilli lime chips and has a delicious chilli-lime flavour. My favourite use for it, is to make croutons with them – both bread and chickpea. Just a sprinkle of this and some olive oil over cubed bread pieces or chickpeas, roast in the oven and you’re good to go. It’s also the inspiration behind these chickpea croutons.
This is one of my favourite spices. I use it in most mince dishes – from burgers to meatballs. I also use it when making shawarma and curries. It also works well as part of a rub for a warm and earthy flavour on cauliflower, chickpeas or chicken.
I don’t do fresh coriander; my taste buds are allergic, and it tastes like soap. It’s something I have in common with Ina Garten. But dried coriander I can get behind. It’s made from seeds, not leaves and tastes completely different. It’s similar to cumin, but according to the bottle has more of a lemony citrus aroma. I use it hand in hand with cumin mostly.
This has a strong flavour, so less is more. I use it in some meat dishes and a pinch in anything gingerbread related. You can also add a pinch to a carrot cake or muffin or even a hot toddy.
Of course I have turmeric. It is the darling spice of the wellness world after all. I use it mainly in curries, stews, shawarma or as part of a rub. Occasionally when I’m feeling extra, in a turmeric latte.
I got this on one of my spice exploration trips. It was the words “Used in Asian style cooking along with broths” that got me. It’s a more pungent version of ginger in taste with notes of citrus, pepper and lemon. I use it when making broth bowls and it’s a fabulous addition.
This can be used in sweet and savoury dishes. I mainly use it for sweet – in banana bread, or carrot cakes or these muffins – which are the best. It also works in oatmeal, porridge, granola….
A cinnamon Quill
I have one lone cinnamon quill. I got them for a chai tea situation I was attempting. I attempted it once and now I have one lone survivor which has not been used. Suggestions anyone?
Pumpkin Pie Spice
Another Trader Joes import. It combines cinnamon, ginger, lemon peel, nutmeg, cloves and cardamom and tastes like pumpkin spice. I’ve used it to make this loaf, mixed in oats or to be honest when I’m too lazy to mix ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg for carrot cakes. It’s one of their seasonal items so if you like Pumpkin Spice stock up when you see it.
Used when I’m either out of fresh garlic or too lazy to mince it. It also works better than fresh in rubs for roasted chickpeas and fries.
Used when I want an onion flavour in my dishes without the tears. Also, when an onion is not needed, but again you want that flavour. Like most spices, it is good in a rub.
Another Trader Joes import. This is quite frankly delicious and will take your omelettes to the next level. It contains 4 types of onion – minced, granulated, green and chives and garlic.
Mushroom & Company MultiPurpose Umami Seasoning Blend
This was the Trader Joes spice everyone was talking about and am I a true ambassador if I don’t have one? It’s got a great mushroom flavour. I add to almost everything, especially if it includes mushrooms. It also works well in dips.
Nando’s Peri Peri Seasoning medium
I bought this to use as a rub for chicken. It’s really delicious with a slight manageable heat to it. It’s also cost effective but be aware that there is some sugar in it.
I use them in broths, stews and chicken. I read that while they taste like nothing plain, when added to hot liquid, they can really impart flavour, so I’ve been using them for what feels like forever. As such I cannot confirm nor deny how necessary they are, but will continue adding them into recipes. If you’re a serious cook you’ll have them.
Garam Masala Seasoning
I use it to make this or frankly any curry situation.
I got them to make rye bread, as it takes homemade rye bread to the level of tasting like a true rye bread. I highly recommend.
I got these to make black bread which I make only if I’m feeling the need to make a bread that uses a million ingredients.
I got them for a recipe years ago. I cannot remember what the recipe was it was so long ago. I Still have not finished the small pack and probably should throw them out.
I’m Jewish and I love hummus so Zaatar seems like an obvious. I use it mainly to top hummus. I have also used it on homemade crackers, bread and pizza with baby marrows and feta. It’s a combination of hyssop, sesame, spices, salt and canola oil.
Everything But the Bagel Seasoning
Yes this is another Trader Joes import. I will not apologise for my love of the Joe who Trades. Technically you can make your own mix – it’s a combination of black and white sesame seeds, onion flakes, salt and garlic. It’s delicious. Also, very fragrant so perhaps avoid before say a meeting or a date. I use it sprinkled on breads, challah, bagels, atop avocado and eggs. There is a reason this is so popular – have you had everything bagels?
I don’t know what it’s used for, other than to make mustard herring. Comes in a cute container though. Do you use it?
A collection of Ina Paarmen stock powders
I use these when recipes call for stock and I don’t have fresh on hand. Importantly they must be recipes where the stock isn’t the main taste – never use for a broth bowl. Use real broth. (Here’s how to make bone, chicken or veg broth).
A collection of spice blends
A good spice blend is brilliant for days you want something with good flavour but don’t want to make your own blend. It also introduces you to new flavours. I currently have a chimichurri one, a Bhaharat one and a Harrissa one.
What’s in your spice drawer and more importantly, what’s your favourite spice and why?
Zissy is the co-founder of Nutreats. She likes to make things, do things and wear things.