Today I have Stephanie here sharing 15 spices every cook should have. As an avid home cook, I can attest that I have every single one of these in my spice cabinet!
Spices are valued for their ability to enhance food and add flavorsome, complex tastes to meals. There is a wide variety of spices in the world and the choices are often governed by personal and cultural inclinations. No matter what culinary proficiency a cook has, he or she needs a well-stocked spice shelf. Below are 15 spices that every cook should have.
- Garlic powder
Garlic powder is made from garlic that has been dehydrated and ground to fine consistency. It can be used to substitute for fresh garlic and can be added to garlic bread and soups to enhance their flavor.
- Onion powder
Onion powder is an essential spice particularly when fresh onion is not handy. Onion powder is made from ground, dehydrated onion and can be used in curries, soups, pastes, sauces, stuffing, and stir-fries.
- Cayenne pepper
A staple in a variety of bottled hot sauces, cayenne paper is popular for its being a versatile heat source. Made from the small, very spicy red cayenne chili pepper, it is used in improving the taste of a variety of food, such as in spicing up soups and whisking into homemade salad dressing.
Oregano is a robust herb usually added in South American, Cajun and Mediterranean cooking. A member of the mint family, oregano has a slightly citrusy taste with a peppery and sweet fragrance. While it is often used to top pizza and salads, it is also available in oregano scented oil variety that is used for bread dips or salad dressings.
Basil is a must-have spice for Italian recipes. It can be used fresh or in dry, chopped form. Considered a staple spice, basil is also versatile. It can be minced, chopped or blended with other herbs like thyme and lemon.
- Dried rosemary
Rosemary is woodsy and aromatic spice that can be used as garnish or to flavor olive oils, wines, and vinegars. Usually used in Mediterranean and French cuisines, rosemary also works well in stocks, gravies, and risotto dishes and can go well with lamb and chicken.
Cinnamon is a warm, aromatic spice with reddish brown color. With its bittersweet flavor, cinnamon is typically used for baking as well as in enhancing curries, chilies, and stews. Cinnamon is also popular as an addition to baked items and coffee drinks. The spice is available in sticks or powder.
Known for being strong-smelling spices, cloves are the fragrant flower buds of an Indonesian tree. These spices impart flavor to meats, marinades and curries and are typical when it comes to Asian, African and Middle Eastern cooking. Cloves can also be found in richly-spiced treats like homemade chai tea as well as in holiday baked goods.
Known for its hot, slightly nutty taste, cumin is a popular aromatic spice ground from a small seed. It is typically used in Middle Eastern and Indian cuisines, particularly in dishes like soups, stews, and chili.
- Ground ginger
With its fragrant and spicy flavor, ground ginger is widely associated with holiday cookies, cakes and gingerbread. While it is great as a baking spice, ground ginger is also used in Asian cuisines including Indian, Japanese, and Chinese cooking.
Nutmeg is a mild, warm spice that provides a nutty, slightly sweet and earthy flavor. The seed of an Indonesian tree, nutmeg is often used in soups, potato dishes, and meatloaf as well as in baked items and in drinks like mulled cider and wine.
- Dried thyme
Thyme is an intensely aromatic herb that provides a gentle flavor to various foods, from meats and poultry to vegetables. This spice staple with a mild, minty flavor is commonly used in Mediterranean and Cajun cuisines.
- Bay leaves
Another flavor-enhancing spice, bay leaves have aromatic and woodsy-tasting qualities. Typically sold dried, bay leaves can come in rich green color. With its potent taste, bay leaves can be added to marinades, stews, and soups.
- Curry powder
Curry powder is an Indian blend that is typically made using other spices including cumin, coriander and turmeric. Typically mustard-yellow in color, curry powder is used in many South Asian recipes like curried chicken salad and curried carrot soup.
- Chili powder
Chili powder is a spice mix made using basic chili powders such as cayenne pepper, but there are other varieties that are made with garlic, onion and cocoa to provide a richer flavor and to intensify heat. Chili powder is a necessary spice for those who prefer Mexican or Southwestern dishes.
While preferences vary from one cook to another, this list contains some of the most basic spices that every cook should have stashed in the spice cabinet. This basic kit of spices will support frequently used recipes and having these on hand make preparing a variety of dishes easier.
Stephanie resides in Gilbert, Arizona, with her two children and husband. When she’s not working, she is enjoying the outdoors biking and hiking.