Which spices and spice blends should you always have in stock? It’s not a simple question considering the hundreds of spices that need to be considered. Even without adding personal taste, there are numerous spices and spice blends that make a good starting point, whether for a new student filling a spice rack for his or her first apartment or an old spice hand who’s just looking for an update. These are the dozen or so spices we find indispensable for both everyday cooking and special occasions.
It may seem an obvious choice, but the quality of your pepper can make all the difference in your cooking, no matter if its added during cooking or sprinkled on at the end. Malabar pepper, one of the great classics, is ideal for everyday cooking, while those interested in a little more heat might prefer one with more character, like tribal.
Who cooks without chilies? You can choose one that’s light and all-purpose, like Korean pepper, to kick up sauces, pasta, and stir-fries. If you want a little more heat, we like Reshampatti, a kind of Cayenne.
Cumin winds up in just about every cuisine in the world, notably Moroccan, Indian, and Mexican. I little toasted cumin- ground or not- easily elevates the flavor of a soup or chili that lacks punch. It’s also a must-have for cooking pulses.
Who doesn’t like a barbecued or oven-roasted chicken? BBQ blends like Classic BBQ or Staff BBQ are generally used to flavor or marinate meats, but they’re also great for potatoes, yams and corn. With a little ketchup, vinegar and Dijon mustard, you can throw together a powerful BBQ sauce in minutes.
Don’t be confused by its name. It could really be called “All-Purpose Blend,” since it can be used to meld the tastes of grilled vegetables, salad dressings, soups, even chicken or fish. Does your dish need a little help? Bring on Vegetable Spice Blend!
We (sadly) have a tendency to only use cinnamon in desserts. It’s true that nothing beats cinnamon for cookies, cakes, and muffins, but it’s also great in braised beef, salads, or rice.
Nutmeg can be found in desserts, like apple pie, as well as savory dishes like potatoes au gratin. You can actually add a pinch to things like root vegetable purées, quiche, béchamel, in stew, or even in your rum punch! Have a few whole nutmegs on hand to be freshly grated.
Curries may be the most versatile of spice blends. Madras Curry is the great classic, and can be used in all kinds of dishes. If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, try a Trinidad or Singapore Curry.
High-quality, all-natural vanilla extracts are hard to find and often expensive. Sure, we use whole beans in a few recipes, but vanilla extract is still the best option for most desserts. Making a homemade vanilla extract will save you time, money, and provide a much more flavorful ingredient.