20 Essential Herbs & Spices for Every Home Cook

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If you’re wondering what spices you should have on hand in your pantry, check out my faves. Here are 20 essential herbs & spices are must haves for every home cook. With this list of spices and herbs, you’ll be able to add flavor and depth to all kinds of dishes.

20 Essential Herbs & Spices for Every Home Cook

Looking to add flavor and depth to all of your dishes?

Take a look at my recommended list of must have dried herbs and spices. With these spices, you’ll be able to make delicious meals that everyone will love. If you’re not familiar with some of these suggestions try adding some excitement to your cooking routine by experimenting with new flavors. With this list of essential spices and herbs, you’ll have everything you need to create amazing dishes.

20 Essential Herbs and Spices For Every Kitchen Pantry

Pantry spices are a necessary component of any home cook’s arsenal. They can take a dish from bland to flavor-packed in no time and they keep for a long time so you always have them on hand when you need them. So, what spices should everyone have in their pantry?

1. Salt

This is honestly the most important seasoning in my spice drawer. I use it every dish. Even desserts! I prefer pink Himalayan sea salt, kosher salt and sea salt flakes (as a finishing).

2. Whole Peppercorns

Black, white and green peppers are all essential spices that can be used in a variety of dishes.

3. Garlic Powder

Adds garlic flavor without the hassle of fresh garlic cloves.

4. Onion Powder

Another spice that adds onion flavor without the need for fresh onions.

5. Cumin

A strong, earthy spice that’s often used in Mexican and Indian dishes such as tacos and chili.

6. Fennel Seeds

Fennel seeds are small, dark and have anise flavor. They’re often used in the Mediterranean region and used to flavor Italian sausage.

7. Paprika

A sweet, mild spice that’s often used as a garnish. I use smoked paprika not only for color but also for flavor. Yes guys, paprika does have flavor! I used quite a bit in this garlic butter dipping sauce.

8. Oregano

A pungent, aromatic herb that’s used in a variety of cuisines.

9. Thyme

Another strong herb that’s commonly used in French and Jamaican dishes such as this Jamaican jerk chicken.

10. Basil

A sweet, fragrant herb that’s often used in Italian dishes.

11. Rosemary

A woodsy, earthy herb that works well with meats and vegetables. A little goes a long way. Try it in my stuffed ciabatta garlic bread.

12. Cinnamon

A warm, sweet spice that’s often used in desserts and baking.

13. Nutmeg

Another sweet spice that’s often used in baking and desserts.

14. Parsley

The flavor of parsley (parsley has flavor too!) is herbal and fresh with notes like lemon or mint. One of my favorite garnishes.

15. Bay Leaves

Bay leaves are the small, round dried plants. They lend their unique aroma to dishes like pot roast, braised short ribs, soups and more.

16. Dill

Dried dill has a much more delicate flavor than fresh. The bite is subtle and refreshing, not sharp like some other spices might be when they’re freshly ground or grated. It’s amazing in my homemade ranch seasoning mix.

17. Cajun/Creole Seasoning

A tasty and aromatic blend of spices, Cajun seasoning is used in many dishes to flavor them. You can find this flavorful mix at your local grocery and blend up your own using spices on the list!

18. Chili Powder

Chili powder is made from dried red chile, usually ancho or guajillo types. Its flavor has hints of sweetness that meld well with other ingredients like chocolate.

19. Cayenne Pepper

This spice can be found in many cuisines around the world. It’s commonly used to add heat to dishes without changing the flavor profile.

20. Curry Powder

Curry powder is the spice that give curry its signature taste. The most common types of curries use cumin, coriander and black pepper in addition to other flavorings such as ginger or garlic for extra spice levels. These curry chicken Jamaican patties are delicious!

This essential spices list is just a few of my favorites that every home cook should have on hand. With these spices, you’ll be able to make a variety of delicious dishes that will impress your family and friends. While they didn’t make my top twenty, I have to give a shout out to ginger powder, celery seeds, ground mustard, cardamom, saffron and allspice.

essential spices and herbs for home pantry

BONUS: 10 Spices & Herbs to Level Up Your Cooking

Using the below recommendations can help you level up their cooking by adding complexity of flavor, allowing for experimentation, elevating dishes, and helping in replicating international cuisine. While basic spices add flavor to dishes, spices like sumac, saffron, and ras el hanout have unique flavor profiles that can add depth and richness to dishes, making them more interesting and flavorful.

1. Sumac

This Middle Eastern spice has a tart, lemony flavor that adds brightness and depth to dishes. It can be used as a finishing spice or added to marinades, dressings, and rubs.

2. Saffron

Known for its distinct earthy, floral flavor and deep golden color, saffron is a prized spice that adds a luxurious touch to dishes. Saffron is one of the most expensive spices in the world.

3. Za’atar

A blend of herbs, sesame seeds, and sumac, za’atar is a versatile spice mix that can be used as a seasoning for meats, vegetables, and dips. It has a slightly nutty, tangy flavor.

4. Gochujang

A Korean chili paste made from fermented soybeans, red chili peppers, and glutinous rice, gochujang is a complex, spicy, and sweet seasoning that can be used in marinades, sauces, and stir-fries.

5. Fenugreek

This herb has a slightly bitter, nutty flavor and is commonly used in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines.

6. Ras el Hanout

A North African spice blend that typically includes cinnamon, cumin, coriander, ginger, and other spices, ras el hanout adds complexity and depth to dishes like tagines and couscous.

7. Harissa

A spicy chili paste commonly used in North African and Middle Eastern cooking, harissa can be used as a marinade, sauce, or dip. It’s made from a blend of roasted red peppers, chili peppers, and spices.

8. Black Garlic

A type of fermented garlic that has a sweet, caramel-like flavor and a soft, chewy texture, black garlic is often used as a finishing ingredient in dishes like pasta, pizza, and risotto.

9. Mace

A spice made from the outer covering of the nutmeg seed, mace has a warm, sweet, and slightly spicy flavor. It is often used in baking and is a common ingredient in spice blends for savory dishes like stews, soups, and curries.

10. Mexican Chiles

Dried Mexican chiles are a staple ingredient in Mexican cuisine and can be used in a variety of ways by advanced cooks to add depth of flavor and complexity to their dishes. Chiles such as ancho, guajillo, and pasilla are commonly used in Mexican cooking, and each has a unique flavor profile that can enhance the taste of a dish such as chili.

must have spices for home cooking

Herbs & Spices FAQs

What is the best way to use dried spices?

The best way to use dried spices is to add them early in the cooking process so that they have time to release their flavor. You can also grind them into a powder using a spice grinder or mortar and pestle, which will give dishes a more intense flavor.

Can you substitute fresh herbs for dried herbs?

Yes, you can substitute fresh herbs for dried herbs. However, you will need to use more fresh herbs than you would dried, as they are not as concentrated in flavor. For example, if a recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of dried thyme, you would need to use 3 teaspoons of fresh thyme.

How long do dried herbs and spices last?

Dried herbs and spices can last for a long time if they are stored properly. However, it is best to use them within 1-2 years for the best flavor. After that, they may still be safe to use, but the flavor will not be as strong.

How do you store dried spices and herbs?

Dried spices and herbs should be stored in a cool, dry place. This will help to keep them fresh for longer. You can store them in a spice rack, in a cabinet, or in a drawer. Just make sure that they are not exposed to light or heat, as this can cause them to lose their flavor.

What are some of your must have herbs and spices? Did I miss any in this list?

See some of my recipes that pack in the spice!

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Meet Dee

Meet Dee

I love to share recipes with real ingredients that are both sweet and savory (especially sweet:) My mission with Gimme From Scratch is to inspire you with recipes that will bring your families together in the kitchen. I'm introverted at heart but know how important socializing can be for maintaining good relationships, when writing not only am looking forward to sharing information - It's also building connections between readers who love good food as much as I do!

5 Responses

  1. I found this post so useful. I’m clearing out my spice cabinet, and starting from scratch. This is the collection that will cover all the bases. Thank you!

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