All About Spices

All about spices

Spices and Their Origins

A spice can be defined as a seed, root, bark, fruit, or other plant derivative, mainly used for flavoring or preserving food. Herbs are the leaves, flowers, or stems of plants. The two are often referred to together as herbs and spices to be used in recipes in the various cuisines around the world.

A Little Bit of History

Many spices come from warmer climates and have antimicrobial properties, so they can also be used as medicine. Ayurvedic medicine in India dates back more than 5,000 years, and of course, Indian food is famous for its herbs and spices.

Spices could be used instead of refrigeration to preserve foods. The ancient Egyptians even used them to preserve mummies. The origins of spice trading can be traced back to around 500 BC, when intrepid Chinese and Korean junk boat captains would trade spices. The demand grew as the spices were sold more widely.

The demand for spices in Europe grew after the first crusades in the late 12th and early 13th centuries, with ginger and cinnamon being particular favorites. The famed Marco Polo traveled all the way to China and found far more than spices, but his original goal was to trade in the spices that were in such high demand.

During the Age of Exploration, the Dutch formed the East India Company, which became one of the most powerful trading companies in the world, with a range of exotic ingredients being sourced from the so-called Spice Islands (now Indonesia) and India.

We still use many of the spices Europeans found so wondrous, including:

* Black pepper
* Cinnamon
* Cloves
* Cumin
* Ginger
* Nutmeg and mace (the outer part of the nutmeg)
* Turmeric
* And more

If you’ve ever eaten a pumpkin pie, you will know the taste of mace. If you’ve ever tried an Indian rice dish, you will know the taste of turmeric and often cumin as well.

Common Spices and their Origins

Some of our modern staples we take for granted are actually quite exotic. Basil, a common ingredient in Italian food and what makes pesto sauce green actually came from India and Persia (modern-day Iran). It was a favorite seasoning of the ancient Romans and continues to this day as a mainstay of Italian cooking.

Bay leaves come from laurel trees from the Middle East. Use them whole to season soups and stews, but be sure to remove them before serving so no one gets an upset stomach.

Cardomom has been used as a medicine since the 4th century BC. Romans and Greeks used it to aid digestion. In Sweden, it is even more popular than cinnamon in baked goods.

Cinnamon comes from the dried bark of several different types of laurel trees. It comes from Sri Lanka (formerly known as Ceylon) and was imported by the ancient Egyptians via China as early as 2000 BC. Cinnamon was scarce to the Romans, who would burn it as incense during funerals. The high demand for cinnamon in the West helped trigger colonial expansion as Columbus and others searched for a shorter route to the Far East and all the riches to be found there — not just gold and silver, but also the incredibly rare and valuable spices.

Star anise is a dried flower which has a wonderful licorice flavor, but a bitter aftertaste, making it perfect for savory cooking. It is one of the spices in Chinese five-spice blends.

Spices in the Modern World

It is hard to imagine that wars have been fought over spices and that they were once more valuable than gold, when all we have to do is go to a supermarket or online to buy them. But the reasons they were so treasured still remain valid: for seasoning, color, flavoring, food preservation, and healing.

13 Essential Spices for Your Kitchen

Even though spices are not as exotic, rare and expensive as they once were thousands of years ago, they are still a considerable investment and one most families would like to get the most from. They are best when at their freshest, and can enhance many of your favorite dishes.

The real question is what cuisines you enjoy. Choosing the most versatile spices will mean you can mix and match them, and enjoy deliciously seasoned recipes from around the world.

Here are some suggestions for a well-stocked kitchen, based on general need and particular cuisines.

The Basics

1. Sea salt – A little salt enhances the flavor of most savory dishes and is sometimes required to get the right rise and texture for baked goods.

2. Black and white pepper – These also enhance almost any dish. White pepper is milder and finer. It won’t affect the appearance of a dish.

Italian Food

3. Oregano is the main seasoning, and is used in soups, stews, and sauces.

4. Basil is more aromatic, and can be used along with oregano. Use fresh basil with some olive oil and pine nuts. Place in a blender and process until smooth, then add to your favorite pasta as a quick sauce, or use as a spread or the base for a salad dressing.

5. Fennel seeds give sweet Italian sausage its unique taste, so you can get the flavor in your red sauce even if you are vegetarian. Fresh fennel makes a delicious salad.

Mexican Food

Oregano is also used a good deal in Mexican recipes, especially those with tomatoes.

6. Coriander can be used in moderation either fresh or dried. It gives a savory taste with a hint of lemon.

7. Cumin is usually used with coriander. It has a deep, earthy taste that is a bit peppery.

Indian Food

Coriander and cumin are also used in Indian food, so they are a good addition to any spice rack. But there are many other wonderful spices to explore.

8. Cinnamon sticks and ground cinnamon are often used in savory dishes, especially in ones with tomato-based sauces. Cinnamon is of course also incredibly useful for your favorite baked goods.

9. Curry powder is a blend of a range of spices, and is an easy shortcut if you want to get an authentic taste of India without buying a lot of different items. You can also make your own blend.

10. Garam masala is also a standard Indian blend you can buy to take the guesswork out of your seasoning. It is a “finishing spice” that you add just before you serve, rather that cook it.

11. Turmeric is a root related to ginger root. It is bright yellow, with a mild flavor. It gives curry powder its color. It’s useful as a natural dye for foods and will enhance any rice dish.

12. Ginger root is used in both sweet and savory dishes. It’s also used for candy and tea. It is a bit pungent, but goes well with chicken. It can be used fresh or dried and powdered. It is a staple of Chinese cuisine as well.

Chinese Food

Ginger is found in many recipes, in both its fresh and dried forms. You will also find coriander, fennel and cinnamon in Chinese dishes.

13. Star anise is very popular. This dried flower with seeds is used whole, or ground into powder. It is one of the five spices in Chinese 5-spice powder, along with coriander, fennel, cloves, and Szechuan peppercorns.

With these spices in your kitchen, you will be able to enhance and vary the taste of all your favorite meals.

12 Unusual Spices and How to Cook with Them

Most people stick to the standard spices you can find in any supermarket. But some people like to branch out and try something a bit more exotic. Here are a few rare or unusual spices to try.

1. Saffron

This is the most expensive spice in the world because it is made up of the thread-like filaments of the saffron crocus flower. Each flower has only three filaments, so it takes around 225,000 filaments to make up one pound of saffron.

Luckily, a little goes a long way, and it is ideal in rice dishes. If you can’t afford the high cost per ounce, you can use the bright yellow turmeric instead.

2. Sumac

This is a staple of Middle Eastern cuisine and has become trendy in recent years thanks to its savory and tart taste, similar to a lemon. It is used as a rub on meat, a seasoning on salad and a tasty addition to hummus – the popular chickpea spread eaten in most countries around the Mediterranean basin. It doesn’t hold up well to heat, so add it as a finishing spice.

3. Garam Masala

This is another interesting seasoning that can be considered a finishing spice. Add it to Indian dishes before serving to add to their aromatic quality.

Recipes vary, but in general, you can expect garam masala to contain allspice, cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, mace, nutmeg and black pepper.

4. Cardamom

The pod and seeds can also be used on their own. The little green pods can give rice dishes a big flavor. The small black seeds are ground up for garam masala and can be found in apple pie spice and in Scandinavian baking, along with cinnamon and nutmeg.

5. Galangal

Also known as Thai ginger, it is related to ginger and used in Thai cuisine, but it has its own pine-like taste, with a hint of lime. It is delicious with fish and poultry, and adds a real depth of flavor to Thai curry and coconut milk-based dishes.

6. Juniper berries

These grow in Europe and are used to flavor gin, and to create tangy sauces for wild game such as venison and wild boar. You can also use it to season pork.

7. Oaxaca Chiles

These chiles have a unique smoky tasty that is causing them to trend in many dishes, particularly in vegetarian ones because the chiles lend a sort of meaty taste to a range of dishes.

8. Serrano chili powder

On a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being the hottest, Serranos come in at about a 7, adding zing to Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes. Like their Oaxaca cousins, they can add smokiness as well if you use smoked Serrano chili powder.

9. Fenugreek

This seed is crushed into powder and added to Indian dishes. It has a distinct smoky flavor that tastes a bit like burnt sugar. Use sparingly in your curries.

11. Asafoetida

Asafoetida is an incredibly strong-smelling and tasting spice that is used mostly in Indian vegetarian cooking. It is definitely an acquired taste. It is a gum resin derived from a particular Indian plant.

12. Machalepi

This spice is made from the pits of sour cherries and is favored in recipes from around the Mediterranean. It tastes of roses and almonds and is a favorite in baked goods, including Greek breads. It might also be labeled Mahaleb.

Which of these spices are you going to try?

Common Spices around the World and What They Are Used For

Spices are used in every cuisine in the world to season food, and sometimes to color it or preserve it. Far Eastern cuisines tend to use a range of herbs and spices that grow locally. For other cuisines, spices have to be imported in many cases, and so were very rare and precious in the past.

Here are some of the most common spices to make it into our supermarkets and onto our tables as modern families explore recipes from around the world.


These little balls are similar to cloves but more peppery, and are used in many cuisines around the world.

Bay Leaf

These come from the laurel trees in the Middle East and elsewhere, and are used in Italian and other European cuisines to give a depth of flavor to soups, stews and tomato sauce. Use whole and do not eat.

Caraway Seed

These anise-tasting seeds are used in traditional Jewish (Eastern European) rye bread, Irish soda bread and German sauerkraut and potato salad.


The pods are used whole in Indian cuisine. Remove before eating. The ground-up small black seeds are used sparingly in Scandinavian baked goods to add a savory quality and complement other spices like cloves and cinnamon.

Cayenne Pepper

This is made from dried and ground red chili peppers and adds a bit of heat to Mexican and Indian food.


This is used in savory Indian dishes and sweet Western dishes and baked goods.


These small, twig-like items can be used to add flavor to a roast ham or applesauce. They are also tasty when boiled with hot water and added to mulled wine or cider. They are ground for baking.


These seeds are usually ground into a powder and used to add a peppery lemon taste to Mexican, Indian and Thai dishes.


This has a peppery taste and is often used with coriander to season the same dishes. It is also popular in North African, Middle Eastern, and Tex-Mex dishes.

Fennel Seed

The seeds are what gives sweet Italian sausage its unique flavor, with a hint of licorice.


Garlic is used in almost every cuisine in the world, but is most notable in Italian recipes and on garlic bread.


This root can be used raw or dried and powdered. It is a mainstay of Indian and Chinese cooking and the base for gingerbread, ginger snaps and ginger beer, all very popular in England and the Caribbean.


This a sweet spice with savory notes. It is mostly used in baked goods but is also an essential ingredient in potato pancakes, popular in Jewish cuisine.


This light, fragrant herb is a must for all Italian food, from sauce to pizza. It is also used in Mexican food.


This is a standard in Eastern European cuisines such as Jewish and Hungarian. It has a mild flavor and a gorgeous red color. It is used in soups and stews, and in noodles with sour cream sauce or atop deviled eggs and potato salad.


Peppercorns come in a variety of colors, such as black, white, pink, and green. They are a staple on the table of most households, along with salt.


This is popular in European and Middle Eastern cuisine and goes well with lamb and roasted vegetables.


Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world. It comes from a certain species of flower. It has a wonderful flavor in rice dishes and colors everything a lovely yellow.


This is used in a lot of savory pork dishes in Europe and in bread stuffing for the holidays.


This also colors food yellow and is an essential ingredient in Indian cooking.


This offers a pleasant, lemony taste to soups and stews and is often combined with rosemary and/or sage in European cooking.

Try these spices and raise your home cooking to a new level.

Four Great Recipes Using Spices

One of the fun things about learning how to cook from scratch is getting to experiment with different seasonings. If you love eating out and/or buying takeaway, just think how much money you could save if you decided to master your favorite recipes and were able to make them at home any time you wish? It’s easy once you know how.

Start with a Great Recipe

The important thing is to start with a reliable recipe from a cookbook or an online site. Here are some of the top websites:

If there are star ratings for the recipe, pick the one with the highest rating. Also, look at the comments for the recipe. These often contain feedback from people who cook regularly and can offer helpful hints and tips about variations, whether the recipe needs more seasoning or not, and so on.

For cookbooks, you may want to avoid recipes with lots of spices that you would only use very rarely. For example, Indian cooking is fun, but fenugreek and asafoetida are far too pungent to be versatile.

Keep It Simple

You’ll probably also want to avoid recipes with a lot of steps, or hours of cooking time. Here are some quick and easy recipes.

1. Italian Pesto Sauce

For this bright green pasta sauce and spread, start with 2 cups of fresh basil leaves. Then add 1/4 to 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil; 3 cloves of garlic, peeled; 1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts; 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese; a dash each of salt and pepper. Place everything in a food processor and blend until smooth. Pour over hot pasta and serve.

2. Indian Dhal

Use 1 cup of dried lentils, 2 cups of water, 1 inch of ginger, peeled and chopped, 2 cloves of garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric. Over a high flame, bring the lentils and water to a full rolling boil, then add the other ingredients.

Turn down the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes until the lentils start to soften. Add 1 teaspoon of cumin, 1 teaspoon of black mustard seed, and 2 small chopped plum tomatoes. Cook for a further 10 to 15 minutes until it reaches your desired thickness. Crush the lentils and tomato against the side of the pot if you want a thicker lentil curry. Eat as is, or with some rice on the side.

3. Grilled Lime and Cumin Chicken Breasts

Mix together 5 tablespoons of olive oil and the juice of 4 fresh limes in a plastic food storage bag. Add 1 pound of chicken breasts and close the bag. Shake and massage well to coat. Marinade the chicken for 2 hours, or all day.

When you are ready to have dinner, mix together a dash of salt and black pepper and 1 tablespoon of cumin. Remove the chicken from the marinade and discard the plastic bag. Place the chicken on your grill pan. Rub with the cumin mixture on both sides. Grill on each side for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the juices run clear when pricked with a fork.

4. Chimichurri Sauce

This recipe from Argentina uses fresh herbs and spices for a delicious sauce that goes well with steak, chicken or fish.

In a food processor, combine 3 cloves of garlic, peeled; 2 tablespoons red onion; 2 cups fresh flat leaf parsley; 1 teaspoon dried oregano; dash dried coriander; dash red pepper flakes; dash salt; the juice of 1 lime; 2 tablespoons of vinegar, red or white; 1/2 cup olive oil. Blend until smooth and pour over the hot food, or place on the side of the plate.

Nine Spices That Give Health Benefits

Spices have been used in Ayurvedic medicine in India and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) in China for more than 5,000 years.

The most obvious path to health and healing is spices that aid in digestion, which in turn boosts the immune system. Some spices can also offer pain relief from arthritis and chronic pain.

Let’s look at a few of the top spices in Mother Nature’s medicine cabinet. Note that with the exception of the first one, most of these can be eaten fresh rather than dried so you don’t lose any nutrients. Also note that dried herbs and spices can be three to seven times more concentrated in flavor than fresh, so add a little to start with when learning how to cook with them, and then use more if needed.

1. Cayenne

This spice comes from the pepper family and also offers a warming quality and pain relief. Many creams used for arthritis contain active ingredients found in this pepper. It is also good for blood circulation.

2. Turmeric

This bright yellow root is powdered into a spice that has a warming quality and is great for both digestion and pain relief. It is ideal in rice and chicken dishes and is one of the bases for curry powder.

3. Ginger

Ginger is a tasty root that can be used in sweet and savory recipes. It is a staple of Indian and Chinese food and is used for digestion and pain relief. It can be used for skin conditions such as acne and eczema. It is also good for blood circulation.

4. Licorice Root

This root is used to regulate blood sugar and the hormone cortisol, which is associated with the ability to lose weight. It aids healthy digestion and can be a tasty treat for those who like black licorice.

5. Milk Thistle

This aids in overall digestion and is also commonly used as a liver detoxifier that relieves liver inflammation. The liver plays an important role in filtering harmful substances out of the body, but as a result, it can accumulate toxins and need to be cleansed. Milk thistle and ginger can also help heal stomach ulcers.

6. Peppermint

Peppermint is another tasty spice used to aid digestion. It soothes the stomach and supports gallbladder function. It can also help detox the liver. It is generally considered safe as long as it is not consumed in large doses, though pregnant women may wish to avoid it.

7. Cardamom

Cardamom pods are often used whole in Indian recipes. The little black seeds inside are ground up for Indian food, and for Scandinavian baked goods. It is known to ease heartburn and can offer relief for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It also encourages digestive enzyme secretion, so the food you eat is broken down more efficiently and the nutrients absorbed more rapidly.

8. Coriander

Coriander seeds and leaves are both used in Indian and Thai food, as well as in Mexican food. It has a pungent flavor and is full of healthful fatty acids. It is good for soothing the stomach and also has a lot of fiber to help with bowel health. Some have associated the antioxidants in coriander with helping to prevent colon cancer.

9. Cumin

Cumin is often paired with coriander in the same cuisines. It aids in digestion and encourages the secretion of digestive enzymes. It is also high in fiber and used to help naturally relieve hemorrhoids.

Seven Great Spice Mixes to Make

Cooking with spices can add a whole new dimension of flavor to your cooking. Creating your own blends can help you cater to your family’s taste, and save you some time as well. All you will have to do is sprinkle a little of your blend, rather than open a half dozen bottles every time you want to make Italian sauce or tasty tacos.

Here are some quick and easy blends. Organize some clean spice bottles, jars, or small plastic containers with lids, some sticky labels, and a waterproof marker, and you will be ready to start blending.

Note that the amounts are generally accurate for the average palate. Add more or less depending on your preferences.

1. Chili Seasoning

* 4 tbsp chili powder
* 4 tsp ground cumin
* 1 tsp cayenne pepper
* 1 tsp garlic powder
* 2 tsp onion powder
* 1 tsp salt
* 1 tsp pepper

Add 2 tablespoons of chili seasoning to one pot of chili.

2. Chinese 5-spice powder

* 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
* 3 star anise, ground
* 1 tsp crushed fennel seed
* 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
* Generous dash ground cloves

Add 1 or 2 teaspoons to your stir fries and other Chinese dishes. You can also use it as a rub for poultry.

3. Curry powder

* 3 tbsp paprika
* 2 tsp ground cumin
* 2 tsp ground fennel seed
* 2 tsp ground yellow mustard seeds
* 1 tsp chili powder
* 1 tsp black pepper
* 2 tsp ground coriander
* 1 tbsp ground turmeric
* 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
* 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of the blend to your curry dishes.

4. Homemade Ranch Dressing Seasoning

* 2 tbsp dried parsley
* 1 tsp dried dill
* 1 tsp garlic powder
* 1 tsp onion powder
* 1/2 tsp dried basil
* 1/2 tsp black or white pepper

Use 1 tablespoon to season 1/4 cup whole milk and 1/3 cup mayonnaise. Whisk together until completely smooth. Use it as a dressing or dip.

5. Pizza Blend

* 2 tbsp dried oregano
* 1 tbsp dried basil
* 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
* 1 Tbsp dried onion flakes
* 1/2 tsp dried thyme
* Dash salt
* Generous dash black pepper
* 1/4 tsp garlic powder

Add 1 tablespoon to your pizza or pasta sauce.

6. Cream of___ Soups

If you have a recipe that calls for a creamed soup, use this as the base, along with the fresh ingredients, such as mushroom for a green bean casserole, celery, chicken, and so on.

* 1 cup powdered non-fat dry milk
* 1/2 cup cornstarch
* 3 tbsp chicken bouillon granules
* 1 tbsp minced onion
* 1/2 tsp dried basil
* 1/2 tsp dried oregano
* 1/2 tsp dried marjoram
* 1/2 tsp dried thyme

Cook enough of the main ingredient in a pot until tender, to make a can or two of soup. Add about 1 1/4 cups of water to create a “can”, or double the amount for two cans. Whisk in the mix until combined and heat over a medium flame until it reaches your desired thickness.

7. Taco Seasoning

* 2 tbsp chili powder (mild)
* 1/2 tsp garlic powder
* 1/2 tsp onion powder
* 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
* 1/2 tsp dried oregano
* 1 tsp paprika
* 1 tbsp ground cumin
* 2 1/2 tsp salt
* 2 tsp pepper

Use 2 tablespoons per pound of meat. This will work well with poultry or fish tacos too.

Spice Storage Tips

Spices are no longer worth more than their weight in gold the way they were a thousand years ago when Europeans first started to discover the wonders of the Far East and the Spice Islands (now Indonesia), but they are still a considerable investment in your food shopping budget that you will want to make the most of.

Spices enhance flavor and color in food. They can also reduce cravings because what you eat is more tasty and satisfying. Some spices even have medicinal properties thanks to their chemical components, fatty acids and antioxidants.

Here are some storage tips that can help you get the most out of your spices and retain their potency and healing properties for as long as possible.

1. Go whole

Whole spices like nutmeg stay fresher longer compared with ground ones, which absorb a lot of moisture and lose their potency. Buy whole and grate or grind them in a coffee grinder.

2. Use a separate grinder for spices than for your coffee

Buy a grinder to be used only for your spices when you need to use them. You don’t want any coffee taste to transfer to your food. A small marble mortar and pestle will also work well to grind most whole spices. You can also use it to lightly pound dried herbs to freshen up their taste.

3. Store carefully

Keep your herbs and spices in a cool, dry place away from the stove and out of direct sunlight. Store them in the original jars or tins they came in. If you buy in bulk, fill your jars and then put them in the freezer to preserve freshness, but all the way inside away from the door so they don’t get a lot of moisture.

Spices can last for up to three years. Dried herbs can last about a year provided you store them properly. Over time, they will lose their potency, so you might have to add more. But be careful – remember that dried herbs are three times more potent than fresh. Add and taste.

4. Look at the color

If the herbs and spices have changed color and are looking a bit anemic, they are fading in freshness and therefore in potency. Taste a small amount. If it doesn’t make your tastebuds sing, it’s time to replace it.

5. Don’t hold your spice bottle over a cooking pot

Steam can get into the bottle and sap the strength of your spice or herb. Put some in your hand, rub it to release its flavor, and add to your recipe. Screw the cap back on tightly or close the tin carefully.

6. If you are using a measuring spoon, don’t dip it in

Sprinkle if you can, or “guesstimate” into the palm of your hand. A wet or dirty spoon can harm your spices.

7. Put foil over bottles with a grinder top

It’s fun to have freshly ground black pepper with just a twist of the cap, but the caps don’t form a good airtight seal. Use a piece of foil to cover it and to keep air and moisture out. Ideally, buy whole spices like peppercorns and grind or pulverize in a mortar with a pestle as needed.

Tips for Cooking with Spices

Herbs and spices are a great way to enhance the taste and color of food. They can make almost any recipe more flavorful without adding a lot of sugar, fat or salt. Some even have medicinal properties and can help with digestion, pain relief, healthy circulation, and more.

In addition, they can help you explore new cuisines from around the world. If you want to cut cravings by adding fuller flavor, or get more adventurous with your recipes, here are some tips on how to cook with spices.

1. Use fresh when you can

Fresh ginger has a completely different taste from dried and powdered. The herb basil is amazing as the base for fresh pesto sauce to put on your pasta.

2. Store fresh herbs carefully

Wrap the stems in a wet paper towel and place in a plastic bag. Place the bag in a cool, dark part of your refrigerator.

3. Plan recipes around the fresh herbs and spices

In this way, little will go to waste. Otherwise, you will more than likely forget about them until it is too late.

4. Freeze your fresh herbs and spices if you are not going to use them within a couple of days

Make sure they are completely dry and seal in a freezer bag. Moisture would cause them to get freezer burn. Store them in the back of the freezer, not near the door, to avoid them getting a lot of moisture or temperature changes.

5. Store your dried spices and herbs in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight

This will help them stay fresher for longer.

6. Dried is three times more concentrated than fresh

The ratio would therefore be one teaspoon of dried to one tablespoon of fresh.

7. Start with a small amount of spice

Remember, it’s easy to add more, but almost impossible to remove spice if you add too much.

8. Buy in bulk only if you use large amount of it

A good example would be cinnamon if you do a lot of baking, or oregano if you make Italian food often. Otherwise, you’re storing spices for a long time in less than ideal conditions such as a glass bottle or tin.

9. For quick, foolproof recipes, make your own blends

If you know your own tastes, and your family’s, it’s easy to combine your spices into standard blends you can just sprinkle in. Italian tomato sauce, chili, stew and more couldn’t be easier once you make your custom blends.

10. Check out the ethnic food aisles in the supermarket

Trouble finding a certain spice? Check out the ethnic food aisles in addition to the seasoning racks. Chances are, you can find a few more exotic items. Sometimes the containers will be larger amounts, and for less than in the spice aisle.

11. To save money, buy more versatile spices

Some herbs and spices are used extensively in particular cuisines, or more than one cuisine. Oregano would be one example. It’s used in dozens of Italian recipes but oregano is also a staple of Mexican food. Cinnamon is used in almost every cuisine in the world, including Indian and Chinese for savory dishes, and in European and American baked goods.

12. Look up quality recipes online to learn how to make your favorite restaurant and takeaway meals

Think how much money you can save, and how much control you will have over calories, fat, salt and more, by learning how to cook them at home. Go to quality recipe sites and choose the recipes with the highest star ratings.

Ways to Use Spices in Desserts and Baking

Whenever people hear the word “spices”, they instantly think of savory dishes like soups and stews. However, the truth is that spices can enhance desserts and baked goods as well. Here are some ideas for adding a whole new dimension to your sweet treats, using either chocolate or white batter combinations.

1. Chocolate and Spice Combinations

There are a number of ways to add depth of flavor to recipes that call for chocolate.

Black pepper

This awakens the flavor, and pepper is not harmful to blood pressure the way salt is in the latest trend towards salted desserts. Grind it up freshly and add to cookies and cake as you would cinnamon.

Chili powder

A dash of chili powder will take the edge off any really cloyingly sweet chocolate. It is a great match with dark chocolate.


Cinnamon gives a deep richness to any chocolate, from cake to hot cocoa.


Chocolate and ginger are a delicious combination. Use fresh or candied ginger, to experiment with taste and texture in your cakes. Add ground ginger to your cookies for chocolate gingerbread.


Chocolate-lime combinations are a favorite in the UK and the Caribbean. While not technically a spice, adding citrus to baked goods gives them a whole new dimension.

2. White Batter and Spice Combinations


Lemon can make a deliciously tart contrast with the sweetness of your cookies and cakes. It goes well with berries such as blueberry. You can use juice or zest, extract or oil. Note: lemon oil is not the same as lemon extract. It tastes less artificial but is much stronger than extract, so use one drop at a time.


Lemon and rosemary cookies are a tasty treat for those that like less sweet desserts.


Thyme offers a lemony hint to cookies and works well when paired with lemon zest or oil. Thyme also pairs well with berry-based desserts.

Cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, mace

Nothing says fall and the holidays like delicious, spiced desserts. Cookies are easy and fill the whole house with the most wonderful fragrance. Spice cakes and loaves are easy to make as treats for your holiday table, or gifts to pass along to the people on your list.

These are also the main ingredients in pumpkin pie spice. Mace (which is the outer part of nutmeg) is what give it such a distinct flavor. Experiment with these in varying quantities and make up your own baking blends. Leave out the mace and you can also create stunning apple pies or carrot cake.


Cardamom is also good in carrot cake and in cookies. If you’ve ever eaten Scandinavian baked goods, you will know the taste.

Cumin and coriander

These spices are often paired together in Indian, Mexican and Thai cooking. They will go well with peanut-based items like cookies, or coconut-based items to take the edge off the sweetness and give a more savory flavor.


Basil works well with berry-based desserts, enhancing their flavor and taking the edge off the sweetness.


What could be yummier than homemade gingerbread or ginger cake?


Most people love the taste of sage in their stuffing, so there’s no reason it wouldn’t go well in loaf cakes and in your next bread pudding. Add craisins instead of raisins for a whole new twist on this family favorite.


Vanilla also comes from the “Spice Islands”, and is perfect for adding flavor to even the simplest sugar cookie recipe.

Mint (Peppermint, Spearmint)

Mint can brighten up any fruity dessert. It’s also a favorite in holiday cookies. The extract can taste a bit too much like chemicals, though. Peppermint oil can also be overwhelming if you use too much, so one drop or two should be more than enough. Be careful not to overdo it so things start to taste like toothpaste.