If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to add tons of flavor and variety to your meals, spices are the secret weapon. They can take similar ingredients and turn them into a completely different meal… Italian, Mexican, or Asian-inspired. But if you’re just getting started, it can be really overwhelming to know where to begin. So consider this your little cheat sheet to a more varied and flavorful kitchen!
I’ve also created this downloadable checklist for you guys to make sure your pantry’s stocked. Grab your copy for all of my favorites and tips on how to use them!
Salt enhances the natural flavor of whatever you’re cooking, so it doesn’t just give it a salty flavor. It’s actually going to bring out those flavors, open up your taste buds so that the whole dish itself just has more pop to it. It also adds a nice finishing touch! I like regular table salt to flavor while you cook and Maldon or Sea Salt as a finishing salt!
Pepper will actually change the flavour profile by adding earthy and spicy flavours to whatever you are cooking up. So whether I am cooking fish or chicken or meat, cooking up some lentils, roasted veggies, I usually start with a bit of a sprinkle of salt and pepper.
KITCHEN HACK:If you accidentally get a little heavy-handed and over-salt a dish, pepper will actually tone down the saltiness, so if you feel like you’ve ruined it, it might not be too late. Throw a couple of cracks of pepper in there and you might be able to save your dish.
Cumin has a really sort of earthy, nutty flavor, and smells so good. It’s also got even a little bit of a hint of lemon. Cumin is often found in Indian dishes and Mexican dishes, so I like to throw it into chilis or tacos, fajitas. It goes really well in stews, lentils or beans, so it’s a pretty versatile spice and it actually pairs really well with the next spice I’m going to talk about.
- Chili powder.
Chili powder can either be a blend of spices or just ground up chilis (this will be listed in the ingredients). Chili powder tends to have a little bit of a smoky flavor. It is really delicious in Mexican dishes, so enchiladas or tacos. As I mentioned, it pairs really nicely with cumin, so I will often throw the two of those into a chili, or blend them together for a rub for different meats.
- Garlic Powder
Exactly how it sounds, it is dehydrated garlic that is ground up into a powder. Different from garlic salt which has salt added, and will make a dish taste saltier. Garlic powder is a great shortcut if you don’t feel like getting garlicky fingers, but the flavours are not as intense. It is delish sprinkled on roasted veggies. You can even dash a little on popcorn or nuts to give your snacks more flavor. Throw them into soups or spice blends for rubs, but they’re just great ones to have on hand.
- Onion Powder
Onion Powder is the close related cousin of garlic powder, and the perfect substitute if you want to avoid those teary eyes. Like spice number five, it is a ground powder made from dehydrated onion. Anywhere garlic powder can be used, onion powder can also be added.
One of my favorite spices and definitely the most beautiful. It’s got this gorgeous yellow color. Turmeric is everywhere these days from ice cream to lattes, to energy balls, but beyond just the gorgeous color there’s a reason that we love turmeric so much. It is super nourishing. Turmeric is packed with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory benefits. It can be a little bit bitter, so generally tends to go well mixed with other spices, a little bit of salt and pepper in there. It’s nice with cumin, and goes really well on roasted potatoes, root vegetables, or curries.
KITCHEN HACK: Turmeric can be used as a substitute for saffron. Saffron are those little threads that are often used in paella or Spanish dishes, but they are super expensive, so is a cheaper way of getting that gorgeous color without spending a fortune.
It has a firey red colour, but pretty mild in flavour. There are different blends of paprika: smoked paprika, hot paprika, sweet paprika. I will often use this to sprinkle on top of baked chicken to have it a little bit of color. It’s often used on deviled eggs, into soups or chilis, so this is one of the spices that’s often in a chili powder blend, but it’s nice to have on its own as well. If you’re like me and you like spice, you probably want to keep either cayenne pepper or chili flakes on hand. Again, these are great for finishing dishes or to add right into the dish. Be careful with the cayenne. It’s super spice, so a little bit goes a long ways.
KITCHEN HACK: Spice Blends. I’ve been building up my spice cupboard for a long time, so I do keep basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary. But if you’re just getting started, start with just an Italian seasoning blend. This is usually a mix of those spices that I just mentioned. It can vary a little bit, so make sure to take a look at the back of the package to see exactly what’s in there. I also like to keep a couple of fun ones on hand like Sriracha Lime or Greek seasoning, to keep things exciting and all spiced up 😉
I’m all about saving time and making the whole process more simple to cook from home, so if you guys liked this little tip, write “Time Saver” in the comments below.
So far we’ve been talking mostly about how to flavor savory dishes, but I also want to talk about sweet dishes. There are a couple of ingredients that I really love to naturally sweeten a dish without actually having to add any extra sugar.
- Vanilla Extract
Look for a vanilla extract with only one ingredient… VANILLA. I like to add this into smoothies, muffins, energy balls, into my oats to give it a bit more flavor. Really vanilla just compliments the flavor of anything sweet, so you don’t need to worry about it kind of overpowering.
It lends natural sweetness, and is a bit of a double whammy. Cinnamon can help balance blood sugar levels, so when you’re adding this to a dish that has natural sugars or carbohydrates in there, the cinnamon is actually going to help so that the sugars go into your bloodstream more slowly and you get a more steady stream of energy. I love adding this little nutrition powerhouse to oats, any baked goods, energy balls. The trick about cinnamon is that it can also go in savory dishes, so a little pinch of this in chili or in rubs goes really nicely too.
Now how do you store these flavour powerhouses? I love keep mine in little glass jars. You don’t have to do this, but I find it keeps them more organised, and they are easier to find and identify. I usually buy bigger bags and then just empty a little bit into the containers at a time, and then I will store the extra packages just in the cupboard or in the pantry somewhere.
So there you have it, my 10 must have spices for every healthy kitchen. I threw a couple of bonuses in there with the spice blends, but now that you guys know what they are, I’ve created a little checklist for you guys that you can download to make the whole process even easier with ideas on how to use them. Now let’s start spicing things up!
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