The best spices and herbs to have in your kitchen will depend on what your tastes are. Do you favor hot and spicy or mild and sweet? In any case, you should be aware of the different spices which are used in world cuisines so that you can properly stock your kitchen. Spices have a long shelf-life, but most will decrease in potency after time. It is best to use most spices within 6 months of their purchase. Keep reading below to see the 12 best spices to have in your kitchen.
Coriander – Coriander, also sometimes known as cilantro, is an important ingredient in many different world cuisines. It is sold fresh, and its appearance is close to that of parsley, but it is distinct for its soapy smell which does not appeal to some people. Coriander is a staple in dishes such as Middle Eastern tabouleh, Central American guacamole, or Indian dal, among others. It is also used in the form of dried seeds or ground into grayish-brown powder. The dried version is also found in many world cuisines, including curries, garam masala and rye bread.
Basil – Basil is sweet-smelling, citrusy, and best used in its fresh form but also can be used dried. It is used in pesto sauces, tomato dishes, and Southeast Asian cuisine.
Cinnamon – Cinnamon is a very common spice originally found in South Asia. It is sweet-smelling and easily recognized. It can used to flavor both sweet and savory dishes. For example, sweet breads and cakes, desserts such as apple pie, squash, candies, tea, chocolate, and other dishes.
Cumin – Cumin is native to western, central and south asia and it is another spice which is a staple in many cuisines around the world. It resembles the caraway seed, but it is distinct. Cumin can be used in its whole or ground form and it is an ingredient in salsas, guacamole, chili powder, adobo, curry powder, Middle Eastern and Indian dishes. Cumin pairs well with tomato, chili beans, garlic and lemon.
Rosemary – Rosemary has a fragrant, citrusy and piney smell and is quite strong. This herb goes well with chicken, fish, and potato dishes. It is green in color and its leaves remain firm even when cooked.
Turmeric – Turmeric is native to south Asia and is a staple in curry dishes. It is notable for its bright yellow color and can be used to color rices, soups, sauces, chicken, yogurt, cheese, mustards and many other dishes. It is often also used in commercial food preparation as a food colorant. It is a cheaper substitute for saffron for color, but not for taste. Turmeric is both earthy and bitter-smelling.
Black Cumin Seeds – Black cumin seeds are used in Asian and Middle Eastern cooking and are not that well-known in the United States. However, they make a unique and aromatic addition to breads and desserts.
Allspice – Allspice is native to Central America and is found in Caribbean dishes as well as European, Mediterranean, and other world dishes. It has a woody, spicy smell similar to cloves or cinnamon and can be used in both sweet and savory dishes.
Cloves – Cloves have a sweet, earthy smell and are quite potent. They can be found in many dishes such as sweet breads, spice cakes, curries, garam masala, chai tea, rice, mulled wines and more. Cloves accompany sweet or savory dishes.
Cardamom – Cardamom is sweet and fragrant with a very agreeable aroma. It is used to flavor tea and coffee, rice, sweet breads, and garam masala. Cardamom is fairly expensive and best when used fresh and stored in the pod. A little goes a long way, however, and if used when fresh it is very potent.
Peppercorn – Peppercorn is native to south and East Asia and it is one of the most commonly used spices. In its ground form it can be used to impart a slightly hot, spicy flavor to almost any savory dish and is frequently found on the table in most homes in the United States. It flavor is best when freshly ground, however, and some may choose to use a pepper grinder to grind peppercorns for each use. Whole peppercorns can be used in rices, gravies, or peppercorn sauces. It is also used in many world cuisines.
Paprika – Paprika is made from dried ground peppers and can be spicy, mild, or smoky-tasting. It is also used for its deep red coloring and makes a nice addition to rices, soups, or dips.