The Best Spice Mixes you Need to Have in your Kitchen

Spices are an essential part of cooking. From sweet to savoury, they can season anything from soup to a steak. With so many different varieties on the market, it can be hard to know which ones you should have in your kitchen. So, here are some of the most widely used spices and what foods they go well with. If you ever want something extra special for your food, you might want to think about adding some of these spices!

Cooking is all about the right mix of spices. From Asian cuisine to Mexican food, spices can make or break your dish. Sure you can use those same old spices that your grandma is always trying to get you to buy, but you’re missing out on some of the most innovative and exciting flavour’s in the world! Here is a list of essentials spices and what they are best used for:

Spices are an essential part of cooking. From sweet to savoury, they can season anything from soup to a steak. With so many different varieties on the market, it can be hard to know which ones you should have in your kitchen. So, here are some of the most widely used spices and what foods they go well with. If you ever want something extra special for your food, you might want to think about adding some of these spices!

Cooking is all about the right mix of spices. From Asian cuisine to Mexican food, spices can make or break your dish. Sure you can use those same old spices that your grandma is always trying to get you to buy, but you’re missing out on some of the most innovative and exciting flavour’s in the world! Here is a list of essentials spices and what they are best used for:

Cayenne Pepper

Originally brought to Europe from Central America by Christopher Columbus, this spice is a mild chilli and is used to flavour dishes which are intended to be quite hot and chilli. They are closely related to bell peppers and jalapenos. The spice has been used as a medical remedy for thousands of years as it’s known to be an antioxidant.

Where to use: Sprinkle this over eggs, hummus, some soup or stew.

Alternatives: Chilli flakes, Hot paprika.

Chilli Powder

Chilli powder is a blend of chilli peppers, cumin, onion and garlic powder. Since the chilli used in the powder are typically red chilli peppers the spice gives off a strong, pungent, spicy taste and is used to add an extra heat to the dish. The powder is used in a variety of different cuisines including Tex-Mex, Chinese, Indian, Bengali, Korean, Mexican, Portuguese and Thai dishes.

Where to use: Chili con carne, stews, soups, curries, any dish which you want to add a little heat.  

Alternatives: Paprika, crushed red pepper, cayenne pepper

Cinnamon

Cinnamon is thought in the west to be a flavour of autumn. The spice actually originates from Sri Lanka and today is used in tea and other dishes. It’s one of those spices which can be used in all sorts of foods, breakfast, lunch or dinner, sweet or savoury. The actual flavour comes from an essential oil which has an aromatic taste. There are really no barriers with where to use Cinnamon. Now here’s a fun fact, did you know that the ancient Egyptians used to mummify their mummies using Cinnamon? Yes, it’s indeed that ancient.

Where to use: Autumn recipes (Check out some here), breads, apple desserts, pumpkin/squash pie, rice pilafs or Indian butter chicken.

Alternatives: Mixed spice, nutmeg

Cumin

Cumin originally a flowering plant, the cumin seeds are contained within the fruit of the plant which is then dried. The spice is used in both whole and ground form. This spice has been used in many different cultures for thousands of years, spanning from central Asia to the eastern/southern Mediterranean. The flavour that is introduced whilst cooking is one that is earthy, warm and aromatic. Here’s a fun fact, when I was in Bangladesh, they used to serve a plate of cumin seeds at the end of a meal to freshen one’s breath after eating.

 Where to use: Curries, pickles, savoury pastries, gravy, stews, soups, chili.

Alternatives: Curry powder, fennel seeds, paprika

Curry powder

Curry powder is actually a spice mix and not a single spice in itself. Its origins begin in the Indian subcontinent where it’s originally used in (you guessed it!) Curry. The key ingredients include: Turmeric, garlic and ginger but can add things like coriander and cumin and chilli peppers.

Where to use: Curries, sauces, stews, soups, marinades for meat or veg.

Alternative: Garam masala, the original ingredients which make up curry powder.

Fennel Seeds

Fennel seeds are native to the Mediterranean but are now grown in many different parts of the world. They have a highly aromatic flavour as the leaves are actually a herb. Here’s a fun fact, when I was in Bangladesh, they used to serve a plate of fennel seeds at the end of a meal to freshen one’s breath after eating. They help in controlling bad breath since they have antibacterial properties.

Where to use: fish soups/ stocks, salads, cheese and bread, curries, stews or casseroles.

Alternatives: Anise, Cumin, Liquorice root, parsley.

Garam Masala

It’s very similar to curry powder in that it’s a blend of ground spices. It also originates from south Asia. The mixes of spices are however a little different than what you find in curry powder. Some of the ingredients include: fennel, cloves, peppercorns, cumin, coriander, bay leaves, cinnamon, red chilli powder.

Where to use: Curries, lentils or soups

Alternatives: Curry powder, mixed spice, the individual spices labelled above.

Garlic & Ginger

I’ve added both of these here because they are so frequently used together. They are both technically a vegetable but act like a spice in their own right. Both historically used in traditional forms of medicine. They both start out having a very pungent flavour but when cooked, it’s extremely mild and mellow. They can also be grounded up to powder form.

Where to use: soups, stews, marinades, stir-fry, toast, curries.

Alternatives: For garlic: chives, shallot, cumin. For ginger:  Galangal, all spice, ground nutmeg. 

Mixed spice

This is the British equivalent of pumpkin pie spice you find in the US. It’s a blend of different spices such as cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg. It’s typically used in baking and has been in use in the UK from the late 1800s.

Where to use: Baking, typically Christmas desserts, pumpkin recipes (check here).

Alternatives: Pumpkin pie spice, using a mixture of the individual ingredients labelled above. 

Paprika

This is a spice which is made out of ground red peppers. The flavours are typically quite mild compared to chilli powder but can be made to be as hot, so it depends on the type. The heat actually varies from country to country.

Where to use: Savoury foods like eggs, meat, poultry, strews, curries, fish, vegetables.

Alternatives: Cayenne pepper, chilli powder, chilli flakes

Turmeric

Turmeric has been used in south and south east Asia for centuries. It was first used as a dye used to dye robes for monks and priests since turmeric has a really vibrant yellow colour. When used in food turmeric gives off an earthy, pungent and slightly bitter taste. The spice is mainly used in savoury dishes but can be used to make healthy juices.

Where to use: Rice, curries, juices, smoothies, roasts, eggs.

Alternatives: Saffron (for colour), ground ginger, dry mustard. 

Salt & Pepper

Although these can be used separately, I’ve bundled them up together since here in the west we are so used to saying ‘salt & pepper’. Salt is actually a mineral while black pepper is a spice. It’s probably the most commonly found seasoning in the UK. I think this one doesn’t need an explanation, salt and pepper are used in the majority of the savoury dishes found here. This one has to be probably the most essential on this list.

Where to use: For salt: Is used in most savoury dishes or snacks but also can be used to balance out sweet from salty in sweet dishes or snacks. For pepper: Again, most savoury dishes / snacks.

Alternatives: Garlic, lemon juice / zest, dill, chilli powder.

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