There are endless options of spices in the grocery store, but my pantry really comes down to seven essentials that I can use individually or combine for everyday meals. I’ve learned that you can purchase specific spices for recipes here and there, but usually it’s helpful to have these seven specific spices already on hand. Whether you’re seasoning vegetables or cooking meats, these seven spices are versatile and rather inexpensive. If you’re going to invest in anything to add to your salt and pepper collection, I recommend these spices I always have in my pantry.
Dried oregano leaves add a herb fragrance to your dishes without needing to maintain an herb plant or always have fresh oregano in your fridge. This herb is mild enough to go onto meats, aromatic enough for vegetables and even authentic for pasta sauce. It pairs well with other spices, so mix and match!
This is like my right hand spice to salt and pepper. If I don’t have fresh garlic ready to chop or grate into a dish, I reach for my garlic powder to take the item to the next flavor level. Be careful so you don’t accidentally grab garlic salt instead of garlic powder. Garlic salt makes a great addition to something like garlic bread without needing to add salt on it’s own, but usually if you’re just trying to add a garlic flavor I go with garlic powder so you can control the sodium on your own.
Paprika is something I recently got into over the last year, but it’s a super underrated spice in my opinion! You’ll recognize this red spice because it’s what garnishes deviled eggs. It can have a role in so many other dishes, though. I add it to my baked chicken breast all the time for a subtle smokey flavor and a beautiful golden red color. It pairs very well with sweet and savory or smokey things, for example, roasted vegetables with paprika and brown sugar or agave.
Red Chili Flakes
Hot sauce adds heat to dishes, but usually as a condiment after the cooking. Red chili flakes, or crushed red pepper, can add heat to your dishes while they’re cooking without adding a specific pungent flavor. If you’re trying to kick up the heat on anything from scrambled eggs to tacos, a few sprinkles of red chili flakes can do the trick.
Dried bay leaves are a great purchase to have on hand for soups and slow cooker meals. I buy a jar to have on hand all throughout the fall when I’m cooking food low and slow. I use a leaf or two for soups like chicken noodle soup for that home-cooked flavor. Adding a bay leaf to almost any slow cooker meat creates an amazing aroma as it cooks all day.
Cumin is a staple spice in Mexican dishes, along with other ethnic dishes. Whether you’re making chili, pulled pork, taco meat, tortilla soup or beans, there are a million things you can do with cumin. Once you have this on hand, simply sprinkling it on something like chicken with salt, pepper and garlic will transform the dish with flavor.
Last but not least, the spice I reach for every day for my coffee, peanut butter toast, oatmeal or fruit parfait: cinnamon. While cinnamon is not exclusively reserved for breakfast dishes, I always find a way to incorporate it into my morning routine. It actually has incredible health benefits, as well, so not only does it add flavor, but it adds nutrition to your daily foods. Besides breakfast, try it on meats for a subtle sweet and savory flavor or in a streusel topping for baked fruit desserts.
These seven spices, in addition to good kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper always have a spot in my pantry. What are the items you always have in your spice cabinet? I would love to hear in the comments below!
Love food. Love self. Love life.