A well-stocked pantry is essential for any home cook. But what herbs and spices should you have on hand? This post will outline the basic herbs and spices to have in a pantry, and provide tips for using them.
Herbs Vs Spices
Before you start stocking your pantry with seasonings, you should know what a herb is and what a spice is. Do you know the difference between herbs and spices? Many people use these words interchangeably, but there is a distinct difference between the two.
Herbs are the leafy green parts of plants that are used for flavoring food. They are typically used fresh, but can also be dried.
Spices are the dried seeds, fruits, bark, or roots of plants that are used for flavoring food. They are typically ground up into a powder before being added to food.
Here is a list of some common herbs and spices every cook needs:
- Herbs: Basil, cilantro, mint, oregano, thyme
- Spices: Allspice, anise, black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon
Below, you find a list of herbs and spices that should be in a basic pantry. These staple spices will help you always have the seasoning you need for most recipes you come across. If you are missing a few of these kitchen spice must-haves, then check out our spice substitute list.
Herbs & Spices Every Kitchen Should Have
|Herb / Spice||Description & Use|
|Allspice (whole or ground)||Has a taste of cinnamon, clove and nutmeg. Can be used for cookies, cakes, pie and more.|
|Basil (Fresh or dried)||Has a slight taste of mint, anise and pepper. Can be used for meat, fish, pizza, soups, pesto, sauces and more.|
|Bay Leaf||Has a taste similar to oregano and thyme. Can be used in soups and stews.|
|Cayenne (ground)||Is a blend of hot red peppers. Can be used in sauces, soups, curry and mexican recipes.|
|Celery Seed (whole)||Tastes like fresh celery. Can be used in soups, salads and poultry dishes.|
|Chili Pepper (ground)||Tastes like a mix of chili, cumin and oregano. Can be used in mexican dishes, meats, soups and dressings.|
|Cinnamon (sticks and ground)||Can be used in desserts like cakes and cookies as well as pastries. Also great in beverages, on pork, chicken and vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots and squash.|
|Cloves (whole or ground)||Tastes warm and spicy and smells like Christmas. 🎄 Can be used with pork, pumpkin pies, soups and much more!|
|Cumin (whole or ground seed)||Tastes salty and sweet. Can be used in meatloaf, fish, chili, on top of deviled eggs, and much more.|
|Curry (powder)||A mix of spices but most commonly included are ground turmeric, ground cumin, ground coriander and ground ginger. Can be used as a sauce, meats and more.|
|Dill (whole, ground or fresh herb)||Aromatic with a mild sweet taste. Can be used with seafood, dips, spreads, soups and more.|
|Ginger (ground, fresh or root)||Sweet, spicy with a bite to it. Can be used in cookies, curries, soups and more.|
|Horseradish (fresh, ground or root)||Has a very pungent taste. Can be used for sauces, dips spreads and more.|
|Italian Seasoning (spice mixture)||Tastes savory and earthy. Usually a mixture of oregano, marjoram, basil and sage. Can be used in Italian dishes, salad dressings and marinades.|
|Mustard (whole, ground or bottled)||Tastes strong and bitter. Dijon mustard is most commonly used in cooking. Can be used in dishes such as salad, dressings, eggs, meats and more.|
|Nutmeg (whole or ground)||Tastes sweet. Can be used in baking, coffee, oatmeal and and beverages like eggnog.|
|Oregano (Fresh or dried)||Has a powerful flavor. Can be used with fish, poultry, sauces, salad dressings and grilled meats.|
|Paprika (ground)||Available in sweet and hot varieties. Can be used in chicken dishes, eggs, soups and more.|
|Parsley (fresh or dried)||Fresh and mild flavor. Great in soups, marinades, meats and more.|
|Peppercorns (whole or ground)||Most common types are black pepper and white pepper. White pepper is milder than black pepper. Whole peppercorns need ground in a mill.|
|Rosemary (fresh or dried)||Strong and aromatic plus pungent flavor. Use lightly with chicken, marinades, soups and more. Tip: crush the needles when you use them in recipes.|
|Sage (fresh or dried)||Bold flavor. Sage can be used in veal, sausage, poultry, pork, stuffings and mixed with butter to make sage butter.|
|Tarragon (ground or dried)||Has a licorice-like taste. Can be used in chicken, white fish, soups and more.|
|Thyme (fresh or dried)||Has a spicy and strong flavor profile. Can be used with beef, pork, poultry, soups, dressings and more.|
With these essential herbs and spices, you’ll be able to create delicious, home-cooked meals, regardless of what you intend to cook with a fully stocked pantry of spices!
Common Questions about Herbs and Spices
What Can Affect the Taste of Seasonings?
There are many things that can affect seasonings such as age, heat, length of cooking time and freezing.
- Age: Herbs and spices will weaken in flavor as they age. A quick test is to crush a small amount between your fingers and smell to see if it still has flavor.
- Time Cooked: If you cook garlic to a dark gold, it will become bitter. Garlic and onion become more tasty the longer they are cooked.
- Freezing: When herbs and spices are frozen, they can change flavor.
- Temperature: Flavors are strongest at room temperatures, next is when they are hot and finally, when they are cold, will need the most flavor added.
Is Basil a Spice or Herb?
Basil is a herb that is used as a seasoning. It is typically used in Italian cuisine. Basil is also used to make pesto.
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