Building your spice collection is a lifelong process: it is certainly not something you should try to do in one day. But whether you’re new to the kitchen or you’re a bona fide Julia Childs, there are a few herbs, spices, and seasonings that no kitchen should be without. This starter kit of aromatic and savory spices and herbs will support your most frequently used recipes. Read on for top must-haves and some suggested uses—and remember, the true beauty of spices is how they blend together, so experiment!
A cured, unripe berry of a Caribbean evergreen tree, allspice has aromatic notes reminiscent of cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg. It is often used in marinades, stews, preserves, pies, barbecue sauce, preserves, pies, barbecue sauce, and baked goods.
A must-have for Italian cooking, basil pairs deliciously with other staples like thyme, garlic, oregano, lemon, and tomato sauce. It also complements rice, potato, and egg-based dishes.
Typically sold dried, bay leaves are aromatic with a woodsy taste. Whole bay leaves are very potent, and just one will add lots of flavor to soups, stews, and marinades.
Cumin is a flowering plant native from the eastern Mediterranean to India. It adds a warm earthiness to stews, soups, curries, and gravies. It’s also an ingredient in some pickles and even pastries.
Oregano is a perennial herb with an aromatic, warm, and slightly bitter taste; surprisingly, it’s actually more flavorful dried than fresh. It is often used in Italian-American cuisine and considered “a pizza herb.” It’s frequently used with vegetables, meat, fish, and salads (especially Greek salad), as well as Mediterranean barbecue and kebab recipes.
A woodsy, perennial herb with fragrant, evergreen, needle-like leaves, rosemary has an aroma reminiscent of lemon and pine. It’s often used in Mediterranean, Italian, and French cuisines, and it pairs especially well with garlic and olive oil. It also makes a tasty addition to focaccia, tomato sauce, pizza, and pork.
A perennial, evergreen shrub, sage is an essential herb with a savory, slightly peppery flavor. It’s frequently used in European and American cuisines, in everything from stuffing and casseroles to cheese and sausages.
Popular in Mediterranean, Cajun, and Creole dishes, thyme has a light, woodsy flavor that makes a wonderful addition to vegetables, meal, and poultry.
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