Do you want to cook mouthwatering, lip smacking, delicious food? I mean who doesn’t, right? Who wants to spend time cooking a meal only for it to end up tasting bland and boring? Not me! Did you know that the secret to so many delicious recipes is actually in the spices?
Whether you are new to cooking or not, you will want to have a nice collection of spices available to cook with. Spices can really make or break a recipe and using them will definitely add the boost of flavor your meal needs to really stand out. Read on to learn about the 10 most common spices used in cooking.
What are Spices?
Spices, herbs and seasoning are often used interchangeably among people when cooking or writing recipes. However, in the culinary world, there are specific differences to each of these categories and how they are defined.
I’m going to focus on spices in this post. But first, let’s understand the distinctions between the three.
Spices are defined as any part of a dried plant including bark, seeds, berries or roots.
They are not necessarily spicy. They can be sweet, spicy, savory, tangy, bitter, zesty… I could go on! The idea is to incorporate them in a recipe in order to help pull flavor out or help subtle flavors pop, giving your food just the right zing. Spices are commonly added to the recipe when you begin cooking. They withstand heat better than herbs and are more effective and flavorful if cooked for a longer period.
Most spices come from plants that grow in tropical and subtropical regions of the world, specifically Southeast Asia, India and the Mediterranean. Only a few spices have origins in the Western World.
Herbs include the leaves, flowers or stems of a plant. They can be used either fresh or dried.
Herbs in the form of flowers and leaves add color and beauty to your dish making them popular in culinary presentation. They are most often added toward the end of the cooking process because this helps them retain their flavor.
Herbs can also grow in tropical and subtropical regions but unlike spices, they grow well in hot, arid and temperate climates.
Seasoning refers to a combination of herbs and spices that usually have salt and even sugar in the mixture. Popular seasoning mixes are used for steak rubs, tacos, marinade and dressings.
10 Most Common Spices
Here is a helpful guide to use when choosing spices to add to your culinary journey. It is organized is alphabetical order.
Also known as Jamaican Pepper or Pimento, allspice comes from the fruit of the Pimenta Dioica plant and is used in Caribbean and Mexican food. In the U.S. it is more commonly used in desserts. It was named allspice because it has a flavor that resembles a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove.
Chiles are probably the most popular spice. They originated somewhere in South or Central America but were first cultivated in Mexico. They are spicy and add heat to any recipe. Chiles are used in Mexican, Caribbean, and Indian dishes.
Cinnamon comes from the bark of the Cinnamomum genus of trees. It can be bought as cinnamon sticks (rolled up bark) or ground into a powder. It has a spicy bite and adds flavor and aroma to food and drinks. It is used around the world and common in many recipes both sweet and savory.
Cloves are the flower bud of a tree in the myrtle family that is native to Indonesia. They are commonly used in many cuisines adding flavor to meats, marinades, fruits, and curries. They are aromatic and are often used in warm drinks and are a common ingredient in pumpkin pie spice.
Cumin is the dried seed of the herb Cuminum Cyminum, a member of the parsley family. Cumin has been used as a spice for thousands of years and originates somewhere in the East, though it is not known for sure. Today, India is the largest producer of cumin. It is used around the world to flavor cheese, bread, curry and is a common ingredient in chili powder.
Garlic powder comes from dehydrated and ground up garlic bulbs. Garlic is believed to have originated in Asia and has been used as a food and spice for hundreds of years. It is cultivated and used worldwide and in all different cuisines. Though it has more nutrients used fresh, garlic powder is a good way to enhance your food if you do not have fresh garlic to crush.
Ginger comes from the root of the flowering ginger plant. Like garlic, it can be used as a spice in powder form after dehydrating and grinding the ginger root. It is commonly used in this form to add flavor and spice to Indian foods such as masala or to flavor gingerbread cookies, ginger ale, and ginger beer.
Nutmeg comes from the seed of a nutmeg tree (Myristica Fragrans), native to the Spice Islands in Indonesia. The spice has a distinctive aroma and warm flavor that is slightly sweet. It is used is many sweet and savory dishes like potatoes, meats, and desserts and to spice up eggnog.
Paprika comes from dried and ground red peppers originating in Central Mexico. Today Hungary is a top producer of paprika and it is available in many grades from mild to very hot. It is commonly used around the world in a variety of dishes such as stews, meats, sausages, and goulash.
Peppercorn is the fruit from a pepper tree. Peppercorn can be either, black, green, white, or pink depending on the ripeness of the fruit and varietal of the tree. It originated in India and is cultivated in tropical regions. It is the world’s most traded spice and has been around since ancient times. It is hot and spicy and commonly used with salt.
Storing and Using Spices
Spices store exceptionally well in airtight containers in cool, dark places (like a cabinet or drawer in your kitchen!) Spices don’t really go bad if stored correctly, though they can lose flavor over time. Buying whole spices and freshly grinding them when you want to use them will give you more flavor. However, already ground spices can be way more easy to incorporate in your recipes when you are new in the kitchen or want to save some time!
I hope you learned something interesting and new! And… that this post will make it easier for you to pick out some spices to keep in your kitchen and inspire you to try some different flavors when cooking.
Remember, you don’t have to get a bunch of spices at once. Slowly build up your collection as you figure out what you like to cook and add on from there.
If you have comments, questions, or want to say hi, please reach out in the comment section below. I always love hearing from you!
Until we meet again,
Allie – Founder of In The Kitchen With Me
4 thoughts on “10 Most Common Spices To Cook With”
The article on the 10 most common spices is a fantastic resource for both beginner and experienced cooks alike. It provides a comprehensive overview of essential spices that are widely used in various cuisines around the world. I appreciate how the article starts by emphasizing the importance of spices in cooking, highlighting their ability to enhance flavors, add depth to dishes, and create a unique culinary experience. It then proceeds to introduce the 10 most common spices, providing valuable information about each one.
As someone who enjoys experimenting with flavors in the kitchen, this article serves as a valuable reference for expanding my spice repertoire. It has introduced me to new spices and reminded me of the importance of utilizing these essential ingredients to elevate the taste of my dishes.
Thank you for sharing this insightful article. It has not only deepened my understanding of the most common spices but also inspired me to be more adventurous in my cooking by incorporating a wider variety of flavors into my dishes.
Thank you for your thoughtful comment! I’m glad you learned something from this article and got a little inspiration. Good luck on your cooking adventures.
I really enjoyed reading this article. It was very informative and enlightening. Spices are essential to make a dish stand out, and you explained very well how to use them in the kitchen. I am far from good at cooking, but I have a wife who is extraordinary at preparing delicious dishes. Of course, they are all accompanied by a great mix of spices.
Thanks for sharing this tasty article, it made me hungry!
Thank you for your comment! That is wonderful that your wife is a great cook and that you see the benefits of spices used in cooking.