spices & seasonings

What’s great food without the right seasoning? And there can never be just one to make a yummy, lip-smacking meal. They don’t simply say that “variety is the spice of life”. It indeed is the spice of life, the spice of food too. A variety of seasonings is what you need to lend your meal a unique, delectable flavor, the memory of which is sure to linger on in your minds (and taste buds) for years to come!

Welcome to the magical world of spices. They come in all colors and flavors, and they all have their unique role to play in cooking. It is thus important to keep your pantry well stocked up with seasonings of all kinds. You never know you’d need which one for your next meal to lend it a varied and appetizing taste.

There are tons of them that you can grow either in your backyard or buy from the supermarket, but we’ve focused on the top ones here that are a must-have in any pantry.

Best Seasonings to Stock Up On

  1. Kosher Salt – Salt, of course, would anyway be sitting at the top of your spice cabinet. You can’t do without it. But have you considered including Kosher salt in the spice rack too? It’s the most versatile variety of salt out there; you can actually see them and experience a new, different flavor when you sprinkle them on a dish.
  2. Black Peppercorns – They’re a lot better than their powdered version, try it. Add them whole to a dish to enjoy their authentic flavor, or if you really want to add them ground, better buy black peppercorns and grind them in a mill, rather than going in for pre-ground ones you get at the store. They tend to lose out on the flavor much faster.
  3. Cayenne Pepper – When you want to spice things up a bit and raise the bar of heat in your dish, think of Cayenne pepper. It’s a great garnish atop a number of plain bland dishes like roasted root vegetables and corn on the cob.
  4. Cinnamon – You’d never regret keeping a pack of cinnamon sticks in your pantry always ready to work their magic in all kinds of meals – baked, fried, sweet, or savory. They work excellently in them all.
  5. Curry Powder – This is a must-have for all your curries and soups. You’d love the mustard-yellow color it brings to the dish, not to forget the warm flavor as well. You can even make your very own at home by blending together coriander, turmeric, cumin, and fenugreek.
  6. Garlic Powder – Though fresh garlic has its own irreplaceable flavor in every dish, this one is its closest substitute, and a perfect one too. It’s made from finely ground, dehydrated garlic, can be preserved longer, and is a great time-saving seasoning too. No more peeling hassles. Try garlic powder on garlic bread, soup, roast, or lasagnas. 
  7. Dried Oregano – Love oregano seasoning on your pizzas? Why not store it at home to try out on all other Italian dishes you love cooking? It has a unique citrus-like flavor that blends well with all kinds of dishes.
  8. Smoked Paprika – As the name suggests, it has a subtle wood-fired flavor to it which is enough to heat up any meal. Add it to steaks or try it in chili.
  9. Dried Rosemary – This one too has a wood-fired, peppery, and wild aromatic flavor to it, which makes it stand apart from a lot of other herbs. In fact, it’s an essential add-on to most of Mediterranean and French cuisine, baked meals, and savory bread such as pull-apart rolls.
  10. Dried Thyme – It’s often termed as the BFF of dried rosemary, for they both always go together and create magic in whatever they’re added to. Thyme has an immensely fragrant quality which makes it perfect in a great variety of meats, particularly poultry. Add it to vegetables too and see the difference it brings to the smell and taste of your meal. It fits well in a lot of stuffing recipes too.
  11. Nutmeg – This sweet and nutty spice has a touch of peppery heat to it which makes it a favorite in both sweet and savory dishes. Add it to warm dishes like soups, pies, and roasted vegetables.
  12. Allspice – Don’t let the name confuse you; this warm and fragrant seasoning isn’t a blend of “all spices”. It’s actually made of dried and ground berry, and tastes somewhat like a mix of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Best used in both sweet and savory items.

Tips to Preserve your Spices

True, we say that you should stock up your pantry with all varied kinds of seasonings. Keep them ready at all times because you’d find yourself suddenly in a mood to go crazy over desserts one day, or raise the heat with spicy meals on another.

However, remember that your spices too have a shelf life, though they’re agreeably longer-lasting than their fresh counterparts. And, you’d come to know by just smelling them. Do it every now and then; if you get a pungent smell, know that it’s time to throw them out and replace the stock.

Also, as best practice, always change your dry spices once every year; they tend to become “flat” in taste and lose out on their flavor with time. Besides, you might want to stock up smaller packets/boxes of your spices to avoid wastage, knowing that you’d be anyway changing them off in some time.

To Sum Up

Seasoning is to food as water is to plants. See how a plant blossoms as soon as you sprinkle some water over it? Likewise, seasonings have the power to make a bland dish shine up and stand out of the crowd. We’ve tried to make this list as comprehensive as possible, listing out the best of the lot. Feel free to make your own additions and share them with us too.