Can you imagine cooking without adding any spices or herbs to your meal? The food we eat and the drinks we could consume would not be nearly the same without the spices in our kitchen cabinets.
When you see those fancy spice racks with room for 50 different spices, it is no accident. There are so many different spices out there; you have to learn about them and choose accordingly to make sure your kitchen is properly equipped.
Here are the top 50 spices and what you can use them for. Depending on the type of cooking you do, your needs will probably change. Don’t forget to scroll to the end of the list and get the free spice list printable.
Top 50 Spices And Herbs And Their Uses
Allspice is sometimes called Jamaica pepper. You can grow allspice in any warm area, and it is a very common spice used in baking. Allspice will taste a bit like cinnamon and nutmeg, and it is a fall and winter type spice.
Anise spice is a unique spice that will remind you almost of a licorice type smell and taste. Anise is also sometimes called aniseed, and it is a flowering plant grown in a mild climate. Anise can be used in baking, but you may also notice it being used in some premium alcoholic drinks.
Basil leaves are seen in many recipes but especially in Italian cooking and sauces. Combining basil with mozzarella and tomato is a great way to use it. Pesto sauce is a combination of quite a bit of basil. Growing basil is fun and easy and leaves you with quite a crop.
4. Bay Leaf
A bay leaf is a spice that gives off tons of flavor. You can use a bay leaf to flavor soups and meals, and it is fine to put it in both as a whole leaf or ground up in pieces.
5. Black Pepper
Black pepper is probably one of the most common spices in the world. Black pepper is used daily in a wide variety of foods. Black pepper starts as peppercorns, and then it is ground into the pepper. Black pepper has been known to be used as a seasoning and as a medicine as well.
6. Caraway Seeds
Caraway seeds are commonly used on something like an Irish Soda bread. The seeds are also used on Rye bread, and that is where most people will have their association with Carraway Seeds.
Cardamom is an expensive spice that is used in quite a few different foods. You will notice that it is used in teas and other Indian cooking as well. Thai curry will sometimes use Cardamom in their foods. This spice can be a reason behind your next Indian meal being a little expensive.
8. Cayenne pepper
If you like a bit of spice in your food, cayenne pepper is a good choice to add to your next meal. Cayenne pepper comes from a pepper that is dried and then ground into tiny pieces to add. This is considered a moderated chili pepper.
9. Celery seeds
Celery Seeds are harvested from celery, and they can be used as a flavoring, or you can use them to make oil. Celery Seeds are commonly used in salads or in dry rubs on meat.
10. Chili Powder
Chilli powder is another moderate pepper spice that is used very commonly in chili. The chili powder should be used sparingly as it has a very strong taste.
Chervil is almost identical to parsley. It is used very commonly in French cuisine to flavor a meal that would otherwise be quite bland.
Chives are going to be very similar to an onion, garlic, or even a shallot. Chives can go in a meal or be left on top as a garnish. The taste is quite strong.
Cilantro is a very fresh tasting herb that you will see used quite often in Mexican cuisine. A great salsa or fish taco will almost always have cilantro in it. The cilantro is what gives you that fresh, clean taste when eating this type of food.
Cinnamon is a spice that you should always have in your kitchen. Cinnamon is a great spice to add to breakfast food, baking, and more. Cinnamon can be sold in sticks or ground.
A clove is a flower bud of a tree. You can use cloves with cinnamon and nutmeg and are commonly seen in the winter months with more rich baking. Cloves also have good medical benefits.
16. Cream of Tartar
The cream of tartar is very similar to something like baking soda, and it is often used in baking. When cooking with eggs, cream of tartar can be helpful to use.
Coriander is similar to cilantro and works well with sauces, soups and peppers, and tomatoes. Some will use it instead of cilantro, but it is more often sold as a ground spice as opposed to a fresh herb like the cilantro.
18. Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
Crushed Red Pepper Flakes are often used to give a bit of a kick to Italian food. You will see crushed red pepper flakes used in Italian foods like pizza and sauces.
Cumin is a common spice for hummus and other greek and Indian foods. Cumin can be very good for you and will help with cholesterol and blood sugar. Cumin is one of the most popular spices in the world. It has quite a bit of power when cooking, and it can be hard to pair other spices with the cumin.
20. Curry powder
Curry Powder is a spice used in many Indian curry meals. The curry spice is very distinct, and it is actually a blend of spices.
Dill is a herb commonly grown in summer, and it is similar to parsley. Dill will be used on seafood a lot because of it’s a fresh and unique taste. You will see dill seed used in some crackers and snacks as well.
Fennel is an herb that has a very licorice type of taste. You will see small amounts of fennel used in salads, pasta dishes and
Fenugreek is a spice that is used in things like black bean soup and vegetable soups. When you eat fenugreek, you will get a slight taste of maple, but it is overall a bit of bitter taste.
24. Garlic powder
Garlic powder is produced from the ground-up garlic. Garlic powder is a very easy way to add a lot of garlic flavor to a meal without the work of cutting up garlic. Garlic powder works as a great meat tenderizer as well.
Ginger is a spice that can be used in sweet foods, drinks, and some Asian type cuisine. Ginger is from a ginger root, and there are some health benefits to ginger as well.
26. Italian seasoning
Italian seasoning is a blend of other Italian spices. With Italian seasoning, you can save yourself some time and flavor your bread, sauce, or meatballs with the shake of one spice container as opposed to having six or seven to put in.
Lemongrass is an actual grass that can also be used in teas and other meals. It is a common spice in Asian cuisine, and lemongrass is known to have some health benefits as well.
28. Lemon Pepper
Lemon pepper is actually a mix of two seasonings. Lemon and cracked black pepper are combined to make the lemon pepper. This is a great spice to use on meat, but it does well in pasta dishes as well. If you enjoy fish, using Lemon Pepper on fish is also quite common.
Mace is very similar to nutmeg and will allow you to use it in a variety of foods. Since mace is going to be a mix of the sweet and savory, we recommend using it some cream based dishes. You may find mace to be a good fit for something like a pot pie or a cream of chicken soup.
The closest cousin to Marjoram is going to be oregano. Oregano will be more popular and easier to find that that is why you don’t see too much done with marjoram. However, this makes a good spice for grilled vegetables or roasted vegetables.
Mint is an herb that you can grow that gives a very fresh taste. Many of the things you make with mint will be drinks like a mojito or some tea as well. Mint is an easy herb to grow and has some excellent benefits.
Ground mustard or mustard seed has a mild flavor but does well with a breakfast casserole or dish to bring some great flavor. You will see this used in many quiche recipes.
Nutmeg is a spice that tastes like nuts. People are often looking for ways to use Nutmeg around the holidays as it is popular in sweet and savory foods. Nutmeg is also quite good for you and can act as an antioxidant. Certainly, adding a little to your next dessert won’t hurt!
34. Onion powder
Onion powder is going to be very similar to garlic powder. You will notice that the tastes are quite similar, and this works as a great way to start a dish that needs onion flavor but not necessarily an entire onion included. Look to see onion powder in soups and when tenderizing meat.
35. Onion Salt
Onion salt is a spice very similar to onion powder that you can make at home if you wish. You will mostly see this spice used as a garnish on food that has already been prepared; still, it is one worth keeping in the pantry.
Oregano has a strong and distinct flavor, and when it is used on your pizza or in your meatballs, you will certainly know it. Oregano is easy to find and relatively affordable because of how often it is used.
Oregano is typically an Italian spice, and it can be found in Italian Seasoning as well. Some oregano will be very fine, and other times it will be more like pieces of the leaf. You will want to decide what is best for the time of cooking that you will do.
Parsley is a common herb that will often be ground into a spice. The great thing about parsley is that it is very versatile and can be used in a variety of foods. Parsley is also very good for you. Parsley can be put in food as a ground version or as an herb.
Paprika is most well known for its color. Paprika is a bright red color, and it is made from dried red fruits. Paprika is very common in sauces and marinades, but it is also used on things like deviled eggs and hummus as well.
A peppercorn is the black pepper before it is ground down. With peppercorns, you can make some great marinades. Peppercorns are used with meat and seafood dishes quite often.
Depending on the type of meal, be sure to be careful with the peppercorn; eating a full peppercorn can be a bit eye-opening.
40. Poppy Seeds
Poppy seeds are mostly used as a garnish on things like breads and bagels. A poppy seed has a very strong tasted and is widely used in many countries. Poppy seeds are considered to be an oilseed.
Rosemary is an herb that is closely related to sage and thyme. We love to use rosemary in soups and when making dishes with a white sauce. The rosemary works as an incredible garnish on a roast chicken.
Sage is another herb that is a great choice to add to soups and stews. You can add an entire sage sprig or use the ground version to get the sage flavor in your meal.
43. Sesame seeds
Sesame seeds like poppy seeds are going to be mostly used as a garnish. Sesame seeds can be used on pizza crusts or on breads. You can also use sesame seeds when making Asian style sesame chicken and other similar meals.
Probably the most universal spice on this list, salt is in almost everything we eat. From baking to cooking, you will find that salt is a spice that you can do quite a bit with. Salt can be bad for you if you have too much of it in your diet.
45. Star anise
Star anise is a Chinese spice that you will use for flavoring and for look, but you will not want to eat it. Star anise is not related to anise, and it is going to be very spicy and strong if you ingest it.
46. Szechwan Peppers
Like most other pepper type spices, this one is going to be a bit strong and mostly used to flavor meats. The Szechwan Peppers are used in some Asian cooking.
Turmeric is similar to ginger in that it is a root. The Tumeric is a good choice when making healthier foods as it has some great benefits for lowering pain and inflammation that you may have.
Tarragon is a very common spice in french cooking. If you have had a salad dressing or a salad in a french restaurant, chances are you have been exposed to Tarragon. Tarragon is going to have a sweet taste.
Mint and thyme can be very similar. Thyme is a great choice when trying to flavor a soup or a piece of meat as well. With thyme, you will be able to include it on a roast or a long cooking casserole, and it will release its flavor over time.
Last but certainly not least is vanilla. Vanilla is used mostly for baking, and you won’t need much of it to have a very strong impact on the meal you are making. If you are cooking a dish with chocolate or sweets, the vanilla flavor is excellent to add.
Spice List Printable
Click the image of the spice list to download or print instantly; no sign up necessary. The free printable spice list will help you get your spice rack stocked quickly.
Frequently asked questions about spices
Now that you have a better understanding of all of the spices on the market, it is time to help you answer a few of the most frequently asked questions about spices.
What are the 2 most popular spices in the world?
The two most popular spices in the world are pepper and cumin. In America, it is certainly no surprise that pepper makes this list; the other common thought would have been salt. However, the use of Cumin in other countries shows that this is a very common spice.
Spices can get very expensive, and it has been this way throughout history. Pepper and cumin are some of the more fairly priced spices that are on the market.
Cumin comes in a close second to pepper, and it is a staple in the middle east. The reason behind this is the number of dishes that cumin is used for. The interesting thing about cumin is that it does not pair well with other spices. If you are cooking a dish with cumin, make sure that you are using it as the main spice and use it sparingly as well.
How do I choose spices?
With a minimum of fifty spices, how can you choose which spices you will need to keep in your kitchen? Most people don’t have the luxury of keeping every spice that there is in their spice cabinet.
However, there are some good ways to break down the spices that you need. We can help you narrow this list down just a bit. Here are a few of the best ways to break it down.
Types Of Meals
When you choose spices, make sure that you pick something that will be used based on the type of cooking that you do. For instance, if you have never made a curry and don’t plan to make one, there is really no reason to have a curry powder in your cabinet.
If you never bake? Do you really need cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and cloves? Probably not. Maybe choose one of these, so you have a go-to spice should you need it, but you certainly won’t need all of them.
Analyze the types of meals that you make and fill your cabinet up accordingly. If you are big into Mexican cooking, make sure you have chili powder, cilantro, and other similar spices that are commonly used in Mexican cuisine.
If you only occasionally make Italian cuisine, it may make sense to just keep a mixed Italian seasoning in your cabinet. Be flexible with what you purchase and make sure you have your basics covered, but don’t go overboard buying a large container of spice for just one meal.
Some spices are very similar to others. If you are not cooking high-level meals for food critics, you may not need to keep both Majoran and Oregano in your cabinet. Chances are you can use one of the other, and nobody will ever know.
If you are cooking in a restaurant, then obviously, you may not have that same ability. This is especially important when you look at baking type spices where you really can make more than one spice work in a given dish.
Look for spices that are doubled up, and then try and narrow things down from there.
Consider Longevity for Size
How much do you cook, and how often will you use your spices? You do not want to buy a massive garlic powder container and use it over three or four years. The spice could potentially harden up and not be nearly as flavorful or usable. Buying smaller size spice containers can make a lot of sense.
What Are Ten Spices That Every Kitchen Needs?
Since 50 spices can be quite a few to keep in your kitchen. It makes sense to try and narrow things down a bit. If you are new to cooking and want to give yourself a base to choose from, these are the spices that we would recommend.
- Garlic Powder
- Bay Leaves
- Crushed Red Pepper
Hopefully, this list of the top 50 spices and their uses helps you decide what you need in your kitchen. There are many choices out there, and as your culinary skills start to expand, you will likely need more and more spices.
Depending on the type of cuisine you are going to make, you can need six or seven different spices in just one meal. Getting a good base of ten to twenty spices is a great place to start. Always start with small containers and expand your collection in time.