Tuesday, December 29, 2020
The Culinary Cook Condiments Comprehensive Guide on Food Spices and Flavorings

Comprehensive Guide on Food Spices and Flavorings


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Guide to Herbs, Spices, and Flavorings for Food and Cooking

Becoming a good cook involves having a wide range of flexibility when it comes to flavoring your food. The balance of herbs, spices, and flavors can make all the difference in the world when wanting to bring out the natural flavors or enhance the flavors of ingredients.

While the topic of flavors and flavor profiles is quite deep, I will start with a comprehensive guide on the types of herbs and spices and how they can enhance your food.

Table of Contents

Tools and Resources

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Setting up a spice and herb headquarters in the kitchen should be a top priority for the serious chef. Here you will find some resources and tools to help make that build a bit easier. These are recommendations based on my experience as a professional cook. If you use our links, the site earns a commission for any purchases made at no cost to you. It goes a long way to help put out more content. Whether you choose to use our links or not, thank you for your support.

mortar and pestle
A mortar and pestle

Spice and Herb Storage

When looking for storage for your spices, it will serve you best to choose a system that is easy to access, easy to clean, and will not impart or contaminate flavors. In a professional kitchen, we do not use glass and instead opt for stainless steel. This can be pricey, so for home cooks, I recommend glass containers for a good low-cost option. To check it out on Amazon, click here.

Mortar and Pestle

A mortar and pestle is an important tool to have in your kitchen as it releases and blends intense flavor to both dry and fresh herbs and spices. A good quality mortar and pestle is one that is made of a material that will not crack or chip, will not impart bad flavors, and is easy to clean with minimal crevices for food and bacteria to settle into. To check out my recommendation on Amazon, click here.

Must-Own Books

The book that my first chef gave to me to study during my off-times was The Flavor Bible. It remains one of the few books I crack open on a regular basis. Definitely pick up a hardcover copy as you will want this one to last years. Click here to see it on Amazon.

How to Store Spices and Herbs

Spices and herbs are delicate and most of them can lose their flavor quickly if not stored properly. The maximum flavor of dried spices and herbs can last only a few months. Fresh herbs, days. Before rushing out to buy $100 worth of spices, it is important to understand how long they can last. The worst thing you can do is have flavorless spices and herbs that do nothing because they have expired.

Shelf Life and Storing Dry Herbs and Spices

The best environment to store your herbs and spices is in a dry, cool place. This is typically in a cupboard or drawer. If you are using this type, then a transparent airtight storage container will work well. If you are storing your herbs exposed to light, you will want an airtight opaque container.

Always avoid light and heat as both of these will destroy the delicate flavors. Stored properly, dried spices and herbs can last two to three months before their flavors dissipate. It is important to buy only the spices and herbs you can use in this time frame when purchasing.

Shelf Life and Storing Fresh Herbs

Fresh herbs have a limited shelf life and can go bad relatively quickly in about four to five days. Many of the top-end restaurants use a herb garden for this purpose if they have space and expertise.

Refrigerate fresh herbs at 2°C – 4°C (34°F – 40°F). Large bouquets can be stored upright, their leaves covered with plastic or paper towel and their stems submerged in water. Smaller bunches can be wrapped in moist paper towel.

Different Types of Herbs

Basil is considered one of the great culinary herbs. It is available in a variety of flavors but the most common is sweet basil. Sweet basil has light green, tender leaves and small white flowers. Its flavor is strong, warm and a bit peppery. There is a hint of cloves. When purchasing fresh basil, look for bright green leaves and avoid flower buds and wilted or rusted colored leaves. Dried sweet basil is available, but is a weaker flavor

fresh green basil
Green Basil

Opal Basil is named for its vivid purple color. It has a tougher, crinkled leaf and a medium-strong flavor. Opal basil may be substituted for sweet basil in cooking. It works well in garnishing.

Bay which is also known as sweet laurel, is a tree from Asia that produces tough, glossy leaves with a sweet balsamic aroma and peppery flavor. Bay leaves were worn in crowns in ancient Rome and symbolize wisdom and glory. Bay leaves are essential in French cooking and are part of the bouquet garni

Chervil is also known as sweet cicely, is native to Russia and the Middle East. Its lacy, fernlike leaves are similar to parsley and can be used as a garnish. Chervil has a delicate flavor similar to parsley but with a distinctive aroma of anise. Used in French cooking as one of the herbs in fines herbes.

Chives are perhaps the most delicate and sophisticated member of the onion family. Their hollow, thing grass-green stems grow in a bush and produce round, pale purpose flowers which can be used as a garnish. Chives may be purchased dried, quick-frozen, or fresh. They have a mild onion flavor and bright green color. Chives complement eggs, poultry, potatoes, fish and shellfish. They should not be cooked for long periods at high temperature as the flavor can break down. Chives make an excellent garnish when snipped with scissors or carefully chopped.

fresh chives
Chives blooming

Garlic Chives, also known as Chinese chives, actually belong to another plant species. They have flat stems and a mild garlic flavor. They may be used in place of regular chives if their garlic flavor is desired.

Cilantro is the green leafy portion of the plant that yields seeds known as coriander. The flavor of the two portions of this plant are very different and cannot be substituted for each other.

Curry Leaves are the distinctively flavored leaves of a small tree that grows wild in the Himalayan foothills, southern India, and Sri Lanka. They look like small shiny bay leaves and have a strong currylike fragrance and a citrus-curry flavor. Often added to food whole, then removed before serving, they can also be minced or finely chopped for marinades and sauces. Choose fresh bright green leaves if possible, or frozen leaves. Not to be confused with curry powder.

brand of curry leaves
Curry leaves

Dill is a member of the parsley family and has tiny, aromatic, yellow flowers and feathery, delicate blue-green leaves. The leaves taste like parsley, but sharper with a hint of anise. Dill seeds are flat oval and brown, with a bitter flavor similar to caraway. Both the seeds and the leaves of the dill plant are used in cooking. Dill is commonly used in Scandinavian and Central European cuisines, especially fish and potato dishes. Both the leaves and seeds are used in pickling. Dill leaves are available fresh or dried but lose their aroma and flavor during cooking. Use only after the dish is complete.

Epazote, also known as wormseed or stinkweed, grows wild throughout the Americas. It has a strong aroma similar to kerosene and a wild flavor. Fresh epazote is used in salads as a flavoring in Mexican and Southwestern cuisines. It is typically cooked with beans to reduce the gaseousness.

Lavender is an evergreen with thin leaves and tall stems bearing spikes of tiny purple flowers. Although lavender is known primarily for its aroma, which is widely used in perfumes, soaps, and cosmetics, the flowers are also used as a flavoring. These flowers have a sweet, lemony flavor and can be crystallized and used as a garnish.

fresh lavender
Lavender fields

Lemon Grass also is known as citronella grass, is a tropical grass with the strong aroma and taste of lemon. It is similar to scallions in appearance but with a woody texture. Only the lower base and white leaf stalks are used. Used extensively in Indonesian and Asian cuisines.

Lime Leaves from a species of thorny lime treess are used much like bay leaves to flavor soups and stews in Thai and Asian suicines. These small, dark green leaves have a bright citrus floral aroma. Fragrant lime leaves are available fresh in North American now that these trees are cultivated domestically.

Lovage has tall stalks and large, dark green celery-like leaves. The leaves, stalks, and seeds have a strong celery flavor.

Marjoram also is known as sweet marjoram, is a flowering herb native to the Mediterranean and used since ancient times. Its flavor is similar to thyme but sweeter. It has a much stronger aroma. Marjoram is now used in many European cuisines. Although it is available fresh,  it is one of the few herbs whose flavor increases when dried. Wild marjoram is more commonly known as oregano.

Minis from a large family of herbs and includes many species and flavors. Spearmint is the most common garden and commercial variety. It has soft, bright green leaves and a tart aroma and flavor. Mint does not blend well with other herbs, so its use is confined to specific dishes. Peppermint has thin, stiff, pointed leaves and a sharper menthol flavor and aroma. Fresh peppermint is used less often in cooking or as a garnish than spearmint. But peppermint oil is a common flavor in sweets and candies and in alcoholic beverages.

blue beverage mint
Tropical beverage with mint garnish

Oregano also is known as wild marjoram, is a pungent, peppery herb used in Mediterranean cuisines, particularly Greek and Italian, as well as in Mexican cuisine. It is a classic complement to tomatoes. Oregano’s thin, woody stalks bear clumps of tiny, dark green leaves, which are available dried and crushed.

Parsley is probably the best known and most widely used herb in the world. It grows in almost all climates and is available in many varieties, all of which are rich in vitamins and minerals. The most common type in North American and Northern Europe is curly parsley. It has small curly leaves and bright green color. Its flavor is tangy and clean. Other cuisines use a variety sometimes known as Italian parsley, which has flat leaves, a darker color, and coarser flavor. Curly parsley is used as a garnish. Both can be used in any type of food except sweets. Parsley stems have a stronger flavor than the leaves and are part of the bouquet garni.

fresh parsley herb
Fresh parsley

Rosemary is an evergreen bush that grows wild in warm, dry climates worldwide. It has stiff, needle-like leaves. Some varieties have pale blue flowers. It is highly aromatic with a slight odor of camphor or pine. Rosemary is best used fresh. When dried, it loses flavor and its leaves become very hard and unpleasant to chew. Whole rosemary stems may be added to a dish such as a stew and then removed. It can also be added to a bouquet garni. Rosemary works very well with grilled and roasted meats, especially lamb.

Sage was used as a medicine for centuries before it entered the kitchen as a culinary herb. Culinary sage has narrow, fuzzy, grey-green leaves and blue flowers. Its flavor is strong and balsamic, with notes of camphor. Sage is used in poultry dishes, with fatty meats or brewed as a beverage. Sage’s strong flavor does not blend well with other herbs. It dries well and is available in whole or chopped leaves.

Savory also is known as summer savory, has been used since ancient times. Its leaves are small and narrow and have a sharp, bitter flavor. Similar to thyme. It dries well and is used in bean dishes, sausages, and herb mixtures.

Tarragon is one of the great culinary herbs and is native to Siberia. It is a bushy plant with long, narrow, dark green leaves and tiny grey flowers. Tarragon goes very well with fish and tomatoes and is essential in many classic French dishes such as bearnaise sauce and fine herb blends. Its flavor is strong and diffuses quickly through foods. It is available dry, but drying may cause haylike flavors to develop.

Different Types of Spices

Aleppo pepper is made from bright red chiles grown in Turkey and northern Syria. The sun-dried Aleppo chiles are seeded and crushed, then used as a condiment. It has a sharp but sweet fruity flavor with only a mild heat (15,000 Scoville units). Although a member of the capsicum family, Aleppo pepper is used more like ground peppercorns. It is also known as Halaby pepper, it adds authentic Mediterranean flavor and fragrance to food.

Allspice is also known as Jamaican pepper. It is the dry berry of a tree that flourishes in Jamaica and one of the few spices still grown exclusively in the New World. Allspice is available whole as berries that look like large, rough, brown peppercorns, or ground. Ground allspice is not a mixture of spices, although it can taste like it is a blend of spices. Allspice is used throughout the world, in everything from cakes to curries.

Anise is native to the eastern Mediterranean, where it was widely used in ancient civilizations. Today it is grown commercially in warm climates throughout India, North Africa, and southern Europe. The tiny, grey-green egg-shaped seeds have a distinctively strong, sweet flavor very similar to licorice and fennel. When anise seeds turn brown they are stale and should be discarded. Anise is used in pastries as well as fish, shellfish and vegetable dishes.

Star Anise is also known as Chinese anise. It is the dried, star-shaped fruit of a Chinese magnolia tree. Although botanically unrelated, its flavor is similar to anise but more bitter and pungent. It is an essential flavor in many Asian dishes and is one of the spices in Chinese five-spice powder.

star anise
Star anise

Annatto Seeds are the small, brick-red triangular seeds of a shrub from Southern America and the Caribbean. Annatto seeds add a mild, peppery flavor to rice, fish, and shellfish. They are crushed to make Mexican achiote paste. Because they impart a bright yellow-orange color to foods, annatto seeds are commonly used as a natural food coloring, especially for cheeses.

Asafetida (as-sah-FEH-teh-dah) is a pale brown resin made from the sap of a giant fennel-like plant native to India and Iran. Also known as devil’s dung, it has a garlicky flavor and a strong unpleasant fetid aroma. This aroma does not transfer to food being flavored, however. Available powdered or in lump form, it is used very sparingly as a flavoring in Indian and Middle-Eastern cuisines.

Capers come from a small bush that grows wild throughout the Mediterranean basin. Its unopened flower buds have been pickled and used in a condiment for thousands of years. Fresh capers are not used, as the sharp salty-sour flavor develops only after during in white vinegar. The finest capers are the smallest, known as nonpareils, which are produced in France’s Provence region. Capers are used in a variety of sauces (tartare, remoulade) and are excellent with fish and game. Capers will keep for long periods if moistened by their pickling liquid. Do not add to substitute vinegar, as this causes the capers to spoil.

Caraway is perhaps the world’s oldest spice. Its use has been traced to the Stone Age, and seeds have been found in ancient Egyptian tombs. The caraway plant grows wild in Europe and temperate regions of Asia. It produces a small, crescent-shaped brown seed with the peppery flavor of rye. Seeds may be purchased whole or ground.

Cardamom is one of the most expensive spices, second to only saffron in cost. Its seeds are encased in light green pods. Cardamom is highly aromatic. Its flavor, lemony, with notes of camphor, is quite strong and is used in both sweet and savory dishes. Cardamom is widely used in Indian and Middle-Eastern cuisines, where it is also used to flavor coffee. Scandinavians use cardamom to flavor bread and pastries. Ground cardamom loses its flavor rapidly and is easily adulterated, so its best to purchase whole seeds and grind your own as needed.

Chiles, including paprika, chile pepper, bell peppers, and cayenne are members of the capsicum family. Although cultivated for thousands of years in the West Indies and Americas, capsicum peppers were unknown in the Old World prior to Spanish explorations during the 15th century. Capsicum peppers come in all shapes and sizes with a wide range of flavors. From sweet to extremely hot. Some capsicums are used as a vegetable while others are dried, ground and used as a spice.

Cayenne which can sometimes be labeled simply as “red pepper”, is ground from a blend of several particularly hot and types of red chile peppers. Its flavor is extremely hot and pungent.

Paprika is also known as Hungarian pepper, is a bright orange-red colored powder ground from particular varieties of peppers. The flavors range from sweet to pungent. The aroma is distinctive and strong. It is essential to many Spanish and eastern European dishes. Mild paprika is meant to be used in generous quantities and may be sprinkled on prepared foods as a garnish.

Chilli Powders are made from a variety of dried chile peppers, ranging from sweet to extremely hot. The finest pure chili powders from dried chiles that are simply roasted, ground and sieved. Commercial chili powder, an American invention, is actually a combination of spices. Typically oregano, cumin, garlic, and others.

Crushed Chilies is also known as chili flakes, are blended from dried, coarsely crushed chiles.

spice blends chile salts

Cinnamon and its cousin cassia are among the oldest known spices. It has been recorded in China as early as 2500 BC. China still produced most of these products. Both cinnamon and cassia come from the bark of small evergreen trees, peeled from branches in thin layers and dried in the sun. High-quality cinnamon should be pale brown and thing, rolle dup like paper into sticks known as quills. Cassia is coarser and has a stronger, lesss subtle flavor than cinnamon. Cassia is cheaper than true cinnamon. Cinnamon is usually purchased ground because it is difficult to grind. Cinnamon sticks are used when long cooking times can be allowed in order to extract the flavor. Cinnamon flavor is most commonly associated with pastries and sweets but has great affinity for lamb and spicy dishes. Most of what is sold in stores are actually cassia as there is no labeling laws requiring companies to disclose.

cinnamon stick bark
Cinnamon stick

Cloves are the unopened buds of evergreen trees that flourish in muggy tropical regions. When dried, cloves have hard, sharp prongs that can be used to push into other foods like onion, in order to to provide flavor. Cloves are extremely pungent, with a sweet astringent aroma. A small amount provides a great deal of flavor. Cloves are used in desserts and meat dishes.

Coriander seeds come from the cilantro plant. They are round and beige, with a distinctively sweet, spicy flavor and strong aroma. Unlike many other types of plants, coriander and cilantro leaves do not carry the same flavor and aroma.

Cumin is the seed of a small delicate plant of the parsley family that grows in North Africa and the Middle East. The small seeds are available whole or ground and look but are distinct from caraway seeds. Cumin has a powerful earthy flavor and tends to dominate dishes it is used in.

Fennel is a perennial plant with feathery leaves and tiny flowers long cultivated in India and China as medicine and cure for witchcraft (wow!). Its seeds are greenish-brown with prominent ridges and short, hairlike fibers. Their taste and aroma are similar to anise, though not as sweet. Whole seeds are commonly used in Italian stews and sausages. The same plant produces a bulbous stalk used as a vegetable.

Fenugreek is grown in Mediterranean countries since ancient times. It is a small, beanlike plant with a tiny flower. The seeds are available whole or ground, are pebble-shaped and transfer their pale orange color to the foods they cook with. The flavor is bittersweet, like burnt sugar. It has a bitter aftertaste. It is a staple in Indian cuisines, especially curries and chutney.

File Powder is the dried ground leaf of the sassafras plant. Long used by Choctaw Native Americans, it is now most commonly used as a thickener and flavoring in Cajun and Creole cuisines.

Galangal is the rhizome of a plant native to India and Southeast Asia. The rhizome has reddish skin, orange or whitish flesh and a peppery, gingerlike flavor a piney aroma. Also known as galanga root, Thai ginger, and Laos ginger, it is peeled and crushed for use in Thai and Indonesian cuisines.

Grains of Paradise are the seeds of a perennial reedlike plant indigenous to the West African coast. Related to cardamom, grains of paradise has a spicy, warm and slightly bitter flavor. Similar to peppercorns. In fact, grains of paradise were traditionally used in place of black pepper and are also known as Guinea pepper or melegueta pepper. Now enjoying a popularity increase, they are ground and primarily used in West African and Maghreb dishes.

Ginger is a well-known spice obtained from the root of a tall, flowering tropical plant. Fresh ginger root is known as a “hand” because it looks vaguely like a group of knobby fingers. It has greyish-tan skin and a pale yellow and fibrous flesh. Fresh ginger should be plump and firm with smooth skin. Its should be kept for about a month under refrigeration. Its flavor is fiery but sweet, with notes of lemon and rosemary. Fresh ginger is widely available and is used in Indian and Asian cuisines. It has a special affinity for chicken, beef, and curries. Ginger is also available peeled and pickled in vinegar or candied in vinegar.

Horseradish is the large off-white taproot of a hardy perennial that flourishes in cool climates. Fresh roots should be firm and plump. The roots will not have the horseradish aroma unless cut or bruised. The outer skin and inner core of a fresh horseradish root can have an unpleasant flavor and should be discarded. Typically used in central European and Russian cuisines, especially as a condiment to roasted meats and fish. Horseradish is usually served grated, creamed into a sauce or as a compound butter or mustard.

Juniper is an evergreen bush grown throughout the northern hemisphere. It produces round purple berries with a sweet flavor similar to pine. Juniper berries are used for flavoring gin and other alcoholic beverages. They are crushed and used in game dishes, especially venison and wild boar.

Mustard Seeds are available in black, brown, and yellow varieties. They come from three different plants in the cabbage family. Mustard seeds are small hard spheres with a bitter flavor. The seeds have no aroma, but their flavor is sharp and fiery hot. Yellow seeds have the mildest and black seeds the strongest flavor. All are sold whole and can be crushed for cooking. Mustard seeds are a standard component of pickling spice and are processed and blended for prepared mustards. Ground or dry mustard is a yellow powder made from a blend of ground seeds, wheat flour, and turmeric.

Nutmeg and mace come from the yellow plumlike fruit of a large tropical evergreen. These fruits are dried and opened to reveal the seed known as nutmeg. The seed is surrounded by a bright red lacy coating or aril. The aril is the spice mace. Whole nutmegs are oval and look like it is made of smooth wood. The flavor and aroma of nutmeg are strong and sweet, and a small quantity provides a great deal of flavor. Nutmeg should be grated directly into a dish as needed. After it is grated, it loses flavor quite rapidly.

Mace is an expensive spice, with a flavor that is similar to nutmeg but more refined. It is almost always purchased ground and retains its flavor much longer than other ground spices.

Peppercorns are the berries of a vine plant native to tropical Asia. Peppercorns should not be confused with the chile peppers. Peppercorns vary in size, color, pungency, and flavor. Many of these differences are the result of variations in climate and growing conditions. Good-quality pepper is expensive and should be bought whole and ground fresh in a peppermill as needed. Whole peppercorns will last indefinitely if kept dry.

Black and White Peppercorns are produced from the same plant but are picked and processed differently. For black peppercorns, the berries are picked when green and dried in the sun. Black pepper has a warm, pungent flavor and aroma. Tellicherry peppercorns from the southwest coast of India are considered the finest black peppercorns in the world. They are priced quite high.

White Peppercorns are allowed to ripen until they turn red. The ripened berries are allowed to ferment, then the outer layer of skin is washed off. White pepper today is produced by mechanically removing the outer skin from black peppercorns. This is not a true white pepper, and the resulting product should be labeled “decorticated”. White pepper has less aroma than black pepper but is useful in white sauces or where the appearance of black specks is undesirable.

Green Peppercorns are unripened berries that are either freeze-dried or pickled in brine or vinegar. Pickled green peppercorns are soft, with a fresh sour flavor similar to capers. They are excellent in spiced butter or sauces.

Pink Peppercorns are actually the berries of a South American tree, not a vine pepper plant. Pink peppercorns are available dried or pickled in vinegar. Although attractive, their flavor is bitter and pinelike, with less spiciness than true pepper. Pink peppercorns are no longer available in some areas due to reported toxic effects.

Szechuan Pepper is the dried red berries of the prickly ash tree native to China. Also known as anise pepper and Chinese pepper, the berries have an extremely hot, peppery, spicy flavor with citrus overtones and are used in Chinese cuisines and as part of Chinese five-spice powder.

Poppy Seeds are the ripened seeds of the opium poppy, which flourishes in the Middle East and India. When ripened, the seeds do not contain any of the medicinal alkaloids. The tiny blue-grey seeds are round and hard with a sweet, nutty flavor. Poppy seeds are used in pastries and bread.

Saffron comes from the dried stigmas of the saffron crocus. Each flower bears only three threadlike stigmas, and each must be picked by hand. It takes about 250,000 flowers to produce one pound of saffron, making it the most expensive spice in the world. Beware of bargains as there is no such thing as cheap saffron. A tiny pinch is enough to color and flavor a large quantity of food. Good saffron should be a brilliant orange color, not yellow, with a strong aroma and a bitter, honeylike taste. Saffron produces a yellow dye that diffuses through any warm liquid. Valencia or Spanish saffron is considered the finest. It is commonly used with fish and rice dishes such as paella and risotto. When using saffron threads, first crush then gently, then soak them in some hot liquid from the recipe. Powdered saffron is less expensive but loses flavor quickly.

Sesame Seeds are also known as benne seeds and are native to India. They are small, flat ovals with a creamy white color. Their taste is nutty and earthy with a pronounced aroma when roasted or ground into a paste (tahini). Sesame seeds are the source of sesame oil, which has a mild, nutty flavor and does not go rancid easily. Sesame seeds are roasted and used as a garnish for bread and meat dishes and are popular in Indian and Asian cuisines.

Tamarind is also known as Indian date and is the brown bean-shaped pod of the tamarind tree. The tree is native to Africa. Although naturally sweet, tamarind also contains 12% tartaric acid which makes it extremely tart. It is commonly used in Indian curries and Mediterranean cooking as a souring agent. In the West Indies, it is used in fruit drinks. Tamarind is sold as a concentrate or in sticky blocks of crushed pods, pulp and seeds, which should be soaked in warm water for five minutes and put through a sieve. Tamarind has a high pectin content and is useful in chutney and jam and is often included in barbecue sauces and marinades. It is a key ingredient in Worcestershire sauce.

Turmeric, also known as Indian saffron, is produced from the roots of a flowering tropical plant related to ginger. Unlike ginger, fresh turmeric is not used in cooking. It is only available dried and usually ground. Turmeric is renowned for its vibrant yellow color and is used as a food coloring and dye. Turmeric’s flavor is distinctive and strong. It should not be substituted for saffron. Turmeric is a traditional ingredient in Indian curries.

Wasabi is a pale green root similar, but unrelated to, horseradish. It has a strong aroma and a sharp, cleansing flavor with herbal overtones that is a bit hotter than horseradish. Fresh wasabi is rarely found outside Japan, but tins of powder and tubes of paste are readily available. It is commonly served with sushi and sashimi and can be used to add a spicy Asian flavor to dishes.

Herb and Spice Blends

Spice blends are quite common as each individual country and cuisine have developed their own particular blend. Many of these blends are available pre-made.

Chinese Five Spice Powder is made from equal parts (1:1) grounded

  • Szechuan Pepper
  • Star Anise
  • Cloves
  • Cinnamon
  • Fennel Seeds

This blend is widely used in Chinese and in some Vietnamese foods and is great in pork dishes.

Curry Powder is an invention by European Britons returning from colonial India. It was meant to be the complete spicing for a curry dish. There are many different variations of curry powder depending on style (Bombay/Chinese style, Madras Style, etc). Typical ingredients in a curry powder

  • Black pepper
  • Cinnamon
  • Cloves
  • Coriander
  • Cumin
  • Ginger
  • Mace
  • Tumeric

Curry pastes are widely available and are made with oil, onions, garlic, and other flavorings.

curry spice blends
Curry spice blends

Fine Herbs are a combination of

  • Parsley
  • Tarragon
  • Chervil
  • Chives

It is commonly used in French cuisine. The mixture is available dried, or you can create your own from fresh ingredients

Herbs de Provence is a blend of dried herbs commonly ground and used in southern France. The blend includes

  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • Bay Leaf
  • Basil
  • Fennel Seeds
  • Savory
  • Lavender

This herb blend is used with grilled or roasted meat, fish or chicken. It is used in pizza and even in steamed rice and yeast bread.

Italian Seasoning Blend is a commercially prepared mixture of dried

  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Sage
  • Marjoram
  • Thyme
  • Savory

Jamaican Jerk Seasoning comes in powdered or wet mixture and is used in the Caribbean island from a combination of spices that include

  • Thyme
  • All Spice
  • Cinnamon
  • Cloves
  • Ginger
  • Onion
  • Garlic

Chicken and pork are rubbed or marinated using this blend

Masala is a flavorful, aromatic blend of roasted and ground spices used in Indian cuisines. A garam masala is a masala made with hot spices. A dry garam masala usually contains

  • Peppercorns
  • Cardamom
  • Cinnamon
  • Cloves
  • Coriander
  • Nutmeg
  • Tumeric
  • Bay Leaves
  • Fennel Seeds

It is typically added toward the end of cooking or sprinkled on just before serving. A web garam masala is made by adding coconut milk, oil or sometimes tamarind water to dry garam masala.

Pickling Spice as with other blends can vary by manufacturer. Most pickling spice blends are based on black peppercorns and red chilies with some or all of the following added

  • Allspice
  • Cloves
  • Ginger
  • Mustard Seeds
  • Coriander Seeds
  • Bay Leaves
  • Dill

These blends are useful in making cucumber or vegetable pickles.

Quatre-epices literally means “four spices” in French. It is a peppery mixture of peppercorns with lesser amounts of

  • Nutmeg
  • Cloves
  • Dried Ginger

Sometimes cinnamon or allspice is added. Quatre-espices is used in charcuterie and long-simmered stews.

Ras el Hanout (rass al ha-noot) is a common Moroccan spice blend varying greatly from supplier to supplier. It typically contains 20 or more spices, such as

  • Tumeric
  • Cinnamon
  • Cloves
  • Grains of Paradise
  • Coriander
  • Cumin
  • Cardamom
  • Peppercorns
  • Dried Chiles
  • Dried Flower Petals

It is sold whole and ground.

Seasoned Salts are commercially blended products containing salt and one or more natural flavoring ingredients such as garlic, spices or celery seeds, and MSG.

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The Culinary Cook

Professional Chef & Blogger

With 15 years of experience working in restaurants, resorts, and a fully Red Seal Certified chef, The Culinary Cook shares tips, tricks, and recipes for everyone to enjoy.

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