One of the easiest ways to flavor your food is with spices. (The other, more difficult way is through cooking techniques.) Herbs and spices add a lot of flair and interest to a dish, both taste-wise and visually. It’s good to have several dried spices on hand so that you can easily create a delicious and healthy dish. A little spice makes the difference between a bland, ho-hum soup and a wow! soup — or anything else you’re making!
Next summer, you might consider growing some of these herbs in pots in your kitchen or in your garden so you can also have the fresh varieties on hand (some are even perennials that you can keep in the winter, too, or outdoors if you live in a milder climate). They don’t last long if they’re purchased in little boxes and kept in the fridge, but growing live they’re cheap and you cut them as you need them. I already have two basil plants living in my kitchen. (Basil is an annual so I have to buy new ones.) I also have oregano, thyme, sage, chives, and a couple other herbs hanging out on my front walk. They’re in the “dormant” stage right now, but come spring they’ll pop back up again.
Which spices should you never be without?
Top 10 Spices to Have in Your Pantry
1) Onion powder/onion salt/minced onions
I cannot cook without onion. I love onion. My family, however, does not. Having onion powder or onion salt on hand means I can cook with the flavor without any of the offensive onion chunks in the final dish. Onion lends such a great flavor to nearly any savory dish, and the dried versions are easy to keep on hand. Redmond Real Salt makes their own healthy onion salt! And sometimes I make my own onion powder (and sometimes I buy it from Amish stores). I do use real onions though when I can get away with it!
2) Garlic powder/garlic salt
Garlic is another really common flavor, especially in Italian and Mexican cuisine (which I love). It also goes great in many soups and casseroles. Keep it on hand to add to anything bland or boring. I even use onion and/or garlic powder to mix with grass-fed beef and a box of mac’n’cheese for a super quick dinner when I have no time, and it tastes great. Redmond Real Salt also makes healthy garlic salt!
I toss this in pretty much every Italian dish I make. It’s wonderful and flavorful. I also keep a plant on the window during the summer months so I can use fresh basil. This herb alone can make an Italian dish even if you don’t have much else around!
Believe it or not, this herb is more often used in Mexican dishes than Italian, although it is used in both. It’s a bit spicy and aromatic and great for both Mexican and Italian. I use it in Mexican rice, and it also goes great on pizza.
This is a really all-purpose spice. I put it in cream soups, scalloped potatoes, on pork chops, with stuffing, in salad dressing, and lots more. It goes with just about anything, either by itself or with a few other herbs. It’s easy to grow fresh and is a perennial, so it keeps on giving!
This is a pretty basic herb but it lends such a nice, simple flavor to soups. I toss it in chicken soups especially when I need some extra flavor and want to keep it easy. It also helps mimic “the package” flavor without adding any junk.
7) Pepper/red pepper
Who doesn’t like a little heat here and there? Both black and red pepper are great for adding a bit of heat. If you aren’t much for spicy, a little goes a long way. A small amount of cayenne pepper doesn’t add much heat, but it does add a nice depth of flavor — so keep it on hand anyway. Cayenne pepper can also be used medicinally to help clear sinuses in case of a cold.
Ginger is one of my favorites. It can be added to any Asian-inspired meals, stir-fries, and so on. It can also be made into wonderful teas and sauces and has many medicinal uses (stomach, respiratory, headache, general pain) and is safe for all ages. We always have a big chunk of fresh ginger around!
This is one of my favorites, especially in the winter. It goes into homemade sausage, and it pairs well with any chicken dish. It adds a lot to a roast chicken, or stuffing (one of my favorites). We add it to sausage gravy for extra flavor. If you’re into comfort foods, keep some sage on hand.
10) Sea Salt
A kitchen wouldn’t be complete without sea salt! Get some high-quality salt, like Real Salt (which I use exclusively in my kitchen…and no, they are not paying me to say that). Sea salt adds both trace nutrients and a lot of flavor to food, making all of the other flavors “pop.” Contrary to popular belief, real sea salt (but not heavily processed table salt) is actually good for you!
What herbs and spices do you have in your pantry?