Beyond-Basic Spice Checklist

Are you an avid cook or baker? For a well-stocked pantry, supplement the items on Real Simple’s Basic Spice List with the following.

  1. Check Allspice

    Though it tastes like a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, this aromatic seasoning is really just a single spice. It complements both sweet dishes (think apple and pumpkin pies) and savory dishes (such as Caribbean jerk chicken).

  2. Check Ancho chilies, ground

    Often described as having a spicy raisin flavor, ancho chilies are sweeter than most other varieties. Commonly used in Mexican cuisine.

  3. Check Anise seeds

    These greenish brown seeds have a licorice flavor. Delicious in both sweet and savory recipes, they’re particularly prevalent in Italian and Southeast Asian cooking.

  4. Check Cajun or blackening seasoning

    Bold and zesty, this blend typically includes chilies, garlic, onion, black pepper, and mustard. Great to rub on meat before pan-searing or grilling.

  5. Check Caraway seeds

    These aromatic seeds lend an earthy, nutty flavor to breads and cakes, as well as to sautéed cabbage. They’re widely used in German cooking.

  6. Check Cardamom, ground

    A relative of ginger with a sweet-and-spicy flavor, this seasoning is often used in Indian dishes as well as spice cakes.

  7. Check Cardamom pods

    The whole form of cardamom. For peak freshness, look for lime green pods. Add whole to stews and curries; remove before serving.

  8. Check Celery salt

    A blend of salt and ground celery seed, this can be sprinkled on pork and is a common ingredient in Bloody Marys.

  9. Check Celery seed

    These slightly bitter seeds are used for pickling and to flavor soups, salads, and meat dishes. Use only a small amount; a little goes a long way.

  10. Check Chinese five-spice powder

    A mixture of ground cinnamon, cloves, fennel, star anise, and Szechuan peppercorns, this powder is a staple in stir-fries. It also wakes up braised dishes and grilled meat.

  11. Check Cinnamon sticks

    Made of the dried bark of a tropical tree, these reddish brown sticks have a smooth, earthy, and sweet flavor. (The redder they are, the stronger they’ll taste.) Steep them in warm beverages like mulled wine or apple cider or use them to season stews and curries.

  12. Check Cloves, whole

    One of the strongest spices, these dried, closed flower buds have a pungent, earthy, and sweet flavor. Use them in mulled cider or press their stems into baked ham.

  13. Check Coriander, ground

    Slightly sweet with a hint of a citrus aroma, this fragrant dried herb complements Mexican and Indian dishes.

  14. Check Coriander, whole

    These light brown aromatic seeds are from the leafy coriander plant (also known as cilantro). They are often used in Indian dishes and some Scandinavian baked goods.

  15. Check Cumin seeds

    Mellow and slightly nutty, these are used in curries, stews, and Middle Eastern dishes.

  16. Check Fennel seeds

    Slightly sweeter and milder than anise seeds, these have a delicate licorice flavor that works nicely in meat, fish, and pasta dishes.

  17. Check Fenugreek seeds

    Just a pinch of these spicy, slightly bitter seeds will enliven Indian curries and chutneys as well as Middle Eastern dishes.

  18. Check Fleur de sel

    This delicate French salt is harvested from the sea. Slightly sweet, it is best used as a “finishing salt” on cooked vegetables and meat to boost their flavor just before serving.

  19. Check Garam masala

    A warm spice blend typically composed of black pepper, cardamom, cumin, nutmeg, and other seasonings, this is an essential ingredient in Indian cuisine.

  20. Check Herbes de Provence

    A classic French mixture of dried herbs—commonly thyme, lavender, rosemary, and fennel—that is nice to use in sauces and soups, as well as on grilled poultry and meat.

  21. Check Juniper berries

    Used to make gin, these berries are traditionally paired with game dishes.

  22. Check Lemongrass, dried

    A must-have herb for Thai cooking, this long, reedlike spice has a sour-lemon flavor and aroma.

  23. Check Mustard powder

    Made from finely ground mustard seeds, this has a bold flavor that jazzes up sauces, seafood, poultry, and beef.

  24. Check Mustard seeds

    Of the two primary varieties of mustard seeds, yellow is the larger and less pungent. It’s a common addition to pickling brines. The brown variety, a staple in Indian cooking, can be hotter and slightly bitter.

  25. Check Nutmeg, whole

    Its sweet, spicy flavor is tasty in savory and sweet dishes alike. Sold whole, it should be grated just before using. If you don’t have a nutmeg grater, use the smallest holes of a box grater.

  26. Check Poppy seeds

    These blue-gray seeds from the poppy plant have a nutty flavor that complements breads and cakes. Buy only small amounts and store them in the freezer: Because of their high oil content, the seeds can quickly become rancid.

  27. Check Poultry seasoning

    A mix of herbs and spices—including sage, rosemary, marjoram, thyme, and pepper—this blend is used for seasoning poultry and stuffing.

  28. Check Saffron

    Made from the stigmas of a member of the crocus family, saffron has a rich, semisweet flavor that perfumes rice dishes like paella and seafood stews like bouillabaisse. Opt for saffron threads over the powdered form; they are much more flavorful and will last longer.

  29. Check Seafood seasoning

    This blend can include a variety of spices, including cayenne, paprika, celery seeds, and mustard. Great for adding zest to all types of fish.

  30. Check Smoked paprika

    Made from sweet red pepper pods that have been dried and smoked, this Spanish favorite, often labeled pimentón, has a rich flavor and mild heat. Delicious on poultry, seafood, soups, and stews.

  31. Check Star anise

    Shaped like a star, this potent brown pod has a more intense licorice flavor than regular anise, which comes from a different plant altogether. Ground, it’s a main ingredient in Chinese five-spice powder. Use it to season poultry and pork.

  32. Check Szechuan peppercorns

    Milder than black peppercorns, these aren’t true peppercorns but the dried berries of a shrub. They are typically used in Asian dishes and are a common ingredient in Chinese five-spice powder.

  33. Check Turmeric, ground

    This intensely yellow spice gives many foods their bright color (think mustard). It’s a common addition to Indian and Thai dishes.

  34. Check Vanilla beans

    These handpicked pods are really the fruit of a variety of white orchid. The best beans are dark, plump, and smooth (not dry). The Bourbon-Madagascar variety is the most popular. Scrape out the seeds for baking or use the whole bean to infuse sugar, vodka, and more. Store in the freezer for up to a year and a half.

  35. Check Wasabi powder

    A fiery powder ground from a Japanese root, this has a horseradish-like flavor. Mix it with a little water to make wasabi paste.

  36. Check White peppercorns

    These come from black peppercorns that have been ripened and had their skin removed. Accordingly, they are less pungent and milder than the black variety. Grind them into egg dishes and light-colored sauces where black pepper specks would be undesirable.