Transform Your Cooking with these spices, herbs and blends
Feel like your cooking’s become dull?
Spices, herbs and blends can rock your recipes and boost your confidence in the kitchen. You can inject zing and pizzazz into those family reunions, backyard BBQ parties, menus, and everyone in between.
And not only those:
Both herbs and spices spunk a ton of health benefits into your food servings too. You can use select herbs and spices to replace salt or substitute other seasoning ingredients.
We know of spices, herbs and blends can be used to lower blood sugar and blood pressure as well—and now you will too.
And if you are like us, you may have at least half a dozen scooped jars of essential herbs and spices tucked ever so neatly in that spices cupboard.
Often though, you are not sure how best to use some spices with your recipes, so a bunch of those may be wasting away.
Not to worry. Swank out your cooking gear we are about to unleash herbs, spices and seasoning goodness to help spice up your recipes like the passionate and dependably awesome cook you truly are.
What’s the Difference Between Herbs and Spices?
Here’s a question we get a lot at My Delicious Homemade.
And here’s our answer:
“Herbs” refers to the leaves (and the greener parts of the whole plant), but spices are almost always dried and ground parts; think roots, seeds, and bark.
And if you are looking into herbs and spices to grow in your herbs garden, you are already ahead:
Freshly ground spices and herbs are tastier and add more flavors to your recipes than dried ones—with the exception of indomitable dried oregano.
Often though, spices (dried or not) score higher for more powerful, versatile and richer flavors, as well as stronger aromas compared to most herbs.
Fresh herbs complement sautéing, roasting and mixing with foods.
On the other hand, you’ll want to add some liquid or oil to dried herbs to impart them into your cooking. The best place to start is to ground the dried variety with a spice grinder or crash with your hands if you want larger pieces (before drenching to soften them).
However, you can always buy ground spices from your online shop or local grocery store.
And Now for the Absolute Best Part of spices, herbs and blends:
In this post we show you our top picks for the best herbs and spices for cooking many a scrumptious, sweet, and savory dishes.
Also, notice we broke them down into snurky, snacky snippets for your devouring pleasure. Expect a lowdown of herb/spice back grounding, recipes, and health benefits you can get from filling up on each on a regular.
Read on to find out.
The Best Herbs, Spices, and Seasoning Mixes That’ll Transform Your Cooking
How about we start with the most common spices (and figured out what’s with all the popularity)?
Garlic is a must-have in the kitchen if you’d love to inject tanginess into your specials and regulars.
Plus, you don’t have to worry about garlic wasting away since it has an excellent shelf life. That’s whether you love it ground to garlic powder or plucked fresh off the cloves from around the backyard or favorite grocery store.
Garlic salt is simply a blend of garlic powder and salt
You can use garlic on a huge selection of dishes.
Expect a sweet, soft flavor with a tangy taste—absolutely yummy when you cook with rice dishes, add to Sasha soup, and douche into Srirasha garlic sauce (with Teriyaki chicken, yum!).
Bakers love garlic bread. Roasters dig garlic roast recipes too. Period.
Garlic Health Benefits:
Garlic was already popular as a medicinal cooking herb before it met the kitchen.
Garlic helps a ton to elevate common cold symptoms. Scientists have linked garlic compounds to destroying bad cholesterol (yap, if you were wondering if garlic is great for weight loss and management)—by up to 15% less body fat.
In 2007, this viral study suggested eating more garlic might help prevent cancer in humans, but the studies are still ongoing on that front.
What’s on the table already, is garlic’s ability to help lower blood pressure by curbing carbs breakdown.
Ginger is a major, versatile spice in a massive menu of South Eastern Asia cuisine. Ginger works excellently in many other dishes as well.
Note that fresh ginger gives a stronger and more savory flavor than dried garlic powder, but does not have much of a shelf life compared to the latter.
You’d need to buy just enough fresh garlic for immediate use, which is one reason buying garlic powder is less of a hustle and hassle.
Ginger fetches you that appetizing, spicy twist in savory dishes.
Expect to buy it fresh in root form.
However, you’ll need to choose among pickled or minced or grated or dried variety sold in small jars—both online and off at the grocery store.
Ginger recipes are mostly sweet and savory.
Bakers’ gingerbread, sugar cookies and muffins will make you bite your tongue.
For best results, add the ginger powder to the cookie batter. Also, feel free to sprinkle ginger powder over your ready baked goods right before serving.
Yet, you can use it to tenderize your meats. And add to root vegetables and shellfish servings for a fragrant and slightly hot bite.
Ground Ginger Health Benefits:
Ginger is huge among anti-inflammation spices.
Another personal favorite in millions of kitchens worldwide.
You’ll find it in a mammoth selection of warm recipes for its versatility, aroma, and bittersweet flavor—splendid for both savory and sweet dishes.
Cinnamon adds an earthy-good taste to most dishes
You probably already use it in teas in coffees.
Cinnamon pops up extensively in curries and chilies, making it a regular favorite when preparing homemade cinnamon rolls, beef stews, and other cinnamon recipes.
Cinnamon Health Benefits:
Ground cinnamon blood sugar benefits are well documented. In fact, diabetics wanting to keep their blood sugar levels in check can lower it by up to 29% by taking about 2 teaspoons of cinnamon daily, according to this and this studies.
Like Ginger, it helps as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant spice. Studies show it also packs heart-healthy benefits by helping to break down bad cholesterol in the human body.
These slightly pungent peppercorns are a must-have for lightly peppery dishes. They are most commonly used as seasoning ingredients along with salt—or to substitute salt and pepper.
Like ginger, using freshly ground black peppercorn does more justice to your recipes compared to pre-ground in both taste and aroma.
Black peppercorns get their black color because they are sun-dried—naturally yo!
Still, like ginger, you might find pre-ground black peppercorns outlast freshly ground peppercorns by a stretch. Your choice.
Black Peppercorn Recipes:
While some recipes calling for pepper specifically ask for black peppercorns, you’ll find more peppercorn blends at the store; black, white, red, green and pink—and that order also represents the order or hotness with black spewing out the fieriest flavor of them all.
So, you’ll want to avoid chunky scoops of black pepper. Well, unless you are one hotness mess—in which case go right ahead, Pepper.
Black Cinnamon Health Benefits:
Black peppercorn is more than spice and provides a bunch of health benefits that include:
- Boosts anti-inflammation defense in the body
- Aids in weight loss and weight management
- Shows signs of improving signs in people with Dementia and Alzheimer’s
- Helps improve digestion by boosting your metabolism
- Helps improve asthma, coughs, colds and sinus symptoms
- Reduces risk of chronic diseases such as heart, liver and some cancers
It doesn’t get any hotter than this.
But we wouldn’t expect less from a spice made out of red cayenne chili peppers now, would we?
Cayenne Pepper Recipes:
This spicy spice is most common in Indian cuisine, Southern and Cajun inspired recipes. Use with meats, recipes calling for vinegar, and in marinades (combine with lemons).
With rich, ultra-hot cayenne pepper, a little goes a long way
Expect a pinch of cayenne pepper to add more heat to your French onion soup, corn on the comb, braises, spice blends, and roasted root vegetables.
Cayenne Pepper Health Benefits:
Its sweet and spicy mix adds extra oomph to your immune system, in addition to kickstarting your cognitive system (oh, it does).
Ever wondered why those weight loss supplements are almost always hot? Now you know. Capsaicin, a compound in the spice, is not only a natural appetite suppressant, but it also helps torch excess body fat.
Animal studies gave signs that cayenne pepper might be used to treat lung, liver and prostate cancers in future.
8 Best Fresh Herbs to Stock Up In Your Cupboard
One of Sage’s best attributes is how its spicy flavor holds up fine even if you overcook it.
Sage adds a pine-like, eucalyptus taste to Italian dishes. It packs a lemony note—more than you’ll get from rosemary.
Like rosemary, feel free use it with ham and pork.
Also use sage to add that lemony flavor to sausages, fruity dishes (squash and apples) and steamed or roasted veggies. And sage gnocchi is a must-have.
Sage Health Benefits:
But you’ll want to be cautious if you have high blood pressure. Sage can worsen the condition.
Its yellow color pops up in many herbs and spice blends, giving them not only the yellow appearance but also the light, woodsy note of classic turmeric.
By itself, though, turmeric is mild in flavor—although some of our members describe it as slightly spicy and bitter.
Most recipes calling for turmeric are seeking out that distinct, earthy punch and, often, the food coloring aspect of turmeric.
For a good number of recipes calling for saffron, you can substitute it for turmeric.
Feel free to add it to stews and soups, especially good with all meats including fish meals. But does a good job of flavoring rice and stir-fried veggies as well.
Turmeric Health Benefits:
Turmeric packs a dose of relievers that scientist say could help reduce the effects of arthritis. It also bags a blend of essential B6 vitamins, iron, and manganese.
Basil (Holy Basil in India)
You can have basil either way you want it: dried as a spice or fresh/whole as a herb.
Either way (unlike bay leaves’ woodsy note), basil will add a minty-fresh flavor to your cooking. You’ll not want it to overcook, though.
Holy basil is best added to servings in the end because its flavor dissipates as you cook it.
Basil works great as the Italian seasoning ingredient it is. In that case, you’ll do great to season white meats, pesto, potato, egg and rice-based dishes.
While bay leaves are rich, potent and do not mix up well with other herbs and spices, basil will pair up well with an array of those
Basil Health Benefits:
Brings a strong, sweet flavor to your baked goods, especially. Its richness means you’ll want to sprinkle a bit at a time.
Fresh whole nutmeg keeps much longer
Bakers find nutmeg to be a great addition to bakes; white cream sauce, winter squash and meatloaf. But you can use nutmeg powder with a ton more recipes. Those can include creamed spinach, Brussels sprouts, spring beans and cauliflower.
Also add to potato plates, drinks such mulled wine and cider, and different soups as you see fit.
Nutmeg Health Benefits:
Health benefits of seasoning with nutmeg span a wide area, including:
- Promotes brain health and optimal cognitive function, inhibiting dementia and Alzheimer’s
- Has powerful antioxidant characteristics
- Helps treat leukemia and insomnia
- Aids in regulating high blood pressure
- Has pain-relieving traits
- Its significant fiber content helps curb constipation
- Stimulates digestive juice release to aid digestion in the gut
Spice Blends, Mixes, and Rubs That’ll Add Zest to Your Cooking
The hawk-eyed among us might have already noticed we left out the likes of chilies, coriander, cumin, paprika, dried oregano, ground onion, kosher salt and a few other amazing spices.
Here’s the deal:
Most likely than not, you’ll find a blend of those mixed into your favorite glass jar of chili powder or curry powder.
But not all chili powders are made equal.
And while you might already know this one, how well do you—not to mention how well do you use chili powder?
Some chili powder blends chunk in more ground cayenne peppers and others more garlic or ground onion or cocoa.
The end result:
Chili powder can be a hot mess if you let it—or a fantastic, multipurpose spices blend for pretty much any recipe you whip out.
The trick is to always read the label and find out what seasoning ingredients the brand stuck in there.
You can add chili powder to a hearty bunch of dishes including grilled meat, stews, chilies, tacos, savory soups, and dishes. But chili powder is a must-have for delicious, Mexican and Southwestern dishes.
If you thought chili powder was a team, then curry powder is a darn group.
Do not be surprised if you find up to 20 spices and herbs mixed and blended into one curry powder jar for sale.
The mix has its origins from India, so you can expect it to be peppery and pungent. However, it does a good job as a meat rub.
We dare you to drench your mashed potatoes, deviled eggs, and curry sauces. The difference between curry and chili powders is typically the degree of hotness and earthy flavor; curry produces hotter, spicier blends while curry delivers a woodsy note to your dishes.
If you want more cinnamon in your dishes, you can check other blends such as garam masala. It tastes more like curry powder but is sweeter.
That’s about it:
With so many herbs, spices, blends, mixes, and complements around, it is tough to pare down a list of just eleven to choose from.
While we use a couple more spices, herbs and blends for different catering clients, our top picks happen to serve us best in the kitchen—a whole lot of times than most others out there.
And now, over to you. Have your favorites rounded up already?
You are also welcome to share your special herbs and spices’ treat with the rest of the community in the comments?