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Beginner's Guide to Spices

This Week's Challenge: Spices

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Beginner's Guide to Spices

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Tonight I am going to teach you all about the importance of using spices in your cooking! Many people are intimidated by the length of ingredient lists, but don't actually realize most of the ingredients are herbs or spices, in generally small quantities.

While I've spent years collecting and growing my own herbs and spices, I honestly had no idea where to start when it came to flavoring my food at the beginning of my cooking journey. It wasn't until I had been teaching myself to cook for awhile that I realized having a good spice rack was the key to a delicious dinner. You can make practically anything with the right combination of flavors.

Take a basic protein like chicken breast. One night you can make Italian chicken with thyme, basil, oregano, rosemary, parsley, marjoram, garlic powder, coriander, and a pinch of sugar. Another night you can make chicken tacos with chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, paprika, and oregano. The sky is the limit!

Here are the twenty herbs and spices that I believe everyone should keep in their cabinets:

  • Thyme
  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Rosemary
  • Marjoram
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Chili powder
  • Cumin
  • Coriander
  • Cayenne
  • Paprika
  • Turmeric
  • Cinnamon
  • Mustard
  • Sea Salt
  • Fresh pepper
  • Sugar
  • Brown Sugar

Of course, sugar and brown sugar aren't technically herbs or spices - but I definitely consider them essential for not only adding sweetness, but much needed caramelization too.

Once you get the basic of flavoring your food with herbs and spices, you can expand your collection to include even more flavors like curry, chipotle powder, dill, caraway, saffron, red pepper flakes and literally hundreds more. When I was first starting out, to help keep costs down, I'd buy one new herb or spice every time I went to the grocery store. 

It wasn't until I learned the secret of buying your spices from the bulk section that I realized adding to my spice collection didn't need to break the bank - and nowadays, bulk spice sections are growing increasingly more popular and can be found in lots of grocery stores. You can buy as little or as much of an herb or spice as you like; and because most spices are priced by the pound, even just thirty cents or a dollar can get you a lot of spices!

My video shows only a few of the many, many different recipes you can make with a solid rack of herbs and spices. But the more you have on hand, the more the world of flavor opens to you! Each mixture yields enough for several meals - so be sure to have some extra bottles or baggies waiting to reserve the leftovers!

Categories: Dinner , 52 Weeks of Cooking , Video Recipes , Barbecue , Lunch , Italian

Tags: Herbs , Spices , Spices 101 , Italian , BBQ , Mexican , Indian

The Starving Chef Blog

Beginner's Guide to Spices

Prep Time: 30 seconds

Makes ~ 1/2 cup spice mixture per each combination

Italian Herbs

The Starving Chef Blog
  • 1 tablespoon thyme
  • 2 tablespoons basil
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 tablespoon rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons parsley
  • 1 tablespoon marjoram
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon coriander
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Here's How:

The Starving Chef Blog
  1. Whisk all herbs and spices together until completely blended. Store whatever you are not using in an airtight container for up to six months.
  2. Use 2-4 tablespoons to make Italian herb crusted chicken, pork, seafood and more. Serve alongside pasta noodles or crusty bread.

Mexican Spices (Taco Seasoning)

The Starving Chef Blog
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablesppon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper

Here's How:

The Starving Chef Blog
  1. Whisk all herbs and spices together until completely blended. Store whatever you are not using in an airtight container for up to six months.
  2. Use 3-5 tablespoons to make chicken, fish or beef tacos. Serve with crispy lettuce and salsa.

Sweet BBQ Dry Rub

The Starving Chef Blog
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pepper

Here's How:

The Starving Chef Blog
  1. Whisk all herbs and spices together until completely blended. Store whatever you are not using in an airtight container for up to six months.
  2. Use 3-4 tablespoons for BBQing chicken or pork. Serve with pasta salad or mashed potatoes.

Indian Curry Blend

The Starving Chef Blog
  • 2 tablespoon turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon coriander
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 tablespoon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon parsley
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper

Here's How:

The Starving Chef Blog
  1. Whisk all herbs and spices together until completely blended. Store whatever you are not using in an airtight container for up to six months.
  2. Use 2-4 tablespoons on chicken, lamb, pork or seafood. Serve with rice or naan.

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