Homemade Spice Blends for Everyday Cooking

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know your spices series

What’s Up, Hungry People

Everything that is exciting and healthy seems to have twenty-five ingredients or more! What gives?

Well, it turns out most recipes rely heavily on herbs and spices, which not only make your food more delicious but also expand your taste buds.

If you’re looking for a quick way to improve your palate, my suggestion is to build up your spice collection!

You can make so many different tasting recipes out of the same few ingredients if you have a multitude of spices. Plus, depending on where you live, you might be able to get bulk spices. When I worked in a grocery store for a bit after college, people could purchase about $0.40 of paprika or $0.20 of oregano, and just that tiny bit could go far. I wish I had access to bulk spices when I first started cooking or even realized that was an option! Last week, I went to fill up my onion powder. I decided to get enough in bulk to fill up the spice jar and ended up with enough for two jars, paying only about $2 for all of it!

Let’s Cook

Okay, spices are important, so now what? Make your basic meal: protein, carbs/starches, veggies.

Let’s say one night you choose chicken, potatoes, and mixed broccoli/carrots/onions. With the proper spices, you can make Italian chicken (oregano, thyme, parsley), spicy garlic potato fries (garlic, paprika, cayenne), and a veggie medley (cracked pepper, sea salt).

Or add some rice with those same items, and you can go ethnic if you change up the spices: chicken biryani (turmeric, garam masala), curried potatoes (curry, red pepper flakes), veggies (coriander, cumin), and steamed rice.

When I first started out, I was intimidated by the length of ingredient lists. I quickly realized that a majority of the ‘ingredients’ in most recipes are actually spices.

But spices are expensive!

This is true, before I knew about bulk spices. When buying in bulk, you can usually try just a few tablespoons of a particular spice at a time while you learn what you like, for just a few cents.

Before my days of bulk purchases, I made a practice of picking out a new spice to try every time I went to the grocery store. You don’t have to get top-shelf, name-brand spices when you are just getting into collecting your spices. Sometimes I even look in the international aisles, where you can find large quantities for cheap.

Start with the essentials: parsley, basil, and thyme. Then move to more robust flavors like garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika. Turn up the heat with red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, and chili powder. Get exotic and try curry, marjoram, ginger, and garam masala.

After a while, change up your salt and pepper for fresh ground sea salt and peppercorns with their own mills. And if you’re really into it: grow your own! During the warm months, I have an endless supply of fresh herbs that I grow in my own yard.

I spent a lot of time and money adding to my collection, but years later, I have a huge rack in my kitchen with every spice I’d ever need. My food is delicious (and healthy!), which means that I’m happy and healthy too.

Here’s What You Need

I believe there are no flavors you don’t like, just tastes you haven’t acquired yet!

Italian Blend

  • Oregano: Adds a robust, earthy flavor that pairs well with tomatoes.
  • Thyme: Offers a subtle lemony taste, enhancing overall dish complexity.
  • Parsley: Brings a fresh, mild flavor to balance stronger herbs.
  • Basil: Provides a sweet, peppery kick, perfect for Italian dishes.
  • Rosemary: Adds a pine-like aroma, great for hearty dishes.
  • Marjoram: Sweet and citrusy, it complements savory flavors well.
  • Garlic Powder: Infuses a deep garlic flavor without the moisture.
  • Coriander: Adds a slight citrus note, light and refreshing.
  • Sugar: Balances the acidity in tomato-based dishes.
  • Salt: Enhances overall flavor, making other spices pop.
  • Pepper: Adds a mild heat, complementing other herbs.

Whisk together oregano, thyme, parsley, basil, rosemary, marjoram, garlic powder, coriander, sugar, salt, and pepper. Store in an airtight container and use it to season your pasta sauces, soups, or even sprinkle it on pizza for that authentic Italian flavor.

Mexican Blend

  • Chili Powder: Gives a rich, smoky heat, essential for Mexican flavors.
  • Garlic Powder: Deepens the flavor profile without adding moisture.
  • Onion Powder: Adds a sweet and savory element.
  • Cayenne Pepper: Brings significant heat to spice up dishes.
  • Paprika: Adds mild sweetness and vibrant color.
  • Oregano: Adds a slightly bitter, earthy taste, balancing heat.
  • Salt: Enhances overall flavor, making other spices pop.
  • Pepper: Adds a mild heat, balancing the blend.

Combine chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, paprika, oregano, salt, and pepper. This mix is perfect for tacos, fajitas, or spicing up your grilled meats. Keep it in an airtight container and enjoy it whenever you want to add a Mexican twist to your dishes.

BBQ Dry Rub

  • Brown Sugar: Adds sweetness and helps create a caramelized crust.
  • Paprika: Provides a mild sweetness and vibrant color.
  • Cayenne Pepper: Adds a touch of heat to the rub.
  • Garlic Powder: Deepens the flavor without adding moisture.
  • Onion Powder: Adds a sweet, savory note.
  • Salt: Enhances overall flavor, making other spices pop.
  • Pepper: Adds a mild heat, balancing the sweetness.

Mix brown sugar, paprika, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper. Rub this blend onto your meats before grilling or smoking to get that perfect BBQ flavor. Store it in a sealed container to keep it fresh for your next cookout.

Curry Blend

  • Turmeric: Gives an earthy, slightly bitter flavor and vibrant color.
  • Cumin: Adds a warm, nutty flavor.
  • Coriander: Brings a slight citrus note, light and refreshing.
  • Cinnamon: Adds warmth and a hint of sweetness.
  • Dry Mustard: Provides a sharp, tangy note.
  • Cayenne Pepper: Adds heat to the blend.
  • Parsley: Brings a fresh, mild flavor to balance stronger spices.
  • Salt: Enhances overall flavor, making other spices pop.
  • Pepper: Adds a mild heat, complementing other spices.

Stir together turmeric, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, dry mustard, cayenne pepper, parsley, salt, and pepper. Use this mix to make curry dishes, season roasted vegetables, or even spice up your soups. Keep it in an airtight container and bring the flavors of the world to your kitchen.

Tips for Perfect Spice Blends

  • Storing Your Blends: Store your spice blends in airtight containers in a cool, dark place. This keeps them fresh and flavorful for up to six months.
  • Adjusting Heat Levels: Feel free to adjust the amount of cayenne pepper in your blends. If you prefer milder flavors, reduce the quantity; if you love heat, add a bit more.
  • Balancing Flavors: If your blend tastes too salty, add a bit more sugar or a mild herb like parsley to balance it out. For sweetness that’s overpowering, add a pinch of salt.
  • Using Fresh vs. Dried Herbs: Fresh herbs have a more intense flavor, so if substituting fresh for dried, use about three times the amount.
  • Experimenting with Spices: Don’t be afraid to tweak these blends to suit your taste. Cooking is about making flavors you enjoy, so personalize your spice blends as needed.

So, Hungry People, there you have it! Building up your spice collection doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. With just a few basic spices, you can transform your meals and open up a world of flavors. Remember to buy in bulk when you can and don’t shy away from trying new spices. With a little creativity, you’ll never have a boring meal again. Happy cooking!


KNOW YOUR: Herbs & Spices

The Starving Chef
Most recipes rely heavily on herbs and spices – which not only make your food more delicious, but also open up the opportunity to expand your taste buds.
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Prep Time 5 minutes
Course Ingredients
Cuisine Know Your Food







  • Whisk together ingredients and store in airtight containers for up to 6 months. Use as desired on your favorite meats and veggies. Expand your taste buds and enjoy!


Keyword spices
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