Cooking for Beginners: 10 Spices You Should Always Have In Your Cupboard

I’ve been thinking about doing this post for a long time. I was at my parents’ house a few months ago, and was looking for something in the spice cabinet when I realized how few spices they had. Although, this is coming from the girl that has a separate spice cabinet, packed to the brim, and all of my overflow filling a shelf in the cupboard next to it, so perhaps I’m not the best person to decide how many spices someone should have. Still, spices intrigue me and I felt they were important to discuss, especially for a beginner’s post. But, how would I pick ten spices only? What if people disagreed with me? That’s when I reminded myself that these are just my opinions, and you don’t have to listen to them if you don’t want to. 🙂

I was actually talking to my friend, Bryan, about this last night. I had made calzones for dinner, and was listing all the ingredients. There are several spices in the recipe, and Bryan commented that he never knows which spices go well together, or what to use them for. Below, I have compiled a list of ten spices to get you started in your kitchen, and suggestions on how to use them. Like anything, everyone has different tastes when it comes to spices, so you may want to experiment a bit on your own to figure out what you like and what you don’t. There are definitely some spices out there that I hate, no matter how much I try to make myself like them. (I’m looking at you, rosemary!)

10 Spices You Should Always Have In Your Cupboard

(Note: all these spices are dry, and may differ in flavor from their fresh counterparts. Always double check your recipe before using.)

1. Salt and Pepper

Ok, that’s probably a given. But, you’d be surprised how many people don’t use salt and pepper! Of all the spices out there, these are probably the most familiar and easiest to use. I use them to season chicken, soups, pasta, burritos, etc. If you don’t have these staples in your kitchen, get them NOW!

2. Cinnamon

When I was little, we would always put cinnamon and sugar on our toast. I’m 27, and still do it. I think cinnamon is essential if you like to bake. A hint of cinnamon goes a long way in cookies, frosting, pancakes…just yesterday, I made a cup of chai tea and sprinkled a bit on top to bring out the spiciness of the chai. I also use cinnamon in the crust for my Mini Nutella S’Mores Cheesecakes.

3. Garlic Powder 

In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a lover of garlic! I use garlic much like I do salt and pepper; it goes in nearly everything! Garlic powder works well in pastas, Italian dishes, and as a seasoning for chicken. When I’m bored, I’ll sprinkle a little garlic powder onto the buttered side of the bread in a grilled cheese sandwich to give it extra flavor. I use garlic powder in my BBQ Chicken and Feta Flatbread to season the chicken, and to add to the sauce.

4. Garlic Salt

Yes, you need both! Garlic salt contains salt, whereas garlic powder is just powdered garlic. In my opinion, garlic salt has a stronger flavor. It also has a more noticeable texture, as it’s granulated. I generally use garlic salt as a mix-in, rather than a seasoning or topping. I also don’t use it with salt, as it will generally make your food too salty. It’s a great addition to burgers and chili. It’s also the star in my Garlic Cheddar Biscuits.

5. Lawry’s Seasoned Salt

If you don’t want to mess with a mix of spices, you need Lawry’s. We always had it on hand growing up. I generally use it to season meat. It tastes great on steak, ground beef, or ground turkey. I’ve also used it to season french fries and kale chips.

6. Oregano

Oregano makes an appearance in many of my recipes, as it’s so versatile. It’s primarily used in Italian and Greek cooking, and is sometimes called the “pizza spice.” I use it to season my Easy Chicken Fajitas and Oven Roasted Italian Vegetables.

7. Basil

Basil is a sweet, Italian spice. You know the small green leaves you get on top of pizza or pasta at a fancy restaurant? That’s fresh basil. Dried basil can be used in pastas, soups, and sauces. It does have a strong flavor, so I start with a small amount, and then add to taste. Basil is one of the spices I use in my Baked Eggs in Tomato and Cream Sauce.

Note: If a recipe calls for Italian Seasoning, you can use equal parts garlic powder, oregano, and basil!

8. Red Pepper Flakes

I love all things spicy, so these flakes are my best friend. I put them on pizza, in pasta sauces, and in anything that I want to give an extra “kick” to. I use them to season the sausage in my Spicy Sausage Penne and to bring out the flavor of the salsa in my Salsa Chicken.

9. Ground Cumin

Cumin (pronounced “Q-men”) is often used in Mexican, Southwestern, and Indian cooking. I don’t do much Indian cooking, so I can’t speak to that, but I do use it in burritos, enchiladas, as a seasoning for black beans, and my Buffalo Chicken Chili. If you like Mexican food, you should have this spice on hand.

10. Nutmeg

Nutmeg is a mild baking spice. It has not appeared in any of my recipes yet, but I use it a lot! It is one of the main spices in pumpkin pie. I use it in pancakes and have sprinkled it on my hot cocoa. It is also commonly used on eggnog and in fruit pies. Again, if you’re a baker, nutmeg is a great spice to have on hand!

Are these spices currently in your cabinet? Do you have other spices that you use more often? Comment below!

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