When it comes to pantry essentials, everyone’s pantry is bound to be different. There are some spices I’ve bought and rarely used. Others I’ve discovered and I wonder how I ever cooked without them. But there will always be the pantry staples. These are the spices I run out of all the time because they just get used so much. So whether you’re a new chef or just want to update your pantry stock, let’s chat about 10 spices you need in your pantry.
I’ll still growing my love for this wonder spice. I grew up with a love for Italian food as you’ll see with the next few spices and not a lot of Indian food. So introducing turmeric into my diet and pantry is an on going process. But really, if you’re going to have a spice in your pantry to boost your health, stock up the turmeric. You can make turmeric lattes, add it to veggies or even in your soups. It’s a stronger flavor so it’s not going to be amongst a ton of others in a dish. If you’re feeling extra bloated, adding turmeric into your diet can help with inflammation. It’s also great for your skin & gut.
If you’re new to the blog, you’ll know I have a love/hate relationship with my friend cinnamon. I love her but she doesn’t always love me. However, cinnamon is an essential spice for almost all pantries. It’s been known to boost metabolism, works great for that extra kick in sweet dishes and savory chilis, and is key to the pumpkin spice mix. If you want to bring out the sweetness in your baked sweet potato slices, add a bit of cinnamon and sea salt. Or put a dash on top of your coffee for that extra metabolism kick in the morning. Cinnamon works well across the board. I tend to use the powder more than the stick form. But cinnamon sticks are great for making a hot cocoa recipe extra special so don’t count them out yet.
I whole heartedly give credit to my love of Smoked Paprika to The First Mess. I’m a bit of a cookbook junkie. I love to plan my meals with my cookbooks, my bullet journal, Wunderlist* and glass of wine handy. So when I cooked my way through Laura’s cookbook* last fall, I found myself using smoked paprika often. If you aren’t a fan of smoked flavoring, this one might not be for you. Personally, it’s my go to seasoning when I want something more savory amped up. I use it with tahini & apple cider vinegar as a salad dressing. It’s also amazing to add to roasted veggies or stews. If you don’t like the bite of cayenne pepper but want something a little more, I’d definitely recommending trying smoked paprika. This spice has won it’s way into my pantry forever.
If I’m honest, cumin is one of those spices I always run out of and never remember what I need it for. But it always ends up in my dishes some how. I like to make a taco seasoning blend with for the occasions when I want to make my own tortilla chips or other Mexican dishes. Cumin is also another staple in soups in our house. Again, it’s generally in a black bean soup or some kind of chili. But cumin is that spice that just pulls a meal together. Easily one of the most frequently purchased spices in my pantry.
I love Italian food. It’s the ultimate comfort food for me. So when I want to make my own pizza or pasta sauce or even when I’m making minestrone, I know I need oregano to make it work. As much as I’d love to use fresh all of the time, I find I mostly use dried. If I’m making something with a tomato sauce base, there’s a good chance I’m adding oregano to it. It’s honestly just one of my go to throw in spices for dishes because I know it works. And unless for some terrible reason I have to part with it, oregano will always be a pantry staple.
Like oregano, thyme is a regularly used spice in Italian dishes in my life. I went through a phase where I was obsessed with Deliciously Ella’s roasted red pepper & tomato soup. And I found myself stocking up on thyme every other week. Again, I tend to gravitate towards more Italian style meals which means I use thyme, oregano and garlic frequently. But it’s a great staple for soups without being too overwhelming. It adds that extra bit of flavor to sauces without taking over. And it pairs well with other spices to make amazing dishes even better.
There aren’t too many spices that I use in plant form more than I use dried. But basil will always be the exception to that rule. I love pesto. So I keep fresh basil on hand to make that happen often. Unfortunately, dried basil just doesn’t work quite the same. I love to add it into salad dressings (if dried) or into my actual salads (if fresh). I would go as far to say that basil is one of my absolute favorite herbs/spices. And if you’re like me and tend to favor the Italian dishes, you will always want this on hand.
I consider rosemary my lazy herb. When I can’t think of how I want to flavor something, my default is always rosemary & garlic. Whether you’re trying to flavor veggies or proteins, the combo always seems to work. I like to use both the dried & fresh versions. But rosemary is great for giving flavor to a dish without being too much. If you’re entertaining or need a lighter seasoning, rosemary is a winning spice choice.
And just like smoked paprika, I use garlic powder with everything. It’s my next step after adding salt and pepper to a dish. Plus it’s perfect for when I’m feeling too lazy to chop garlic. This spice gets used a lot simply because it’s easy and goes with everything. From creating taco seasonings to the perfect pizza sauce, there’s a pretty good chance I’ve added garlic powder into the mix. If you’re still learning to cook or what just a small bit more than salt, I’d say garlic powder is probably a safe bet. Fair warning though, this spice can harden in your jar if exposed to too much moisture. So if you’re shaking it over a steaming pan or cooking food, be aware that you may find your powder more clumpy even if it’s in date.
And last but certainly not least, the ever reliable bay leaf is a pantry essential. Unlike every other spice in the list, bay leaf requires a bit more time to be appreciated. So I find that I use it most often whenever I’m making soups, sauces or anything that is going to simmer a bit. Instead of just throwing in it and being done in 5 minutes, bay leaf needs time to infuse the dishes it’s in. Because in the end you never actually eat the leaf. I haven’t tried fresh bay leaf but dried gets used quite often in my kitchen. It’s useful in dishes of all different types.
What are your pantry staples for spices? Do you have any you can’t live without? I probably could have added a few more to this list but right now these are my essential cooking spices. But I’d love to know what you’re cooking with in the comments below!
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