If you know someone who is getting ready to go out on their own, this is a helpful list of spices to help them start their pantry. I got it off of Real Simple’s website and then I added some of my own.
Spices are expensive, so if you’re willing to share some of your own, it would give them a great start. Remember, the best way to store spices is in a sealed container kept out of sunlight, so find small glass jars with tight lids that can be labeled.
|These are fresh, but you get the idea.|
Honestly, they're not so fresh anymore so they qualify as dry.
Bay leaves – don’t worry about getting a large number. Most recipes only call for one. Even if you can give them 4-5 leaves, it will be a good start.
Lucky for us, dried and fresh are interchangeable, but there are two different kinds - Turkish and California. Most recipes call for California bay leaves, but if you're using Turkish, you'll need to use 2 for each one called for since they are smaller.
|Yes, I ended up inhaling some of this pile while dumping it.|
Cayenne Pepper – a must have, especially if you like a little spice to your food.
Interesting fact: According to Wikipedia, Cayenne Pepper is known as a male aphrodisiac since it can increase blood flow to all parts of the body. Seriously - it even had a reference!
|Note the gigantic tub of chili powder I own.|
Yes, I am proud of it.
Chili Powder – I use chili powder almost once a week. It gives a little bit of a kick to food without adding a lot of heat. This is actually a blend of spices, not from a specific chile.
|I felt the need to make some hot chocolate after I|
took this picture!
Cinnamon, ground – you’ll use cinnamon, not only in baking, but drinks and even some main dishes.
Interesting fact: Most of the cinnamon sold in the United States is cassia cinnamon, which is basically crap cinnamon. The best comes from Sri Lanka and Indonesia (Cook's Thesaurus).
|I swear I could smell steak tacos as I poured this out.|
I probably should be concerned, but I was hungry instead.
Cumin, ground – although Real Simple says it is a staple in Middle Eastern and Indian cooking, I use it a lot when I’m making Mexican food. What I’m saying is that you’ll use it in a lot of different types of dishes and if you make a lot of ethnic food, this one is a must.
|I'm a wuss, so I have standard curry powder.|
Perhaps one day I'll try Madras... or give it to my husband.
Curry powder – This is another spice blend consisting mostly of coriander, cumin, pepper, tumeric and ginger.
I know what you’re thinking, but I use this more than any of the spices in my cabinet, other than salt and pepper. And curry doesn’t mean hot, but if you do like hot, look for the Madras variety. I highly suggest getting a regular curry to start, though.
|One of my husband's specialties is|
Blueberry-Oat Ginger Smoothies.
Why does he have to work... I could use one right now!
Ginger, ground – ginger is one of those spices that is included in both baking and cooking. I also make a lot of smoothies and chai tea with it. Dried isn't a substitute for fresh, so if a recipe calls for fresh pick some up from the produce section.
Interesting fact: Ginger is often used to soothe the stomach, although I wouldn't recommend eating a spoonful of ground ginger. Fresh is best for that.
|Where's a bottle of tequila when you need one?|
Kosher Salt – a coarse salt that isn’t processed with iodine, like table salt. They are large crystals, so you can’t use it one-for-one as a substitute for “regular” salt, but it’s a great alternative if you measure with the "pinch" or "dash" method. Oooh... and it can be used to line margarita glasses in a pinch. Not that I would know about stuff like that.
|L'amore po 'di pizza.|
Interesting fact: there is a Mexican variety that is mintier than the Mediterranean variety.
|I tried to think of something clever to say to translate to Hungarian.|
I got nothin'
|I'm not sure why, but this was one of the prettiest pictures.|
I had no idea that these are dried cayenne peppers. I'm learning a lot writing this post.
|There were several types of dried rosemary.|
I bought this to put in a breading, so I went with the crushed.
Bonus! Dried substitutes well for fresh and that's a good thing because chopping those little leaves off the stem annoys me.
|I'm not sure why, but learning what I learned about thyme|
makes me feel sorry for it. A lonely spice. :(
Interesting fact: Most spices have alternative spices listed if you don't have it on hand. The first alternative for thyme on Cook's Thesaurus is to omit the spice!
|Is it wrong that I smelled the bottle for 30 minutes?|
Interesting fact: 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract is comparable in flavor to 1 inch of vanilla bean.
And what I added to the list…
Basil – I was actually surprised that this didn’t make the cut. Sure, fresh basil is great, but it can be tedious and expensive. You’ll find that for a quick dish, dried basil is a great substitute.
Parsley – Another widely used spice that is best fresh, but it is impractical to always have fresh on hand. Besides, it's rare that you use more than a couple of tablespoons at a time. For small amounts, dried works just fine.
Garlic Powder – another one that I was surprised didn’t make the cut. Again, I’m sure it is because most chefs feel fresh is better, which it is, but I still use a lot of garlic powder. Especially when I’m doing spice rubs for meat and chicken.
Black Pepper – are freshly ground peppercorns better? Absolutely (see below), but it isn’t always practical. Keep ground on hand to quickly throw together spice rubs or to sprinkle at the dinner table.
Table Salt – When you’re baking, you need to add precise amounts and table salt and Kosher salt don’t go one-for-one when converting the measurements. Also, keep some on hand for seasoning at the table (if you don't want to use sea salt).
Good to Have
|Is it me, or does it look like a rabbit has been on my counter?|
|Yes, they are whole. One of the only spices I didn't|
have on hand to photograph.
|For some reason, this picture made me REALLY uncomfortable.|
Interesting fact: It is a by-product of the wine making process. Grapes are the only natural source of Cream of Tartar.
|Okay, maybe there were 2 spices that I didn't have on hand.|
Interesting fact: Back in the 1600s, this was so valuable it was said that a few nutmeg nuts could make you financially solvent for life. (Food.com)
Sesame seeds – you’ll use a lot of sesame seeds in Asian inspired dishes, but I also have used them in baking. Still, it is an expense that you may want to hold off on until you absolutely need them, especially since they can become rancid. Store them in the freezer if you want to extend their freshness.
So are there any spices you think I missed? How about Real Simple? Do you have all these spices in your pantry?