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The Chef's Manual: 20 Must-have Spices for Your Kitchen

20 Must-have Spices for Your Kitchen
All those who love to cook know how important spices are to any recipe. But, which of these spices make it to the list of magic ingredients or 'must-haves'? Tastessence gives you a quick walk through 20 such essential spices for your kitchen.
Tastessence Staff
Last Updated: Mar 26, 2018
"Once you get a spice in your home, you have it forever. Women never throw out spices. The Egyptians were buried with their spices. I know which one I'm taking with me when I go."
- Erma Bombeck
I moved into a new place, and what is so exciting about it? Well, now I have my own independent kitchen, and since I (absolutely till death) love to cook, it makes me happy like no other! So, I have started assembling my favorite corner in the kitchen, which is the spice rack! Being a complete foodie, I can say that every spice is important. The varied aromas and flavors that spices part to a recipe is simply irresistible.

Having said all that, I still had to choose essential spices that would help me and my everyday cooking! Though all spices have a distinct flavor, there are some spices that one simply cannot miss. You could say they are the 'must-have spices for your kitchen'. So, I have narrowed the list after a lot of experimenting, and here we have the 20 essential spices listed.
Spices to Spice Up Your Kitchen
Cinnamon
Cinnamon
Flavor: Warm, earthy, bittersweet, and nutty

Cinnamon is the world's favorite baking spice. Along with being used in baking dishes, it can be used in curries and stews. So, it is a spice for your sweet and savory dishes, too. It is an aromatic spice that is also good for your health.
Thyme
Thyme
Flavor: Fresh, lemony, and strong flavor

Thyme is used in most Mediterranean, Creole, and Cajun cuisines. It goes best for recipes with meat, chicken, and vegetables. Thyme is also a good seasoning for soups, egg, and cheese dishes, like omelets and quiche.
Rosemary
Rosemary
Flavor: Strongly aromatic, woody, warm, slightly balsamic, peppery, and minty

Rosemary is a major ingredient for marinades, especially seafood, meat, and chicken. It also enhances the taste when added to soups and sauces. It provides a good taste to grilled dishes, like grilled meat and potatoes.
Cumin
Cumin seeds
Flavor: Warm, earthy, spicy, slightly pungent, and nutty

Cumin dominates many Indian, Mexican, and African cuisines. It has a warm yet strong fragrance and taste. It is mostly used in curries and spice powder blends.
Garlic/Garlic Powder
Garlic powder
Flavor: Strong, pungent, robust, and slightly nutty

Garlic or garlic powder is often used in many savory dishes. It is a vegetable but is widely used in powdered form as a spice. It adds a great taste to breads, curries, marinades, seasonings, and just about any savory dish!
Oregano
Oregano
Flavor: Warm, aromatic, slightly pungent, and bitter

Any Italian cuisine is incomplete without oregano seasoning. It gives the perfect taste blend in any tomato dish, pastas, pizza, soups, salad dressings, and cream sauces. Oregano is also widely used in Greek and Turkish cuisine. It is best used with egg and cheese dishes.
Coriander/Coriander Powder
Coriander Powder
Flavor: Citrusy, spicy, earthy, and warm

Coriander seeds or coriander powder give the recipe a mild hint of flavor. It is used widely in Indian cuisine and forms the basic ingredient of many spice blends and curries. Coriander powder is best used in stews, curries, marinades, soups, and meat.
Bay Leaves
Bay Leaves
Flavor: Woody strong aroma, bitter, spicy, and sharp taste

Bay leaves are used most often in curries, soups, marinades, and stews. They are used widely in Mediterranean cuisine and also go very well with beef, rice, chicken, and fish.
Red/Cayenne Pepper
Cayenne Pepper
Flavor: Spicy, hot, and pungent flavor

As the name suggests, cayenne pepper is a spice made from spicy red pepper. Most hot sauces, stews, and curries are made using this pepper. It is widely used in Indian and other spicy recipes.
Black Pepper
Black Pepper
Flavor: Warm, pungent, and spicy

Black whole peppercorns add a zing to any dish that they are added. They compliment many Italian dishes, especially white and cream sauces. Black pepper adds just the right amount of flavor, aroma, and spice to any dish. Use them as seasoning in salads, marinades, and even curries!
Curry Powder
Curry Powder
Flavor: Spicy, hot with a blend of flavors from other spices

Curry powder is a blend of many sweet and savory spices, like coriander, turmeric, cinnamon, clove, bay leaf, etc. Hence, it comes in many varieties, ranging from sweet to hot and spicy. It is the most convenient spice that adds a rich flavor to curries.
Basil
Basil
Flavor: Sweet, slightly peppery, and minty

Basil goes extremely well with tomato-based dishes and sauces. It is widely used in French, Mediterranean, and Italian cuisines. It adds the perfect flavor and crunch to salad dressings and soups.
Ginger/Ginger Powder
Ginger Powder
Flavor: Sharp, intense, slightly peppery, and citrus-y

Ginger powder or fresh ginger is a fresh and aromatic spice. It can be added to tea, salad dressing, in vegetables, and baked dishes. It is widely used in Indian and Asian cuisines.
Chilly Powder
Chilly Powder
Flavor: Warm, spicy, and slightly pungent

Chilly powder may not always consist of ground chillies only. Some powders are a blend of turmeric, coriander powder, oregano, cumin, etc. It adds heat and flavor to many savory dishes.
Sage
Sage
Flavor: Savory, minty, and peppery with a pungent hint

Sage is a fresh herb which also has many medicinal uses. It goes well with many sauces, seasonings, marinades, poultry, and also meat. Sage also makes a good stuffing for many dishes.
Paprika
Paprika
Flavor: Hot, slightly sweet, and smoky

Paprika can be termed as dried and ground peppers. It is best used as a seasoning in almost any dish. It adds a spicy punch to preparations of rice, vegetables, casseroles, sauces, soups, poultry, and meat.
Cloves
Cloves
Flavor: Warm, sweet-spicy, and aromatic flavor

Cloves are used widely in Indian, Mexican, and Vietnamese cuisines. They enhance the flavor of savory foods and are also used to add a sweet spice to desserts.
Allspice
Allspice
Flavor: Aromatic and pungent

Allspice makes an important spice in Caribbean cuisine. It is also known as myrtle pepper, Jamaican pepper, or pimento. It goes very well with savory dishes, like chicken, meat, and also vegetables. It is added to curries, sauces, stews, soups, and marinades.
Onion Powder
Onion Powder
Flavor: Strong aroma, slightly sweet or spicy, and pungent

Onion powder is one of the best flavor enhancers for curries, soups, stews, and savory dishes. It also gives a good aroma to any dish, like sauces, gravies, meat, and spreads.
Nutmeg
Nutmeg
Flavor: Woody, fresh, and slightly sweet aromatic flavor

Nutmeg is a seed of a tree and is widely used in Indian cuisines. It gives the best flavor when ground fresh. Nutmeg can be added to most baked dishes, sweet delicacies, and desserts.
The above is a compilation of spices that can suit any kitchen, but if you have a selective menu on the kitchen every day, you could customize this list according to your tastes. Spices used or preferred may also differ from region to region and culture-wise. So make your list today, and stack these magic ingredients to spice up your kitchen!