18 Types of Spices That are Essential to Your Kitchen
Author: Anne Cowart | Editor: Omar Alonso
Review & Research: Jen Worst & Chris Miller
Spices and herbs have been an integral part of cooking for thousands of years. The whole culinary culture of Asia is built on the use of different spices. There are a lot of different types of spices based on their usage.
In most parts of the world, food without proper use of spices is deemed bland and not tasty.
When it comes to categorizing the wide range of spices available in the world, we can put them into different groups like hot spices, sweet spices, exotic spices, etc.
But we decided to take the long road and cherry-picked the most common and most popular ones. We're sure these spices will be enough to make your spice cabinet a complete one.
18 Types of Spices
The choice of spices depends entirely on the cook, so it's not possible to make a spice list that is perfect for every spice cabinet. If you're really interested in spices, learn about the spice trade in the past, the East Indian trading companies, and even the silk road trading path.
However, we took the liberty to put together a list of the most popular types of spices. Read along our list of spices and see how many spice names you already know.
Who doesn't know about Cinnamon? It's one of the most popular and oldest spices to date. Cinnamon is an aromatic spice that is basically a brown-colored bark of a tree.
You can use it as a whole in many sweet and savory dishes. Cinnamon powder is a common ingredient in sweet pastries and as a sprinkle on coffee drinks, and my favorite, on various types of bagels.
The best kind of Cinnamon is called 'Ceylon Cinnamon' whereas the most common and much cheaper one is called 'Cassia Cinnamon.
Indian cuisine is simply incomplete without the use of turmeric. It's a yellow root spice that is related to ginger. It has an earthy, woody flavor and gives the dishes a beautiful yellow-orange color.
Turmeric is one of the aromatic types of spices and is often called 'golden spice' due to the color it brings to the dishes.
Turmeric is mainly used in different curries, special rice, and stew dishes. In many parts of Asia, it's added to many healthy drinks like Ayurvedic Turmeric milk because of the nutrients it possesses.
Anise is the flavor you're tasting when you're enjoying licorice. It's a strange but sweet flavor, encountered more in Southeast Asia in beverages, breads, and meat dishes.
Ginger is probably the most common spice that is used in all parts of the world. It's a spice made from the root of the ginger plant. It has a pale-yellow color and has a peppery flavor with sweet notes and slight zesty overtones.
Ginger is used in a plethora of ways in different dishes. It can be used in curries, healthy drinks, stews, and many more.
You can juice it, grate it, chop it or use the ginger powder for different purposes. Be it a simple healthy tea or the traditional chicken curry - ginger is required everywhere.
Here's another spice that is widely used all over the world. From Asian to American cuisine - garlic is one of the must-have types of spices in the kitchen. It's because of the flavor it possesses.
Once you add this pungent spice to any savory meal - the taste enhances automatically. You have the option to use fresh garlic cloves, or you can use garlic powder in your dishes.
Garlic is also directly used as a dish in many staple foods like Garlic Mushroom or Garlic Bread. It has antibacterial properties, and people often have fresh garlic as a whole for its excellent health benefits.
Pepper is technically the substitute for chili in western cuisine. While the Asians use chili, Europeans tend to use different kinds of pepper to add some heat to the dish.
Pepper can be of many types and colors, absolutely one of the different spices with the most variety within its own category. The most common ones out there are black, white, pink, and green pepper.
Unlike chili, some pepper like the bell can be mildly sweet too! Then peppers like Jalapeno are so spicy that your tongue would be burning for a while upon direct consumption! Some peppers like paprika are also used to add color to the dish.
Allspice, which admittedly I've never had, is said to taste like cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon all at once, thus the name. It's a combination of different kinds of spices.
It's used largely with baked goods, though can be found in other types of recipes and even in pickling various types of pickles. Allspice is the featured ingredient of jerk seasoning.
Nutmeg adds a very interesting flavor to different sweet and savory dishes. It's basically the seed of a tree that produces a fragrant aroma when used in a dish.
It gives the dish a sweetish touch and is often joined by Cinnamon to create the perfect blend of flavor. Nutmeg is one of the widespread types of spices in Indian, European, and Caribbean cuisine.
From roasted lamb dishes to vegetable stews - nutmeg goes with most curry dishes with complex flavors. It's comforting, and its warming aroma makes it an excellent ingredient to use on cold-weather drinks as well.
It is, hands down, the most expensive spice available in the whole world. No other spices even come close. It's because Saffron is rare to grow, and a little bit of Saffron can go a long way. Saffron has tiny orange threads and adds a sweet and floral flavor to your desserts.
It is famous mainly for the aroma and the beautiful color it provides to the dishes. Primarily used in the Persian and European cuisines, now Saffron is quite well known all over the world.
Mace is basically the twin brother of nutmeg, although they don't share any visual resemblances. It's the reddish covering of the nutmeg seed and tastes relatively milder.
Mace is generally dried until it gets a yellow-brownish shade, and then it's used. The most common use of mace is in different desserts, mainly because it gives a hint of lemon and nutmeg altogether.
Cardamom has one of the most versatile usages in the Asian regions. Originated in India, it has this pungent flavor with hints of mint and lemon.
Cardamom is used to intensify both savory and sweet dishes and can be used as a medicine for digestive aid and respiratory issues. There are two types of this versatile spice, green and black cardamom.
Green cardamom is more commonly used and gives a sweeter flavor than some other types of spices. It's primarily used in desserts.
On the other hand, black cardamom has a smoky flavor and is mainly used in savory dishes. Cardamom is known as the 'Queen of Flavor' due to its distinct flavor.
Cloves are another spice famous in the Indian region because of their smell and medicinal usage. It's almost an automatic natural remedy to issues like nausea, indigestion, and toothaches.
Cloves have this distinct sweet smell and a mix of sweet-spicy flavor. They were the substitute for mouth fresheners back in the days.
Cloves are generally used in healthy tea drinks, different curries, and many sweet treats. Apart from them, the medicinal usage of cloves is widespread.
Chili pepper is technically one of the spiciest spices available in the world. It is mainly used to enhance the dish's heat in most Indian, Mexican, or Caribbean dishes. It's used in chili powders alongside paprika and Cayenne pepper.
No, not all spices are originated in the Asian regions, some spices also come from the European areas, and fennel is one of them. It's a relatively sweeter spice with a light licorice flavor.
Primarily grown in Mediterranean countries, it is widely used in French, Spanish, and Italian cuisines.
Fennel seeds are generally used in the mix of spices known as the five-spice-powder. Fennel leaves are also used as an herb in cooking. It is a key ingredient in Garam Masala, an essential spice blend in Indian cuisine.
Cumin has one of the most distinct fragrances and is one of the essential ingredients in any cuisine in current times. It has an earthy and nutty flavor with a spicy kick and notes of lemon.
Cumin is generally used in its grounded form or as a whole. These types of spices brings in a smoky touch in savory dishes and makes them taste better.
Most chefs prefer freshly grounded cumin as it enhances its nutty flavor. Cumin also has ample health benefits as it helps lose weight, fight cholesterol and diabetes issues, etc.
Onions are one of the most common vegetables in most cuisines of the world. However, ground onion powder works as an excellent seasoning spice for savory dishes. And the flavor can vary slightly depending on the types of onions used.
You can use dehydrated onion powders to make homemade spice mixes for marination or in different dishes. The powder can also work as a meat rub and works well with certain types of sausages.
Coriander is a spice that gives you a sweet citrus taste. Coriander is crucial to many Indian and Mexican dishes, like other variety of spices.
When paired with various types of cilantro leaves, coriander brings out a brilliant lemon flavor and enhances the taste of the dish. Coriander seeds are often fried alongside other spices to bring out the aroma and the spicy flavor.
Mustard oil and sauces are already an integral part of many different cuisines. The seeds are pretty useful, too, as a spice.
These tiny seeds are generally used with other spices in curries in order to bring a spicy note to the dishes. Mustard seeds come in different colors like black, yellow, and red, depending on the types of mustard they're derived from.
Types of Spices for Every Flavor
A world without spices is a world without flavors. Spices play a crucial role in improving our taste buds and creating different cuisines all over the world. We hope our list of the most common types of spices was of help to you.