Guide to Spices & Herbs

I usually stick with the same spice or herb choices for most of my meals. Wanting to be a little more creative and adventurous in the kitchen, I researched every spice and herb that I could think of. I also asked for others opinion. Then I comprised the following guide of which spices and herbs go with what foods.

If you are like me you probably have a shelf or a spice rack filled with herbs and spices. And you find yourself wondering through the produce section of the grocery store passing by the fresh herbs, you think to yourself, “What is that used for”? Never really sure what goes with which dishes.

I usually stick with the same spice or herb choices for most of my meals. Wanting to be a little more creative and adventurous in the kitchen, I researched every spice and herb that I could think of. I also asked for others opinion. Then I comprised the following guide of which spices and herbs go with what foods.

  • Allspice:

    Allspice is one of my favorite spices to use when baking. This is a great spice to use in many breads & spice cakes. It can be combined with cinnamon, sugar and nutmeg to liven up the taste of cookies and muffins.

  • Basil:

    Fresh basil is mostly used in Italian dishes such as lasagna, spaghetti and baked ziti. It is also very tasty in Thai dishes. It adds a great flavor to tomatoes. Basil is one of those herbs that can be used to compliment another herb. It blends very well with garlic, thyme and oregano. However dried basil has a different flavor than fresh basil. Dried basil can be used in the same dishes, however the flavor will not be the same.

  • Bay Leaves:

    Bay leaves are usually found in soups and stews. It can also be used with vegetables. The leaves are added to the dish while it simmers and then usually taken out or strained from the dish before serving. The flavor is extracted while the dish cooks.

  • Caraway Seeds:

    Add caraway seeds to sauerkraut, cabbage, stews, and soups during the last 15 to 20 minutes of cooking, this will give the dish a sweet, yet tangy flavor. It can also be sprinkled over breads, muffins and spice cake just before baking.

  • Cardamom:

    This was one of those spices I found in my spice rack and had no clue how to use it. After researching I found cardamom is widely used in danish pastries, breads and even apple pies. Some have suggested using a small pinch to flavor coffee.

  • Celery Seed:

    Celery seed is used to give dishes the flavor of celery without the crunchy texture. It has a slight bitter flavor as celery does. It adds flavor to creamy soups and dips.

  • Chives:

    Chives are used much like onions. Chives are not have a strong aroma compared to an onion, but have a similar flavor. Chives are normally used in dips and spreads. Chives can also be used in vegetable dishes. It is a great compliment to garlic. Chives can also be used in fish dishes and as a garnish.

  • Cilantro:

    Cilantro looks similar to parsley. This herb is used in many Chinese or Asian cuisine. It is also used in many Mexican dishes. It has a lemony or citrus smell along with a hint of parsley aroma. It is a great addition to stir-fry dishes, salsa, chili, enchiladas, and bean dips.

  • Cinnamon:

    This is one of the most common spices used in the world of baking. It is a great spice to use when baking breads, cookies, and cakes. It is also used in chocolate deserts. Some have suggested sprinkling a dash of cinnamon and a dash of sugar over fresh cut apples and bananas. Cinnamon has a very distinct, but pleasant aroma.

  • Coriander:

    Coriander is used in Indian and Mediterranean dishes. Coriander seeds can be ground down to be used in stews and marinades to add a Mediterranean flavor to the dish. It is also used in sausage and sea food dishes.

  • Cumin:

    Cumin has a bitter yet spicy warm flavor. It can be added to chili, stews, and many Mexican and Indian inspired dishes. The warmth of Cumin compliment the spiciness of chili peppers.

  • Dill:

    There are two types of Dill. The first one is Dill Weed. Dill Weed is a herb that can be in seafood dishes and dips. Dill seed can be sprinkled over casseroles before baking. It can also be used in salad dressing.

  • Garlic:

    Garlic is one of my favorite additions to many foods. Garlic has a strong and very distinctive aroma. It is a great compliment in chili, pasta, stews, soup and meat dishes. Minced garlic can be used in mixed vegetable dishes, salad dressings and marinades. It is also used in many pasta sauces.

  • Ginger:

    Ginger is another one I was a little scared to try using. It is actually a root. When ginger is ground down it adds a great flavor to Asian dishes. This can be used in stir-fry and in some breads.

  • Mint:

    Mint has a strong aroma & flavor. This can be used in seafood dishes, marinades & salad dressings. Many people have suggested using in a warm cup of tea. It also makes a great garnish.

  • Mustard Seed:

    Mustard seed has a spicy and hot flavor. This is great for using in cabbage or sauerkraut. Mustard seed will add a spicy flavor to meats.

  • Nutmeg:

    Ground nutmeg is great for baking. It can be used along with cinnamon, allspice & sugar to liven up cookies, puddings, spice cakes & muffins. It is also used to spice up eggnog.

  • Oregano:

    Oregano is one of my favorite herbs to use when cooking. It is adds great flavor to tomatoes, lamb or pork dishes. I add oregano to many Italian dishes such as spaghetti and Lasagna. It can also be used with butter or olive oil along with garlic to create a tasty sauce that can be poured over vegetables.

  • Paprika:

    This dark red ground up powder comes from a mild red pepper. This is commonly used to sprinkle over deviled eggs. It can also be used with butter to baste fish or chicken. Use as a garnish to add color to normally pale foods.

  • Parsley:

    Parsley is another staple in my kitchen. I am sure most of you use this herb often. Parsley is a great addition to any Italian dish. It can be used in pesto sauces & tomatoes sauces. It also adds beautiful flavor to vegetables & even scrambled eggs. This herb is commonly used as a garnish also.

  • Rosemary:

    Rosemary is a great herb to use in lamb, beef, pork, veal, poultry and salmon. It adds lovely flavor to squash, sauteed mushrooms and potatoes.

  • Sage:

    This herb more commonly used in any pork dish. Its adds flavor to vegetables, dips, spreads and cream soups.

  • Tarragon:

    Adds wonderful flavor to marinades and salad dressings. This herb can be mixed with warm butter to create a sauce. Spread the sauce over vegetables and seafood dishes.

  • Thyme:

    This herb goes well with tomatoes, beans, artichokes, potatoes, mushrooms or carrots. This is a way to season gumbo, clam chowder and vegetables soups.

The above list is simply a guide to help you get started. Remember to experiment with different herbs and spices until you have the exact flavor you are looking for. Do not be afraid to add a dash of this or a sprinkle of that to your meals.

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