9 Seasonings You Should Always Have


If you're just getting into cooking and baking, you might find yourself face to face with a very blank pantry. While you can make a whole dish with just salt and pepper to season it, you're missing a whole world of flavor that can really take your meal to the next level.

With the Following Essential Seasonings, you can create flavor profiles for a range of cuisines, including Mexican, Italian, and Middle Eastern. Next time you're at the grocery store, stock up on these spices you're sure to use time and time and again.

1. Crushed Red Pepper/Cayenne Pepper

Fun fact: These two spices are the exact same thing, just in different formats. Cayenne pepper is finely ground, making it ideal to add heat seamlessly into taco meat and enchilada sauce. Just remember that a little goes a long way. Crushed red pepper is more effective as a topping for pizza, pasta, and avocado toast. It also adds heat as well as a little crunch and texture.

2. Dried Oregano

While this seasoning also makes for a classic pizza topping, its aromatic flavor can easily be found in savory Mediterranean, Italian, and Mexican dishes. Stir some into a bubbling marinara sauce, mix into a meat marinade, or whisk into salad dressing. If you have some room indoors or outdoors for an herb garden, fresh oregano would be a lovely addition.

3. Dried Rosemary

Roasting a chicken, making a pasta sauce, or simmering some comforting chicken and dumplings? You're going to need rosemary. This herb is incredibly pungent and has a strong flavor that's both savory and floral—you only need a little to make it count. It can also be used in baking breads like focaccia, or in infusions like rosemary olive oil. This is another great option for a fresh herb garden.

4. Dried Thyme

With their combined powers, oregano, rosemary, and thyme make a killer rub or marinade for a variety of meats. They can take your roast chicken or seared steak from just okay to absolutely delicious. Thyme adds woodsy flavor and depth to roast potatoes, soups, and even cocktails. It can be used fresh, as well.

5. Ground Cumin

This spice adds a warming, musky element to chili, curry, spice rubs, and marinades. Originating in the Middle East, it made its way across the globe and is now a common ingredient in many Tex-Mex dishes like enchilada sauce and taco seasoning.

6. Paprika

This seasoning has a fabulous deep red-orange color that can add vibrancy to a dish — a light dusting on deviled eggs, for example. A combination of bell peppers and chiles, it adds a light heat and fruitiness to dishes. It comes in hot, smoked, or sweet, so purchase depending on which flavor profile you're more likely to enjoy. It's famously used in the Hungarian dish chicken paprikash.

7. Nutritional Yeast

While this seasoning is mostly associated with vegans attempting to get that umami cheese flavor without actually eating cheese, nutritional yeast is a great flavor add-on for non-vegans as well. Many swear by sprinkling some on top of popcorn, but it also works well for a variety of sauces, from creamy pasta sauces to grain bowl toppers to dressings.

8. Bay Leaves

The thing that's different about bay leaves is that you don't actually consume them. You might add a leaf or two to a bubbling stew or rice dish, but you always take it out before serving. The dried leaf — or you could use fresh bay laurel — imparts a tea-like flavor that lightens up heavy dishes. If you like to cook a lot of soups or braised dishes, you might see bay leaves called upon more often.

9. Cinnamon

This spicy-sweet seasoning is not just for baked goods, although many sweet recipes call for at least a dash of cinnamon. It can be added to ground turkey, beef, and lamb (it's especially good in chili) to counteract the sometimes-displeasing taste of fat. It's also the perfect addition to coffee, tea, and smoothies — adding a bit of sweetness without using sugar.

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Remember that when using spices, if a little is good, more isn't necessarily better. Too much spice can overpower a dish and make it unpalatable. With a little experience, you'll learn just how much to add for the right amount of zing to your favorite dishes.

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