Any cuisine around the world would be incomplete without a dash of spices. It is a natural and aromatic flavoring agent that gives dishes the flavors they need.
Spices are sold in dried form as a whole or in grounded form. While it is suggested to buy them whole and then ground them to acquire the most pungent flavors, you will easily find grounded versions in the market.
But be very careful while storing them. If they come in contact with air too often, they lose their flavors. Store them in an airtight container and keep in a cool place to ensure that they hold on to their tastes and fragrance.
Moving on, do you wish to have a collection of all the top spices in your kitchen? We have taken that extra step and curated this unbiased and comprehensive list of all the best spices. It is time to get your guests wondering about the kick of flavors that your dishes contain.
So, grab a cup of your favorite beverage and keep reading.
Types Of Spices
- Types Of Spices
- Black Pepper
- Celery Seed
- Cassia Bark
- Coriander Seed
- Mustard Seeds
- Crushed Red Pepper
- Carom or Ajwain Seed
- Fennel Seeds
- Onion Powder
- Pumpkin Spice
- Galangal Root Powder
- Poppy Seeds
While there is a long list of spices to know about, the most common one is turmeric. It is used all over the world and is followed by cinnamon in the list of popularity.
The following are the common types of spices prevalent in different parts of our world. Read on to know about them.
Also known as yellow ginger and Indian saffron, turmeric has been called the golden spice for ages. It has a considerable number of benefits and has been used for almost 4000 years now and Vedic culture is where we have heard about this spice for the first time.
The Vedic people would use it for cooking as well as as an offering to God. It became a part of Indian weddings, and even today, there is a whole ceremony just dedicated to applying turmeric on the body.
While it has excellent antioxidant properties that work very well for the skin, it also has anti-inflammatory effects that treat cancer. Drinking turmeric with milk and saffron is very popular even today, and turmeric latte has been finding its ground among the young crowd now.
Plus, this spice is known to have a lovely golden shade and acts as a natural food coloring. It provides a strong flavor and a beautiful color to make your dish more appetizing.
Another spice that is part of almost every kitchen around the world is the black pepper. It originated in India and was famous in the Western Ghats and Malabar. Although we frequently use the black colored version of it, there are green and white peppercorn too. It depends on the stage at which you are plucking it.
From grounded pepper on pizzas in Italy and curries in India to pepper flavored burgers in the US, this is one spice that compliments every cuisine.
The taste is also very unique as it will provide the spiciness of chilies while adding heat to food, which makes it stand out. In fact, it was such a unique spice that in ancient Greece, people would use it as currency. Pepper would even be offered to God during sacred rituals.
Although we have come a long way today, pepper still dominates most of our food and acts as a laxative too! If you have the flu, brew up some herbal pepper tea or use it in your bowl of soup to get well quickly.
used as a breath freshener to being the crucial ingredient for many recipes, clove is a well-known spice. It has been and is still used for its medicinal properties, primarily to provide relief from toothaches.
Clove oil has this cooling capacity that also works very well with health problems, including nausea and vomiting. Also, some chew on clove throughout the day to keep their breath fresh. It is a natural alternative to having mint.
Going back to its roots, it originated from India and would be shipped at the ports in Sri Lanka to be traded back in 900-1100 CE.
Clove is known for its sweet and spicy flavor that works very well for both sweet and savory dishes. You can add it to curries to enhance the taste or grind it to be used in making sweets.
Back in the days, cardamom started off with medicinal properties and has a history in helping with digestion problems. This reduced inflammation and problems with breathing and was widely used by doctors.
Also known as the ‘queen of spices,’ cardamom is one of the most popular spices in this world. It is well-known to provide a powerful pungent flavor and is one of India’s finest productions.
There are 2 main types, the green, and the black cardamom. These are used in almost all kinds of Indian dishes and are known to enhance flavors. It can be added to both sweet and savory dishes making it very versatile.
The green cardamom provides dishes with a sweet flavor, while the black one offers more of a smoky taste. You can use this for both sweet dishes and desserts as well as for spiced up rice and different curries. The famous Mughal dishes would be incomplete without this spice.
These light brown seeds are known to be very healthy and tasty. They are small in size and have an earthy fragrance. If you taste these seeds in their raw form, you will get a bitter yet warm taste.
Moving on, you will be pleased to know these seeds come packed with benefits. They are rich in good carbs, proteins, fiber, calcium, manganese, zinc, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus. Being low in calories while high in nutrients, these will help you with your diet and can become an essential part of developing bone health.
They are also asked to be consumed during pregnancy as they promote the formation of red blood cells. Being an excellent source of iron, these seeds will help in dealing with iron-deficiency in the body.
Celery seeds have been a part of Eastern medicine for ages now and have been used to cure bronchitis and flu.
Besides, you can use it in different recipes, and you could also ground it up. That would create salt, which can be used for all your recipes while adding a scent of celery to the item.
This is like the twin brother of cinnamon, which looks exactly the same but tastes very different. Known as Chinese cinnamon, this is known for its strong, pungent flavor. The taste is very strong and the spice is used for savory dishes mostly in China to add flavor, but it is grown in Indonesia and Burma too.
These are also used to make a number of tea blends and spice blends. This is because they are not only refreshing but have medicinal properties too. Cassia Bark is used as a cure for menstrual problems, joint and muscle pains, stomach aches, and high blood pressure.
Additionally, it is used by confectioners to add a pungent taste to some of their desserts and snack preparations. Cassia Bark has great oil content and can flavor a large amount of food at once.
Ginger is another popular spice that has been used since ancient times. Be it fresh, dried, preserved, pickled, candied, ground, powdered, or crystallized, garlic can be used in numerous ways. It has a sweet and peppery taste to it with a strong fragrance.
This makes it perfect for adding flavors to meat as well as desserts and sweets. It gives a slight tanginess to sweets while adding a bold pungent flavor to savory items.
It is also a spice that is used to treat the common flu. Opt for a ginger green tea, or ginger tea in general to get the complete benefits of the spice. It works well for sore throats and provides warmth that can help treat flu.
Further, ginger is also used to help in dealing with indigestion. Ayurvedic medicine has used ginger for ages, and it would previously be given with alcohol to soothe cold in ancient times.
Acquired from the Coriandrum sativum plant, coriander seeds are a part of the parsley family. It is sweet and citrusy in taste and has a wonderful aroma. These are generally used to make seasonal vegetables along with marinades, masalas and for pickling chutneys and pickles.
They can be used to make sweet dishes, too, like cookies, and cakes and have been used to add more flavors to vanilla desserts.
Coming to medicinal properties, they have been used for digestion issues and can be made a regular part of the diet if you face stomach ailments regularly. Besides, they can cure skin diseases like itchiness, eczema, and inflammation. Not just skin, coriander seeds also promote healthy hormonal balance preventing excessive pain during the period cycle.
Coriander seeds are wonderful for the hair, too, and promote healthy hair growth. They keep the hair root strong and prevent hair from falling.
If you want to add a nutty and smoky fragrance to your food, mustard seeds will work well. They come in shades of black, brown, and yellow and impart a very strong flavor to food. They are usually cooked in oil, which then allows its flavors to come out.
Besides, mustard seeds are very frequently used after grinding it to a paste. It is needed in a number of recipes and as condiments with fried snacks. Indians have used it to make pickles as it can be stored for a long time. Asians and Europeans use it to make stews and soups of different varieties because of the smoky flavor.
Today mustard is as popular as ketchup for people of all ages. Be it a football game you have gone to watch or a house party; if there are fries or hotdogs, there will be mustard sauce too!
We have all added crushed red pepper to our pizzas or salads at some point in time. It has become a part of our daily food regime today, with every pizza joint offering you packets of red pepper along with your pizza.
Red pepper is a spice that has been used for generations now to boost metabolism and curb hunger. It is very spicy, and that is what promotes metabolism. Some people use it in their weight loss diets to keep from eating too much.
Further, this has been a spice that has been used for ages for almost all savory food preparations. Every savory food recipe needs some amount of spice, and this provides it.
In addition, it minimizes the risk of cancer and eliminates pain from the body. Ayurvedic doctors have long suggested this as an excellent addition to the diet.
Wherever in the world you are, you must know about garlic as one of the key ingredients in most recipes. Garlic is considered a spice basically when it is dehydrated and crushed into a powder form. This can be added to any meal as well as salads, starters, and pasta. In fact, it has been a very important part of pasta dishes around the world.
Garlic has originated from Southwestern Siberia, South Asia, and Central Asia, where the consumption rate of this spice is extremely high. Its usage could be traced back to the Egyptians who would use it in making medicines and food.
Adding on, it works well in treating high blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels, and preventing cancer. This is because it has the antioxidant properties of Allicin, which works well for the body. If you plan to live a long and healthy life, this could be a great addition to your diet.
Nutmeg started off as a very costly spice during the 1600s when it was traded in the Western world. It was known to have great health benefits and worked in controlling weight, indigestion, and stomach problems.
It started off in Indonesia, where the spice was cultivated a lot, and it was very popular for its sweet flavor. It complements the taste of cinnamon, and together they work very well in adding to meat dishes. It was used to spice up red meat, which already has a strong flavor and hence needs a spice strong enough to compliment it.
Plus, it is a well-known spice for bakers and confectioners. Most Christmas cakes have nutmeg in them, and so do cupcakes, croissants, and bagels. It is also used in cold countries to add to their alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.
If you want your food to have a nutty and earthy taste, cumin might be the exact spice that is needed. It is a very important addition to food and has originated in Europe, Africa, and Asia. But today, it is well known around the world and has become a part of multiple cuisines.
Cumin can be used as a whole seed or in a powdered form. It adds a smoky, nutty, and spicy kick to the food, and you will find traces of citrus. Because of its abundance of flavors, it is used by vegetarians to enhance their food. We found a lot of curry recipes that recommend using cumin.
Plus, cumin helps in preventing indigestion, cholesterol, and diabetes. It is known to promote a healthy diet by making veggies taste good even without adding a lot of oil or carbs to it. Hence, it works well for all those who are trying to improve their diet.
Nutmeg seeds have an outer covering, which is called mace. This is used individually to flavor dishes and is more pungent in nature. You will get a taste that combines nutmeg, pepper, and cinnamon.
This is used in making puddings, custards, and cakes and can also be used for savory dishes. Soups, souffles, and curries use mace because of its warm and citrusy flavor. Many chefs use it to whip up different kinds of sauces that will go well along with fried snacks.
You can put whole blade mace while slow cooking as it will slowly impart the flavors just like a bay leaf. Add it to plain rice while it cooks, and you have mildly fragrant rice to go along with your food.
What’s more! It is well-known for its digestive properties and works well in curing vomiting and nausea. You can also keep a small amount of this spice in a side bag to smell if you feel light-headed.
Fenugreek seeds are small caramel-colored wheat kernels that are famous for their fragrance and taste. Also used to make fake maple syrup, this can create a syrup that exactly tastes like maple.
Plus, it is mostly used in powdered form and is added to a wide variety of dishes, pickles, and lentil preparations. We found that it is used by vegetarians frequently to add flavors to their vegetables.
Earlier, Romans used to add it to their wines, and it would provide a spicy aroma. The spice also has a mild butterscotch flavor along with a spicy taste that is not overpowering.
Besides, it is used by tobacco making factories to provide flavor to it. We found that it is widely used by the cosmetic industry too and is added to soaps and cosmetics. This gives it a fragrant undertone.
Like its peers, it has some medicinal properties as well and helps in dealing with menstrual cramps and sexual problems. It is often used as satisfaction enhancement supplements and has been known to work well.
It is time to introduce the most expensive spice in the world. Saffron has a beautiful orange-maroonish color and is known widely for its distinct taste. It is very difficult to grow saffron, and takes a lot of effort to cultivate and then collect it. Every strand is handpicked and carefully sorted before they can be packed. It’s mostly grown in Kashmir, Iran, and Spain.
Saffron has a floral undertone and a honey-like flavor, which enhances any item you decide to add to. It is a very important spice for Mughal dishes and has been used to flavor rice and meat for ages. Royal households saw a lot of saffron as it was valued more than gold.
Coming to its medicinal properties, this helps in dealing with menstrual symptoms and asthma. But since it is pretty expensive, saffron is generally used for special food and desserts.
Often confused with cumin and fennel, this spice has a sharp and pungent aroma that will leave a bittersweet and nutty aftertaste if you chew it. It is famous for aiding digestion, and people chew raw caraway seeds to promote health. If you want a natural breath freshener, this works well!
Native to Europe and Asia, this is a variant of seed that has an undertone of citrus and Anise. The flavors make it an excellent choice to be used in bread and crackers. Sausages and stews of various kinds also go well with this spice.
You will find caraway seeds grounded and infused with alcohol and liquors of different origins to enhance the taste. Besides, it has long been used to make essential oils, as it is very good for the skin. It has a range of health benefits and you could make it a part of your daily bathing routine.
Have you often found star-shaped spices in the Mediterranean and middle east dishes? That is called the Anise, which is a commonly used flavoring agent utilized for a number of savory as well as sweet recipes. It tastes a lot like licorice and is used to make honey and confectionary items too.
Anise had been initially cultivated in Southwest Asia and Mediterranean regions. It became popular in Europe because of its medicinal properties and the fruity and warm flavor that it has. Not only was Anise used in numerous tea blends, but it also found a place in creating syrups for cough, digestion and sleeplessness issues.
Today Anise is widely used in making gelatin and breath fresheners. Many alcohol brands have also picked it up to add to the concoction. There are multiple variants of cocktails that use this to add a sweet aroma to the drink.
Up next is a spice that is known to be the king of medicinal herbs. It had been used in ancient times by doctors to treat a number of ailments dealing with blood pressure, metabolism, and provided pain relief.
It is known to reduce hunger and is often related to jalapeno, which is another hot pepper. Cayenne is red in color and is often used in cooking food after it is grounded.
And the best part is that it is loaded with antioxidants, which include vitamin C, vitamin E, lutein, and choline. With these, it can easily remove toxic elements from the body and help you rejuvenate.
If you are planning on cooking an Indian dinner, you will probably need carom seeds or ajwain, as it is widely known. This is a staple in Indian kitchens and has originated from India itself. With an olive green and brown color, this has a very strong fragrance. If you taste carom, you will get a pungent and bitter flavor.
Not only is it a great flavoring agent, but it is used in making pickles and sauces too. Carom seeds work very well in treating indigestion and can provide relief if you have a burning sensation in your stomach.
Ajwain is best cooked after you toast it in ghee or butter. This will bring out its flavors and is sure to fill the kitchen with the waft of freshly toasted ajwain. You could then use it to make bread of all types.
Have you heard of the ‘fish herb’? Yes, that is exactly what fennel seeds are! They are popularly known as fish herbs in Italy and France and are of 2 types. One is the sweet version, which has a nutty and sweet flavor while the other is more bitter and tastes like licorice.
These are famous all around the world and are used in numerous recipes. They impart an anise-like flavor and have a grassy undertone to them. The spice is native to Scandinavia, Mediterranean, and Middle East regions and is used widely there.
Coming to its history, there is a very strange yet interesting fact related to fennel seeds. They were used by Hindus to cure snake bites and keep evil spirits out of houses. Today, it is often suggested by doctors to deal with muscle spasms.
This is one of the most beautiful spices that we have seen to date. It has a purple-reddish tinge, which makes it stand out from among its peers. It is known to have a tangy flavor, which is similar to that of citrus fruits like lemon and also vinegar. Sumac is a French word that can be translated to ‘red,’ and it has been named after its color.
Sumac becomes a great addition to recipes that require the tanginess of lemons, which is limited and will not be overwhelming. It grows well in mild temperatures and subtropical climates, which can be found in East Asia, Africa, and North America.
By now, you must have realized that every spice has some health benefits, and this one is no exception. It works well in dealing with headaches and fever. Bowel movements can also be regulated by consuming this.
Most of you already recognize this spice. Have you tried out spiced cinnamon latte or a cinnamon-flavored bun from your nearest cafe? If you have, you already know the flavor that it has. The lovely aroma and the rich flavor makes it a perfect addition to sweet dishes and drinks.
It has a brown color, and it has been cultivated in China and Indonesia since 2000 BC. Today cinnamon has found a place in the chocolate-making industry. It is widely used with chocolates to enhance the flavors and has become a crucial spice in the United States because of it.
It is also used in making cereals and bread-based items. It gives a kick to otherwise bland food and hence is used with carbs a lot. Many find it similar to cassia bark, but this one is a little sweeter while cassia bark is spicier.
Onions need no introduction but are you wondering how it adds to this list of spices? Onion, when dehydrated and grounded, creates onion powder, which can be stored for a long time and can be used in many spice mixes.
It is made by freeze-drying, dehydration, vacuum-shelf drying, and flow-drying, to name a few ways. The powder can be used to grill meat and can become a part of your barbeque sessions. Pair it up with garlic powder and cayenne, and you have the perfect spice mix for your chicken.
It is also an important part of pizzas and pasta. Do you get a spiced oregano mix with your pizzas? Onion powder is one of the ingredients that usually is a part of this mix.
Further, the spice can provide warmth and help in dealing with cold and flu. It will treat your cold and respiratory diseases and provide immediate relief. Craving for a bowl of onion and tomato soup when you are sick? You can add onion powder to mashed tomatoes, and that will help you create the dish in a jiffy.
Do you love pumpkin pies? Well, pumpkin spice is the key ingredient in making it taste so good. It is used to make a variety of lattes and is usually combined with another spice to create the perfect taste. It is very nutritious and will not add to your waistline.
Pumpkin spice is created by mixing nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and cloves, and you could buy all of these and create the mixture yourself if the spice itself is not available. These ingredients are very healthy and provide your body with the warmth that it needs during winters.
Additionally, it works very well for cookies, pies, cakes, and other desserts and is usually a hit during holiday seasons. The most amount of pumpkin spice is sold in the winters before Christmas as pumpkin spice latte is a favorite among today’s teenagers.
Up next is an East Asian shrub, which usually grows in tropical weather conditions. The galangal root powder is acquired from galangal, which grows presently in Southwest India and on the Eastern side of the Himalayas.
Its popularity slowly spread to Europe in the 9th century, and that is when the spice started gaining its place among other popular spices. After that, it became a part of herbal medicine and was soon known as the ‘spice of life’ in Saudi.
Galangal looks a lot like ginger and has a taste very similar to it, but with a pine, cactus flavor added. Thai recipes see a lot of this spice and are used in almost all of their recipes, beginning from soups to curries and drinks. Many bars today still add it with their citrusy beverages, including lemonades.
While you might relate poppy with being a source of opium, it is actually not true. Yes, the poppy pods provide opium but the seeds do not have it and are completely safe to consume. It had originated in Egypt and then traded to Persia, Arab, and India.
Poppy seeds could have a black, white, or gray shade and have a sweet, nutty flavor. It can be used in both sweet and savory dishes. While Indians usually use it to make spicy dishes, the Austrians make one of their sweet pastries or strudel with it. It is also used for pretzels, cookies, cakes, and muffins.
Besides, it is known to contain antioxidants in it, which help with a lot of health issues. Being rich in essential fatty acids, linoleic and oleic oils, it can bring down the level of bad cholesterol and promote good cholesterol. They have a number of minerals, including iron, calcium, manganese, potassium, to name a few. So, it helps with bone health and joint pains.
Now many of you might mistake paprika for cayenne or chili pepper, and it does come from the same family but is a slightly different version of it. The spice is used in a grounded form and has been a major part of the Hungarian, Spanish, and South American recipes.
Further, it has a spicy-sweet and earthy taste, which is coupled with a smoky flavor. The combination of this, along with the bright red color, provides for a brilliant addition to meals and cuisines.
It releases its flavors when heated in oil and can be used in curries, soups, stews as well as for rice items. You can also use it to sprinkle over fried snacks to add flavors to it.
You can guess that it is a spice mix just from the name of it. This is created by mixing cloves, pepper, cinnamon, and nutmeg and provides a sweet, pungent, spicy, and nutty taste, which can give a dish all the flavors needed.
It is famous in Jamaica and is used to make the popular Jamaican jerk chicken. It is part of Honduras and Guatemala’s cuisine, too, and is known to add a lot of flavor to the food. Also, there are a number of desserts that use all of these spices.
While it has been adding flavors to dishes for years, it has also been a part of medicine and helped in the process of digestion and toothaches.
Finally, we have come to the end of our guide about the top spices, and you must have realized that every spice comes with a slightly different taste, characteristics, aroma, and flavors. Once you know about them, you will be able to identify each and compare their flavors.
We want to warn you about one shortcoming of grounded spices. They oxidize very easily and are prone to losing all of their flavors. Hence, ensure that you store them well and use them within a few months. Since they are supposed to be very aromatic, you should require very small amounts to add flavors.
With this, we will take our leave. Let us know about your experience in the comments section below.
Until next time!