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Spice Blends You Don’t Need to Buy

Spice Blends You Don’t Need to Buy

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You probably have all the ingredients to make these simple spice blends

Cater to your own tastes and save money with these easy spice blends.

Chili Seasoning. Everyone loves a good chili. Mix your favorite chili powder (smoky and mild chipotle is usually a good place to start) with garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, cumin, coriander, and some salt and pepper.

Italian Seasoning. Mix garlic powder, onion powder, dried basil, oregano, parsley, and some salt and pepper and say ciao to those unnecessary store-bought spice blends. Add in some red pepper flakes if your food needs a kick.

Pumpkin Pie Spice Seasoning. Use this spice blend in any baked good for a homey, delicious flavor. Mix together cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves, and nutmeg. If you’re feeling fancy, throw in some mace (which actually is part of the nutmeg nut) as well.

Taco Seasoning. Add some hot smoked paprika and dried oregano to the chili seasoning. Enjoy Taco Tuesday.

Za’atar. Much like curry, the exact recipe for this Middle Eastern spice blend varies depending on region and even the family that makes it. Mix dried herbs like thyme, oregano, marjoram, savory, cumin, coriander, fennel seeds, and sumac if you have it on hand.

Homemade Fajita Seasoning

Mexican dishes like fajitas are a staple weeknight dinner for most families – quick and easy, and always a favorite!

Wanna make those fajitas even quicker and easier? (Sure ya do!)

Whip up an extra-big batch of this Homemade Fajita Seasoning for a fajita dinner tonight … and store the rest of the batch in your spice cupboard for fajitas next week … and the week after that.

With this Mexican spice mix on deck, fajitas are literally just minutes away – quick enough for even super-busy weeknights! And yes … your family will thank you. (Pat yourself on the back. You’re totally winning the weeknight dinner grind, my friend!)

15 Spice Blends We Can't Live Without

At Bon Appétit, we're all about making homemade spice mixes, but sometimes it's nice to have the work done for you. In times of need—aka when we're too lazy to do more than toss seasoned chicken into a pan with some vegetables—we turn to these pre-mixed spice blends. Sometimes it's warm spices for oatmeal, sometimes it's super-garlicky herb blends for meats, and other times it's just Lawry's (which weɽ put on almost anything). Below are some of our absolute favorites.

"I'm super keen on the addition of rose petals in this harissa spice blend by NYSHUK. I reach for it when I want a pop of floral heat to perk things up. I also love it as a dusting for fried eggs or avocado toast, as a spice rub for roasted carrots or other sweet vegetables like squash and sweet potatoes, or to liven up lentils. I add it to soups, too, and it's interesting with cured salmon." —Alaina Sullivan, senior designer

"Curio Spice's Supeq Spice (seaweed, shiitake mushroom, ginger, nettle, and hot paprika) is good on almost everything. I use it on fish or on rice or other grains that get tossed into a salad. I also love their Aegean Salt (lemon, thyme, and mastic) on roasted vegetables." —Liesel Davis, recipe editor

Courtesy of McCormick & Company, Inc.

"Lawry’s Seasoned Salt is one of the world’s greatest inventions. If you want something a little higher brow, this Ariosto seasoning is also really great on chicken. Juniper and marjoram and bay leaf!" —Carla Lalli Music, food director

"I first learned about the versatility of Hawayej when it was served with a chocolate ice cream and banana dessert at Combina (RIP) in New York City. The Yemeni spice blend (with turmeric, cumin, black pepper, and other spices) lends extra warmth and depth to butternut squash, stews, and curries. But when I imagined myself sprinkling it on my morning yogurt and overnight oats, I snagged this La Boîte blend and never looked back." —Elyssa Goldberg, associate web editor

"In Ithaca, New York, I found my favorite all-purpose spice blend: F. Oliver's Seneca Seasoning. It is a vampire killer of dried garlic, shallots, scallions, onion, and chives with green peppercorns and salt. Thankfully I only need a pinch or two to season everything from soft-scrambled eggs to roast chicken." —Alyse Whitney, associate web editor

"I’ve written about my reliance on The Spice House’s Cake Spice mix (for banana bread oatmeal) and Chorizo Spice (for DIY chorizo). I also use their fancyfancyfancy garlic salt on a daily basis, which has little green pieces of dried scallions in it and is exponentially better than anything else you’ll ever buy.

Wait I have one more: Épices de cru makes a hilariously fantastic ranch mix. Why I’m recommending this artisanal French company’s spice mix for ranch dressing is a mystery for mankind to unravel in years to come, but trust me right now: it’s incredible." —Alex Beggs, senior web editor

"I like the La Boîte à Epices Yagenbori blend, which was made with Eric Ripert. It has sesame seeds, orange peel, red chili flakes, and soy sauce powder. I love the umami depth and bright citrus pop that it brings to rice dishes (or just a bowl of rice) and simple seafood. It also hangs well with eggs. I also use the custom Winter Sugar blend (Japanese snow sugar, beet sugar, citrus peel, spices, and Tahitian vanilla bean) from Boulettes Larder on oatmeal." —Christine Muhlke, editor at large

"Adobo seasoning is a Puerto Rican staple. My boyfriend introduced me—he puts it in eggs before he scrambles them." —Amanda Shapiro, editor, Healthyish

"Kalustyans makes a truly excellent Vadouvan that I use all the time. It has big distinct pieces of garlic, onion, and curry leaves, and it’s so well balanced. It adds amazing flavor to roasted vegetables, chicken, and seafood." —Claire Saffitz, senior food editor

Chicken thighs are a blank canvas for all the savory spices:

Don’t toss those old spices you never use. Make blends you can use on everything.

Chef Lior Lev Sercarz blending spices at La Boîte, the spice shop he founded in 2009 in New York. (Thomas Schauer/La Boite)

Whether they’re found in a cupboard, a drawer or a rotating rack, a host of little-used spices are probably taking up valuable real estate somewhere in your kitchen — and they’ve probably been there for years. Maybe it’s a jar of allspice you only crack open for gingerbread cookies at Christmas, the sumac you were inspired to purchase by the Ottolenghi cookbook on the coffee table or that jar of Himalayan pink salt that just seems too fancy to use.

Use it all, says chef and spice purveyor Lior Lev Sercarz, and use it now. “Your spice cabinet should be a place of inspiration,” he says, “not a place to gather dust.”

Raised in a kibbutz in Israel where he recalls the food as being either bland or vinegary, Sercarz sees spices as the place where recipes should start, rather than an afterthought sprinkled on just before serving. “A potato can be transformed into a meal, just with the addition of spices,” he says.

Start by taking stock of what’s tucked away in that cabinet, beginning with the darkest recesses, which most likely house the spices that have seen the least use. If they’ve been there longer than a year — as Sercarz suspects they have — you don’t have to discard them, but you could consolidate several. Try creating blends with them, to use as seasoning for dips and sauces, dry rubs for meat, poultry and fish, or even to amp up the flavor in coffee and cocktails.

“If you make blends, you will find ways to use them across recipes, from sweet to savory,” says Sercarz. “It’s an edible tool.”

He suggests using the spice pantry the way you use your refrigerator, where items are regularly eaten and replaced and stock is rotated every few months from the back to the front. New additions should be marked with a date one year from when purchased, just to give you a deadline for using it up, or, at the very least, creating a new blend with what’s left.

”Most people don’t need a recipe, they just need the application,” says Lior Lev Sercarz. (Thomas Schauer/La Boite)

Take ground cloves, for instance. As a spice with a tongue-numbing quality, it can frighten home cooks with its intensity, yet Sercarz sees it as a versatile vehicle for flavors — when used in moderation. In his latest book, “The Spice Companion: A Guide to the World of Spices” (Clarkson Potter, 2016), he recommends blending cloves with other spices that might also be found in the back of the cupboard, such as juniper berries, galangal and licorice root, to create a seasoning for sauteed savoy cabbage, or to add a spicy note to a traditional old fashioned cocktail.

“Most people don’t need a recipe, they just need the application,” Sercarz says. Hence, he’ll suggest dusting fresh scones with a mixture of cloves and confectioners’ sugar or mixing cloves with balsamic vinegar and grated apples to accompany pork chops.

Sercarz particularly urges home cooks to stop thinking of individual spices as relating to specific cuisines. He points out that black pepper, a native of Kerala, is hardly limited to Indian recipes, yet we tend to use chipotle powder only in Mexican recipes, or relegate curry leaves to, well, curry.

“It’s a spice,” he says. “It doesn’t matter where it comes from.”

Sercarz co-authored “The Art of Blending” in 2012 his “Spice Companion: A Guide to the World of Spices” was published late last year. (Thomas Schauer/La Boite)

Not only is pepper used across all cuisines, different types of pepper have specific flavor profiles, so it sometimes makes sense to switch out the black peppercorns for other varieties, such as herbaceous green or delicate white. This practice enhances different recipes and allows for a deeper appreciation of the characteristics of that variety.

When cleaning out the cupboard, take time to taste the spices. (Sercarz considers anything that can be dried and used to add flavor a spice, so this includes herbs, bark, berries, leaves and so forth.) Then start consolidating them into new combinations, such as celery seed with cayenne pepper. You could use that blend to flavor a compound butter, bloody mary or crab cake. A blend of marjoram, dried mint and fennel seed can season grilled fish, be sprinkled over bruschetta or lend a grassy note to emulsified olive oil and orange juice to drizzle on raw baby turnips.

“You probably already have a signature chicken recipe where you use a certain combination of spices,” says Sercarz, “like salt, pepper, paprika and oregano. Just go ahead and make a batch of that blend for yourself, consolidating it into one jar, then try it on eggs, or roasted fish or whipped into goat cheese.”

At La Boite, Sercarz’s New York spice store, you’ll find more than 40 spice blends for inspiration, with combinations that can seem unusual or spark an “aha” moment. Fenugreek, cumin, dried onion and garlic become a perfect foil for spinach and lamb, while lemongrass, ginger and palm sugar can highlight either a fruit smoothie or a spicy dish of clams and chorizo. That little jar of pumpkin pie spice that’s hiding in the corner of your cupboard would be just as much at home in a chickpea curry as on the Thanksgiving table, because, in Sercarz’s philosophy, a blend really has no limitations.

“I’ve never had spices that don’t work together,” Sercarz says, “it’s just about adjusting the ratios. And even when I think a blend is very savory, I’ll have a customer put it into a brownie and prove me wrong. I love that.”

Kristen Hartke is a Washington food writer and editor. Watch Sercarz and Food editor Joe Yonan work with spices in their Facebook Live session here.

Homemade Pickling Spice Recipe

Makes approximately 3/4 cup


2 tablespoons black peppercorns

2 tablespoons mustard seeds

2 tablespoons coriander seeds

2 tablespoons allspice berries

1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes


1. Combine all ingredients and store in an airtight container.

2. Use in your pickle recipes as directed.

**Makes approximately 3/4 cup.


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10 Spice Blends to Enliven Any Dish

Sure, you can spend a lot of money on the perfect spice. Or you can make your own.

Buying a spice blend is a little like buying salad dressing: If you spend enough money, you can find a good one. But you can also produce an almost perfect version in minutes, and not only will you know exactly what’s in it, you will also have a staple that will last for months. And, because each spice blend represents a particular style of cooking, you can vary any dish by swapping one for another.

You’re usually better off if the foundation of your spice mixtures is whole spices. They are typically of higher quality than their ground counterparts, and they keep better, which means that you can buy them less frequently, ideally from a place that pecializes in spices, or at least sells them in bulk. (For ordering online, I favor Penzeys.)

That said, preground spices are sometimes your best option (you’re not going to make your own garlic powder, for example) and can always fill in for whole. Be aware that ground spices are more densely packed, so when substituting, reduce the amount of ground significantly roughly 25 percent less is a good rule of thumb.

I have a nice collection of manual grinding devices I almost never use. A purist would insist on a mortar and pestle for spice blends, but I use an old (and cheap it cost $9) coffee grinder. If you’re grinding spices and coffee in the same machine and don’t want your coffee to taste like curry, grind some rice to a powder after removing the spices it will absorb the residual seasonings and leave your grinder ready for its morning duties.

The recipes here yield about half a cup reduce or increase the proportions if you like. Most include prescribed amounts of salt, which you can ignore if you prefer to add salt later. Once you’re comfortable with the process, you can start personalizing these, as experienced home cooks around the world do. There is no such thing as the ‘‘right’’ proportions for spice blends there’s only what you like. In other words, these are mine — make them yours.

And don’t feel as if you have to relegate these mixtures solely to their original uses, like jerk spice on chicken or garam masala in curry. Rub them on meat, poultry, seafood, tofu or vegetables before grilling, broiling or roasting cook them in oil or butter to begin braises or stir-fries or just sprinkle them on almost anything — my recently regenerated enthusiasm for these came about when I sampled a couple of blends on raw apple slices with ice cream, which was transformational. That’s how spice blends are.

How to Toast and Grind Spices Put whole spices (or seeds) in a small or medium skillet over medium heat cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until they are fragrant, 2 to 5 minutes. Cool for a few minutes, then grind in a spice or coffee grinder until powdery. Store in sealed jars in a dark, preferably cool place all of these will keep well for weeks or even months.

Pimentón mix

Combine ¼ cup pimentón, 2 tablespoons granulated garlic, 2 teaspoons salt and 2 teaspoons pepper. Before using, add some freshly grated lemon zest.

Five Spice

Grind the following (no need to toast): 2 tablespoons Sichuan peppercorns, 12 star anise, 3 teaspoons whole cloves, two 3-inch cinnamon sticks and ¼ cup fennel seeds.

Garam Masala

Toast and grind the seeds of 20 cardamom pods, 2 3-inch cinnamon sticks, 2 teaspoons whole cloves, 1 teaspoon nutmeg pieces, 2 tablespoons cumin seeds and 2 tablespoons fennel seeds.


Toast and grind 2 tablespoons each cumin seeds and sesame seeds. Combine with 2 tablespoons dried oregano, 1 tablespoon dried thyme, 2 tablespoons sumac, 2 teaspoons salt and 2 teaspoons pepper.


Combine 2 tablespoons granulated garlic, 1 tablespoon salt, 4 teaspoons dried oregano, 1 teaspoon black pepper, 1 teaspoon turmeric, 2 teaspoons cumin, 2 teaspoons onion powder and 2 teaspoons ground ancho.

Quatres Epices

Grind the following (no need to toast): 2 tablespoons each black and white peppercorns, 1 tablespoon allspice berries and 1 teaspoon cloves. Combine with 1 teaspoon ground ginger and 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg.

Grind the following (no need to toast): 2 tablespoons allspice berries, ½ teaspoon nutmeg pieces, 2 teaspoons black peppercorns and 4 teaspoons dried thyme. Combine with 2 teaspoons cayenne, 2 tablespoons paprika, 2 tablespoons sugar and ¼ cup salt. Before using, add some minced fresh garlic and ginger.

Nori Shake

Toast 4 nori sheets (one at a time) in a hot skillet for a few seconds on each side coarsely grind them. Toast 2 tablespoons sesame seeds until golden combine in a bowl with 2 teaspoons coarse salt, the ground nori and cayenne to taste. (This keeps for only a week or so.)

Ras El Hanout

Toast and grind 4 teaspoons each coriander seeds and cumin seeds. Combine with 2 teaspoons each ground cinnamon, ginger, paprika, turmeric and salt add 2 tablespoons ground pepper.

Chili Powder

Toast and grind 4 teaspoons cumin seeds, 1 teaspoon black peppercorns and 4 teaspoons coriander seeds stir in 2 tablespoons dried Mexican oregano, 4 tablespoons ground ancho chiles and 1 teaspoon cayenne.

Photographs by Claire Benoist for The New York Times. Food stylist: Jamie Kimm.

Store Bought Taco Seasoning

One alternative to the "taste as you go" method is buying pre-made taco seasoning packets. I'm not a big fan of these, for a few reasons.

  • The preservatives andbad oils often found in pre-made items aren't something I want to put in my body. If you do buy the store bought mixes. check the ingredients to make sure you know what you're eating.
  • It's one less thing to buy. The fewer items on my shopping list, the better. I've got two young kids so I'm all about a quick shopping trip. This is also why I love online grocery shopping!
  • The pre-made spice mixes are marked up substantially. I'd rather save some money and mix up my own at home. Speaking of saving money, check out this course that completely changed the way I think about our grocery budget.

Basic Spice Blend

I love making my own spice blends. I find that I can make my own seasoning mixes cheaper, tastier, and healthier than commercial blends. No thank you to excess sodium, preservatives, anti-caking agents, and who knows what else. I keep a few jars in my cupboard for adding flavor to main dish proteins, salad dressings, vegetables, and even homebred breads.

One of my favorite homemade seasoning mixes is this Basic Spice Blend. It really is basic — only five ingredients — but it packs a punch.

6 spice blends to make at home, including garam masala, ras el hanout and Cajun seasoning

Almost two shelves in my pantry are devoted entirely to spices. Whole, ground, common, obscure, hailing from all over the world. Mixing and matching is easy, to say the least. When I come across a recipe that calls for a specific blend, there’s always the temptation to go ahead and buy a premade jar. “It would be faster and easier,” one little voice in my head says. “But you already have the components, and you’ll overpay,” says the other.

There are even more reasons to make your own blends. Scaling up and down is easy. If it’s a recipe you make a lot, save yourself the work the next time by putting together a larger batch. Or, if you’re afraid of the commitment, a small batch will do. You’ll preserve flexibility by maintaining a supply of individual spices you can use in other ways. Perhaps most importantly, a blend you make yourself, especially if you’re toasting and grinding the spices, will taste fresher and bolder than what will come out of a jar or package, even if you choose to store extra for later. I’m using a 20- or 30-year-old coffee grinder to grind my spices, no complaints (reserve a different one for coffee, or be sure to clean it very well in between uses), but a mortar and pestle and some elbow grease can often work, too.

Here’s a roundup of spice blends to consider, along with a few recipe ideas.

Garam masala
Makes about 1/4 cup

  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom seeds, preferably from black pods
  • 3 cinnamon sticks (each 3 inches long), broken into smaller pieces
  • 3 fresh or dried bay leaves

Preheat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add all the spices and the bay leaves, and toast, shaking the skillet every few seconds, until the coriander and cumin turn reddish brown, the cloves, peppercorns and cardamom turn ash-black, the cinnamon and bay leaves appear brittle and crinkly, and the mixture is highly fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.

Immediately transfer the nutty-smelling spices to a place to cool. (The longer they sit in the hot skillet, the more likely it is that they will burn, making them bitter and unpalatable.) Once they are cool to the touch, place them in a spice grinder or coffee grinder, and grind until the texture resembles that of finely ground black pepper. (If you don’t allow the spices to cool, the ground blend will acquire unwanted moisture from the heat, making the final blend slightly “caky.”) The ground blend will be reddish brown, and the aroma will be sweet and complex, very different from that of the pre-toasted and post-toasted whole spices.

Store in a tightly sealed container, away from excess light, heat and humidity, for up to 2 months.

Low-FODMAP Marinade Recipes

Simple Marinade for Poultry or Pork

Makes enough for about 1 lb meat.

Variation >>> If you have a big handful of parsley or cilantro lying around, you can add that plus the ingredients below to a food processor to blend.

½ tsp each dried rosemary and thyme

Whisk together all the ingredients and add to a ziploc bag with meat. Refrigerate for 4 to 12 hours. Season meat with salt and pepper and cook.

Citrus-Herb Marinade

Works great for hearty white fish, salmon, or chicken. Makes enough for about 1 pound of meat. Fish can marinate for a shorter time than chicken, as noted below.

Handful parsley leaves and stems (about 1/2 packed cup)

1 tbsp hot sauce (optional)

Juice of 1 orange (or 2 clementines)

2 tbsp rice or red wine vinegar

Put all ingredients through vinegar in food processor and process until roughly chopped. With processor on, slowly pour oil through feed tube.

Place meat or fish in a large ziploc bag and add marinade. For fish, refrigerate 2 to 4 hours. For chicken, refrigerate 4 to 12 hours.

Low-FODMAP Chimmichurri Sauce or Marinade

Great for steak or anything grilled, including veggies. Makes enough for about 1 lb meat.

1 cup (packed) parsley (leaves and thin stems)

1/4 to 1/3 cup mint leaves (about 4 sprigs)

1 tbsp red wine vinegar, plus additional if needed

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional if needed

1 tsp granulated sugar (or your sugar of choice)

1/2 tsp red chile flakes, or to taste (optional)

Sea salt to taste (1/4 to 1/2 tsp)

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Add parsley and mint to a food processor and process until chopped, scraping down bowl as needed. Add vinegar and lime juice. With processor running, slowly pour olive oil through the feed tube.

Add mustard, sugar and chile flakes if using. Season with salt and pepper. Pulse until blended. Consistency should be thick but pourable. Add additional oil or red wine vinegar to thin, depending on whether you like more or less acidity. Check seasoning. Can be used as a marinade, or served over grilled meat, veggies or fish as a sauce.


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