I love cooking with spices. They are a quick way to elevate dishes!
My friend from my dietetics program said it right, you get your food tasting like the restaraunts by seasoning it!
A lot has gone into selecting my favorite spices. Flavor, ease of use, and versatility are all some key factors.
Being about to use a spice in almost any dish and know it will turn out good is the best thing ever. It’s a cooking life hack in my book. Especially when you know it’ll be hard to mess up a dish completely with that spice. Meaning if you accidentally under-season or over-season a dish with that spice, it’ll still be good.
With these factors in mind, I compiled a list of my top 5 favorite versatile spices.
I also list what each spice pairs well with so you can build your culinary skills from there! However, I believe these 5 spices to be a good starting point when learning to cook.
Top 5 Versatile Spices
Cumin is arguably my number 1 favorite spice. I throw it in almost anything savory.
Throw some cumin in it.
Toss in some cumin.
Making a salad dressing?
Sauteing or roasting vegetables?
You guessed it, sprinkle in some cumin.
Do you eat meat?
Toss a little cumin into your dry rubs or sauces!
Why? Because It adds flair to any savory dish. Add in a little to give a hint of earthy flavor and add a lot add in a Middle Eastern wow-factor!
PAIRS WELL WITH: Cinnamon, Paprika, Coriander, Chili Powder, Turmeric, Black Pepper, Garlic, and more…
Paprika is made by grinding up peppers into powder. It can have a mild or strong flavor depending on the type!
There are all kinds of paprika. Smoked, hot, regular, etc. They all are delicious and deciding which one to use is based on preference. I prefer a good high quality spicy and smoked paprika. It adds so much flavor and depth to recipes but honestly, I’ll use any kind of paprika.
PAIRS WELL WITH: All Spice, Cardamom, Black Pepper, Turmeric, Chili Powder, Garlic, Parsley and almost any other spice really…
A jack of all trades, cinnamon is an amazing spice to have in your kitchen arsenal.
It can be used in sweet and savory dishes. It can be the star of a dish or be a complementary background player.
An awesome life-hack involves adding a little cinnamon to your coffee in order to add a naturally sweet taste.
But it also is a key-player in chilis and other savory dishes. Like I said, jack of all trades.
PAIRS WELL WITH: Nutmeg, Cardamom, Paprika, Cumin, Paprika, Chili Powder, Black Pepper and more…
Culinary professionals might glare at me for this choice but I’m gonna be real, I’m a busy college student and you’re probably a busy person too.
Sometimes (let’s be honest, most of the time), I don’t have the time or energy to finely mince some fresh garlic, so I compromise.
Garlic is good… actually garlic is amazing. So, I’d rather have powdered garlic then no garlic at all in my dish.
And seriously, adding garlic to your dish makes it 10x better. Seriously. I don’t anyone who doesn’t already add garlic into their savory foods (unless you are on a low-fodmap diet) but if you don’t, start doing it now.
It’s good in dry rubs, dressings, tossed into vegetables ready to be sauteed or roasted and so much more!
PAIRS WELL WITH: Oregano, Rosemary, Chili, Cumin, Turmeric, Black Pepper, Paprika, Thyme, Sage, Marjoram, Parsley, Bay Leaf, and so much more!
Okay, you know how I basically just professed my love for powdered garlic? Here is where I have to hunker down and say fresh is best when it comes to Cilantro/Parsley.
Both spices/herbs add freshness to dips, dressings, soups, salads, and more.
I listed them under the same number because some people don’t like Cilantro and if that’s the case, Parsley is a great alternative!
An awesome bonus to using the herbs is that you can grow them yourselves and have an endless supply of them.
PAIRS WELL WITH: Garlic, Citrus, Chiles, Chili, Onions, Garlic, Basil, Mint, and more!