Whether you're a seasoned chef or a kitchen novice, having the right herbs and spices at your disposal can transform your dishes from average to exceptional. So, what are the essential herbs and spices every kitchen should have? Here are six of our favorites.
One of the most versatile herbs, basil is a staple in Italian cuisine but is also widely used in Thai, Vietnamese, and Indonesian dishes. Its sweet, slightly minty flavor makes it a great choice for pasta sauces, salads, and pesto. Basil is best when fresh, but dried basil can also be used in a pinch.
Oregano is another essential herb, especially for Mediterranean and Mexican dishes. It has a robust, warm flavor with a hint of bitterness which pairs well with a variety of foods; from pizza and pasta to grilled vegetables and meat.
When it comes to spices, cumin is a must-have. It's a key ingredient in many Indian, Middle Eastern, and Mexican dishes, lending an earthy, nutty flavor with a hint of citrus. Cumin can be used in its whole seed form, or ground for a more potent flavor.
Paprika is a ground spice made from dried red peppers. It's a staple in Hungarian cuisine (think goulash) but is also used in a variety of other dishes, from deviled eggs to roast chicken. Paprika can range from sweet and mild to hot, depending on the type of peppers used.
Turmeric is a bright yellow spice that is commonly used in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine. It has a warm, bitter taste and is frequently used to color or flavor curry powders, mustards, and cheeses. But turmeric isn't just for cooking—with its powerful anti-inflammatory properties, it's also hailed as a superfood.
Finally, no kitchen would be complete without ginger. This spice can be used fresh, dried, or powdered for a warm, sweet yet spicy flavor. It's a key ingredient in many Asian dishes, and it's also great in baked goods like gingerbread and cookies.
Here's a table summarizing these essential herbs and spices:
Each of these herbs and spices brings a unique flavor profile to your dishes, and knowing how to use them can greatly enhance your cooking.