A fully stocked pantry or spice cupboard will enable you to make almost any type of cuisine your tastebud’s desire within moments. You can always substitute different types of veggies but herbs and spices are non negotiable (think Indian curry’s, Italian sauce’s, salad dressing’s, gravies, etc). So having the proper ingredients is essential for cooking diverse recipes full of international flavor.
I have also included a link to my favorite Spice Brand, which you can order online.
- BALSAMIC – 2 kinds. A good quality Balsamic de Modena for salads and dressings and a cheaper version for adding to soups and sauces (I use balsamic for and extra sweetness to tomato sauces and soups that sugar alone just can’t do)
- APPLE CIDER– such a fresh tasting and smelling vinegar, also very diverse, great for salad dressings and in soups for a touch of sweetness
- WHITE/RED WINE- perfect for soups, stews, casseroles and salad dressings, its very versatile and easy going
- SHERRY– a stronger, more intense tasting vinegar, great for salad dressings and additions to stews and casseroles
- RASPBERRY- the essential French vinegar for salad dressings, sweeter and milder in taste
- RICE WINE – Japanese vinegar made from rice, used in Asian recipes, such as salad dressings and dipping sauces
- CHAMPAGNE – now we’re getting sophisticated! Like the beverage, this is high-end, if you want to splurge and try something a little more fancy in your salad dressing, go for this!
- GOOD QUALITY EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL- make sure its 100% and from only one origin, not mixed. My favorites are Greek or Californian. But Italian, French and Spanish are good bets too. This oil will only be used raw, to dress salads and finish dishes. When you really want that Olive Oil flavor.
- LIGHT OLIVE OIL- this is cheaper, lighter in color and milder in taste. I use this to cook with. You can even use it for baking as it doesn’t have an olive oil flavor, yet is still good for you.
- SESAME OIL- oil made from toasted sesame seeds. This oil is screaming with flavor. Used in Asian cooking but also gives great depth and flavor in a variety of cuisines. It’s quite strong, so a little goes a long way. Make sure to buy toasted or roasted, its darker in color.
- TRUFFLE OIL- comes in very small, pricey bottles due to its unique and highly praised ingredient: truffle. You only need a few drops to add intense aroma and flavor to dishes, so a small bottle will last a long time. Add it to pasta dishes, risotto or even casseroles or soups.
ALLSPICE- In America it is the quintessential baking spice, think apple pies, mulled wine. However it is used throughout the world in savory cooking. Most notably in Caribbean cuisine. Jamaican Jerk seasoning uses Allspice, as does many curries, pickling and moles (Mexican). It has the flavor and aroma of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves all mixed together.
BAY LEAVES- Used to flavor soups, stews, casseroles and pates. Always remember to use whole and remove before serving.
BOUQUET GARNI- A French bundle of herbs tied together with string (homemade) or ground up and sealed inside tea bag material. Used in soups, stews, casseroles and braising. The herbs are usually parsley thyme and bay leaf. Always discard before serving.
CARDAMOM- Native to India, these little green packages are triangular in shape and covered in a paper like shell. Used in cooking and baking, as well as drinks, think Chai tea. Widely used in Indian cooking. They are quit potent so 3-4 per dish will do. Always discard before serving as biting one of these whole is very unpleasant!
CELERY SALT- Ok I’m not going to lie this is a pantry staple due to its extremely important use in the making of Bloody Marys. Mmmmmm…
CHILI POWDER- Is made from dried chili’s. This comes in different heat levels, I suggest to buy a medium spiced version so you can actually get the flavor of the dried chili rather than overwhelming spiciness. You can kick up the spiciness with tabasco or red pepper flakes. Used in…Chili!
CHIPOTLE- Is ground up smoked jalapeño peppers. Also can be quite spicy, so use lightly. Used in Mexican cuisine, think salsa and adobe (creamy, spicy, chocolate sauces).
CHIVES- Are the smallest species of the onion family. Very mild in flavor (not as strong as onions) and fresh. Used in salads, potatoes, fish, vegetables and salad dressings. Fresh are preferable, but dried will work for year round use.
CINNAMON- A very popular spice for baking (apple pies, cookies, oatmeal, french toast) as well as savory cooking in Middle Eastern culture. One of the oldest spices used by man, it dates back to being imported by Egypt in 2000 B.C (ref: Wikipedia).
CLOVES- Native to Indonesia. These look like little wooden nails, usually spiked in oranges at Christmas time. If you use them whole, make sure to remove before serving, otherwise you can use them ground. Often used in African, Middle Eastern and Asian cooking to flavor meats, stews, marinades as well as sweet dishes using fruit.
CORIANDER/CILANTRO- This is the dried and ground seeds. Used to flavor curries, stews, soups and pickling vegetables. Popular in Indian, Asian and European cuisines.
CUMIN- Used in curries, Mexican dishes, dips, soups and stews. Popular in Middle Eastern, European, Indian, North African and Latin cuisines.
CURRY POWDER- Not a spice at all but rather a mix of spices blended together and named by the English during the colonial era in India to describe the spices used in Indian curries they were eating. You could buy all of these spices separately, however I find it easier to use one spice and get all of the flavor you are looking for. Typically a blend of coriander, turmeric, fenugreek, cumin and red pepper.
EPAZOTE- An herb used in Mexican and Latin cuisines. It is quite pungent, so go lightly. What is amazing about this herb is it is actually used to aid in reducing flatulence created from certain foods. Like beans for example. Adding this herb to those dishes helps with digestion. More beans please!!
FINES HERBES- A combination of herbs used in Mediterranean cuisines. Usually parsley, chives, tarragon and chervil. These are very mild in flavor therefore great for flavoring dishes such as salads, dressings, dips, omelets, vegetables.
GARLIC POWDER- Dried and ground up garlic.
GINGER- Dried and Ground up ginger.
HERBS DE PROVENCE- A collection of herbs from Provence in France. Usually made up of savory, basil, thyme, fennel and lavender. Great in stews, soups, casserole and grilled vegetables.
NUTMEG- This can either be bought whole (you grate yourself) or already ground. Used widely in baking but also in savory dishes throughout India, the Middle East and Europe. Goes well with carrot soup or potatoes for example.
ONION FLAKES- Basically little pieces of dried onion. You can also get roasted or toasted flakes. Great for dips, dressings and soups. They stay quite crunch giving a nice texture as well as flavor to dishes.
OREGANO- A very popular herb in Italian cooking, however also used in mexican cuisine. The dried leaves are stronger than fresh. Great for pizza, pasta sauces, salsa’s, Greek salad and grilled vegetables.
ROSEMARY- Also available fresh and dried. Fresh is lovely for roast potatoes, fish and vegetables. Dried is great in soups, stews, marinades and dressings. Rosemary is quite pungent in flavor and aroma, and the little leaves or needles are quite sharp so always make sure to chop up finely when using. Fresh can stay whole and be removed before serving.
SWEET PAPRIKA/SMOKED PAPRIKA- Made of ground bell peppers. This comes in either a sweet or smoked variety. I like both. This is a great addition to soups, sauces, stews, grilled veggies, eggs, casseroles just about anything. It gives dishes a nice smokey, earthy hearty flavor. Used widely in Hungarian cuisine as well as throughout Europe.
SAFFRON- The most expensive spice on the market. These beautiful deep orange and red strands are used to flavor rice dishes, the famous French bouillabaisse, liven up eggs, just to name a few. A little (thankfully) goes a long way.
SAGE- Sage comes in many forms. You can have the whole leaf fresh, dried leaves ground fine into a powder or dried leaves crumbled. I suggest the powder version to start off with. Sage is quite strong in flavor so a little goes a long way. Sage has a wonderful savory slightly peppery flavor and aroma. Think stuffing and gravy at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Sage is a holiday herb for North Americans and Brits, but also used for everyday cooking within Europe and the Middle East.
THYME- A very popular herb in many different cultures, thyme can be found fresh and dried. Fresh is bursting with flavor, however its storage life is quite short, so dried will always do the trick. Used for a variety of dishes, from stews to soups to grilled veggies to marinades and dressings.
VANILLA- Either in liquid form, syrup or fresh vanilla beans, this is an essential flavor in baking and smoothies! A little goes a long way, so add accordingly. Make sure to purchase a good quality brand, as it can be filled with additives and alcohol 😦
My Favorite Spice shop is http://www.penzeys.com They are located all over the USA but you can also order online. They have over 250 spices and everything comes is different sizes with easy to read labels.