Cooking with Herbs and Spices

Cooking with Herbs and Spices: The Ultimate Cheat Sheet

Cooking with herbs and spices scares a lot of people. It’s not a complicated process, but a lack of information often causes people to shy away from things that they don’t know. Before you completely give up on cooking with herbs and spices, take a minute to check out this cheat sheet guide that will get you on the right track with all your healthy meal plan needs.

For starters, you can’t be afraid to season things. Herbs and spices are necessary to add flavor to a variety of foods. You can create different types of seasoning blends or use storebought blends. Some seasonings are required, and some are added for optional flavor, but regardless, you need to know how and when to use herbs and spices and seasonings blends. To do that is by learning about their origins, flavor, and taste.

Common Herbs and Spices
Photo Credit: Canva — Common Herbs and Spices

Regional Cuisines, and Common Herbs, and Spices

The great thing about herbs and spices is that you can create unique seasoning combinations reflective of certain countries or regions. For example, you can find creole seasonings, Caribbean seasonings (including jerk rub), Mexican seasonings, Asian spices and seasonings, and more in your local supermarket. These seasonings can be used to season dishes, and taste and flavor will differ with each herb.

As the food industry is expanding, so does people’s palate. More people are becoming foodies, and with the help of social media, we are experiencing an influx of international culinary experiences. We are learning more about different herbs, spices, and seasoning blends.

Cooking meals in different ways gives someone the ability to have an extra meal every day. Seasonings allow tasting the exotic flavors of other cuisines.

Here’s a great cheat sheet that covers common herbs and spices from various regions and countries:

Here are 30 Common Herbs and Spices used in most Cuisines

Allspice: earthy and sweet; pairs well with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, mace, and ginger
Basil: sweet; pairs well with garlic, thyme, oregano, marjoram, rosemary, and parsley
Bay Leaves: slightly bitter; pairs well with sage, thyme, oregano, garlic
Black Pepper/Peppercorn: smoky, peppery taste; pairs well with garlic, parsley and thyme.
Cardamon: sweet; pairs well with cinnamon, ginger, cumin, and turmeric.
Cayenne Pepper: peppery and spicy; pairs well with garlic, thyme, scallion, parsley, paprika, and cinnamon.
Chervil: mild anise flavor; pairs well with tarragon, parsley, and chive
Chive: mild onion taste; cayenne pepper, parsley, and garlic. 
Cilantro: citrusy and slightly peppery; pairs well with garlic, thyme, and black pepper. 
Cinnamon: earthy and sweet: pairs well with nutmeg, ginger, allspice
Cloves: earthy and sweety; pairs well with cinnamon, garlic, black pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, and allspice
Coriander: earthy and peppery; pairs well with cumin, cinnamon, chili powder, cayenne pepper, and garlic.
Cumin: earthy and smoky; pairs well with garlic, ginger, turmeric, cayenne pepper, and paprika. 
Dill: grassy, fresh, and slightly citrusy; pairs well with garlic, tarragon, rosemary, and sage.
Fennel: mild anise taste; pairs well with dill, thyme, and cumin.
Garlic: savory; pairs well with parsley, black pepper, thyme, oregano, sage, tarragon, scallion, and ginger.
Ginger: warm and sweet; pairs well with garlic, cumin, cinnamon, nutmeg, and lemongrass. 
Lemongrass: zesty and citrusy; pairs well with scallion, garlic, parsley, and ginger.
Marjoram: sightly sweet; dill, parsley, basil, and thyme
Mint: cool and sweet; pairs well with ginger, garlic, and parsley.
Nutmeg: sweet; pairs well with cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and cloves. 
Oregano: earthy; garlic, rosemary, parsley, bay leaves, and thyme.
Paprika: warm, and sweet; (can be smoky as well); pairs well with garlic, parsley, cinnamon, cumin, and cardamom.
Parsley: herbaceous, and slightly bitter; pairs well with garlic, thyme, and scallion
Rosemary: earthy; pairs well with sage, garlic, oregano, basil, thyme, oregano, and parsley. 
Sage: earthy, slightly peppery taste with hints of mint, eucalyptus, and lemon; pairs well with thyme, rosemary, and marjoram
Scallion: spicy and peppery; pairs well with parsley, garlic, thyme, and tarragon. 
Tarragon: licorice and peppery; pairs well with sage, dill, garlic, and parsley.
Thyme: earthy; pairs well with garlic, parsley, oregano, and rosemary.  
Turmeric: bitter and peppery; pairs well with cinnamon, garlic, and scallion.

Other Important Notes

Less is generally more with seasonings and spices, but you also have to use your own taste to judge. Make sure that you add spices slowly so that you can taste them as you go and don’t accidentally overdo it. You can always add more, but you can rarely take it out of or off of whatever you are cooking.

If a recipe calls for salt, use salt. If it requires herbs or fresh seasonings, use fresh ingredients. Seasonings and flavor profiles are integrated into food for a reason and when you modify important seasonings, you’re affecting the overall outcome and flavor development of the dish. Herbs and Spices can take you to many places, as long as you take the time to learn what all they have to offer.

First published on January 9, 2020. Revised and updated to add additional content


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