12 herbs and spices make an appearance in over 800 recipes on my website. Nothing fancy. I’m totally predictable and thoroughly boring! But with a little mix ‘n match, you can have Greek tonight, Mexican tomorrow, Middle Eastern the night after followed by Indian then Italian, or any number of my every day midweek meals!
How many of these are already in your pantry??
Why I’m sharing my essential spice list
A few weeks ago I shared a little impromptu video on Instagram calling for help because someone removed one spice jar from my alphabetically organised wall of spices, I couldn’t figure out what it was and it was driving me crazy.
Other than the answer (share your answer in the comments below!!) the other takeaway was that people were curious what are the spices I use the most? So here I am today with my 12-most-used-spices list that are used in over 800 recipes on this website!
12 clear winners
Just before I get to The RecipeTin Spice List, I just want to note that I have an unusually broad range of herbs and spices in my pantry. I feel given what I do, it’s justified – or at least, that’s what I tell myself!
But there’s a clear list of 12 herbs and spices that make an appearance over and over again in my recipes. So while I’ve always had a view that people should build their spice collection naturally based on recipes they choose to make rather than take a list from someone who hoards Vegemite Shapes like they’re going to be discontinued (*her heart thuds in fear at the thought*), I thought you might find my essential Spice List handy if you’re a bit of a regular user of my recipes.
But just to reiterate – I think you’re going to be sorely disappointed with how pedestrian this list is. Nothing trendy or cool or gourmet here. 😂
The RecipeTin Spice List
Here are the 12 herbs and spices that make an appearance in over 800 recipes on this website and the most used spices in my cookbook:
Chilli flakes / red pepper flakes
What I use them for
Cumin – In virtually every single Mexican and Middle Eastern recipe, two of my favourite cuisines, as well as Indian, African, Southern (American), Tex-Mex and South American dishes. Tacos to fajitas, tagine to Chicken Shawarma, meat marinades to salad dressings, and Asian foods like Thai Yellow Curry and Satay Curry, cumin is probably my most used spice.
Paprika – Probably the 2nd most used spice! I love the warmth it brings to dishes in both flavour and vibrant colour. Used liberally in the same cuisines listed above in cumin as well as in Western dishes whether it be a simple pork or fish rub, or a seasoning for potato wedges. Actually, now that I think of it, paprika may well be my #1 most used spice!
Coriander – If you see “cumin” listed in a recipe, there’s a high chance you’ll see coriander listed alongside it. Also used extensively in the cuisines listed above as well as some iconic recipes on this website such as homemade (easy!) Pastrami, coriander definitely sits in my top 5.
Onion powder – A lesser used spice by Australian cooks but a firm favourite in the States, this brings an earthy oniony flavour to anything it’s used in, from everyday rubs to virtually all-things Mexican (especially tacos) to Southern food ( pork ribs!) and everyday midweek meals like the Crispy Baked Chicken Legs I shared a few weeks ago. For those of you unfamiliar with it, I urge you to add it to your collection. It’s a game changer.
Garlic powder – In my world, you’re hard pressed to find a savoury dish that doesn’t have both fresh onion and garlic in it. And it’s the same with the powdered versions – where you see one, you usually see the other.
Like onion powder, garlic powder tastes quite different to fresh garlic, with a smoother more earthy flavour. You will see it in pretty much all my Mexican recipes as well as Southern foods like Fried Chicken and all things barbecue flavoured (pork ribs, brisket, beef ribs). Also used in the recently shared Ranch flavoured dressing in the Avocado pasta salad that you all loved so much!
Onion and garlic powder – essentials for sticky BBQ sauce!
Oregano – Used in abundance in Greek, Italian and Mexican food, all of which feature heavily on this website! Featured in Greek Salad, Greek Lemon Potatoes, Greek Lamb Shoulder and Greek Chickpea Salad, to name a few. In Mexican food, you’ll see oregano used in spice mixes for a range of dishes including the popular Pork Carnitas as well as Chicken Tacos and Beef Enchiladas.
Cayenne pepper – Originating from Central American, it’s no surprise that it’s used to bring spiciness to Mexican dishes! It also probably the most commonly used spice in Western cooking to add spiciness.
Chilli flakes / red pepper flakes – Ah, I love red pepper flakes! I love the little pops of heat it brings to dishes and how you can see the red bits. A favourite in Italian dishes, you’ll see me use a pinch of it in many pasta dishes from Pasta alla Norma (Eggplant pasta) to everybody’s favourite pantry pasta, Puttanesca. I also used it to bring pops of heat to Asian dishes like Asian Chilli Garlic Prawns, Chilli Chicken, and Hot and Sour Soup, to name a few. It’s a regular around here!
Thyme – My second most used dried herb after oregano. It’s a regular in cosy foods such as Cottage Pie, Chicken Pot Pie and Corn Chowder, as well as midweek favourites such as Sausage Bake and Oven Baked Chicken Rice. It’s sprinkled on Mushroom Stuffed Chicken Breasts, used to season homemade sausage patties, and flavours the broth of my hearty Beef and Vegetable Soup.
Curry powder – So here’s the thing about Western curry powder: you won’t see it in any of my authentic Indian recipes! Western curry powders (like Clives of India) lack the authenticity of true Indian cooking so I prefer instead to make Indian curries from scratch, for the best results.
So curry powder is generally used in Western dishes but the key tip here is that while it’s a great base, it needs help from other spices to make the dish really tasty! I can safely say there is no recipe on this website that only uses curry powder for flavour. Use your curry powder for things like old school Chicken Curry, Curried Sausages and curried rice. Also a secret ingredient in Singapore Noodles, the background flavour for other South East Asian favourites like Ayam Goreng and Thai Coconut Noodle Soup. And, unexpectedly , French food! Cafe de Paris, a classic flavoured butter for steak!
Here’s a selection of recipes using curry powder – see all of them here.
Garam masala – Now this is the real deal! This is like a better version of generic Western curry powder. It’s more pungent and has more complex flavours, and features in some of the more “serious” authentic Indian recipes on my website such as Rogan Josh and Samosas as well as everybody’s favourite Butter Chicken, Tikka Masala and Coconut Curry.
Here are a some recipes using garam masala, and click here to see more!
Cinnamon powder – Don’t just think baking! Yes, I do love to use it in sweet treats, from Apple Crumble to Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, French Toast to Christmas Cake. But it’s also a magic secret ingredient in Middle Eastern favourites such as Lamb Koftas, Chicken Shawarma, Tagine (vegetable and chicken), as well as Jamaican Jerk Chicken. The smell when these are cooking is insane!
Here’s a selection of recipes using cinnamon powder, or have a browse for more here and be amazed at how many savoury dishes are on the list!
Armed – and dangerous!
And there you have it. My 12 most-used spices.
You are now armed and ready to make over 800 recipes on this website that feature the above spices! You will be amazed what a difference having a well-stocked spice cupboard makes to the ease of choice when it comes to cooking with what you have.
And don’t forget – drop in your guess for the Mystery of the Missing Spice! Can you resist the temptation to read other peoples’ answers before you share your own? NO WAY could I resist. It’s like being the answers to an exam sitting there right in front of you. If you possess the willpower not to look, you are a better person than me. 😂 – Nagi x
Life of Dozer