Growing up, my mother’s spice rack consisted of salt, pepper, and some origano. It is no wonder that our meals seemed dull and monotonous. You can imagine my surprise when I tried Chinese food for the first time, and my further surprise when I tried Middle Eastern, Greek, Indian, and the many other types of food which are heavily seasoned. Once I discovered the transformative powers of herbs and spices, there was no going back to bland food!
You’d be amazed at how a small dash of curry or a pinch of Italian herbs can transform a dish from the bland to the extraordinary.
Another reason why you will want to start including spices and herbs in your meals is because they pack a high nutrient punch. To give you an idea, consider that a single teaspoon of thyme has 7% of your iron RDA. A teaspoon of cumin has 2% of your calcium RDA. A teaspoon of dried cilantro has 8% of your RDA for vitamin K. Most herbs and spices are also really good sources of Omega 3 and are usually loaded with immune-boosting, cancer-fighting antioxidants. While you aren’t going to meet your nutritional requirements on herbs and spices alone, all those little bits in each meal add up.
It can be expensive to buy a zillion different spices and herbs at once. Plus, unless you are a trained chef, you probably won’t even know how to combine them in dishes. Further, I’m a bit lazy and find it annoying to measure out 10 different spices for one recipe. The solution to all these problems? Buy premade spice and herb blends.
I actually use these spice and herb blends to plan my meals. For example, I might decide to have Mexican food for dinner and then can just think of what proteins, veggies, and carbs they use in Mexico. I cook them up, add my Mexican spice blend, and have myself a tasty meal.
For starters, here are 14 spice and herb blends to include in your kitchen to make your meals more exciting. I’ve divided them up by region.
- Chinese Five Spice: Contains anise, cloves, cinnamon, Szechwan pepper, and fennel seeds
- Gomasio: Made from toasted sesame seeds and salt
- Togarashi: Includes chili, citrus peel, sesame seeds, and seaweed
- Herbes de Provence: Contains herbs common to France, such as savory, rosemary, thyme, oregano, marjoram, and basil
- Italian or Mediterranean: Typically contains oregano, basil, marjoram, thyme, and rosemary
- Curry: Typically contains turmeric, coriander, cumin, fenugreek, and red pepper
- Garam Masala: Typically contains warming ingredients like cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, coriander and cumin
Latin, Caribbean and Southern
- Adobo: Typically contains pepper, oregano, garlic, cilantro, and other spices
- Jerk: Typically contains red pepper, black pepper, cinnamon, thyme, and allspice
- Cajun: Typically contains paprika, garlic, black pepper, onion powder, cayenne, thyme, and oregano
- Zaatar: A Middle Eastern blend which contains sesame seeds, thyme, oregano, sumac, and salt.
- Dry Rub: Just because it is marked as a meat rub, it doesn’t mean you can’t use it on vegan food. Rubs usually contain smoky paprika, brown sugar, and various other spices.
- Poultry Spice: Yes, you can use this on vegan proteins like tofu or seitan. It usually contains thyme, sage, and woodsy herbs.
- Ranch: Will contain cooling herbs like dill, parsley and basil along with garlic, onion, and black pepper.
If you are getting bored with your recipes, just go ahead and try swapping out the seasonings completely. For example, if I add zaatar to a chickpea stir fry, I get a completely different dish than if I add curry powder.