Must-Have Seasonings for Cultural Foodies

I have enjoyed cooking ever since my husband and I got married approximately 25 years ago. In fact, I felt a deep sense of accomplishment every time picked out a new dish from one of the cookbooks that I’d collected and used the spices that were tucked into the rotating spice column we received as a wedding gift. However, my interest in experimenting with different seasonings increased exponentially years later while I was writing an article about the value of using different herbs and spices when one is cooking.

While writing the article, I interviewed people like Tony Hill (author of The Contemporary Encyclopedia of Herbs and Spices) and Rosie Daley (co-author of The Healthy Kitchen: Recipes for a Better Body, Life and Spirit). And, during those interviews, I developed the desire–and gained the confidence– to use more herbs and spices as I prepared meals for my husband, daughters and myself from that point on.

I have actually become so confident and excited over the years about using herbs and spices that I feel like I’m constantly wanting to try new ones. For example, when preparing meals for my family years ago, the list of seasonings that I used from time to time was limited to the 16 jars that came with that wedding gift. However, today’s ever-evolving collection–which helps me make dishes from different cuisines–contains so many seasonings that some of them won’t even fit on the three-tier spice organizer that I bought on Amazon. (I think it’s time to buy a second one!)

If you also enjoy eating foods from different cuisines, and would like to try making some of them in your own kitchen, take a moment to browse the below list of seasonings that I think every cultural foodie should keep on hand. Please keep in mind as you read the list that it was created by a mom who enjoys cooking and eating foods from different cultures and not a chef who gets paid to cook or develop recipes for a living. So, there will likely be others that you will want to buy to make your collection feel more complete or personalized. However, I believe that the ones listed here will provide you with a good foundation as you strive to create an herb and spice collection that would make any cultural foodie happy.


ALLSPICE

Forms: Whole or ground

Often used to season: Savory stews, assorted meats, curries, desserts

Could be used in these cuisines: Jamaican, Mexican, American, Swedish, Portuguese


BASIL (Sweet Basil)

Forms: Fresh or dried leaves

Often used to season: Pesto, chicken, fish, pork, omelets, spaghetti sauce, pizza, pasta, rice, homemade salad dressings, vegetables (e.g., green beans, potatoes, beans, cabbage, etc.)

Could be used in these cuisines: American, Chinese, Italian, French, Spanish


BERBERE

Forms: Ground

Often used to season: Chicken, beef, lamb

Could be used in these cuisines: This spice mix is often used to season Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisines and may contain such ingredients as cayenne pepper, paprika, cumin, fenugreek, ginger, and turmeric, among others.


BLACK PEPPER/PEPPERCORNS

Forms: Whole or ground*

Often used to season: Meat (beef, chicken, fish, pork, etc.), stews, eggs, pasta, vegetables, salads. (Daley also suggested sprinkling it on oranges and dried mango.)

Could be used in many different cuisines


CHIVES

Forms: Fresh or dried (chopped)

Often used to season: Fish, chicken, beef, rice, potatoes, omelets

Could be used in these cuisines: French, German and other cuisines


CINNAMON

Forms: Sticks or ground

Often used to season: Applesauce, oatmeal, carrots, sweet potatoes, pancakes (in the batter), lamb, desserts, hot beverages (e.g., cider, cocoa)

Could be used in these cuisines: Indian, Mexican, Greek, Moroccan, Vietnamese, American, Bahamian, Portuguese, Swedish


CLOVES

Forms: Whole or ground

Often used to season: Meat (chicken, , curries, desserts, hot beverages (e.g., cider, coffee)

Could be used in these cuisines: Indian, Mexican, Vietnamese, American, Haitian, Greek


CORIANDER

Forms: Fresh leaves, whole seeds, or ground

Often used to season: Chicken, fish, curries, soups, stews, beans

Could be used in these cuisines: Mexican, Latin American, Vietnamese, Indian, Thai, Portuguese


CRUSHED RED PEPPER

Forms: Dried

Often used to season: Pizza, stews, soups, vegetables, pasta

Could be used in these cuisines: American, Italian, Mexican, Indian


CUMIN

Forms: Whole seeds or ground

Often used to season: Chicken, chili, tacos (ground beef, turkey or chicken), corn

Could be used in these cuisines: Mexican, Nigerian, Indian, Moroccan, Portuguese, Argentine


DILL

Forms: Fresh or dried (if used in hot dishes, add toward the end of the cooking process)

Often used to season: Beef, fish (especially salmon), chicken, stuffed eggs, potato salad, rice, vegetables (e.g., potatoes, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and carrots)

Could be used in these cuisines: German, Greek, Hungarian, American, Swedish


GINGER

Forms: Ground or chopped

Often used to season: Soups, stews, stir fry sauces, vegetables, desserts

Could be used in these cuisines: American, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Indian, Filipino, Jamaican, Ethiopian, Moroccan, Vietnamese, Thai, Swedish


HERBES DE PROVENCE

Forms: Dried

Often used to season: Containing such ingredients as thyme and rosemary, among others, this herb mix is used to season chicken, fish, stews, vegetables (e.g., potatoes), etc.

Could be used in these cuisines: French, American and other cuisines


MARJORAM

Forms: Fresh or ground

Often used to season: Beef, chicken, vegetables, stews, soups

Could be used in these cuisines: American, Italian, French and other cuisines


NUTMEG

Forms: Ground

Often used to season: Chicken, green vegetables, desserts, hot beverages (coffee), cold beverages (egg nog)

Could be used in these cuisines: Italian, American, Haitian, Nigerian, Argentine, Spanish


OREGANO

Forms: Fresh (leaves), dried or ground

Often used to season: Chicken, beef, meat loaf, egg salad, pizza, spaghetti sauce, and vegetables (e.g., lima beans, cabbage, zucchini, and tomatoes)

Could be used in these cuisines: Argentine, Filipino, Greek, Italian, American, Spanish, Turkish


PARSLEY

Forms: Fresh or dried

Often used to season: Chicken, pork, rice, potatoes, pasta, soup

Could be used in these cuisines: American, Middle Eastern, Greek, North African, Brazilian, Haitian


ROSEMARY

Forms: Fresh or dried leaves

Often used to season: Chicken, fish, lamb, meatballs, Italian pasta dishes (lasagna and spaghetti), scrambled eggs, and vegetables (e.g., corn, roasted potatoes, zucchini, stewed tomatoes, green beans)

Could be used in these cuisines: French, Greek, Italian, American, Spanish


SALT

Forms: Ground (fine or coarse)

Often used to season: Meat (chicken, fish, beef, lamb, etc.), vegetables, pasta, rice, as well as some desserts

Could be used in many different cuisines


SMOKED PAPRIKA

Forms: Ground

Often used to season: Chicken, fish, vegetables, stews, soups, rice

Could be used in these cuisines: Hungarian, American, Portuguese, Argentine, Spanish


THYME

Forms: Fresh or dried

Often used to season: Beef, poultry, fish, lamb, vegetables, pasta, soups, stews

Could be used in these cuisines: American, Nigerian, French, Italian, Bahamian, Greek, Haitian, Spanish


TURMERIC

Forms: Ground

Often used to season: Chicken, fish (salmon), beef, stews, curries, rice

Could be used in these cuisines: Indonesian, Ethiopian, Filipino, Thai, Indian, Vietnamese, Moroccan, Portuguese

*If you desire to grind up peppercorns on your own, experts suggest that you use a mortar and pestle or an electric coffee mill.

Post updated July 15, 2020

%d bloggers like this: