The Spice Connection

The Spice Connection

How many of you have a spice rack with jars of spices you purchased years ago and have never used? Here is a list of common dishes and herbs that pair well together when you're at a loss.


Beans - cumin, cayenne, chili, oregano, parsley, pepper, sage, savory, thyme

Breads - anise, basil, caraway, cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, dill, garlic, lemon peel, orange peel, oregano, poppy seeds, rosemary, saffron, sage, thyme

Fruits - allspice, anise, cardamom, Chinese 5-spice, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, ginger, mint

Potatoes - basil, caraway, celery seed, chervil, chives, coriander, dill, marjoram, oregano, paprika, parsley, poppy seed, rosemary, tarragon, thyme

Salads and Salad Dressings - basil, caraway, celery seed, chives, dill, fennel, garlic, horseradish, lemon peel, lovage, marjoram, mint, mustard, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sumac, tarragon, thyme

Soups - basil, bay, chervil, chili, chives, cumin, dill, fennel, garlic, marjoram, parsley, pepper, rosemary, sage, savory, star anise, thyme

Sweets - allspice, angelica, anise, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, fennel, ginger, lemon peel, mace, nutmeg, mint, orange peel, rosemary, star anise

Tomatoes - basil, bay, celery seed, cinnamon, chili, curry, dill, fennel, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, marjoram, oregano, parsley, rosemary, savory, tarragon, thyme

Vegetables - chili, chives, curry, dill, marjoram, parsley, savory, thyme


Allspice: An ingredient in many baked goods as well as "Jerk" sauces.

Anise Seed: Mild licorice flavor, used in cookies, or candies.

Arrowroot Powder: Use as a thickener in puddings, pies, soups, sauces, and gravies.

Basil: used in Italian and Mediterranean cooking, especially good with tomatoes.

Bay Leaves: Perfect use in stews, sauces, soups, and marinades.

Caraway Seeds: Great in baked goods and with fruits.

Cardamom, ground: A wonderful addition to Indian dishes.

Cardamom, whole: Dry roast the whole cardamom seeds for more flavor in your recipe.

Cayenne Pepper: Wonderful heat for any Mexican dish.

Chervil Leaf: Similar to parsley, a mild flavor for any meat, soup or vegetable dish.

Cilantro: Used in Mexican cooking & salsas; may also be used in Indian dishes.

Cloves, ground: Popular in desserts, syrups, and sweet vegetable dishes.

Coriander seed, ground: Citrusy, sweet & tart flavor to be used at the end when cooking.

Cream of Tartar: Adds consistency and stability to any cookie or cake.

Cumin Seed, ground: Wonderful with tomato dishes, chili, salsa & Indian dishes.

Dill Weed: Great in dressings and sauces and on potatoes.

Ginger, crystallized: Sliced ginger partially dried in a sugar syrup solution. For sweets.

Ginger, ground: A sharp, aromatic spice is used in many sweet baked goods and curries.

Lemongrass: A grass with citric oils, very popular in Thai cooking.

Marjoram: Like oregano & from the mint family, it has a sweeter and subtler taste.

Nutmeg, ground: A sweet, nutty spice is used in custards, pastries, and vegetables.

Oregano, Greek: A must for Italian cooking, Greek oregano has a mild, delicate flavor.

Oregano, Mexican: Slightly stronger than Greek and less sweet, used in Spanish cooking.

Paprika, hot: Mixed with cayenne, these red peppers make the Hungarians famous.

Paprika, sweet: This sweet, milder Paprika will add radiant color to any dish.

Parsley: This versatile herb can be used as a garnish or with anything other than sweets.

Poppy Seeds: Used in baked goods, breads & to flavor noodles.

Rosemary, ground: Use ground in sauces or stocks to avoid the "needle" look.

Saffron, whole threads: Use for saffron rice and Indian dishes.

Sage: Well known for use in stuffings.

Salt, Kosher: Coarser than regular granulated, easier to control in cooking.

Savory: Strong, peppery taste, good with veggies & stuffing.

Sesame Seeds: Used mostly for baking breads & rolls, nice for stir-frys.

Spearmint: A popular tea flavoring, used in sauces and veggie dishes.

Tarragon: Aromatic herb used to flavor vinegar, dressings, breads. Great with potatoes!

Thyme, ground: Great for Greek & Italian cooking, use ground for sauces & soups.

Thyme, whole leaf: Versatile in flavoring veggies, pizza, stews & herb blends.

Turmeric: Used as a natural yellow coloring for soups, sauces, rice, curry, & tofu scramble

Tips for Storing Herbs

  • Store spices in a cool, dark place. Humidity, light and heat will cause herbs and spices to lose their flavor more quickly. Although the most convenient place for your spice rack may be above your stove, moving your spices to a different location may keep them fresh longer.

  • As a general rule, herbs and ground spices will retain their best flavors for a year. Whole spices may last for 3 to 5 years. Proper storage should result in longer freshness times.

  • Because the refrigerator is a rather humid environment, storing herbs and spices there is not recommended. To keep larger quantities of spices fresh, store them in the freezer in tightly sealed containers

Tips for Using Herbs

  • For long-cooking dishes, add herbs and spices an hour or less before serving. Cooking spices for too long may result in overly strong flavors.

  • Use restraint! In general, a teaspoon of spice is enough for 4 servings.

  • Do not use dried herbs in the same quantity as fresh. In most cases, use the amount in dried as is called for fresh.

  • Seasoning food is an art, not a science. Experimenting with herbs and spices can be fun and educational.

Read more from Carrie's Experimental Kitchen.