The 21 Spices That You Need In Your Spice Cabinet

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The key to a great spice cabinet is variety. You need equal parts sweet, tangy, smoky, spicy and bitter. Whether you know a thing or two about spices or this is your first step toward spice maturity this is the list of spices every foodie needs in their arsenal.


Ground pimenta berries make this aromatic spice taste and smell like a combination of cinnamon and nutmeg with a touch of cloves. In a pinch, you can even mix those three together as a pretty decent substitute. Allspice is most often used in stews, baked goods, and other savory dishes.

Ancho Chili

Made from dried poblano peppers. This reddish-brown chili powder has a sweet, smoky taste. Common in many Mexican dishes.


Dried basil is one of the most used herbs in the world. Coming from the same family as mint and most frequently utilized in Italian cuisine.

Bay Leaves

Typically found whole and dried with a woody/nutty flavor that adds amazing flavor to soups and sauces. Fun Fact: Bay leaves are used in Eastern Medicine as a treatment for sore throats.

Black Peppercorns

Freshly ground, black peppercorns have a much stronger flavor than the typical ground pepper you are most familiar with. They get their strong flavor from being left on the vine for longer than the green and red varieties until fully matured.


Made from dried cayenne peppers and among the most common spices found in typical hot sauces or spicy dishes. Cayenne can also be used for medicinal purposes to boost metabolism and lessen hunger cravings.

Chili Powder

Chili powder is a mixture of coriander, oregano, cumin and ground chilies. One of the essential spices for Mexican cooking.


Harvested from the bark of several species of trees, this spice adds an earthy zip to both baked goods and savory dishes.


Found about as frequently in potpourri as it is in cooking, cloves provide a sweet pungent flavor and smell to many marinade and stews as well as spice rubs and some baked goods.


Comes from the same family as parsley and is often found in stews and curries and well as dishes like chili and guacamole.

Curry Powder

This traditional spice to Southeast Asian and Indian cooking is comprised of a mixture of cardamom, cinnamon, chilis, cloves, coriander, cumin, sesame seeds, saffron, nutmeg, fennel, and tamarind.


Extremely versatile and mild flavor found in bread, soups, pickled vegetables as well as salad dressings and other condiments.

Garlic Powder

Much less intense flavor than fresh garlic. A great go-to for adding subtle, additional flavor to pretty much anything savory. One clove of garlic is roughly equal to a ¼ teaspoon of the ground, dehydrated variety.


Ground ginger provides a strong, sweet, hot flavor to dishes — most often in South Asian and Indian cooking. One of the few spices that have equal utility in sweet dishes as it does in savory ones.


Mostly utilized in baked goods and desserts. This spice comes from seeds of trees in Indonesia.  We recommend going with a whole seed and grinding yourself for the freshest, strongest flavor.

Onion Powder

See Garlic Powder. Milder than the fresh version and a staple that has to be in every spice cabinet.


Another must have for Italian cooking as it is found in almost every pizza or pasta sauce you’ll ever come across. The wonderful aroma and slightly bitter flavor also go well with many Mediterranean dishes and spice rubs.

Red Pepper Flakes

Want to add some heat to dishes? Then this is your spice. An extremely versatile spice often found in Italian dishes as well as soups, pickles vegetables, and stews.


One of the most popular and flavorful herbs in any spice cabinet. It adds a brilliant smell and earthy taste to many French, Mediterranean and Italian dishes.

Sea Salt

The “yin” to black peppercorn’s “yang”. It adds more flavor and texture than table salt and it needs to be in your spice cabinet.


Often used in spice rubs for poultry, red meat, fish and vegetables and most popular in French, Cajun, and Mediterranean cooking. Also often used to infuse oils and vinegar.

A well-stocked spice cabinet is a must-have for any serious home chef. With this list, you’ll have an arsenal of flavors to experiment and improve your cooking skills and a spice cabinet your mom would be proud of.

22 thoughts on “The 21 Spices That You Need In Your Spice Cabinet

  • August 31, 2020 at 2:12 am

    A friend told me there was a certain type of salt that would make my pasta sauce stick better to my noodles. Any ideas?

    • July 25, 2021 at 12:07 pm

      I use ground beef, the more ground beef, the thicker the sauce, the thicker the sauce the more it will stick to the noodles…..

  • June 18, 2019 at 9:43 pm

    A very small percentage of the population has a problem with cilantro as described above. For those unfortunate folks, cilantro tastes like soap. But for the rest of us, cilantro is a delightful fresh-tasting spice that adds flavor necessary for salsas and other Mexican foods. The seeds are called coriander which is also used in Indian dishes.

  • May 17, 2019 at 4:05 pm

    Excellent list, but I cannot do without turmeric, for myself & my dogs. I use it for seasoning and medicinal purposes. When I first heard about Golden Milk, hmm, no thanks. Then when I was having a stomachache that nothing helped, I put some turmeric, Ceylon cinnamon (type good for regulating blood sugar), ground ginger & small amount of cloves into a glass of coconut milk & stirred it all together. Excellent cold or warmed up and it did relieve my stomachache.

  • February 21, 2019 at 10:32 pm

    I have the majority of these. It started simply because I wanted to move away from salt. So As I was shopping I would read the labels on spices and buy them. I still use salt on occasion but there is so much more. I also married someone from another country and most of their spices have to come from that country so we have to go out of town to a store 3 hours away. I love it.

  • January 18, 2019 at 6:22 pm

    Go to Costco and get a spice rack for 25 dollars. It has most of these and is far cheaper than buying them separately.Then add what is not there

    • June 19, 2019 at 5:49 am

      Not really. The big fancy spice rack probably has a bunch of jars that will sit there are gather dust. There are a bunch of discount stores (in New England we have one called Ocean State Job Lot) that has most major spices for $1 for a bottle. So you can get the ones you need without the ones that will sit there and take up space.

  • December 14, 2018 at 2:08 am

    Boy I need a lot of help here, I have cinnamon, chili powder, no salt, and pepper. I’m a dud in the kitchen. LOL

    • June 29, 2020 at 5:13 pm

      Try cumin first – it’s the best very flavorful in stews soups but great rubbed on lamb or pork before cooking. Two big mistakes with spices buying too much so it gets stale and not cooking them enough . Best bought loose from specialty stores

  • September 19, 2018 at 3:50 pm

    The two I don’t have are rosemary and ancho chili. I really don’t like rosemary because it’s too floral for my taste. Ancho chili is too musty-tasting- maybe you’d call it earthy. I much prefer other chilis and try to buy them fresh as needed. One common one not on this list- cilantro tastes like soap. I can’t stand it.
    I have and use many other spices- both garam masala and curry powder, for instance. I have all the spices that make them, and often mix up my own for pungency. If you do a lot of cooking using more contemporary recipes, you’ll need a lot of spices not on this list. I buy all my dried spices online from for the best variety, quality, and prices.

  • August 10, 2018 at 10:33 am

    Allspice gives such a fragrance that I could use it as a perfume…if it didn’t make one think of food instantly.

  • July 27, 2018 at 3:36 pm

    I just have an allspice and can deal with that. I don’t have that kind of space.

  • July 14, 2018 at 3:18 pm

    In my family we always had this complete drawer of spices and I want to do the same when I have my own apartment next week. This list can help to start.

  • June 24, 2018 at 1:24 pm

    With just these you can make so many perfect combinations. This is all just what is needed.

  • April 16, 2018 at 8:13 pm

    I only have a couple of these! I have to get the rest!

  • April 9, 2018 at 5:46 pm

    I have all of these organized in the prettiest cabinet!

  • April 12, 2018 at 10:16 am

    I know fresh is better but what about cilantro and parsley?

    • August 20, 2021 at 10:15 am

      I buy or grow parsley in the summer put the leaves through the food processor and freeze in a jar and scrape out what I need


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