What Spices Do You Need to Start Cooking?

If you think that you need a spice rack with at least two dozen dried herbs and ground up spices in order to be a good cook you’re dead wrong. Most of the flavor you get from your dishes will come from the fresh, whole ingredients and the controlled application of heat while preparing them.

Spices help add nuanced (or obvious) layers of flavors, and in that they are important to have. So here’s what you need to stock a spice rack when you’re starting out in the kitchen.

Spices don’t make you a great cook, they just give you more options.

More...

Salt & Pepper

Like I wrote in the last post on stocking staples, salt should be the key staple in your kitchen.

Before you go buy any spices, make sure you have easy access to salt in your cooking space. Not in a spice rack, in a cupboard or pantry, under the sink or above the fridge… but directly where you’ll be prepping and cooking food.

First thing, get an open salt pig or an Alton Brown Good Eats style salt cellar by your cooking area. Below are two classic options over at Amazon. I use the covered one because Peach and Perry (our two kitties) get into everything, but I would use the classic pig style if I could get away with it. 

classic style salt pig

alton brown style salt cellar

covered salt cellar (what I use cause Peach & Perry would be all up in that salt pig)

What Other Spices to Get

Here are the basic spices you’ll want on hand… probably… maybe… it depends, okay?! 

Thyme
Basil
Cayenne
Cilantro / Coriander
Cumin
Oregeno
Paprika
Smoked Paprika
Garlic Powder
Onion Powder
Herbs de Province
Ginger Powder or Ginger Paste (kept in fridge)
Turmeric
Fennel seeds
Curry powder (it's just turmeric and ginger, and not traditional at all... mix your own blends for better results)
...and the list goes on

Go At Your Own Pace

Don't feel like you need to go out and buy all of these spices all at once. You don't need to. 

Let me say that again. 

You don't need to buy all of these at once. And if you do, you'll probably waste a bunch of money on pre-packaged spice jars and sets where you'll use one third of the spices in it. 

Learning how to use salt correctly will take you SO FAR. Seriously. Pepper of course. And then a few dried herbs if you can't grow your own. That's all you need! It's okay to be salty when you're in the kitchen. 

Did I miss your favorite spice? Eggregiouse typo? Let me know in the comments down below. 

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