Spices You Actually Need

Go check out the part of your kitchen where you might keep things we like to call “spices”.


You’ve got salt. You’ve got pepper. What else do you have? More importantly: What else do you needCumin, is used in a whole mess of foods around the world: from India to China to Mexico to Morocco, everybody loves cumin!! It has an earthy, peppery flavor and it comes as whole seeds (great for toasting as the base of a curry) or ground into a powder (great for adding to basically anything).


You know cinnamon. It’s cosy, it’s warm, it’s an integral component of the pumpkin spiced universe. Obviously good for baking and all things oatmeal-related, but also nice in savory dishes. Try a pinch in chilli or bolognese, in anything with beef or lamb, or even in in cold weather drinks. Buy the sticks if you want to make your own syrups or pickles; if you just want some cinnamon, buy the ground stuff.


Chili flakes. Cayenne can be great, but it can also be unpredictable. And easier to control  spice levels with flakes.  Keep a small jar next to your stove, and sprinkle them in whenever sauteing vegetables. You have to be careful, not to burn red chili flakes in hot oil, but otherwise, go nuts. Also good on pizzas, but you already knew that. Dried oregano should always have a place on your shelf. It’s great in soups, stews, sauces, marinades and pasta—especially baked pasta. Don’t keep this one around forever, as the dried leaves can go stale and will just make everything taste kind of dusty. But it’s versatile enough that hopefully, you’ll use it up pretty quick.


Sweet or spicy, paprika has great flavor. But that’s not why you’re using smoked paprika, which primarily tastes…like smoke. Which makes it a great addition to anything you want to taste smokey without adding spice (if you want smoky spice, use chipotle powder). Use it to add smoke—and a snazzy brick red color—to everything. Everything! This is also a place where buying the good stuff—try a Hungarian or Spanish paprika—is worth it, and not even that expensive.


Article credit: GQ

Photo credit: Matt Martin

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