Spice Up Your Life

This guide to herbs and spices offers flavor profiles and cooking tips that will make your dishes come alive.
Real World Spice Chart

Spices and herbs are a welcome addition to any kitchen cupboard, and they add flavor to your favorite dishes without adding calories. Here's our tour of favorite herbs and spices and how to use them in your favorite sweet and savory foods.

Taste profile: A pungent blend of cinnamon, nutmeg and clove with a hint of juniper and peppercorn.
Great in: Caribbean and Latin savory and sweet dishes (such as Jamaican Jerk sauce), spice mixes, pickles, chutneys, vegetables, soups and desserts.
Anise Seed
Taste profile: Has a licorice-like flavor (different from star anise, which is generally used in Chinese dishes).
Great in: Cakes, biscuits, rye breads, desserts and to flavor fish, poultry, soups, root vegetable dishes and liqueurs such as anisette, ouzo and pastis.
Tastes profile: Its pungent flavor is a gentle blend of licorice and clove.
Great in: Dishes featuring tomatoes, onions, garlic, olives, pasta sauces, and as a flavor for oils. Basil is used in tomato-and-mozzarella salad and in pesto sauce.
Bay Leaf
Taste profile: A robust, fragrant herb from the evergreen bay laurel that lends a woodsy flavor to dishes.
Great in: Soups, stews, vegetables and meats – the leaves are generally removed from a dish before serving.
Caraway Seed
Taste profile: Has a nutty, delicate anise flavor and hails from the parsley family.
Great in: German, Austrian and Hungarian dishes and cheese, breads, cakes, stews, meats and vegetables. Often used in rye bread and sauerkraut.
Taste profile: Available ground or in pods of around 20 seeds, it has a pungent aroma and a warm, spicy-sweet flavor.
Great in: Scandinavian and East Indian cooking. Often used in chai tea.
Cayenne Pepper
Taste profile: Also called red pepper, this hot powder is made from ground dried hot chilies, and has a smoky, fiery flavor.
Great in: Mexican and Southwestern dishes; chili.
Taste profile: Sold whole or ground, it comes from the dried flower buds of the clove tree. Its flavor is penetrating and sweet.
Great in: Pickling spice, baked ham, mulled wine and baked goods. Chutneys, too.
Taste profile: The dried seeds of cilantro, which have a spicy citrus flavor, are used whole or ground.
Great in: Indian curries.
Taste profile: Shaped like a caraway seed, this strong spice with a nutty, earthy taste comes in seed and ground forms.
Great in: Middle Eastern, Asian and Mediterranean cooking, and for curries and chili powders.
Dill Weed
Taste profile: This feathery herb with a fresh, sweet, slightly licorice-like flavor is available fresh or dried.
Great in: Salads, vegetables, meats and sauces, as well as potato salad and cooked new potatoes.
Dill Seed
Taste profile: The dried fruit of the dill weed tastes like a mild version of caraway seed.
Great in: Pickling brine.
Fennel Seed
Taste profile: This licorice-flavored seed is available whole or ground.
Great in: Pork, pasta, bread, seafood and to flavor liqueurs.
Fines Herbes
Taste profile: A classic mixture that usually includes chervil, chives, parsley and tarragon. It has a delicate onion-like taste from the chives and also chervil's hint of anise.
Great in: Add to cooked mixture (such as chicken, beef or a casserole) shortly before serving. Nice in omelets.
Fresh Ginger
Taste profile: Has a peppery and slightly sweet flavor.
Great in: Asian and Indian cooking.
Ground Ginger
Taste profile: A common baking spice (not an appropriate substitute for fresh ginger) that is pungent and spicy and indispensable in sweets.
Great in: Soups, curries, meats and gingerbread as well as gingersnaps and other spice cookies.
Juniper Berry
Taste profile: These bitter, blue-black berries – the essential flavoring in gin – are usually sold dried and are crushed before use.
Great in: Meats, sauces and stuffings.

Read more about spices in Part II.

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