Beginners’ Guide to Cooking with Spices

Novice cooks have been offered a guide to the flavour profiles of common spices, and advised on how best to use them in the kitchen.


The team from spice kit brand have revealed how 13 common spices can be used in cooking and how each transforms a dish.

The spice experts say that cumin carries a smoky and earthy flavour that’s best used in Mexican cuisine, but oregano’s peppery and aromatic qualities are great in Mediterranean, Greek, Italian, Mexican and Cuban cooking.


And whilst sweet and pungent nutmeg is most often used in baked goods, it can also be added to savoury dishes for a warm note.


Ketan Varu from said: “Food is always better when it’s been properly seasoned, but many home cooks are weary about experimenting purely because they’re unsure how a particular spice is going to affect the dish.


“Spices can transform a meal by adding a range of flavours, from a hint of sweetness to a kick of heat.


“They can also bring out the natural flavours of food, give beautiful aromas, and change or enhance the colour of a dish. Not to mention, many also boast fantastic health benefits which will help boost your immune system.


“We’ve created a guide to 13 common spices to show novice cooks how to use them, and that there’s no need to be intimidated by your spice cupboard!”

1. Cardamom

This warm, aromatic spice is widely used in Indian cuisine. It’s also great in baked goods when used in combination with spices like clove and cinnamon.


2. Cayenne Pepper


Made from dried and ground red chili peppers, Cayenne Pepper adds a sweet heat to soups, braises, and spice mixes.

3. Cinnamon

Found in almost every world cuisine, cinnamon serves double duty as spice in both sweet and savoury dishes. It has a very unique flavour and is extremely aromatic. Cinnamon goes well with apples, beef, chocolate, in curries, stews and spicy dishes.

4. Cumin

Smoky and earthy, cumin is used in a lot of Southwestern U.S. and Mexican cuisine, as well as North African, Middle Eastern, and Indian dishes. It can be found ground or as whole seeds, and is great in curries, soups, stews, and spice rubs, or with beans.

5. Fenugreek

Although this herb smells like maple syrup while cooking, it has a rather bitter, burnt sugar flavour. It’s found in a lot of Indian and Middle Eastern dishes, and the ground seeds are often used in curry powder, spice blends, dry rubs and even tea blends. Fresh and dried fenugreek leaves can be used to finish dishes like sauces, curries, vegetable dishes and soups.

6. Garlic Powder

Garlic powder is made from dehydrated garlic cloves and can be used to give dishes a sweeter, softer garlic flavour.

7. Ginger

With a spicy, zesty bite, ginger can be found fresh in root form, or ground and dried. Fresh ginger is great in stir fries and marinades, or grated into cookies and muffins, whilst ground ginger works well in curry powders, spice mixes, and in general baking.

8. Nutmeg

Sweet and pungent, nutmeg is often used in baked goods, but it also adds a warm note to savoury dishes. It’s often used with cheese sauces too.

9. Oregano

Used primarily in Mediterranean, Greek, Italian, Mexican and Cuban cooking, oregano is amazing fresh, but is just as good if you use a good quantity of dried. It’s peppery, aromatic, and earthy and is great with vegetables, in beef stew, in sauces, with meat and fish, and with beans.

10. Paprika

Paprika can be sweet, hot or smoky, but most often adds a sweet note to dishes, as well as a brilliant red colour. You can also get a spicier version which is often labelled ‘hot paprika’. Use it in stews, spice blends, and goulash, or as part of a dry rub for roast potatoes. It’s also a great way to add a kick to burgers. Just sprinkle some on the raw meat or across the top when on the grill.

11. Rosemary

Strong and piney, rosemary is great with eggs, beans, and potatoes, as well as grilled meats. Fresh rosemary is also good for adding to soup and stew, or you can stuff poultry with a few sprigs during cooking. Many people also use it during grilling – when laid in coals it gives a great flavour to meat and vegetables.

12. Saffron

Saffron is the most expensive of spices and has a very subtle but distinct flavour that adds bitterness to food that, when used in dishes with lots of sweet or acidic flavours, balances out perfectly. It is used mostly with fish and rice, and is a key ingredient in paella.

13. Turmeric

Sometimes used more for its yellow colour than its flavour, turmeric has a very mild woodsy flavour. It is used in many curry powders for colour and flavour.

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