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Spice up your life-and your cooking and baking-with easy-to-store dried spices and herbs. This guide to spices takes you through the must-have spices for your cupboard so you can cook up a world of flavour in your next dish.

Basil

A staple in Mediterranean cooking, basil is a popular addition to pastas and pizza, as it brings a sweetness to tomato sauce and is the main ingredient in pesto sauce. Basil and oregano are also good partners in crime, so try pairing them when cooking meals.

Tip: Substitute fresh basil with half the quantity of more potent dried basil.

Cayenne pepper

For dishes that need a bite, introduce the sharp heat of cayenne pepper, used to add spice to Indian, Italian, Mexican, and Caribbean cuisines.

Tip: To take hummus up a notch, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with cayenne pepper.

Bay leaves

Bay leaves impart an aromatic foundation to soups, stews, and tomato sauces. The distinctive taste enhances marinades for meat and fish and slow cooker recipes, where the flavour is released slowly.

Tip: Add one or two leaves at the start of cooking; discard before serving.

Cinnamon

An essential spice in fall and winter, cinnamon injects a sweet, spicy, woodsy scent and flavour into your baked goods. Use it in apple pie, cookies, cakes, and loaves, or go the savoury route and add a kick to meat or try your hand at crafting cinnamon pickles.

Tip: Combine butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon to spread on toast for a sweet and easy treat.

Thyme

Thyme adds an earthy flavour to potatoes, meat, and tomato dishes and is often used in Mediterranean and South Asian cuisines. With floral hints and an almost minty flavour, thyme pairs well with a variety of ingredients, like eggplant, fish, lamb, and winter vegetables. Thyme goes well with such other herbs and spices as basil, garlic, lavender, nutmeg, oregano, parsley, and rosemary.

Tip: Mix with croutons, onion, egg, and water to make stuffing.

Cumin

Cumin imparts a slight bitterness, muskiness, and peppery warmth to chili and curries and to Mexican and Middle Eastern cuisines. With its nutty element, it complements the taste and heat of chili flakes, as it boosts the spicy flavour and provides a rich, earthy element.

Tip: Add a pinch to guacamole for extra kick.

Fennel seeds

Similar to the taste of black licorice, fennel seeds give an anise-like flavour and warm sweet notes to fish, meat, and Chinese, Mediterranean, and Indian dishes. With their perfumey essence, fennel seeds can be used alone or within mixes like Chinese five spice.

Tip: They can be used as an alternative to dill or caraway seeds.

Tarragon

Often compared to fennel seeds, tarragon adds bittersweet notes to vinegar, pickles, fish, beef, chicken, stews, and classic French Béarnaise sauce.

Tip: Try in egg dishes in place of chives or basil.

Ginger

For both savoury and sweet dishes, ginger adds a warmth and bite to your cooking. Combined with winter root veggies like carrots, squash or pumpkin in both baked goods, casseroles, and soups, ginger adds a layer of complexity. In cookies, pies, and pudding, ginger bolsters the sweetness and heat. Ginger is a commonly used spice in Asian cuisine.

Tip: Sprinkle onto yams or pumpkin before roasting to add depth of flavour.

Oregano

Oregano gives a potent, sharp, peppery flavour to tomato sauces, pizza, lamb, beef, and soup. Oregano is a bold and assertive aromatic; add it to liven up a classic Italian or Greek dish. Or try it as a bright counterpoint to cooked and raw vegetables.

Tip: Add to Mexican-style chili or Greek salad for a robust flavour.

Hot pepper flakes

Hot pepper flakes add a sweet heat to dishes. Use for meat or seafood as well as for Italian, Caribbean, Indian, and Mexican dishes.

Tip: Sprinkle onto pizza and eggs and into sauces for extra flavour and heat.

Parsley

A popular garnish, parsley also brightens flavours of a dish, balancing the tastes of savoury dishes. Parsley has a clean, peppery taste, is mildly grassy and slightly bitter. Use to accompany fish, eggs, and meat.

Tip: For Italian-style salads, add half a teaspoon of parsley flakes to a cup of oil-and-vinegar dressing.

Paprika

Paprika adds mild to medium heat and sweetness to potato salad, paella, and devilled eggs. While paprika may look similar to chili powder, it usually isn't as hot, and paprika has the benefit of an earthy, smoky element.

Tip: Use mild sweet Hungarian paprika for colour; use hot paprika for extra spiciness.

Rosemary

This herb gives a woodsy, peppery flavour to pasta, lamb, focaccia, potatoes, and game meat. Whole sprigs of rosemary are a flavourful addition when roasting a whole chicken or cooking up a stew. Or finely chop the needles and use in our Rosemary-Lemon Olive Oil Cake.

Tip: Sprinkle sparingly onto root vegetables coated in olive oil with a pinch of salt before roasting.

Turmeric

Turmeric adds a vivid yellow colour and a mild bitterness to South Asian cuisine and hot drinks. Grains like rice, quinoa, bulgur, and couscous all go nicely with turmeric. Sprinkle on soups, greens, savoury dips or smoothies.

Tip: Sprinkle on boiled eggs for an extra pop of bright colour and intense flavour.

Cloves

Cloves can be used whole or ground in both savoury cooking or sweet baking. They bring a bittersweet note to cookies, cakes, and pumpkin pie. Cloves are an essential spice in curries and meat dishes. Use cloves in mulled wine and chai lattes.

Tip: Make a spicy simple syrup for drinks and desserts by boiling water with cloves, sugar, and cinnamon.

Nutmeg

Nutmeg brings sweet, spicy flavour to baked goods, egg dishes, seafood chowders, and curries. Take your morning coffee or tea, or even hot chocolate, up a notch by adding a sprinkle of nutmeg. Add it to your breakfast in oatmeal or over fruit.

Tip: Add a pinch to an individual serving of rice pudding to give it a little punch.

International spice blends

Explore the globe with these flavour combos.

Italian

  • Basil
  • Hot pepper flakes
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme

Moroccan

  • Cayenne pepper
  • Cinnamon
  • Cloves
  • Cumin
  • Ginger
  • Nutmeg
  • Pepper
  • Salt

Chinese

  • Pepper
  • Cinnamon
  • Cloves
  • Fennel seeds

Indian curry

  • Pepper
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Cinnamon
  • Cloves
  • Cumin
  • Fennel seeds
  • Ginger
  • Nutmeg
  • Turmeric

Caribbean

  • Pepper
  • Cinnamon
  • Cloves
  • Nutmeg

Cajun

  • Pepper
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Hot pepper flakes
  • Oregano
  • Paprika
  • Salt
  • Thyme