Must Have Spices For Superstar Seasoning

Build your spice rack…

Over the course of many, many years, your spice rack will gradually become a treasured collection of herbs, spices and seasonings that reflect your personality as well as your individual cooking style.

Of course, everyone has to start somewhere and with the multitude of spices available, getting started can be an overwhelming task.

We’ve put together this starter list of must have spices that will put you well on your way to whipping up dishes that are perfectly seasoned.

Consider the flavors of these spices as well as the types of food you cook most often and you can easily narrow your starter spices down to just 10 to 12 of these with which you can create a personalized spice rack. You’ll soon find that it only takes a few of the right spices to season like a superstar every time you cook!


  • Contains notes of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg
  • Commonly used in pies, preserves, stews, marinades and baked goods


  • Slightly sweet with spicy undertones
  • Used in a wide variety of Italian cuisine; great in omelets, herb breads, soups, marinades, grain dishes and tomato sauces

Bay Leaves 

  • Aromatic, woodsy and potent
  • Used to flavor stews, soups and marinades

Black Pepper 

  • Earthy, sharp, pungent
  • Small amounts called for in all types of recipes; also a must-have for your tabletop, as guests typically season to taste when food is served

Cayenne Pepper 

  • Hot, spicy, flavorful
  • Essential flavor component of Mexican, Indian, Creole, Cajun and Southeast Asian cuisines; useful in seasoning chilies, curries, spicy cold noodle dishes, hot-and-sour dishes and vegetable or bean stews

Chili Powder 

  • Spicy blend with a base of ground red chili powder that often includes cumin, garlic and oregano (individual blends vary, so be sure to check the label and choose your favorite combination of spies for ideal flavor)
  • Most commonly used in Southwestern and Mexican dishes; can be used to add flavor to soups, stews and other dishes


  • Warm, earthy, bittersweet, intense, aromatic
  • Used in baked goods, chilies, stews, curries, coffee drinks and a variety of other dishes


  • Sweet, strong, sharp, somewhat bitter
  • Frequently used with cinnamon in baked goods, pumpkin, squash, sweet potato and fruit pies; sometimes used in chutneys and curries; lends flavor to marinades and meats


  • Warm and earthy
  • Adds flavor to gravies, soups, stews, curries, pickles and pastries

Curry Powder 

  • Aromatic and flavorful Indian spice blend, available in varying degrees of hotness
  • Used heavily in South Asian dishes; adds zest and flavor to simple pilaf dishes; used in egg recipes such as frittatas or quiches, potato dishes, lentil stews and soups and a wide range of Indian cuisine

Garlic Powder 

  • Flavor similar to garlic but much more subtle
  • Can be used as a substitute for fresh garlic when necessary; excellent seasoning in blended dips, breading mixes for fried foods and other dishes in which fresh garlic may be too strong; used extensively in all types of ethnic cuisine


  • Hot, fragrant, spicy and zesty
  • Common ingredient in Vietnamese, Chinese, Indian, Japanese and South Asian cuisines; often used to flavor crackers, cakes, cookies and gingerbread as well as some meat and even shellfish recipes


  • Sweet, intense and aromatic
  • Key spice used to flavor custards, pumpkin and sweet potato pies, eggnog and spice cakes; frequently one of the primary spices used in curry mixes

Onion Powder 

  • Flavor similar to fresh onion, but much more subtle
  • Commonly used as a substitute whenever fresh onion is not on hand


  • Slightly bitter, warm, aromatic
  • Used often in Italian-American cuisine, with meat, fish, salads and vegetables; popular seasoning in kebab recipes and Mediterranean barbecue


  • Warm, slightly sweet
  • Frequently used to add flavor to tomato-based sauces, potato dishes and French-style salad dressing; has an attractive bright red color that has made it a popular garnish for dips, casseroles and deviled eggs


  • Strong, woodsy, piney, lemony and aromatic
  • Frequently used in French, Italian and Mediterranean cuisines; pairs beautifully with other herbs, spices and olive oil; commonly used to season pizza, pork, focaccia and tomato sauce


  • Savory, slightly peppery
  • Used in a wide variety of dishes including casseroles, stuffing, sausages and cheese

Kosher Salt 

  • Used to enhance the flavors of foods rather than providing additional flavor
  • Recommended for all uses except baking, as the larger crystals allow greater control

Table Salt 

  • Used in any baking dishes that contain little liquid, as fine table salt is able to dissolve sufficiently whereas Kosher salt is too coarse


  • Bittersweet and peppery
  • Commonly used in French cooking; pairs beautifully with other herbs and spices as well as chicken, omelets and fish


  • Light and woodsy, yet vivid in both flavor and aroma
  • Used to season a wide variety of dishes including meat, poultry and vegetables; popular ingredient in traditional Creole, Cajun and Mediterranean dishes

Don’t worry if your spice rack seems a little sparse at first with just the most common spices — as you acquire new spices one by one, you’ll have a versatile and varied collection of herbs, spices and seasonings in no time!