Your Spice Cupboard… SORTED!

Spices Header

You can achieve great things with a spice cupboard. Completing one can make a person swell with pride. It’s better than running a marathon…. baking the world’s largest cookie…. out swimming a shark. Trust us. The spice cupboard is where all recipes start and finish.

We’re going to give you a quick fire of all of the spices. Well probably all. We may miss the odd one out because we’re doughnuts. Let us know if we do!

We’ll explain their basic properties and flavours to help you get started or build upon your own spice cupboard. A while ago we did this on tumblr. Thank James a bunch. But guess WHAT?! This time it’s in alphabetical order. Swoon.

ALL SPICE- Up first is All Spice and that’s a deceiving name. It’s not all the spices (that’s mixed spice). It’s actually its own berry. Use it for jerk seasoning or in meats and sweet dishes.

CARAWAY SEEDS- Not technically a seed, but a dried fruit of a plant that also produced edible roots and leaves. They have an aniseed flavour, but it’s not as strong as other spices.

CARDAMOM- Unique in appearance and flavour, it has a strong medicinal taste. Usually bought whole, you can get powdered too!

CAYENNE- Cayenne peppers are part of the capsicum family. It’s used fresh, but is better known in it’s ground, or at least dried. As always it’s all about balance. You definitely don’t want to be eating a lot of this spicy spice! See if you like the flavours and heat of cayenne in this coconut crusted chicken recipe.

coconut crusted chicken

CHILLI POWDER- This is great to have about if you want to add a fiery kick to a dish. You can get it in differenet heat levels such as mild, hot and extra hot. Depends how far down the line you like to go…

CINNAMON- It can be extremely strong so steady on. Get whole sticks for an infusion or use it as a powder for more strength. It’s super fragrant and great in sweet & savoury.

CLOVES- Remind you of Christmas? It’s aromatic and necessary for things like mulled wine and bechamél sauce. They also have anti-inflammatory properties and are full of anti-oxidants.

CORIANDER- Obviously you can get it fresh but in your spice cupboard it’s likely to be powdered or whole. It’s a strong flavour, citrus with heat. Also great in curries.

CUMIN- Cumin is dried in the fruit it’s contained in then sold as seeds or powder. It’s earthy, slightly spicy with a curry flavour. It’s native to India and is also great in cheese and Mexican food. See how you get on with cumin with this cumin & lime haddock parcel.

cumin and lime

FENUGREEK- Ever heard of this? It’s unusual but can transform curry dishes and North African cuisine. It’s got lots of health benefits and its plant can be used as a herb too.

MUSTARD SEEDS- These come in brown, black and white varieties and are usually used in Indian cuisine… and for making mustard of course!

NIGELLA SEEDS- It’s got a real earthy, pungent flavour. It goes by a lot of different names, so you might know it as fennel flower, nutmeg flower, black caraway, black cumin (which is actually a whole different spice) or black sesame.

NUTMEG- Nutmeg is strangely fab in meat. From sausages to haggis, to burgers… it is used in all of them! It can also be used to give a warming wintery kick to soups and one pots. Like this pumpkin soup recipe… it goes down a treat.


PAPRIKA- Paprika is used in many different cuisines, but it’s the staple spice in Hungarian dishes like Goulash. It’s made from air dried chilli peppers, but the powder is not quite as hot as chilli powder or cayenne. In fact it can have a sweet quality to it.

PEPPER- If you don’t have pepper at home walk out the door. Just kidding. Hey?! Come back! Pepper adds a kick of flavour to your food and comes in peppercorns of all sorts.

SAFFRON- The world’s most expensive spice. It’s the stigma of a flower and needs to be handpicked. It’s most famous in paella for its floral, almost metallic flavour.

STAR ANISE- So pretty. It is usually found whole and infused into sauces, soups and alcohol. Used in Asian dishes, you might recognise it in Pho! Get the recipe for Salmon Pho here.

salmon pho

SUMAC- Sumac is the dried fruit of a number of species of plants. The fruits are ground into a citrusy, bright red powder. It’s a versatile spice that goes with a lot of meats and fish, as well as veggies and pulses.

TURMERIC- Turmeric is the bright yellow spice that gives many dishes a distinct, bright colour along with a slightly bitter flavour. It’s most often seen in a powdered form, but you can also get it fresh, where it looks a little like.

VANILLA- Could we even live without this awesome spice? The best way to use it is scraping the seeds from fresh pods, but you can get really good extracts and pastes that give great flavour. It’s just essence that isn’t so good, so treat yourself to the good stuff.

Keep an eye because in January we’re going to be looking at herbs. Got any more of your favourite spices to add? Please, tell!

  • Marchbanks

    So define what *you* mean by “chilli powder,” please? The term means wildly different things depending on location. In its native range of Mexico, there isn’t even such a thing because there what you get are the various kinds of chiles, ground up. “Chiles en polvo” might be anything from a mild ancho to a blow-your-head-off pequín.

    In Texas (where I am), “chili powder”–used to make chili con carne–is a blend that starts with ground chiles anchos or mulatos or New Mexico chiles and adds cumin, granulated garlic, salt, plus a dose of some hotter chile–arbol, cayenne, or pequín–for bite.

    And don’t let’s EVEN get into the various things that “chilli powder” can mean in India. Even thinking about that makes my head hurt.