You have probably seen time and time again in both pro and personal kitchens how the spice mix used with an ordinary ingredient can really turn something extraordinary. 

From pulled pork, roasted chicken and even veggie stir fries (and everything in between), spices can turn something that is normally “blah” into a decadent surprise.

While you might reach for the same cayenne or lemon pepper mix time and time again, it’s time to get creative and engage your senses – both smell and taste.

If you have yet to build your spice cabinet, we’ve got a comprehensive list of a few we think you should always stock up on. Luckily most herbs and spices are affordable and keep for long, long periods of time (quite like these foods), too so you never have to worry about wasting your money.

  1. Cumin – A mellow spice with earthy undertones, it adds a bit of a “curry-like” taste to dishes. My favorite way to include it in my cooking is by sprinkling a generous amount on any bean dishes or stews. Did you know this also helps break down the hard-to-digest bean?
  2. Cinnamon – Always have cinnamon on hand. I use it regularly in any and every breakfast dish (from oatmeal to smoothies) and find it necessary in many desserts – especially in the Fall.
  3. Paprika – Made from ground sweet red pepper pods, there are both sweet and spicy varieties. I love mixing it with cayenne or chili powders and rubbing it into chicken before I bake them.
  4. Garlic Powder – When isn’t garlic good? Garlic powder is a great component of many meat rubs but also works for veggies.
  5. Onion Powder – The same things said about garlic powder can be said about onion powder. Bonus: They’re better together.
  6. Ground Cloves – Ground cloves are sweet and spicy. Mostly I use whole cloves for hot ciders but many holiday cookies require ground cloves as well.
  7. Turmeric – Turmeric is not only a necessary pantry staple but also a superfood that provides many benefits like better digestion, better skin, hair nails…
  8. Basil – This is absolutely necessary, especially if you are interested in dabbling in Italian cooking and tastes. You can use it on everything from mashes potatoes and omelets to meat dishes and stews.
  9. Bay Leaves – I never knew what the big deal was about Bay leaves, but they are soups and stews’ best friend. Just have it on hand. Just because.
  10. Thyme – Thyme is another great addition to Italian seasonings, but it’s also popular in Mediterranean, Cajun and Creole dishes, according to My Domaine.
  11. Oregano – Fun fact: Burnt oregano smells just like Marijuana! Anyways, don’t burn it.
  12. Rosemary – Who hasn’t used rosemary in one of their dishes before. We like fresh sprigs, but it doesn’t hurt to have a back up.
  13. Red Pepper Flakes – Take it from a self-taught cook (if you can call it that), red pepper flakes go with everything. Soup, salad, stews, everything.
  14. Cayenne Paper – Cayenne gained an uptick in popularity thanks to the Master cleanse, but it does a whole lot more than that. It’s often used in spicy cuisines such as Indian and Southern varieties.
  15. Chili Powder – Similar to cayenne, it’s like the more “chill” cousin that loves to marinate in Mexican or Southwestern dishes. It’s actually not just “chili” – it also contains oregano, coriander and cumin. It’s the whole packaged deal.
  16. Black Peppercorn – Pepper is classic and necessary. I could tell you to get salt, too, but that would seem to obvious.
  17. Ground Ginger – Ginger is a great addition to soups and stews, adding a je ne sais quoi to the dish, but it’s also great in many baked goods – like gingersnap cookies!
  18. Nutmeg – An essential component of eggnog and pumpkin spiced anything, this is a Fall necessity.
  19. Vanilla Extract – I am not sure this is a spice, but you should have vanilla extract in your cabinet at all times! If you like to bake you are already ahead of the curve!

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What are the best spices that you use the most?