Not Having these 10 Spices in Your Cupboard is a Disservice to Your Taste Buds
Under-seasoned food tastes of…disappointment, but you can effortlessly breathe new life into your meals with the addition of a few key seasonings and spice blends.
Spices instantly elevate the subtle flavors of vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and plant-based proteins without piling on extra calories (or dirty dishes in the sink).
From sea salt to shichimi togarashi, we’ve got the 10 spices that you need to add to your spice rack.
Adobo (all-purpose seasoning)
Adobo is the ultimate all-purpose seasoning, and, although it’s traditionally used with animal proteins, its salty-garlicy flavor can give that same savoriness to any number of plant-based dishes — from crispy tofu to vegetarian stews. Adobo seasonings vary in their composition, but they generally include a blend of granulated garlic, salt, oregano, black pepper, and turmeric.
Ancho chile, known as a poblano when fresh, has a deep, smoky, slightly sweet flavor comparable to a spicy chocolate-covered raisin. Its mild-to-medium heat makes it an appropriate addition to moles, enchilada sauce, soup, traditional chili, or even pasta.
Black Peppercorns (in pepper mill)
Pre-ground black pepper tastes vapid and boring compared to the fresh stuff; thankfully, many spice brands offer miniature grinders complete with whole peppercorns ready to be crushed. A couple rotations of the pepper mill adds a sharp, citrusy flavor, floral-like aroma, and crunchy texture to the tops of salads, soups, pastas, and these delicious tempeh fajitas.
The fragrant seed is a member of the parsley family, but it’s often sold as a powder rather than in its whole form. Cumin is aromatic and complex and can add a powerful smoky flavor to black bean burgers, curried potatoes, vegetarian chili, and lentil soups. Just remember to use this strong spice sparingly.
“Curry Powder” is a mixture of different seasonings that differs slightly based on what brand you buy. That being said, many contain some combination of coriander, mustard, cumin, fenugreek, cayenne, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and turmeric, which gives curry powder its iconic yellow-orange color. Add some to roasted vegetables, blend into hummus, sprinkle on popcorn, or use as the base of this Thai tofu pumpkin curry.
Available at Trader Joe’s and a spattering of other retailers, the “Everything Bagel” spice blend is the ultimate compliment to any roasted potato or sautéed vegetable. Add some to a tahini dressing or sprinkle some on an avocado half with a squeeze of lemon and a squirt of sriracha. The spice mixture is a combination of all the wonderful bits you’d find on the outside of an everything bagel: sesame seeds, sea salt, dried minced garlic, onion, and poppy seeds.
Red Pepper Flake
Although it probably already exists somewhere on your spice rack, the raw, uncalibrated heat of red pepper flake brings a brutish pop to roasted cruciferous vegetables and elegant pastas.
Don’t roll your eyes just yet. In terms of utility in a dish, sea salt offers the same taste-enhancing qualities as traditional table salt, but when it comes to look, flavor, and texture, sea salt is in an ocean of its own. Its slightly “richer” flavor and crunch make it a natural fit for both savory entrees and desserts.
Adorning the table of many ramen soup shops, shichimi togarashi is a complex spice blend that includes a combination of red chile pepper, orange peel, sesame seeds, Japanese pepper, ginger, and seaweed. Sprinkle this on literally anything — noodles, fried rice, stir-fried tofu, soups, marinades, rubs, dressings, tempuras, roasted vegetables, etc. — to instantly add a flurry diverse flavors and tastes.
Star anise is often sold in its ornamental whole form, but it’s much easier to incorporate into dishes as a powder. Its flavor is somewhere between licorice, cinnamon, and clove. Try adding it to broths, chutneys, mulled wine, or desserts, like this warm cranberry poached pear.
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