Essential Spices

Essential Spice Collection

Stocking your pantry with the essential spices is one of the keys to managing an efficient kitchen.

Beyond the Basics

An essential spice collection goes beyond the basics.  It incorporates all the spices necessary to cook all of your go to meals – the meals you cook every week/month.  When I began exploring kitchen arts I would tirelessly peruse recipes until I found the one that looked like it would be exactly what I wanted.  I would think about how good that meal was going to taste and head off to the grocery store to pick up the ingredients.  Of course, I never remembered which spices I had on hand.  Not wanting to spend extra money on something I might already have at home I’d usually forego buying the spices and keep my fingers crossed that they were already in my spice collection.  Often I was disappointed!  I’ve tried many a substitution in my time – some worked very well and others not so much.

During my experimental cooking phase, I tried a whole bunch of exotic recipes and spices; at last count, there are 63 spices in my collection.  Some of those spices are used far more often than others.  Those spices take up a lot of space!  The rule of thumb about spice storage is that they should be used up within a year.  I don’t really subscribe to that notion.  I tend to keep mine until I notice a change in flavor, texture, smell or color.  But, that’s a story for another post.

What’s Essential

I typically follow a primal diet, so not only do I make a lot of ethnic dishes, I also like to make my own condiments, dressings, and spice blends.  My philosophy is, if I can buy the seasoning in a packet, I can make a spice blend at home.  That means it’s essential that my spice collection have everything in it that I need to make a lot of different things!  From baking banana nut bread to grilling chicken kabobs and everything in between, this list of spices will see you through.

To come up with this list, I kept track of every dish I made in a month.  Below I’ve listed all the individual spices and spice mixes used.  The list of individual spices includes all the spices necessary to make the spice mixes.

Many of these spices I buy in bulk because of their frequent use.  I’ve a quirky obsession with Spice Islands brand containers so I keep those bottles and refill them with the bulk spices I buy, usually organic.  Sadly, Spice Islands doesn’t sell every spice in my collection so I have to make due with some non-standard containers 🙁

To stock your spice collection, print out this list, do an inventory at home checking off what you already have, then pop the list in your purse and go shopping!

Essential Spice List

Individual Spice

Bay leaves
Black pepper
Cayenne pepper
Celery salt
Chili powder

Individual Spice

Garlic powder
Garlic salt
Ground cloves
Ground ginger
Ground nutmeg
Minced onion

Individual Spice

Onion powder
Sea salt
Smoked paprika
White pepper

Spice Mixes

Cajun seasoning
Garam masala
Italian salad dressing mix
Seasoned salt
Taco seasoning
Thai curry powder

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About the Author


Like many, JB works a day job with a silly commute but dreams of a life filled with leisure and goats. In her free time she enjoys playing with plants, experimenting with recipes, and tackling DIY projects of all kinds. She sporadically collects mineral specimens, parakeets and new hobbies.

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