Best Spices and Dried Herbs to Have in Your Kitchen

As a cook or aspiring chef, it’s important to always have the best spices to have on hand. Having a well-stocked pantry can be the difference between an average dinner and a flavorful culinary masterpiece. These ingredients can take your meal to the next level. Whether it’s for seasoning a stew or adding flavor to vegetables.


Cultures around the world have used spices and herbs for centuries as part of their cuisine. So understanding which ones work best in different recipes is key to creating unforgettable meals. So, let’s look at some of the best spices and dried herbs to have in your kitchen.

🌶Garlic Powder

best spices to have on hand
best spices to have on hand


Garlic powder is one of the most versatile spices in your kitchen. It has a milder flavor than fresh garlic and powdery consistency. Meaning it can be evenly dispersed throughout all of your dishes. It gives them a deep and rich flavor profile.


Loaded with antioxidants, garlic powder not only adds flavor. And depth to many dishes but also has incredible health benefits. Additionally, its added convenience makes it easier to incorporate into recipes. Without needing to peel and mince fresh garlic cloves, unlike ground or granulated garlic. In order to use it effectively, sprinkle a pinch of garlic powder on top of finished dishes for an intense garlicky kick. Or add ½ teaspoon during the cooking process for subtle umami flavors.


Whether you are making homemade soups or stews, sautéing vegetables, baking bread, making sauces, or marinating meats. Or just mix up a simple base for tacos and burritos. Garlic powder should be an essential staple in any home cook’s kitchen.

🌶Black Peppercorns

Coming from a native vine found mainly in India and Brazil, black peppercorns have a signature earthy flavor. It enhances the taste of most dishes by adding a hint of heat and depth. Black pepper is often used as an accompaniment. But more recently, it has become popular to use it as the primary seasoning in many dishes. These tiny, dried berries add a robust flavor and a pleasant hint of heat to your dishes and are also packed with antioxidants that can help boost your immune system and regulate blood sugar levels.


When ground fresh and added liberally to meals, black peppercorns, and white and pink peppercorns. It can increase the body’s absorption of essential vitamins and minerals from the food you eat. Furthermore, their sharp flavor reduces the need for excess salt or sugar in recipes. Allowing for healthier consumption without sacrificing taste. Whether you’re a seasoned chef or just someone looking to improve their culinary skills in the kitchen, black peppercorns, especially if mixed with kosher salt, deserve a spot on your spice rack for their unique aroma and numerous health benefits.

🌶Red Pepper 

best spices to have on hand

Whole dried chiles and crushed red pepper flakes are indispensable as one of the best spices or dried herbs in your kitchen. Red pepper is well known for adding a little heat to any meal, but it also has versatile uses that make it excellent for so much more. Whole dried chiles infuse dishes with an intense smoky flavor, while crushed red pepper flakes can sprinkle a delightful kick of spice onto any savory dish.


Some studies have even shown that red pepper can help fight inflammation, improve digestion, and protect against certain types of cancer. Red pepper is commonly used in Asian cuisine for stir-fries and soups or added to stews, sauces, marinades, or dressings for a slightly spicy kick. This versatile spice should be a staple in any kitchen – think of all the amazing dishes you can create!

🌶Whole Nutmeg

Nutmeg is often thought of as a pantry staple, but this complex spice deserves special recognition as one of the best spices to have on hand. It is known for its sweet, warm flavor and fragrant aroma. Nutmeg adds a hint of intensity to savory dishes like roasted vegetables or creamy soups.


Adding to its versatility, nutmeg is known to be good for digestion, may help boost immunity, and even positively contribute to overall brain health. It also enhances the taste of sweet baked goods such as vanilla cake and serves as a perfect finish sprinkled on top of coffee-based drinks. Keep whole nutmeg in your pantry because freshly ground nutmeg tastes better than the pre-ground variety. This will allow you to unlock all the unique flavors and aromas of adding fresh nutmeg to your culinary creations!


Whole nutmeg also has excellent storability; it only needs to be kept away from light, heat, and moisture and will stay fresh for up to two years.


With its mild but assertive heat and lingering citrusy scent, ginger is incredibly versatile — it can accommodate sweet and savory dishes. It has also been used medicinally for centuries, lending to its wide variety of health benefits. Research has shown that it also contains medicinal properties and can help reduce inflammation and improve digestion.


Just a small amount adds an impressive depth to soups and stews, baked goods like cookies or cakes, stir-fried vegetables, salads and dressings, marinades for meats, seafood curries, ginger tea, and so much more. Therefore it’s no surprise that ginger, even dried ground ginger, has become a permanent staple of the well-stocked kitchen. Like nutmeg, you can buy it pre-ground or whole. If possible, always opt for the latter, as its flavor is best when freshly grated.

🌶Ground Cinnamon

Ground cinnamon is an essential dried herb to have in the kitchen. It provides a subtly sweet flavor, great for baking and cooking desserts, and carries numerous health benefits. It has antioxidant properties, helping boost immunity, protect against cancer, and guarding brain health.


Additionally, its anti-inflammatory effects lower the risk of heart disease and address some skin issues. Its versatility is one of its defining features; not only can it be used in food, but you can also add it to your morning coffee or tea for an extra kick. Be sure to keep ground cinnamon on hand for not just the amazing scent and unique flavor practice for health benefits as well!

🌶Ground Cumin

best spices to have on hand

This common Indian spice adds richness, warmth, and a hint of smokiness to foods, whether you’re seasoning veggies, curry powder, spicing up a stew, or creating something new. It has a nutty, earthy flavor that works great as a rub for roasting meats and poultry or in Mexican, Middle Eastern, and Indian cuisines. It also has a calming effect on your stomach since it aids digestion.


Ground cumin can be used in place of whole cumin seeds, but keep in mind that its flavor profile will be more intense than when using whole spice. Additionally, ground cumin should always be combined with other ingredients like ground coriander or chili powder to bring out its full complexity and enhance any dish.

🌶Onion Powder

This indispensable ingredient adds a nuanced flavor to virtually any savory dish and has been cherished for its culinary versatility for centuries. An excellent substitute for raw onions, onion powder, lends an inviting aroma and distinct sweetness that will elevate your recipes to the next level.


Additionally, onion powder is known to have immune-boosting benefits since it’s packed with vitamin C and antioxidants. Not only does it make your food taste great, but it also helps keep you healthy.


Whether used as an integral part of a sauce or recipe or sprinkled on top as a garnish, onion powder can be counted on to bring powerful flavor and hearty essence with every pinch. Make sure you always have this best spices to have on hand in your pantry!

🌶Dried Bay Leaves

This classic flavor enhancer adds depth to everything from marinades and soups to stews and sauces. Not only do they add a smoky, woodsy flavor, but they can also relieve digestive problems such as gas when steeped in boiling water as an herbal tea. As with any spice or dried herb, use sparingly; too much will overpower your dish and leave it tasting bitter.


When dried, bay leaves retain much flavor and aroma, making them an excellent choice for kitchen cupboards. To get the most out of your bay leaves, be sure to lightly crush them before adding them to a recipe. This will allow them to release all their aromatic compounds for an intensely flavorful experience.

🌶Dried Oregano

As a common herb to flavor Italian and Mediterranean cuisines, oregano’s robust flavor can also enhance soups, salads, and more. Beyond just its culinary benefits, there are numerous health benefits associated with oregano. This versatile spice contains antibacterial properties and vitamins E, K, and A. Minerals such as magnesium, calcium, iron, and potassium. Omega fatty acids, fiber, and antioxidants can help fight off disease-causing free radicals in the body.


For maximum potency when using dried oregano, toast it lightly on the stovetop or oven before adding it to a recipe. With so many different flavors and health benefits found within a single spice, oregano certainly deserves a place of pride in any kitchen!


Mustard is a kitchen staple, and adding it to your dishes can take them up to the next level. Mustard has many health benefits, including being a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids and iron. Ground Mustard, made from Mustard Seeds, gives you the ability to add Mustard’s brilliant flavor to any dish without requiring extra prep time. Its beautiful golden hue can also add an attractive color, making it a visually pleasing addition. Ground Mustard’s sharp and slightly spicy taste is ideal for adding depth to salads or light sauce accompaniments, so if you’re looking for something unique for your kitchen, don’t forget about Mustard!


🌶Dried Basil 

Basil aromatic herb, is another key ingredient for any kitchen. This plant has been used for centuries in Mediterranean cuisine, lending its sweet, peppery flavor to dishes ranging from pizza and pesto to pasta sauce and salad dressings. Dried basil has a stronger flavor than fresh basil, so use it sparingly until you get familiar with its taste. It also pairs beautifully with garlic, oregano, parsley, rosemary, thyme, and other herbs.


Basil isn’t just delicious; it also has numerous health benefits, like being packed with vitamins A and K and antioxidants. It’s been known to help fight off inflammation and reduce cholesterol levels, making it a great addition to any pantry.

🌶Smoked Paprika 

Smoked paprika is made by drying peppers over an oak fire before grinding them into powder form. It adds depth of flavor and subtle smokiness to all kinds of dishes—from roasted vegetables and potatoes to meats like pork chops and brisket. Smoked paprika is especially delicious when used in combination with other spices like garlic powder or cumin; it also makes an excellent addition to marinades or rubs for grilled foods.


Like many other best spices to have on hand, smoked paprika is also great for your health. It contains powerful antioxidants that can help reduce inflammation and boost the immune system, plus it’s rich in vitamins A, E, and K. In addition to these benefits, smoked paprika has a unique flavor that will take your cooking to the next level.


🌶Dried Rosemary 

Rosemary is a popular herb with a distinct flavor and aroma. It’s often used in Mediterranean dishes like roast chicken or roasted vegetables. Rosemary is rich in antioxidants, which are compounds that help protect your cells from damage caused by free radicals. Additionally, some studies suggest that rosemary may have anti-inflammatory properties and cholesterol-lowering effects. Finally, rosemary may help reduce stress levels—one study found that people who smelled rosemary had lower heart rates than those who did not smell it.


🌶Ground Cardamom 

Cardamom is popular in Indian dishes like curries and masalas but is also used in sweet treats like cakes and cookies. This spice has been used for centuries for its medicinal properties; some studies suggest that it may help reduce stomach discomfort, lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation, and improve digestion. Additionally, cardamom contains terpenes, which can act as natural antibiotics and help fight off bacterial infections.


🌶Dried Dill Weed 

Dill weed has a unique flavor that pairs well with fish dishes and potato salads and in pickling brines. This herb is rich in antioxidants, including vitamins A and C; these vitamins can help boost your immune system and protect your cells from damage caused by free radicals. Dill weed also contains flavonoids and anti-inflammatory properties as well as potential cancer-fighting effects. Additionally, dill weed contains monoterpenes compounds that have antibacterial activity against certain bacteria such as E Coli and Salmonella species.

🌶Star Anise

Star anise is a fragrant spice with a distinct licorice-like flavor. This spice has its role in Chinese dishes like stir-fries and Five Spice powder, but it’s also used in Indian curries and Middle Eastern cuisine. Star anise contains high levels of antioxidants which help protect your cells from damage caused by free radicals. In addition, star anise is high in shikimic acid, which has anti-inflammatory properties and may help fight off viral infections. Finally, this spice is a great source of dietary fiber, vitamins A and C, and minerals like magnesium and potassium.


These are just some of the best spices to have on hand in your pantry. Having a variety of spices can help you create an array of flavorful dishes and enjoy the many health benefits they provide. So stock up and get creative! Add these best spices to your pantry for a delicious, nutritious meal boost.


Tips on Storing Spices

best spices to have on hand

Improper storage can lead to a loss of flavor or spoilage. Here are tips on properly storing spices and dried herbs, so they stay fresher for longer.

🌿Keep them away from heat and light

Heat and light can cause your spices and herbs to lose their flavor quickly. Keep spices and herbs away from direct sources of either one when storing them, such as the stove or oven.

🌿Don’t store it in the refrigerator

The moisture in the refrigeration compartment can cause your spices and herbs to spoil quickly, so it’s best to store them elsewhere. Instead, keep them cool in dark places such as a cabinet or pantry where there isn’t too much humidity.

🌿Store in airtight containers

Air is one of the leading causes of flavoring loss in spices and herbs, so make sure you’re storing them in airtight containers such as mason jars or glass bottles with tight-fitting lids. This will help keep more flavor locked inside your ingredients for longer periods.

🌿Label each container

Forgetting which spice is can be an annoying problem when cooking if you don’t label your containers clearly with their contents! Label and categorize each container with its contents and when it was purchased (or when it expires), so you always know what you have on hand.

🌿Buy whole seeds

If possible, buy whole seeds rather than pre-ground since they tend to retain their flavor longer than pre-ground versions do due to their low surface area exposed to oxygen exposure. For example, whole cumin seeds last up to 4 years compared with ground cumin, which only lasts 1 year. Pre-ground black pepper also loses its flavor much faster than whole peppercorns, so try to buy whole peppercorns and grind them as needed.

🌿Buy small amounts at a time

You don’t want your spices sitting around too long because this will lead to flavoring loss over time; instead, try buying small amounts at a time so that you can use them up promptly before needing more.

🌿Avoid plastic containers

Plastic can leach certain chemicals into food products over time; instead, store your spices and dried herbs in glass containers like mason jars or ceramic ones instead for best results.

🌿Invest in an herb mill

An herb mill is a great way to grind fresh herbs before using them without worrying about losing too much flavor due to oxidation (which happens with pre-ground options). Plus, they’re usually cheaper than buying ground versions too!

🌿Consider freezing fresh herbs

If you have fresh herbs that are nearing the expiration date but still want maximum flavor out of them, consider freezing them in ice cube trays filled with oil or water (depending on what type of dish you’ll be using them for). This will significantly extend their shelf life while preserving all their natural flavors intact.

🌿Use within 6 months

As a general rule of thumb, try using any dried herb or spice within 6 months after purchase for best results. this will ensure maximum flavor retention while avoiding any potential spoilage issues from prolonged storage periods!


By following these best practices for storing spices and herbs you’ll be able to enjoy maximum flavor out of your ingredients every time you cook.


Frequently Asked Questions

Which Spice is the Oldest? 

The oldest spice known to humans is cinnamon. It has been used for thousands of years to flavor food and drinks, as well as for medicinal purposes. Cinnamon has many potential benefits, including lowering blood sugar levels, fighting inflammation, and boosting brain function.


What is the Most Universal Spice? 

The universal spice is black pepper. It is widely used around the world and can be found in everything from soups to salads to sauces. As mentioned above, black pepper is also beneficial for digestion, pain relief, and cognitive function.


Which Spice or Herb Keeps the Heart Healthy? 

Several spices may help keep your heart healthy if used in moderation. Cayenne contains capsaicin which can reduce cholesterol levels, while cinnamon helps regulate blood sugar levels which can prevent heart disease. Additionally, garlic can reduce bad cholesterol levels and improve circulation throughout the body, which can benefit your heart health.


What Is the Rarest Spice? 

Cumin is among the rarest spices because it’s only present in certain parts of India and Pakistan. The flavor of cumin is smoky or earthy with notes of nutmeg or clove. The cumin pairs well with chili powder and coriander in Mexican cuisine and ginger and garlic in Indian curries or tandoori dishes.

Final Thoughts

Spices are a great way to add flavor and complexity to any dish. With the right collection of spices, you can easily create dishes from around the world. Or make up recipes from scratch. By understanding best storage and use practices, you can ensure that your spices are as flavorful and fresh as possible. The best spices to have on hand will depend on your culinary preference. But having a few basic spices is always a great place to start! Happy cooking!