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Let’s Talk About Spices

I’ve done my fair share of investigating the world of spices. I’ve found that spices can be QUITE expensive, and sometimes it’s unclear how to use them. I’ve compiled a list of “essential” spices/sauces that I use in almost EVERY dish. Buying spices in bulk, or in bagged form, can help offset the cost overall–you’ll use them A LOT, and they last a long time. Check your cabinet and see if you have these “essentials.”

Photo by Mareefe on

Essentials for Your Cabinet

  • Salt–duh, but not all salt is created equal. I like to have a big container of iodized salt for everyday use, and also a sea salt grinder for fancier things, like steak.
  • Pepper–obviously, but what kind of pepper is best? It comes in many forms, black, white, pink, and even red peppercorns. Black pepper is fine with me. I use the big black pepper grinders you can buy at any store. These are cool because you can adjust how coarse you want your pepper to be ground. I use finer coarse for regular recipes, and rougher coarse for steaks and other meats.
  • Sugar–I store my sugar in the freezer. Keep it tightly sealed to prevent moisture from getting in!
  • Cumin–ever by those little taco packets for your Taco Tuesdays? Did you know those are PACKED with sodium, and you can make your own. Cumin is a nice, warm, earthy spice that can be used in Latin and Asian dishes. Go get you some!
  • Coriander–Cumin and Coriander go together like salt and pepper. If you can spring for it, I highly recommend.
  • Chili Powder–another essential that can be used for anything from taco seasoning to making actual chilis or soups.
  • Garlic Powder/Garlic Salt–I use this in almost every recipe, when I don’t feel like mincing fresh garlic, because I’m lazy.
  • Onion Powder–same as above.
  • Dried Italian Herbs–you can buy a bottle of mixed herbs, or get individual packs of dried herbs such as thyme, oregano, parsley, and basil.
  • Paprika- I don’t use it often, but it’s worth having some on hand
  • Cayenne pepper or dried chili flakes–I like my food super spicy, if you don’t no need to have this on hand

Photo by Jonathan Borba on

What About Sauces?

  • Soy Sauce–get the biggest bottle possible. I use it in most of my Asian-inspired dishes.
  • Vinegar–white, apple cider, champagne, or rice wine vinegar should be a staple in your cabinet–I love to quick-pickle things like red onion, and vinegar is essential.
  • Oil–You need to have one bottle of olive oil and one bottle of canola oil. Trust me.
  • Sriracha–Not only does sriracha add a little heat, but it has savory garlicky notes that can enhance the flavor of your dishes.
  • Fish sauce–stay with me. I make a lot of curry and Thai-inspired dishes. Fish sauce smells funky, but it adds that “umami” flavor to dishes. 10/10 would recommend.
  • Sweet Chili Sauce–this sauce is versatile. You can use it as a dip for wontons/spring rolls, or to marinade things like chicken breasts or wings.


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