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Essential Spices for Your Spice Rack

Photo by Antonis Achilleos

Katie Lee Joel, chef and author of the cookbook The Comfort Table, divulges the essential kitchen spices to stock in your spice rack.

One of the most versatile herbs, thyme can be used in everything from salad dressings to soups and stocks; just a small pinch can jump-start your dish.

When you’re whipping up your best chili or stir-fry, add this spice to the mix for a fresh cilantro-infused taste.

If you have a craving for Thai, this spice will give an exotic flavor to your dish.

Chinese 5 Spice
This spice mixture varies, but it’s usually a combination of fennel, anise, ginger, licorice root, cinnamon, and cloves. Works great in stir-fry and is perfect to sprinkle on popcorn for a midnight snack.

Onion Powder
One of the most essential kitchen spices, its no-fail flavor will be your secret ingredient when making hamburgers. Add 1/2 teaspoon of the powder to ground beef.

Old Bay Seasoning
Straight from the sizzling South, this spice is great for French fries or broiled fish.

Chili Powder

Season ground beef with chili powder when making Mexican food. Spicy alert: Add a little bit at a time.

Cumin Seeds
Taste them in Middle Eastern and Mexican dishes. Add cumin powder and a drizzle of olive oil to spike up hummus.

Dry Mustard
Put a pinch of dry mustard into vinaigrettes or mix it with paprika to season beef. It packs a little bit of heat, so use it sparingly.

Widely present in Mediterranean cooking, use oregano in tomato sauces and Greek salads with olives, tomatoes, and feta cheese.

Bay Leaves
Create a base flavor in soups, stocks, and savory dishes by using by leaves. Add one when sautéing onions too. Never leave them in when serving.

It has a subtle smoky flavor, which is great for seasoning meats and chicken before searing or grilling and gives meat a beautiful color when cooked.

Pair rosemary and garlic to create a flavorful leg of lamb. For a side dish, combine potatoes, olive oil, rosemary, salt, and pepper, and roast in the oven.

Red Pepper Flakes
Get the great taste of New York pizza by sprinkling red pepper flakes on your slice.

Garlic Powder
Unlike fresh garlic, powder will not burn. Season flour with garlic powder for fried chicken.

-- Katie Lee Joel

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