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Lisa-Kristin Erdt

Junior Food Editor at Kitchen Stories

I like to give my palate creative freedom when seasoning my food. After all, the confidence to add a pinch of this and that to season your dishes brings your cooking to new heights. But equally, I believe in keeping things simple in the kitchen. After a particularly busy day, it’s relieving to know there’s a spice jar in the cupboard bursting with flavor to add to dinner.

Herb and spice mixes are lifesavers in the kitchen: We’ll show why you should always have some on hand, suggest some KS favorites, plus give you 5 new easy-to make-blends that will save you a whole lot of time while cooking.

Why spice-mixes make your life easier

As we know, variety is the spice of life! So for the time-conscious cook, having a selection of spice mixes to reach to is essential. Instead of repeatedly buying small batches of ready-made spice mixes, if you make your own, you only have to invest once in the foundational spices to work with and mix together at home, adding a pinch of your blends to your favorite dishes to round them out.

Another plus is that you don’t have to work out any particular measurements since the ratio of spices mixed up means you’re always adding balanced flavor.

How to make your own spice mixes

If possible, purchase whole spices, which are more aromatic that ground spices, and grind them yourself. This is the most effort you’ll have to make in this whole process—simply grind them up with a mortar and pestle (or a spice grinder, if you’re lucky) and store in a sealed jar. 

Feel free to use a ratio according to the notes you like best. Chili flakes, granulated garlic, onion powder, or ground ginger should only be used in smaller amounts as they can be overpowering. Once you’ve found your perfect mix, write it down, in the best case on the jar itself, so you commit it to memory. Create different mixes, ready to be stirred into stews and curries, used in baked goods, dips, as meat and vegetable seasonings, and more!

5 spice mixes we love

Garam Masala

This aromatic mix is based on cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom. Used throughout the Indian subcontinent, garam masala is a warming spice that’s perfect for rice dishes, curries, or as a meat rub. There is no classic recipe as it varies from region and by family! You can find our variant here:

Homemade garam masala spice mix

Homemade garam masala spice mix

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Chai spice

In need of a hot drink? Use chai space to make masala chai or add it to your sweet baked goods.

Homemade chai spice

Homemade chai spice

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Five spice

A delicious blend of five (or more) spices, like cinnamon, star anise, Sichuan pepper, fennel, and white pepper, you’ll find this warming aromatic mix used predominantly in Chinese and Vietnamese cuisine—where it adds depth to meat dishes, soups and more. For a novel twist, it gives and unexpected kick to sweets.

Homemade Chinese five-spice powder

Homemade Chinese five-spice powder

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Za’atar

Found throughout the Middle East, North Africa, Turkey and beyond, Za’atar is a herbal, lemony spice mix that adds fresh, earthy notes to a dish. Read all about the spice here and try making a take on the spice below:

Homemade za'atar

Homemade za'atar

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Ras el hanout

This rich North African spice works as well with meat and fish as it does with vegetables, in stews, rice, or couscous. Like all the best spice mixes, its ingredients vary from market stall, family, to region: but it can include cardamom, clove, cumin, coriander, allspice, ginger, paprika, fenugreek, and more. 

Homemade ras el hanout

Homemade ras el hanout

→ Go to recipe

5 new spice mixes for you to try

Get your mortar and pestle and your jars ready.

Oatmeal spice

We’ve all been there: hurriedly adding the entire contents of our spice rack to oatmeal—and throwing the balance of flavors completely out the window. Here’s your morning saviour:

● 2 tbsp ground almonds
● 2 tbsp shredded coconut 
● 1 tbsp cinnamon
● ½ tbsp ginger (ground)
● 1 tbsp vanilla powder
● ¼  tbsp ground cloves (gemahlen)
● ¼  tbsp ground cardamom

Stir 1 heaped tsp of the mix into ¾ cup (100 g) oats, add your preferred milk, and warm up on the stove. Add some apple and you’ve got a winning, warming breakfast. It also tastes great in fruit salad with yogurt.

“Everything Bagel” style seasoning

On my first visit to the United States, I couldn’t wait to finally get my hands on the famous ‘Everything Bagel’ seasoning. With this topping, there’s nothing else you need to do but spread on some cream cheese and take a bite. I’ve now come to know that you can compose the very seasoning without making a trans-Atlantic trip. Here’s the recipe:

● 1 tbsp flaky sea salt 
● 1½ tbsp sesame seeds
● 1½ tbsp black sesame seeds
●  ½ tbsp poppy seeds
● 1 tbsp granulated garlic
● ½  tbsp fried onions

Mix together and use top your homemade bagels or stir into cream cheese and spread onto store-bought version.

Shortcut ramen seasoning

Want ramen but are low on time? Use this spice to get a steaming bowl on the table in a pinch.

● 2 tbsp granulated garlic
● 2 tbsp onion powder
● 2 tbsp powdered chicken stock
● 1 tsp black pepper
● 1 tbsp ground ginger
● ½ tsp chili flakes
● 1 tsp salt
● 1 tsp smoked paprika powder

Add 1 tbsp of the mix to 2 cups (500ml) water. Top up with additional chicken stock if desired. Cook your ramen noodles according to package instructions, place in bowl, then pour the soup over the top. For further toppings add fried ground meat, or a jammy egg, and garnish with scallions, sesame, shichimi togarashi seasoning, and nori.

Mulled wine spice

This might be my favourite of all—you’ll understand once you give your readymade spice a whiff—which is pure Christmas, jarred. Take it one step further and give out little bags of your homemade spice with your greeting cards this year.

● 12 cardamom pods
● 10 cloves
● 1 Star anise
● 1 cinnamon stick
● 8 allspice berries
● 2 tsp anise
● 1 orange peel
● 60 g cane sugar

Grind all the ingredients, besides the orange and cane sugar, into a fine powder using a mortar and pestle. Add all ingredients to a jar, stir well, and add to 4½ cups (1L) red wine in a large pot. Let it warm through, but not boil! You can aslo place the mixture into a tea bag, which you can then remove at the end. Serve the mulled wine with a cinnamon stick, a slice of orange and a star anise. Find the whole recipe here.

The Italian all-rounder

You can use this mix to season classics like focaccia, tomato sauces for pizza and pasta, as well as dips and spreads made with ricotta, crème fraîche, yogurt, or sour cream.

● 4 tsp dried basil
● 4 tsp dried oregano
● 4 tsp dried rosemary
● 4 tsp dried marjoram
● 4 tsp dried thyme
● 4 tsp dried savory
● 2 tsp granulated garlic
● 2 ts onion powder
● 2 tsp sweet paprika powder

Add to your favorite dishes, along with salt! And you’re done!

Now you’re all set to add a little something to your dish! Let us know your favorite spice and herb mixes in the comments!

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