The Art of Seasoning: How to Use Spices

Spices are plant-derived seasonings with a distinct aroma and taste, traditionally used in food for flavor.

© DepositPhotos

They can be sweet, spicy, bitter, sour, or tart. Indians, for example, use all five types of flavors when creating masala — their traditional blend of spices, so it typically contains up to 15 ingredients.

Like perfumers mixing aromas, chefs must master the ability of making spice compositions. Experienced culinary experts intuitively feel how to use spices and which components taste best with which foods. If you are only learning the ropes of this wisdom, though, you can find specific spreads devoted to this topic in cookbooks.

Concurrently, most spices are also medicinal herbs. They inhibit the growth and development of bacteria, promote the elimination of toxins from the body. For the dish to turn out delicious and aromatic, you need to know which spices go with which products. Without further ado, let’s discuss how to use spices.

How to Use Spices to Make Food Healthier

Gas-Forming Foods

All spices reduce gas formation to a degree. On the whole, their proper use reduces the negative attributes of products and highlights the positive ones.

  1. Coriander and turmeric work best with potatoes.
  2. Cumin, ginger, pepper, and coriander are perfect with legumes.
  3. Coriander, fennel, and cumin are good with cabbage.

Foods That Trigger Mucus Production

  1. Milk: add cinnamon, cardamom, saffron to hot milk.
  2. Fermented milk products: add coriander, fennel, cinnamon, ginger, cumin.
  3. Ice cream: add cinnamon, cloves, cardamom.
  4. Sweets: add ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg.
  5. Fatty foods will benefit from saffron, ginger, mustard, or turmeric.
  6. Caffeinated foods: add cardamom.

Which Spices Go Well With Which Types of Dishes

  1. Meat. The most winning combinations for beef are a mixture of different peppers, tarragon, thyme, and rosemary. However, its flavor is incomplete without basil, sage, coriander, and cumin. Pork also loves caraway seeds and rosemary, as well as marjoram, and the taste will benefit from nutmeg, thyme, and pepper. © DepositPhotos
  2. Poultry. Poultry will become much more delicious if you add mint, sage, and basil, but a little curry and hot peppers will make the meat more savory and spicy. © DepositPhotos
  3. Fish. The combination of marjoram, ginger, rosemary, mustard seeds, garlic, tarragon, and bay leaves is suitable for fish and seafood. Pepper — hot, sweet, or fragrant — will also make an excellent addition. You can enhance the taste and aroma of fried fish by using cardamom, fennel, dill, and coriander, whereas grilled fish will benefit from white pepper, turmeric, paprika, and saffron. © DepositPhotos
  4. Grilled dishes. Red pepper, allspice, cardamom, thyme, marjoram, nutmeg and mace, caraway seeds, ginger, chili.
  5. Game. Thyme, Greek oregano, allspice, red pepper, juniper.
  6. Stew. Red pepper, ginger, turmeric, coriander, mustard, cardamom, caraway seeds, black pepper, allspice, nutmeg, cloves.
  7. Cabbage. Coriander, fennel, cumin, black mustard seeds.
  8. Potatoes. Coriander, turmeric and asafoetida.
  9. Marinades. Bay leaf, juniper berries, dill sprigs with buds, flowers, or seeds.
  10. Fruit dishes, juices, and compotes. Cinnamon, cloves, ginger, star anise, cardamom.
  11. Pates. White pepper, cinnamon, ginger, bay leaf, cloves, star anise, cardamom.
  12. Pastries. Cloves, cinnamon, star anise, ginger, cardamom, allspice, orange zest, anise, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, vanilla.
  13. Hot milk. Cinnamon, cardamom, saffron.

Legumes and Grains

  1. Peas. Ginger, cinnamon, chili pepper, allspice, turmeric, coriander, fenugreek, cumin, nigella, nutmeg, dill seeds, curry, black pepper.
  2. Buckwheat. Allspice, chili, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, cloves, black mustard, dill, asafoetida, curry.
  3. Semolina. Ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, chili, fenugreek, asafoetida, curry, nutmeg.
  4. Oats. Turmeric, allspice, fenugreek, cloves, asafoetida, curry, chili, dill.
  5. Pearl barley. Ginger, cloves, allspice, turmeric, fenugreek, asafoetida.
  6. Wheat. Chili, ginger, curry, nutmeg, cardamom.
  7. Millet. Ginger, turmeric, cloves, black mustard, black pepper, fenugreek, curry.
  8. Rice. Chili, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, turmeric, caraway seeds, asafoetida, black mustard, cumin, nigella.
  9. Beans. Chili, allspice, ginger, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, fenugreek, nigella, nutmeg.
  10. Fine-ground barley. Ginger, cloves, allspice, turmeric, fenugreek, asafoetida.

Some spices do not go well with others. For example, it is best not to mix basil with any spices other than garlic, and combine caraway seeds only with anise, fennel, and pepper.

Generally speaking, spices are an excellent way to add variety to our dishes. However, their excess use may disrupt the actual taste and aroma of foods — they are an addition to the dish, not the dish itself. Feel free to experiment and discover new and unusual taste combinations!


I am an English major with a love of languages and fiction, and with an incurable travel bug. In my free time, I read fantasy, drink copious amounts of coffee, and like to go see movies. Culinary art means everything to me. My main hypostasis is the taster, though. The music school has taught me to appreciate the symphony of airy meringues, to create harmonious overtures of light snacks, hard rock of meat, fish, and vegetables on the grill. Choir classes have accustomed me to hear and feel the people nearby and create perfect harmonies of sounds.

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