Have you ever wanted to cook a new recipe, just to find out that you’re missing key spices? This article will help you decide which types to keep on hand for everyday cooking. We'll also share some tips for keeping your spices fresh, organized and accessible - so you can find what you need when you need it!

Which Spices Should You Have On Hand?

Many experienced cooks prefer to keep a range of spices in their cupboards. Below are the most common types you'll find in every cook's kitchen.

1. Cayenne

Cayenne pepper, made from ground chilies, adds a pleasant heat to dishes like soups, hot sauces, Indian dishes, Cajun cuisine and more. A little goes a long way, so until you know your tolerance for spicy foods, add Cayenne to your dishes in small increments.

2. Cumin

Found in Middle Eastern foods, stews, stir fry dishes and more, cumin adds just a little heat to your food without creating an overwhelming hot flavor. Once you're comfortable with the power of cumin, you'll likely add it religiously to dishes. You can even add cumin to salsa - it's delicious!

3. Nutmeg

Nutmeg is mainly used in pies, cookies and hot drinks during the holidays. It's slightly sweet and has an unmistakable aroma. This baking spice is essential - and best when ground up from whole nutmeg.

4. Dried Basil

Dried basil can be found in Italian dishes, sauces, soups and stews. It's not as flavorful or aromatic as fresh basil, so when you become more experienced, you may prefer to keep some fresh basil on hand in your kitchen!

5. Bay Leaves

Bay leaves are used in stews, soups and sauces. They add a subtle bitterness that can counterbalance salty heaviness. Add the leaves to your dishes whole, and remove the leaves from the dish before serving. Bay leaves aren't eaten directly, because they're bitter and tough.

6. Cinnamon

Cinnamon is an essential baking ingredient found in cookies, hot drinks, pumpkin pies and more. Ground cinnamon is perfect for sprinkling on and in sweet recipes. You may also keep cinnamon sticks on hand, especially for soaking in hot drinks at the holidays.

7. Dried Cloves (Whole or Ground)

Just a bit of this ingredient goes a long way. Cloves are a key ingredient in dishes like pumpkin pie, gingerbread cookies and cranberry sauce. Avoid adding generous amounts, or cloves will overpower other spices.

8. Garlic Powder

There's almost no limit to the uses of garlic powder. Put garlic powder in your tomato sauce, soups, stews, rubs, dressings and marinades. Garlic powder is also very different from fresh garlic, offering a distinctive and powerful flavor that makes garlic bread, garlic sticks and garlic knots stand out.

9. Onion Powder

Want the flavor of onions without taking the time to dice, chop or slice? Onion powder is an excellent substitution. Use onion powder in soups, stews, marinades, rubs, stir fry and more.

10. Dried Oregano

Dried oregano is one of the most common dried spices available. It's used in dressings, stews, marinades and more. Have it on hand for your Italian recipes!

11. Dried Rosemary

Dried rosemary can be used to flavor meat, potatoes, soups, rolls and more. If you love the woodsy aromatic flavor of dried rosemary, you might also love the fresh version in your garden!

12. Dried Ground Ginger

A little dried ground ginger goes a long way! This critical ingredient is found in pies, holiday cookies, rubs, marinades, dressings and more. Ginger is one of the essential spices for at-home remedies, so keep this in your kitchen for food and health reasons.

13. Chili Powder

Chili powder is made from many different ground up spices and ingredients. It's not nearly as spicy as it sounds, but does give a little kick to foods like tacos, burritos, stews, soups and dressings.

14. Smoked Paprika

Smoked paprika is found in Middle Eastern dishes, it's a key ingredient sprinkled over deviled eggs, and it's also used in fish and vegetable dishes. Smoked paprika has a mild flavor and a beautiful color that adds visual pizzazz as well as flavor.

15. Curry Powder

Curry powder is made up of a variety of spices. Curry is used in a variety of rice dishes, stews and more. It's even delicious when sprinkled over popcorn.

Tips for Keeping Your Spices Fresh

Some cooks keep their spices for years after they expire. While old spices aren't harmful to eat, most dried spices will start to lose their flavor after 6 months. To ensure that your spices are flavorful, follow these tips:

  • Buy spices in the smallest quantities possible.

  • Track your spices expiration dates and get rid of them by the date indicated.

  • Store your spices in a cool, dark place.

  • Consider storing red spices in the refrigerator. They'll keep their flavor and color longer.

  • *Pro Tip: Organize your spices! With Chef Caddy, you'll be able to organize your spices into 17 flavor profiles from the world's most popular cuisines.

Chef Caddy Flavor Profiles

How to Organize Your Spices

Spices are notoriously tough to store because they come in many little bottles of all different shapes, ultimately cluttering your cooking space. With the compact system of the Chef Caddy, all bottles are uniform & displayed in a tower-shape, allowing your spices to take up less surface area, while being easily identifiable.

To make your Chef Caddy even more organized, store your spices by the type of food they're used to flavor or by another category of your choosing!

Chef Caddy