Spice blends are an easy and effective way to pack flavor into some of your favorite meals. While many of our recipes will call for a wide array of different aromatics, a spice blend consists of a particular set of herbs and spices that's usually linked to a certain cuisine or dish.
Here are a few of the most popular spice blends you should know about and how to use them.
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10 ingredients. 45 minutes. Quick, easy, and fresh weeknight recipes.
Pumpkin Pie Spice
Most Americans reach for pumpkin pie spice just once a year. But in the test kitchen, we don’t limit its use to our pumpkin pie. We use it to create warmly spiced butter, to flavor carrot cakes, or as a shortcut to Moroccan chicken. No need to buy a jar—you can make your own: Combine 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon of ginger, and 1/8 teaspoon each of nutmeg and allspice for every teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice called for in a recipe.
Pumpkin Spice ButterServe alongside our Easy Pancakes.
Herbes de Provence
An aromatic blend from the south of France, herbes de Provence combines dried lavender flowers with rosemary, sage, thyme, marjoram, and fennel, and sometimes chervil, basil, tarragon, or savory. A natural partner for poultry and pork, herbes de Provence is worth trying in an herb butter to brush under turkey or chicken skin before roasting the bird.
Goat Cheese Log with Herbes de ProvenceA cheese log for every occasion—and no broken crackers.
As many as 20 different spices are blended to make curry powder, among them coriander, cumin, cinnamon, clove, turmeric, and black and red peppers. Madras curry powder is a hotter version; sweet (or “mild”) is more versatile. Curry powder, obviously a staple in many curry dishes, can also add flavor to recipes like curried spiced nuts or certain soups.
Curried Sweet Potato Soup with Spiced PepitasThis sweet potato–based soup is spiced up with ginger, cayenne, and curry powder.
In the 1980s, New Orleans chef Paul Prudhomme became famous for dipping fish fillets in melted butter, dredging them in spices, and cooking them in a searingly hot skillet, thereby igniting a national “blackening” obsession. Not long after the trend swept the nation, blackening spice mixes hit supermarkets, combining paprika, onion and garlic powders, coriander, and red and black peppers.
Blackened SalmonFor rich, flavorful salmon fillets, grab a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet and try a spicy technique from the 1980s.
In Arabic, za’atar can refer to a specific herb (Thymbra spicata); to several herbs that are related to thyme, savory, and oregano; or to a blend of spices that contain these herbs, along with sesame seeds, salt, and (tart, sour) sumac. Za’atar (the blend) is traditionally sprinkled on meats and vegetables. To get to know its earthy, pungent, floral flavors, dunk bread in olive oil and then dip it in za’atar.
Mana'eesh Za'atar (Za'atar Flatbreads)A light hand and a hot oven produce a flatbread full of flavor.
This blend crams the flavors of Italy into a single jar. It’s chock-full of the Italian mainstays oregano, marjoram, rosemary, basil, sage, thyme, and savory. Toss potato wedges with oil, Parmesan, and Italian seasoning for a fast Mediterranean take on steak fries, or add a few pinches to a slow-simmered tomato sauce for an all-in-one flavor boost.
Italian Dressing Chicken BreastsWhile bottled Italian dressing is a common marinade for chicken breasts, it can be so much better if you make it from scratch.
Chinese Five-Spice Powder
Five-Spice Tomato ChutneyMeet your new favorite condiment: this bright, spicy, and complex chutney.
Ras el Hanout
This North African seasoning translates as “head of the shop” because traditionally each blend was a unique combination of some 25 spices, seeds, dried flowers, berries, and nuts determined by the spice shop’s proprietor. Blends often include cumin, saffron, cinnamon, nutmeg, dried rose petals, galangal, and paprika. Use ras el hanout in tagines, rices, and hearty meat dishes such as braised lamb shanks.
One-Pot Lamb Meatballs with Eggplant and ChickpeasA dynamite weeknight dish with big, bold flavor.
Boiling huge pots of seafood, potatoes, and other vegetables is a time-honored culinary tradition, be it crawfish boil in Louisiana, Frogmore stew in the Carolinas, or a clam bake in New England. What to season the pot with? Crab boil. Popular brands include Zatarain’s, Rex’s, and Old Bay. Crab boil usually contains mustard seeds, celery seeds, coriander, peppercorns, bay, and allspice.
One-Pan Halibut with Red Potatoes, Corn, and AndouilleThe more components, the steeper the challenge. Could we conquer this four-part one-pan supper?
Now that there’s a pickling revival sweeping America, reacquaint yourself with this blend. Pickling spice is a fruity, tart mixture of whole and coarsely crushed spices like bay leaves, cardamom, cinnamon, allspice, mustard seeds, cloves, coriander, and ginger. Not a pickle maker? Try using it to season meat for burgers.
Slow-Cooker Corned Beef and CabbageThis traditional Irish American meal seems perfect for the slow cooker, and it is—but only if you construct it right.
Like curry powder, garam masala (literally “hot spice blend”) is an Indian seasoning made from warm spices like cloves, cinnamon, peppercorns, cardamom, and cumin. Add a little garam masala to couscous or use it to flavor biryani.
Chicken BiryaniFor our version of chicken biryani, we wanted to shave down the cooking time while keeping the complex flavor.
Before chili powder became a commercial product in the early 20th century, cooks had to mix their own from ground dried chiles (usually about 80 percent of the blend), garlic powder, oregano, and cumin. The quality of store-bought chili powder depends on both the chiles used and its freshness; if your jar is more than six months old, replace it. Chile powder (spelled with an "e") is a single variety of chile that is dried and ground; ancho, chipotle, and guajillo chile powders are some of our favorites.