Master the secrets of seasoning with this handy spice and herb chart. We've alphabetically listed descriptions and uses for over 50 seasonings. Just click on the first letter of the spice, herb, or blend you want to look up, then scroll to the desired entry.
Description: Also called Pimento or Jamaican Pepper. Dried, nearly ripe berries from the Jamaican Myrtle tree; sweet and savory flavor. Smells and tastes like a combination of Nutmeg, Cinnamon, and Cloves. Available whole and ground.
Uses: A key ingredient in "jerk" seasoning but also added to pickling spice mixtures, mincemeat, pot roast and stews, sausage and cured meats, ham, gravies, ketchup, poultry marinades, and fish. Also good on vegetables like beets, carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and winter squash. Sprinkle on rice, puddings, cakes, and pies.
Description: Mediterranean herb of the parsley family with a warm, licorice taste. Yields the spice Anise Seed-available whole, ground, or as an extract-when seeds are dried.
Uses: Soups, veal stews, curries (including vegetable curry), fish and shellfish (add a handful of Anise leaves when you boil shrimp), cookies, and cakes. Leaves are less flavorful than the seeds, but make a nice garnish.
Description: The spicy sweet "tomato herb." Available fresh and dried in leaf or ground form. Even comes in scented varieties-cinnamon, anise, and lemon.
Uses: Mediterranean and Italian cuisine; pesto; tomato and minestrone soups; spiced-meat dishes like meatballs, chicken, and lamb; potato salad; vegetables (especially zucchini); and fish and seafood. Charcoal grill users: Throw some Basil on the coals after your meal is cooked and the mosquitoes will stay away while you feast!
Description: Dried, Mediterranean herb of the bay laurel (dried leaves are more flavorful than fresh ones). Watch out for ornamental plants bearing the laurel name; some are poisonous.
Uses: Beef, hearty soups, stews, pot roast, marinades for chicken, and spaghetti sauce. Releases oil over a long time. When poaching fish or boiling potatoes for salad, drop a leaf in the water. Remove Bay Leaves from the dish you're serving; they're too tough to eat and could cause someone to choke. A leaf in your flour canister will keep the bugs out.
Description: Marjoram, Parsley (or Chervil), Thyme, and Bay Leaf-can also contain other herbs.
Uses: Bundle herbs together with string or in a cheesecloth pouch/sachet and add to dish while it's cooking, then remove before serving. Use with beef or fish, or in soups.
Description: Tangy flavor, similar to Dill. Entire plant is edible, but generally used in whole seed form, occasionally ground.
Uses: Hungarian goulash, sauerkraut, chicken paprikash, pork sausage, pork or veal stew, and split pea soup. Also: potatoes, cabbage, carrots, breads, cookies, and cakes.
Description: Spice related to Ginger. Available as whole seed pods, whole seeds, or ground. Lightly crush entire pod; shell disintegrates as it cooks.
Uses: Most common uses: Scandinavian baked goods and Middle Eastern coffee. Try in pork marinades, on cabbage or carrots, or in citrus fruit salad. Note: Cardamom loses flavor when exposed to air.
Description: Dried, ground red Chili Peppers. This spice can be very hot! To cool your mouth after a potent dose, drink milk or beer, or eat yogurt, ice cream, or a banana. Water doesn't help because the hot part of the chili is an oil, which the water can't dissolve and will usually spread.
Uses: Commonly found in Mexican cuisine and Indian curries. Add a dash to ground beef for hamburgers or casseroles, sprinkle some in meatloaf, or add to dips and spreads for some bite.
Description: Dried fruit of an herb of the Parsley family-the Celery. Three types: white, green, and turnip rooted, all slightly bitter.
Uses: Flavors fish, stews, winter vegetable salads, egg dishes, pickles, ketchup, and tomato juice.
Description: Herb used like Parsley, but with a delicate, Anise flavor.
Uses: Most popular in egg dishes, but good on veal, chicken, and fish; in soups and sauces; in chicken, egg, and potato salads; and with carrots, corn, and peas. Add near the end of cooking.
Description: Fresh green or red peppers (small ones tend to be the hottest), whole dried red peppers (range from medium to hot), or dried pepper flakes (hot, found in your grocer's spice rack and in shakers at pizza joints).
Uses: Adds fire to: chili con carne, seafood bisque and cocktail sauces, Italian tomato sauce, stewed tomatoes, and tomato salad dressing. Wear gloves when cooking with fresh chilies, and keep your fingers out of your eyes. The hottest parts of a Chili Pepper are the seeds and membranes.
Description: Herb of the onion family with a mild flavor (also comes in a garlic variety).
Uses: Flavors chicken, fish and seafood, potatoes, cream soups, eggs, carrots, and cauliflower. Add near end of cooking. Dried Chives have very little flavor, so use fresh when you can.
CILANTRO (also called Chinese Parsley)
Description: The same plant as Coriander, but refers to the leaves rather than the seeds. Spicy, peppery taste.
Uses: Mostly Mexican and Oriental cuisine: salsas, stews, soups, sauces, dips, curries, and vegetables.
Description: Most popular sweet spice, made from the dried bark of an evergreen tree. Available in whole sticks or as a ground powder.
Uses: Central and South American and Middle Eastern meat dishes (Greek lamb stew), pies, cakes, sweet rolls, fruit, and hot drinks.
Description: Dried flower buds of a fragrant evergreen Clove tree. Member of "The Big Four," which also includes Cinnamon, Nutmeg, and Pepper. Available whole or ground.
Uses: Whole Cloves flavor pot roast, pork roast and ham, pickles, stews, and mulled cider. Use ground to flavor mincemeat, beets, sweet potatoes, onions, or winter squash; also baked goods and chocolate desserts, fruit dishes, juices, syrups, and preserves.
Description: The same plant as Cilantro, but refers to the seeds rather than the leaves. Simultaneously sweet and tart.
Uses: Adds rich flavor to meat loaf, spicy meat mixtures, sausage, stews, ham or pork roast, poultry stuffing, and cooked beets. Common ingredient in gingerbread, sweets and breads, baked apples, and fruit salad.
Description: Strongly flavored spice. Comes in whole or ground seeds.
Uses: Ingredient in Curry and chili con carne. Add to beef, roast pork, chicken marinades, vegetable salads, cabbage dishes and sauerkraut, black beans, and sugar cookies. Flavor doesn't blend well with other flavors; use sparingly.
Description: East Indian blend of Coriander, Turmeric, Fenugreek, Cinnamon, Cumin, Cardamom, Ginger, Black Pepper, Cloves, Cayenne, Allspice, and Mustard Seed.
Uses: Use in sauces to flavor beef, chicken, lamb, pork, seafood, and vegetables.
Description: Available as a seed (whole and ground) and in a milder leaf form (called Dill weed).
Uses: More than just pickles! Use Dill with meat stews, veal, chicken, lamb chops, and with fish and shellfish such as salmon and herring. Try it with these vegetables: cucumber, cabbage, carrots, turnips, winter squash, and cauliflower. Add a touch to potato salad, egg salad, coleslaw, cottage cheese, and hot buttered popcorn. Knead into herb bread dough.
Description: Spice comes in seed form, fresh and whole, or dried and ground, and tastes like licorice. Also available as a vegetable in a bulbous form similar to celery stalks.
Uses: Great for fish; in fact, it's called the "fish herb." If you have a whole plant, throw the long stalks on the charcoal when grilling fish. Dip bases of fresh stalks in olive oil for a snack. Also good in meatballs, roast pork, and spaghetti sauce. Seeds are also used in lentil dishes, cabbage, celery, potatoes, and sauerkraut; to top breads and rolls; or to sweeten apple pie, cookies, and cakes.
Description: This seed (available whole or ground), a member of the legume family, is considered a food by vegetarians. Flavor is bitter and maple-like.
Uses: Curry and Indian cuisine, pickling spice, and imitation maple. Use in beef casserole, black bean soup, and vegetable stew.
Description: Dried Sassafras leaves and Thyme.
Uses: Use as a thickener for meat, poultry, fish sauces; stews; soups; and gumbo.
Description: Finely chopped Chervil, Chives, Parsley, and Tarragon. May also include Marjoram, Savory, or watercress.
Uses: Add to a cooked mixture shortly before serving. Do not remove.
Description: Different brands vary, but this blend includes a combination of five of the following spices: Star Anise, Fagara (Szechuan Pepper), cassia or Cinnamon, Fennel, Clove, Ginger, and licorice root.
Uses: Use in Chinese and Southeast Asian cooking on beef, chicken, pork, fish and seafood, and vegetables.
Description: Member of the onion family with strong odor and taste; bulbs break into cloves. Available in white, pink, and purple varieties. Comes fresh or powdered.
Uses: Widely used in Italian, Mediterranean, and Mexican cuisine. Garlic powder accents beef, pork, lamb, and game. Of course, garlic bread is a dinnertime staple.
Description: Spicy-sweet spice from the ginger root; available fresh, dried, powdered, preserved in syrup or crystalized (candied), and even pickled.
Uses: Use fresh, powdered, or pickled form with steak, meatloaf, chicken, and fish and seafood. Refrigerate fresh Ginger root for up to one week, or store covered with dry sherry in a jar. Use ginger as needed, use the ginger-flavored sherry in other recipes. Use powdered form in cakes, cookies, puddings, and sweet breads. A key ingredient in many Oriental cuisines.
HERBS DE PROVENCE
Description: Mediterranean blend of Oregano, Savory, Rosemary, Thyme, and Marjoram. May also contain lavender, Basil, or Fennel seeds.
Uses: Use it to season kabobs, chicken, pork, stews, tomato dishes, and pizza.
Description: Blend of Marjoram, Basil, Oregano, Thyme, and Rosemary. May also contain Savory or Sage.
Uses: Great with dips, herb breads, and tomato dishes. Mix with olive oil to create a quick and easy rub for chicken. Crumble over pizza sauce before layering on the toppings.
Description: Comes from the same tree as Nutmeg; Mace comes from the outer covering of the seed. Cinnamon and pepper flavor, stronger than Nutmeg. Available in whole blades (dried filaments) or ground.
Uses: Practically speaking, mace and nutmeg are interchangeable. Mace is sweeter and lighter colored. Use in light-colored cookies and cakes, puddings, and doughnuts. Also good in chicken pot pie, cream vegetable sauces, and cream-based or clear soups such as oyster stew.
Description: Herb similar to Oregano, but milder and sweeter.
Uses: Hamburgers, meat loaf, stews, chicken pot pie, fish dishes and sauces, and poultry stuffing. Try it with cabbage, carrots, peas, beans, and summer squash.
Description: Comes in several hundred varieties, but most common are peppermint and spearmint. Available dried (for tea) and fresh.
Uses: Everything from roast lamb to fruit salad, including potatoes, carrots, peas, zucchini, beans, cookies, and cakes. Also as a flavoring and garnish for drinks.
Description: Whole or ground seeds in white (milder and used to make prepared yellow mustard), brown (for spicy, sweet, or beer mustard), and black varieties.
Uses: Use ground Mustard on ham, pork (roast), barbecue and cocktail sauces (for seafood), salad dressings, chowders and bisques, or on baked beans, beets, and succotash. Seeds go well in pickling brines, relishes, and chutneys. Add seeds to the cooking water when making cabbage, sauerkraut, and beets. Can be used instead of Caraway or Dill seeds on cooked vegetables, but toast the seeds first.
Description: Whole or ground Nutmeg comes from the same tree as Mace and has a Cinnamon, nutty flavor.
Uses: Veal, beef, chicken, lamb, and vegetable stew. Common in sweet, spicy dishes. Add to fruit breads, desserts, sauces, milk- or cream-based custards, white sauces, and eggnog. Also good for squash or candied yams; green, leafy vegetables such as spinach; tomatoes; green beans; corn; eggplant; onions; and mashed potatoes.
Description: Herb related to Marjoram, but stronger flavor.
Uses: Most famous in spaghetti sauce and pizza. Break from tradition and try it in chili, hamburgers, meat loaf, bean or lentil soup, poultry stuffing, squash, eggplant, beans, breads, or with fish and seafood.
Description: Dried, powdered fruit of a red sweet pepper; also known as Pimiento. Comes in a few varieties, mainly Hungarian (stronger and richer) and Spanish (milder); none are hot.
Uses: Flavoring and as a garnish. Ingredient in goulash and paprikash. Sprinkle over poultry, stews, eggs, and vegetables. Loses its punch quickly, so store away from heat and light.
Description: Curly Parsley (the famous garnish!) and Italian, or flat-leaf, Parsley, which has a richer, spicier taste. Available fresh (which freezes well) or dried.
Uses: Soups, stews, sauces; herb butter for bread, fish, and poultry; salads, potatoes, and omelets. Parsley brings out the flavor of other herbs. Dried Parsley is not nearly as flavorful as fresh or fresh frozen.
Description: Black Pepper is made from dried Peppercorn berries, and is harvested while green and immature. It has a strong flavor and aroma, and is one of the world's oldest known spices. White Pepper is made from fully-ripened berries soaked in water to loosen the red skin, and has a milder flavor. Use it when you don't want black flecks to show up in your food. Fresh-tasting Green Peppercorns are picked green off the vine, not dried conventionally, and have a slightly different flavor. Finally, Pink Peppercorns, although unrelated to the others, have a peppery taste and are a decorative addition to your pepper grinder. Peppercorns are available whole (for maximum freshness) and ground (coarse or fine).
Uses: Just about anything! But do yourself a favor-invest a few dollars in a small pepper grinder; whole Peppercorns keep their flavor indefinitely, while ground pepper loses it quickly.
Description: Crunchy, slightly sweet seeds from the same plant that produces opium, but don't worry the narcotic alkaloids are removed during processing.
Uses: Common in baked goods and salad dressings, but try them on buttered noodles; mashed potatoes; and steamed veggies such as cabbage, spinach, carrots, onions, and zucchini; or in macaroni salad or coleslaw. Toasting lightly in a dry skillet will crisp and bring out seeds' full nutty flavor. RED PEPPER
Description: Robustly flavored spice with needle-like leaves and a taste reminiscent of pine trees.
Uses: Roast meats, especially chicken, lamb, and pork; carrots, winter squash, cauliflower, beans, and potatoes. Often used with pasta dishes as a spice and garnish. Not a dessert spice, but goes with breads and yogurt dips.
Description: A "Mint" spice. Leaves contain a pungent oil, giving Sage a sweet taste and herbal scent. Comes whole, rubbed (crushed), or ground.
Uses: Veal, beef stew, hamburgers, turkey and chicken, pork, stuffing, fish chowder, cornbread, stewed tomatoes, cheese spreads, vegetables, and breads.
Description: A Mint relative with a spicy, peppery taste. Comes in summer and winter varieties-Winter Savory is darker green and smaller, Summer Savory is milder (but for all practical purposes, they can be used interchangeably). Available fresh and dried.
Uses: Beef, country sausage, chicken, lamb, and vegetable soup. The most popular herb for beans, but also use with brussel sprouts, turnips, cabbage, green beans, peas, potatoes, and tomatoes. Handy tip: Rub savory leaves on bee stings to instantly relieve the pain!
Description: Very nutritious seeds (lots of protein). The oil from the seeds, used to make sesame oil, is high in vitamin E, cholesterol-free, and high in polyunsaturates.
Uses: Widely used in Japanese, Chinese, and Middle Eastern cuisine. Also used as a topping for breads and rolls or mixed into cakes and cookies. Used to make a "Sesame butter" called tahini, a paste made from ground-up seeds. Lightly toast Sesame seeds in a dry skillet before use to release their nutty flavor. Sprinkle on tomatoes, baked potatoes, cream cheese, vegetable or fruit salads, or tossed salads. Go nuts!
STAR ANISE (also called CHINESE ANISE)
Description: Chinese spice from the dried star-shaped fruit of a small evergreen native to southern China and Vietnam. Comes whole or ground. No relation to Anise, but yields a similar, but stronger, licorice taste.
Uses: Chinese duck and pork dishes and Vietnamese beef-noodle soup. Used whole, they add beauty and elegance, but don't try to eat them. You can choke on those little stars - and they burn extra hot!
SZECHWAN PEPPERS (also called FAGARA)
Description: Dried berry of a prickly ash tree with a spicy-woody aroma.
Uses: Ingredient in Five-Spice blend. Flavors pork and poultry and is a key ingredient in Szechwan crispy duck.
Description: Rich, sweet herb with slight licorice taste. An essential herb in French cuisine.
Uses: Chicken and fish, mild vegetables, cucumber salad, potato salad, and salad dressing. It's strong, so use near the end of cooking.
Description: Another Mint-family herb with strong flavor. Its many varieties include lemon Thyme.
Uses: Meat loaf, pot roast, hamburgers, lamb, game, fish dishes, New England clam chowder, hearty soups and stews, poultry and stuffing, and most vegetables. Great with slow-cooked dishes.
Description: Spice in the Ginger family that comes from the root of the Turmeric plant. Available powdered and, occasionally-especially in stores that sell Asian foods-you may find whole, dried pieces of the root.
Uses: Curried lamb, chutney, legumes, and zucchini. Can use as a substitute for Saffron, but expect the taste to differ.
Description: Full-sized fruit of an orchid, harvested while still green, then fermented and cured. Gets its flavor from the chemical compound Vanillin. Available as whole beans or an extract. Choose beans that look moist and are flexible, not stiff, and keep both beans and extract away from heat or light.
Uses: Drinks or sweet dishes, including chocolate. Tip: Store whole beans in sugar. In a couple weeks, the sugar will take on the Vanilla flavor, making it great for baking use, and the beans will last this way for years.