Spices That Every Home Cook Needs

A well-stocked spice cabinet is the key to making delicious home cooked meals. These are the spices that every cook needs in their collection!

How does an ordinary meal turn into an extraordinary meal? Using spices is one great and inexpensive way to create a flavorful meal. Although the selection of spices in a chef’s pantry will vary from individual to individual, there are several must-have spices that every home cook should keep in stock.

Freshly cracked pepper

Whether you use white, black, or multi-color peppercorns, freshly cracked pepper adds a little spice to dishes without the overbearing spiciness of other “pepper” spices, such as cayenne or chili powder. Keep a plastic tub or mason jar full of whole peppercorns in your pantry until you are ready to use them. Then, use your pepper grinder when you want to add a bit of zest to your dishes.


This familiar spice is great for Mexican dishes, Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine. You can buy in whole or powder form. Try to find whole cumin seeds and store them in a glass jar until you are ready to use them. Simply grind them up using a spice grinder and doing so will release fragrance and flavor notes that can’t be found in cumin powder that you buy at the supermarket. Cumin is tasty in chili and taco meat seasoning, so have this spice on hand if you want to make sure that you have a vital ingredient for Mexican food.


This spice, which is actually a seed, lends a subtle flavor to both savory and sweet dishes. Whether you are making a pumpkin pie or you are baking a roast, adding just a touch of nutmeg will have you and your dinner guests wondering what the secret ingredient is. Try to use whole nutmeg and grate it using a zester right before use in order to extrude maximum flavor.


A red spice that can be mistaken for chili powder, paprika should be a staple in any serious home cook’s pantry. This versatile spice works in a variety of barbecue rubs, seasonings, and marinades, and works just as well for sauces, too. Paprika also adds an intense red color to chili, so you won’t have to use too much tomato sauce to give chili a beautiful red color.

Garlic and onion powder

These are technically not spices, but they are treated as such in their dehydrated and powdered form, and they are usually used together. Garlic and onion powder are best kept in sealed glass jars. They can be used in almost every savory dish that you may make. In general, they do add a stronger garlic or onion flavor to the dish, so use just a little at a time to see how much more you need.

All of these spices are easy to find, affordable, and they add wonderful, unmistakable flavor to dishes. Keep them in your kitchen or pantry to ensure that you’ll have them on hand when your recipes call for them.