List of herbs and spices for your pantry

The list of herbs and spices below will guide you in building up your own collection. Some are better fresh, while dried are a great time saver.

I would always recommend fresh basil, tarragon, mint, chives and parsley. Many grocery stores and supermarkets supply living herb plants, allowing you to cut off what you need, as you need it. If you have a glut, you can even pop your chopped herbs into ice cube trays and freeze them for future use.

Keeping the dried versions of thyme, sage, rosemary, bay leaves and oregano is perfectly fine.  

Clicking on the links in the list below will take you to more information about each.

Mint

No kitchen garden is complete without some mint! But I would advise you to grow it in a container as it does tend to spread. 

Perfect with lamb or new potatoes, it is also good with other vegetables such as beans, peas and lentils, tomatoes, aubergines (eggplant), carrots and mushrooms. 

Used worldwide (apart from in French cooking), mint is a clean tasting herb and it gives a tangy freshness to a dish. Try it in omelettes, salads, sauces and soups, or with cucumber as an accompaniment to a curry.

Oregano

A herb grown in the Mediterranean countries, oregano is often used in pizzas, tomato and garlic sauces, in pasta, seafood and vegetable dishes, (especially those containing courgettes (zucchini), aubergines (eggplant) and mushrooms). It also compliments minced (ground) beef. 

Thyme

Another indispensable herb, thyme is a must for stocks, stews one-dish meals and stuffings. It is also useful for marinades for both poultry and meat. It goes particularly well with rabbit.

To prepare fresh Thyme snip into small sections with kitchen scissors, rather than a knife.

Sage

A traditional herb in English and European cookery. A strongly flavoured herb used in stuffings (such as Sage and Onion) this is also one of the components of commercially produced Mixed Herbs.

It tends to complement pork dishes really well. It is also used in the production of the English cheese Sage Derby.

Bouquet Garni

A bunch of herbs in a small piece of muslin. A bouquet garni can be added to stews and soups for flavour.

I like to tie together a bay leaf and  2 or 3 sprigs of thyme and parsley, leaving enough string to tie around the handle of the saucepan. This makes it easier to remove after the dish is cooked. 

Bay leaves

Any kitchen worth its salt should have a packet of bay leaves in the store cupboard. Mainly used when cooking meat, you can pop in a piece of bay leaf when preparing vegetable dishes containing aubergine (eggplant), cauliflower, carrots, tomatoes or onions as well. It can transform sweet recipes, such as custards or rice puddings when a small amount is place in the milk while it is being heated up (called infusing).

Rosemary

A herb I grow in my own garden, Rosemary is best used fresh if you can get it. 

A must for lamb, veal and pork dishes. A sprig picked fresh from the garden, and popped inside a joint of meat before roasting, (along with slivers of garlic) will guarantee to make your mouth water!

Basil

I would consider this another essential from my list of herbs if you like tomatoes! In fact it is even known as the tomato herb as it goes so well with them. 

But it really needs to be used fresh rather than dried. If you can find some fresh leaves for sale this summer, grab them, and pop some into a bottle of olive oil, to keep in the fridge for use throughout the winter.

Dill

Added to a yogurt or creamy dressing, dill will add a tangy flavour to your salad. It is also a must with fish, especially salmon or trout.

I also like to add it to potato salads, and egg dishes.

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Coriander

Coriander seeds are a sweet, aromatic spice often used in curries, and in North African and Arab cooking. The ground seeds add spice to cakes, biscuits (cookies) and chutneys.

The leaves of the coriander plant are also known as Chinese Parsley or cilantro. They are used throughout the Middle East and India mainly in curries.

Cinnamon

Available in sticks, or ground, this spice is used in both sweet and savory recipes. Often used in Christmas dishes.

Nutmeg

Whole nutmeg
Ground nutmeg

No well stocked pantry should be without nutmeg, both whole and ground. It goes just as well with savory dishes as it does with sweet.

Sprinkled on top of rice pudding the gorgeous aroma always brings back memories of childhood for me.

Paprika

Made from a sweet, red pepper, this is an red-orange spice that looks like cayenne pepper but is much milder in flavor. Traditionally used in Hungarian Goulash, it can also be used in other savory dishes.

Cloves

The dark brown clove is shaped like a nail and it can be pushed into foods such as onions or meat to add flavor to stews or roasts. It is also often used to flavor white sauces and apple recipes.

Cumin

Cumin seeds are best if they are ground when you need them, for chicken, rice, lamb and vegetable dishes. An ingredient that is often used in commercial curry powders.

Mixed Spice

Traditionally an English spice, made from cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Often used in fruit cakes and puddings. An American equivalent would be apple pie spice or ground allspice.

Ginger

Ground ginger is a popular spice and is often used in cakes, biscuits (cookies) and puddings. 

You will also find it in its original root form (as in the photo) and crystalized in some recipes.

Instead of peeling root ginger with a knife, use a teaspoon to scrape it off. There will be a lot less wastage this way!

Chili Powder

Made from ground, dried chilis, this hot spice comes from Asia. There is also a Mexican variety which also contains cumin and other spices, maker it a milder version. Traditionally used in Chili Con Carne a meal made of minced beef and red kidney beans. 

Turmeric

A deep yellow, golden spice used in Indian cooking. However, it deserves a place in your kitchen cupboard as it can be used in many rice and vegetarian dishes. This spice has a short shelf life so buy it in small quantities, as it will lose its pungency if stored for too long.

Cayenne Pepper

A very hot spice made from ground, dried chillies. A little goes a long way! Used in cheese and fish dishes as well as curries.

Garam Masala

A combination of spices normally including...cardamon, cloves, cinnamon, coriander, cumin and nutmeg. It is often used in Indian cooking and is available in jars from Asian food stores and some supermarkets.



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