Dried herbs and spices are essential supplies in any kitchen, but they’re also secret weapons for creating your own homemade spice blends without having to buy pricey ones or find premade mixes that you like. In fact, you can customize a variety of herb and spice blends to create whatever flavor your heart desires while also catering to your personal health needs, cooking style and taste preferences.
Don’t like spicy foods? Make your spice mixtures with more herbs and aromatic ingredients instead of peppery spices. Eating a low-sodium diet? Don’t add sea salt to your blends like many products on the market do. Looking to avoid the additives in common herb and spice blends? No problem, because when you make your own in small batches, you’ll have fresh, preservative-free blends anytime you need them.
Here are 10 essential herbs and spices to have on hand so you can mix and match them however you like!
Oregano is quite possibly the most important herb to stock in your pantry. It adds an incredible, satisfying and comforting flavor to anything it’s added to, from soups and stews to rice dishes, porridge and even salads. Oregano is a source of vitamin B6, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents. † This herb pairs well with thyme, basil, rosemary, sage, marjoram, garlic and onion powder and black pepper.
Basil is another must-have herb for making your own blends. It’s slightly peppery but also has a delicious herbal flavor. Basil has anti-inflammatory properties, making it an especially healthy choice for a homemade spice mix. † It’s fantastic in salads, soups, stews, cooked grains and more. It complements oregano, thyme, sage, lavender, marjoram, garlic and onion powder and tarragon.
3. Rubbed sage
Rubbed sage is full of flavor and has a holiday aroma that many people love, especially in savory recipes. Rubbed sage is a bit less bitter than ground sage, but you should still use just a touch of it in your blends if you want a more subtle flavor. Sage pairs well with oregano, basil, thyme, lavender, black pepper, rosemary, garlic and onion powder and tarragon.
4. Black pepper
Black pepper is nonnegotiable in any kitchen, and it’s one of the best and most popular ingredients to add to spice blends. When making customized blends with black pepper, be sure to start small and adjust as needed. You can use ground black pepper or grind your own from fresh peppercorns, if desired. Black pepper can be used in savory blends with pretty much anything you desire. It works great with the herbs above and with lemon and orange peel; it can be mixed with Indian spices for homemade curry blends; and it can even be combined with cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, fennel and/or allspice to make your own five-spice powder.
It’s safe to say that everyone loves cinnamon, and there are many reasons why. Cinnamon is healthy and delicious, and it goes well with a wide variety of dishes. From oatmeal to smoothies to baked goods and more, cinnamon brings a sweet and spicy flavor to anything it’s added to. As a bonus, cinnamon may help support healthy blood sugar levels. † This classic spice pairs well with ginger, nutmeg, coriander, allspice, black pepper, turmeric, cloves and cardamom.
Turmeric has risen in popularity recently not just because of its incredible flavor but also for its anti-inflammatory benefits. † Turmeric is what gives curry powder its bright orange color. It’s versatile and can be used in savory, sweet and even tangy recipes. Try it in soups and stews, with sauerkraut, in smoothies and oatmeal and more. Turmeric pairs well with cinnamon, coriander, ginger, nutmeg, black pepper, cardamom, paprika, cayenne, cloves and garlic.
Thyme, a classic ingredient in French and Italian recipes, happens to be one of the most popular spices in American dishes as well. From roasted vegetables to soups and pizzas, thyme is a must-have ingredient for homemade spice mixtures. Also offering anti-inflammatory properties, this herb blends well with lemon peel, rosemary, oregano, sage, black pepper, marjoram and tarragon. †
Ginger is a terrific spice to include in homemade spice blends and can be used in either sweet or savory recipes. Ginger is well known for its ability to soothe digestion. † While fresh ginger is delightful to cook with, ground ginger is a convenient alternative. Pair it with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, black pepper, cayenne or paprika.
Although it’s a pricier spice, ground cardamom is such a special ingredient that it’s worth a spot in your spice rack. Just a pinch adds sweet flavor and can take any dish to the next level. Cardamom's many health benefits include aiding in digestion, relieving gas and supporting mood. Use cardamom with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves in sweet dishes, such as oatmeal or smoothies. Alternatively, you can pair it with turmeric, black pepper, coriander, garlic and onion powder and a touch of cayenne to make your own curry blend.
10. Smoked paprika
Smoked paprika is one of the best spices to keep on hand because it adds a lot of flavor without too much heat, making it safe for pretty much anyone. Smoked paprika adds a savory, smoky scent with an almost sweet flavor, so it’s great in soups, on roasted vegetables, in stews, on potatoes and even on savory breakfast dishes. It works well with turmeric, black pepper, onion and garlic powder, cayenne and other similar spices.
These are 10 of the best ingredients to help you start making your own homemade spice blends, but they definitely aren’t the only ones. Cayenne, high-quality sea salt, rosemary, ground cloves, nutmeg, cilantro, parsley and marjoram are great choices as well. Try out different herbs and spices to see which ones you like the best, then mix them together to create your own custom blends.
To store your creations, you can use mason jars or recycled spice jars; just wash and dry them well first. You can also purchase glass or plastic spice jars online or at local craft stores. Simply mix your ingredients in a bowl, use a funnel to strain them into the container, and then use your blends to your heart’s content!
†These statements have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.