Top 25 Spices and Herbs


picture of thyme

Thyme, a herb with a unique flavor, can be grown in pot on your porch.

Our Top 25 Herbs and Spices for Recipes.

Taken from our soon-to-be-published book      “$10 Meals for a Family of Six.”

Herbs are the fleshy part of the plant while spices usually come from the seeds, root, stem or bark. But do we really care? We just want to add flavor to our creations.

This list was put together by examining recipes from classic chefs, herb and spice books, plus internet searches. These are the ones most often mentioned. Of course I have included many of my favorites. Don R

  1. Garlic: used universally in vegetable and meat soups or for Italian sauces, sausage and stir frying .
  2. Peppercorn: enhance flavor of most soups, meats and sauces. Use fresh peppercorns in a pepper-mill (grinder) and you won’t use pre-ground pepper again!
  3. Cayenne Pepper: hot spice for Tex-Mex and Asian recipes.
  4. Oregano: Used in Mediterranean cuisine. Rub between palms before adding to sauce. (release more flavor)
  5. Basil: with oregano for Mediterranean soups and sauces.
  6. Dill Weed: essential for fish soup
  7. Paprika:  add color and spiciness to European recipes. The hot pepper taste varies from mild to hot.
  8. Cumin: (similar to turmeric & curcumin and an ingredient in curry powder) essential for Mexican and East Indian dishes
  9. Cinnamon: used in Mediterranean cuisine. baking sweet breads and curries
  10. Nutmeg:  used in baking and cream sauces
  11. Rosemary: unique flavor to meat, poultry and veggie soups


    Rosemary and thyme can be grown in pots, garden and with shrubs.

  12. Sage: for poultry, soups and turkey recipes
  13. Thyme: adds distinctive flavor to meat & Poultry soups
  14. Parsley: adds color and mild flavor to most soup ( substitute for cilantro in Tex-Mex recipes)
  15. Bay Leaf : add to soup and stew (remove leaves before serving)
  16. Tarragon: use in soups with seafood or poultry 
  17. Onion Powder: use in almost any soup  or sauce
  18. Chile Powder: for soup, stir fry and beans in Asian and Tex-Mex recipes. Grind your own for improved flavor.
  19. Celery Seed: use in potato soups and salad
  20. Arrowroot:  thickener for soups and sauces, also use cornstarch or agar
  21. Ginger: soups dressings and sauces for Asian recipes
  22. Clove: accent flavor for pork recipes and in baking
  23. Fennel (parsley): use in tomato-based soups and Italian sauces
  24. Mint: carrot and potato soup, teas, chocolate desserts
  25. Free Choice: Your favorite in case we missed it.

Important Tips & Tricks:

  • Buy small quantities in bulk from a food coop. Most spices lose flavor within a few months.
  • Store in a well sealed glass container.
  • Know how to use them. Some, like bay leaves, are put in soups at the start while cilantro is put in at the last stage of cooking.
  • Grow your own so they are available when you want a few sprigs.