Food can be the most enjoyable thing in life, and who wants to eat bland food? That is why we have created a guide to learning the different types of spices. Spices can transform a basic meal into one flooded with delicious flavor. Unfortunately, many people do not know where to begin because every spice can be paired with a wide range of dishes. However, it can be entertaining experimenting with dishes.
Aside from spices used in meals and drinks, spices can also be found in the pharmaceutical industry and cosmetic products.
For this article’s purpose, spices have been categorized in five different ways: hot spices, sweet spices, common spices, exotic spices, and popular spices. However, you will notice that many spices fit into multiple of these categories.
Hot spices can include pepper, cayenne pepper, paprika, chili pepper, fennel, and many more. We will go into detail about two similar spices: cayenne pepper and paprika.
Firstly, Cayenne pepper is found in powder form by grinding dried cayenne peppers. This hot, spicy powder should be added in small doses to taste sharp and biting. However, mild versions can also be found in stores. Cayenne pepper pairs well with seafood, curries, scrambled eggs, hot sauces, and many other dishes.
The difference between cayenne pepper and paprika is the type of pepper. Paprika is made from dried bell peppers instead of hot chilies. There are a few different types, including regular (or sweet), smoked, and hot paprika. This spice is good paired with dishes like deviled eggs, roasted potatoes, or meat stews.
Sweet spices are most common in dessert or sweet drinks and include allspice, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, and coriander.
A popular sweet spice we will go into is allspice, a combination of different spices. This spice is commonly used in baked goods but can also be seen in many essential Caribbean dishes like jerk chicken. Others include North American, European, and Arabic cuisine.
The “Queen of Spice,” as referred to in India, is another popular spice to go into. Cardamom (or cardamon) is a spice that can also be paired with sweet or savory dishes. There are two types: black cardamom and green cardamom. Black cardamom has an intense, smoky flavor that’s good for spicy dishes, and green cardamom is better in desserts because of its sweeter taste.
Common spices include cinnamon, black pepper, nutmeg, and ginger. Let’s go into cinnamon and ginger in depth.
Cinnamon’s brown color is because it comes from the bark of a tree. It is most common in flavoring sweet dishes and drinks like coffee and tea. However, it is seen in many cuisines worldwide as flavoring savory dishes as well.
In contrast, ginger comes from the root of a flowering plant. This is a pale, yellow, sweet and spicy type of spice. Ginger can be chopped, grated, or used as a powder in dishes like stews, curry, hot drinks, or desserts.
Exotic spices are found in many places globally and can include saffron, fenugreek, sumac, and turmeric. We will explain saffron and turmeric in detail in this section.
Saffron is the most expensive spice globally, and this exotic orange spice has a slightly sweet taste most commonly seen in Persian, Middle Eastern, and European cuisines.
Turmeric is a yellow root spice that is related to ginger. This aromatic spice has a woodsy, earthy flavor often found in Indian cuisine. Often referred to as the “golden spice,” turmeric is paired well in dishes such as curries, rice, and stews.
We are most familiar with popular spices because they are ones you probably already have in your pantry or you see them often at the grocery store. They include black pepper, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, and many more. Firstly, let’s go into onions which can be ground into onion powder.
Onion powder is often used in spice mixes and can be added to almost every dish such as pizza, stews, hamburgers, etc.
My personal favorite, garlic powder, has a strong, pungent taste incorporated in most cuisines. Garlic can be added to fresh or dried dishes and is seen in spice seasonings. Aside from cooking, garlic has many health benefits and antibacterial properties.
In addition to basic spices, many chefs have created a combination or mix of spices to add to dishes and call them by one name. This includes, but is not limited to, Pumpkin Spice, Taco Seasoning, Baharat, Ras el Hanout, Chai Masala, and Curry Powder.
Out of these spice mixes, the one everyone is probably most familiar with is taco seasoning. However, we do not mean the flavorless store-bought packs. We are talking about a Mexican-inspired blend of 100% pure spices, including ancho, guajillo, New Mexico, and Arbol chiles, cumin, coriander, and paprika.
Where Are Spices From?
It is can also be interesting to learn there are three different types of spices. They can be categorized in many different ways—the first is spices obtained from dried leaves and ground into a powder form. Then there are spices obtained from the fruit part of the plant. Lastly, there are spices obtained from seeds which are also dried and ground.
Types of Spices: An Overview
Spices have many purposes, but the most enjoyable one is food seasonings. This list of types of spices is an excellent way to understand when and where to use them. Whether you have been cooking your entire life or are just starting your cooking journey, it is fun to experiment and try new recipes. This list of the different types of spices is a good introduction to the vast world of spices.
Written by: Ashton Leftwich