Herbs and Spices 101: The Easy Guide on What You Need, How To Store It and When to Toss It

It’s time to spice up your life! Don’t be afraid to add herbs and spices to your cooking – they’re PACKED with flavour and elevate your cooking when used correctly. We’ve put together a handy guide on what spices you should have, how to keep them and when to replace them. Let’s get SPICY!

First and foremost, let’s remember that herbs and spices don’t have an infinite shelf lifespan. Sure, they’ve been dried and that extends their shelf life more than the fresh variety, but you absolutely should stop using that Keen’s Curry Powder you moved out of home with six years ago. It’s not making your devilled eggs nearly as delicious as a fresh batch could.

So with that said, let’s take a look at the handful of herbs and spices that can boost your dinners, you should have in your kitchen, how herbs and spices should be stored and how long they should be stored for. HINT: They shouldn’t be older than your children. Get ready to spice it up in the kitchen!

Spice up your life… but not like this. via GIPHY

10 herbs and spices everyone needs in their kitchen

There are no hard and fast rules here and of course, some people will have more use for one than the other depending on your cooking style or culture. Nonetheless, this is a general guide for a starter collection of herbs and spices.

1. ROSEMARY: If you’re a lover of lamb, you should always keep rosemary. Even just a sprinkle of salt and rosemary on lamb chops before they hit the BBQ makes a world of difference. So flavoursome!

2. GARLIC POWDER OR GRANULES: Garlic powder delivers all the flavour of fresh garlic without any peeling or crushing. Sprinkle over roast vegetables with olive oil before they go in the oven for tasty results. You don’t need a real lot – using just ¼ teaspoon of granules is the same as using one garlic clove.

3. ONION POWDER OR GRANULES: Onion powder and granules are awesome if you don’t always have onions on hand or if your dish just needs a touch of onion sweetness. Onion granules are slightly more punchy in flavour than the milder powder form. Use 1 teaspoon of onion granules as a substitute for one medium onion.

4. PAPRIKA: Paprika adds richness to the flavour and is a vibrant red colour, perfect for dusting over deviled eggs. It’s also delicious to use in marinades, casseroles, and meat rubs – even just sprinkling chicken breast before frying for a delicious smoky flavour.

5. CHILLI POWDER: Chilli powder is excellent for adding to Mexican dishes, giving your taco mince a bit of a kick or even adding some spice to your scrambled eggs!

6. OREGANO: One of the most popular spices in the world, oregano packs a powerful punch to all your favourite spaghetti and Italian dishes and is most excellent sprinkled on homemade pizzas.

7. CINNAMON: Ground cinnamon turns just about anything into a next-level dessert. Mix it with caster sugar and you have a sweet spice blend for doughnuts, apple pie, stewed fruits and more. YUM.

8. CURRY POWDER: An oldie but a goodie, even if you only ever use it for curried egg, curry powder is a powerhouse spice in cooking. Use it to make curry sauce bases, curried egg, satay marinades and flavouring soups and vegetables.

9. PEPPER: The perfect partner to salt, where salt is a seasoning, pepper is a spice that adds flavour. Peppercorns, freshly cracked, ground black and ground white pepper all have their place, adding a pinch to your soups and casseroles will do wonders. Freshly cracked black pepper is never really fresh unless you do it yourself so a grinder is always a good idea. For cream sauces and meal bases, ground white pepper is a good choice as it’s undetectable to the eye!

10. SALT: An obvious one, salt is almost a necessity for cooking. Salt helps balance sweetness, suppresses bitterness and turns up the volume on other flavours, enhancing the overall taste of your food. Adding a pinch of salt to your dish is like a wake-up call for your taste buds.

Never too much salt… via GIPHY

Ground or granulated spices … which is better?

In short, you get more flavour with granulated spices! Granulated spices are less likely to clump than ground spices. Granular spices also combine more easily with liquids so they’re easier to add to gravies, sauces and soups. They also mix better and more evenly with other spices for those who like to make their own seasoning blends or meat rubs.

Storing herbs and spices for success

If your spice draw is a shambles, it’s time to tidy it up! Tempting as it is to have a fancy pants spice rack on display in your kitchen or cute little jars with cork lids, this isn’t the best way to prolong the shelf life of your flavour bombs for maximum freshness and flavour, no matter how Pinterest worthy it might be.

To keep dried herbs and spices at a top-notch flavour level for longer, store them in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight and not near your stove where it gets too warm. When looking for containers, an airtight option is the best way to go as it helps maintain flavour by keeping air and moisture out. TIP: reuse old jars with screwtops!

Dried spices and herbs don’t usually ‘spoil’ but they do lose their flavour over time. Before you know it, that dried basil is merely faded green papery confetti. Ewwww.

As a guide, ground spices will last around six months and some whole spices (cloves, peppercorns, star anise etc) can amazingly last up to five years when stored correctly. Generally speaking though, if your spice doesn’t smell pungent or aromatic, it’s time for it to go!

herbs and spices
Best kept in airtight containers in the dark. GOT IT. and Source: Bigstock

What are some of your most used spices and how do you love to use them best? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear!

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Avatar of Lexi Klaebe

South Australian mum and self proclaimed foodie, Lexi can most days be found in the kitchen, apron tied firm and armed with a whisk or wooden spoon!

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