The Spice House Review
They say variety is the spice of life, and we think that rings true—especially when it comes to having a fully stocked spice cabinet. After all, everything born in the kitchen is nothing without the right spices, from your run-of-the-mill breakfast eggs to more intricate curry dishes.
But not all spices are created equal. Many of the ones that line grocery store shelves, for example, can be filled with harmful additives, chemicals, and fillers. They can also be dull-tasting, due to the way that they're processed and transported.
That's why so many folks are opting for smaller spice businesses that put more thought into where ingredients are sourced and how fragrant their spices are—like the Spice House, a business that's been popular for decades for its high quality spices and blends.
About the Spice House
Originally a singular brick-and-mortar shop in Chicago, the Spice House opened in the 1950s during a post-war boom of home cooking. Founders Bill and Ruth Penzey had a passion for international cuisine, and they built relationships with farmers from across the globe to seek out the finest spices to bring to their consumers.
Eventually, the business grew, getting attention from the likes of names like Saveur and Bon Appétit. Eventually, new owners Dave Grossman and Dan Yates swooped in to elevate the existing brand, expand its website to ship spices across the country, and continue the legacy of sharing high-quality spices with the community.
What we tried
I wanted to get a taste of what sets the Spice House apart from the generic aisle at the grocery store—and to me, that meant trying its unique spice blends.
The website has countless options, laid out by use (BBQ, curries, etc.), flavor (from spicy and salt-free to regions like Africa and Europe), and ingredients (like pork, veggies, or rice). I tried the Best Seller's Collection, which includes Back of the Yards Garlic Pepper Butcher's Rub, Vulcan's Fire Salt, Lake Shore Drive Shallot & Herb Seasoning, and Gateway to the North Maple Garlic Seasoning. I wanted to explore some blends that go beyond the classics as well, so I opted for a jar of Sweet Curry, Tuscan Olive Oil Seasoning, and Fajita Seasoning.
I was delighted to see how versatile the Best Seller's Collection was; almost all of the spices included could be used as a go-to for things like fish, meat, and potatoes. And if you're stumped, each jar label offers a brief description with a few suggestions on what to use that seasoning for.
For example, the Lake Shore Drive Shallot & Herb Seasoning label suggested fish, which was a perfect match for homemade tilapia when I tested it. And the Back of the Yards Garlic Pepper Butcher's Rub has an accompanying roasted potato recipe, which came out tasting delicious. The only suggestion that was more of a miss was putting the Vulcan's Fire Salt on popcorn—it would have been tasty if the granular spices were more like powder and didn't sink right to the bottom.
I followed similar recipes for the Sweet Curry (this rice came out tasting delicious), Fajita Seasoning (flavorful, but not spicy), and the Tuscan Olive Oil Seasoning (just add fresh parm).
What we like about the Spice House
The blends are versatile, fresh, and delicious
Browsing The Spice House site is like stepping into a universe of flavor. There's an extensive and unique variety of spices and blends that makes it easy to browse elevated flavors that you're used to, and explore international blends you might have never heard of. And beyond cooking, the website also offers an array of blends for drinks—from chai and hot cocoa to a bloody mary blend. Every single one of the blends that I mixed into a meal made it extra tasty.
I also noticed a significant difference between the fragrancy of these spice flavors and the ones I'm used to picking up at the grocery store. That's because the Spice House prioritizes freshness in its products, blending and grinding every single day so that each spice that's shipped to you has likely been ground within the past week or two—if not within the last few days.
The suggested recipes are helpful for beginners
Clicking around an online store with countless blends, herbs, and spices can definitely be overwhelming—especially if you're new to the world of cooking. That's why I appreciated that each product on the Spice House site offers suggestions for cooking with it, and oftentimes links to recipes on the site that incorporate that ingredient. That way, you can get the juices flowing for how this flavor can come to life in your kitchen.
And for folks who are really new to cooking (or just short on time for meal prep), the Spice House recently launched Exact Packs for dishes like Chili-Lime Shrimp and Carne Asada to take the guesswork out of measuring ingredients. And all recipe instructions are printed right on the back of the packaging.
There's also a blog section of the website, where shoppers can browse all of the Spice House recipes and get some background information on products—like how to substitute a certain spice with others, and where a specific herb comes from.
The packaging is sustainable
All the boxes and inserts that ship the Spice House products are fully recyclable. (And the spice set boxes are so cute you might want to reuse them yourself.)
Plus, finishing a jar doesn't mean you have to toss it; the Flatpacks are designed to refill glass jars. Shipped (for free!) in small, resealable bags, the Flatpacks were created to reduce shipping materials that are required for glass shipments, which reduces the carbon footprint of each order and saves consumers money by removing shipping costs.
What we don't like
The holes in the caps are small
If you're anything like me, sometimes you want a lot of flavor in your meals, and find yourself piling on the seasoning. (Hello, fajitas and dipping oil.) I found it hard to do that with the caps provided in these jars, since the holes are so small. And while it's easy enough to peel off the plastic covering and shake spices from the fully open jar, I would prefer a happy medium between narrow, sparse holes and total free reign (which is bound to result in me making a mess).
I would've been excited to see an add-on option in the online store with differing cap attachments, or even a sliding lid that welcomes customized pours.
There aren't a lot of sizing customization options
Another one of the (very) few drawbacks I noticed from the Spice House is that there are only three size options available for each spice or blend. Since the smallest option of spices is the Flatpacks (six ounces' worth), there's no way to purchase tiny portions of a certain spice—like you can find from brands like McCormick, for example.
That said, spices aren't exactly the types of things that go rotten after sitting in your cabinet for a few months, so having leftovers—and being forced to experiment with them in future recipes—isn't the worst thing in the world.
Is the Spice House worth it?
Whether you're stocking your first-ever pantry or exploring new flavors to amp up your cooking game, the Spice House is a great place to start. It offers an extremely large selection of unique spices, herbs, and blends—all at prices that are reasonable considering the quality. It's also helpful to have corresponding recipes to accompany herbs and spice blends to get beginners started in the kitchen. And with sustainable (and affordable) options to keep all your spice bottles stocked, shopping at The Spice House is practically a no-brainer.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.