What Basic Spices To Have When You Are A Beginner Cook

Setting up your kitchen or new into cooking with spices? Not sure where you start? This post will help clear your doubts about the different types of spices and make space for some basic spices to zest UPP your meals.



You will find different must-have spice list on the internet that come handy in narrowing the most used cooking spices.

The use of spices is what makes Indian cooking different and perhaps a bit complex than any other cuisine.

Saying that cooking with spices is not just limited to Indian cuisine. They can be added to any dish you fancy spicing UPP!

In fact, every cuisine in the world has native spice mixes and blends.

It is the use of seasonings and herbs that make a dish taste as authentic.

Apart from my suggested list of essential spices this post will help you with ideas on how to create your own basic kitchen spices list that suit your lifestyle and taste.

What Are The Essential Spices For a Kitchen?

This is a rather subjective question! What is an essential spice for you, may not be the most used spice in my kitchen!!

If you googled ‘must have cooking spices’ or a similar term then you will surely get many lists.

I share my list of go-to spices for every kitchen in this post, as well and join the queue.

You may choose to agree with the list or ignore it, as the recommended spices may not be suitable to your palette or lifestyle.

So how do you know what are the basic spices you should have?

Spices and herbs used in every kitchen depends on many factors.

When it comes to building or making your own list of basic spices for cooking, you need to keep in mind the below criteria:

Your Native Cuisine

As mentioned earlier, the type of ingredients that you use makes a dish authentic.

So your essential spice list may include the most commonly used spices and herbs in your cuisine or even from your region.

For example , spices used in different parts of India differ regionally. The must have spices in a South Indian household will include curry leaves and mustard seeds while in the North it could be Asafoetida or chilli powder. The Western and Eastern parts have their own essential spices list.

While in Portugal, only a specific region use hot spices such as peri peri while majority of the country use next to no spices.

As you can see the use of spices largely depend on the native cuisine and your personal consumption. Not everyone is used to cook with spices.

Your Personal Preference

Just like the native cuisine impacts your exposure to spices and herbs so does your personal preference.

Not everyone is keen on spices and few may be either intolerant or not like the taste of a certain spice.

I know people who are not keen on cinnamon, or cloves, rosemary etc. So if any of the unfavourable spices are on a ‘Must – Have’ spices list, there is no point in you keeping those.

Ease of Usability or Knowledge of Spices

If you are completely new to the concept of cooking with spices then having a complicated spice such as fenugreek seeds, sumac or chaat masala may not be your thing.

It is best to keep the basic seasoning list to spices or herbs that are most easiest, flexible with multiple usability.

In this way you can built your spice pantry slowly as you grow comfortable with the use of spices.

It’s always a good idea to learn and understand how to work with spices in its best form for their maximum impact on the dish.

How To Built Your Personalised Basic-Spices List

The best thing about cooking with spices is that it introduces different flavours that you may not have experienced before while also being instant taste enhancers.

One of the easiest way to find out what could be the basic seasonings to have in your kitchen and built your essential spices list is think about the following:

What foods or dishes do you frequently or normally cook

If you are not much into spicy hot food then chillies, or hot seasonings may not be your thing.

If you frequently make pasta or rice dishes then keeping herbs will help.

For casseroles, stews and baked dishes keeping a mixed seasoning like taco or cajun or flavoured salt surely helps in elevating the flavours.

Your knowledge of spices

In my experience of giving Indian cooking classes, I have seen much too often of people buying and storing spices that they have no idea how to use it.

If you see a list that has fennel seeds or mace powder listed as an essential spice and you are clueless on how to use them in the dishes you normally cook then keep that spice away from your list.

Only buy spices or herbs that you have an idea on how to use them.

Hoarding on stale spices with the hope of using them in future does very little to the flavour and taste of the dish. There is an optimum shelf life of spices so buy that you can use.

Start with just 5-7 basic spices or herbs

There are hundreds of spices, herbs and seasonings. Out of which different types of spices make it to different list of common spices.

If you are a beginner cook, I strongly suggest keeping your seasonings and spice cabinet to a max of 5 to 7 spices.

These could be a mix of familiar spices and new spices to try. In doing so there will be more chances of you using them, gaining confident in cooking with spices and herbs and slowly building on your collection.

Assorted spices kept in a heart shape for spice list and their benefits

Different Types of Must-Have Spices List

Keeping the above factors in mind, I have compiled few lists of must have spices that will help you choose and select different types of spices,seasonings and herbs to built your own custom made list.

List of Spices That Boost Flavour

If you are looking for suggestion for spices and seasoning to keep on hand that instantly enhance taste and introduce new flavour then this list of 12 flavour enhancing spices is a must read.

List of Spices According to Types

This spices list is broken into different types of spices such as herbs, seed spices, ground spices etc. You can select spices and herbs as per your preference and experience.

List of Spices for New Home Cooks

This list will come really handy if you are new to the idea of using spices and not sure where to start. Do keep your personal taste preference in mind when selecting spices from this list.

List of International Spice Blends & Spices

For inspiration on adding zest to your meals for specific cuisine or uplifting flavours for specific ingredients such as vegetables, rice, chicken etc you can refer to this compilation of different types of spice lists here.


There are many types and kinds of spices and herbs that may be at times overwhelming and confusing especially for first timer cooks.

Knowing which ones to buy is crucial as you certainly don’t want to spend money on them just for them to loss their potency by sitting at the back of your cabinets.

Each spice and seasoning have distinctive flavour and use. To start building your spice collection begin with spices you are familiar with depending on your native cuisine, personal preference and cooking style.

Buying too many or unfamiliar spices will lead to waste and maybe be off putting if you are unsure about it.

The key to building a spice cabinet is to include different types of flavour and kind of seasonings and enjoying spicing UPP your mealtimes.

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