18 Spices Gordon Ramsay Always Has In His Pantry

Gordon Ramsay, a name that conjures gastronomic excellence in its various forms, has garnered an impressive array of claims to fame. From his charismatic — if controversial — presence on popular cooking shows such as "Kitchen Nightmares" to his critically acclaimed restaurants that pepper the globe, Ramsay's influence on the American and European culinary landscapes has been remarkable indeed. But don't be fooled by the fiery personality that has invaded television screens; beneath the intense exterior lies a chef whose dedication to the craft comes before everything else.

Not only that, but his style is broad. Although trained in classical French cooking, he is widely seen, on TV and in his restaurants, preparing dishes from all over the world, including with Thai, Indian, and Chinese influences. It's no surprise, then, that his spice rack, at home and at work, would reflect this wide culinary range. Let's take a look at what those spices might be, and how you can use them.

1. Salt

Although salt is not technically a spice (as it doesn't come from a plant), it is an essential ingredient in any seasoning action. But it's about more than just sprinkling some salt on your food during or after food preparation. Salt acts upon food in different ways throughout the cooking process, so it's important to know when and how to use it. For example, if you salt watery vegetables before you start cooking them, you can draw out some of that water beforehand, avoiding sogginess.

In a similar vein, Gordon Ramsay salts sliced garlic before chopping it. As he explains on YouTube, he does this because the salt extracts the moisture from the garlic, making it easier to mince. This is not about flavor but about technique. But for something more flavor-based, know that Ramsay also likes to use salt to create a citrusy salt seasoning mixture. You can put it together by mashing coarse salt with Meyer lemons. Use it on chicken, fish, poached eggs and more.

2. Pepper

It's important to keep some pepper in your pantry in order to give that effortless kick to your dishes. But it makes a difference whether that pepper is pre-ground or freshly ground from whole peppercorns, and Gordon definitely ascribes to the latter category. In particular, Ramsay suggests using a pepper mill and adjusting the top of it to shift the coarseness of the grind. For example, he recommends using a fine ground for soups and sauces, where you don't want to be crunching on hard balls of pepper, and a medium ground for general seasoning. The coarsest ground should be reserved for the heartiest dishes, like steak.

In addition, if you want a stronger flavor, it's best to opt for black peppercorns, as green and white ones have a milder taste. And speaking of mild flavor, pre-ground pepper is mild, to put it mildly. The longer the ground material is exposed to oxygen, the quicker the flavor dissipates, so if it's been in your pantry for a while, it's probably weak and close to tasteless.

3. Cardamom

Another Gordon Ramsay pantry staple is cardamom, one of the star ingredients in garam masala. But it's much more versatile than that. In this recipe for swede (rutabaga, in American English) and cardamom soup from his YouTube channel, he only needs a tablespoon of cardamom seeds to perfume the dish. He just lightly crushes them to further bring out what he calls the "cleansing" eucalyptus essence of these pods. He also advises adding nutmeg to the finished product to complement the cardamom.

You can also use cardamom in a series of other sweet and savory dishes. Put it in your spice mix for this one-pot Indian stew, or add a twist to your typical summer blueberry muffin batches by including some cardamom. Just make sure to find ground cardamom, or to grind the pods in a spice grinder before adding them to your dry ingredients.

4. Chili powder

If you don't like spicy foods, you probably don't need this item, but if you do, your pantry won't be complete without it. Ramsay likes spicy foods, so as he told Masterclass, he considers it an essential item to have on hand. In particular, he uses it to make his coffee and chili rub rib-eye by covering the meat in the chili and popping it in an air-fryer for 8 to 10 minutes at 390 degrees Fahrenheit. Just be aware that the longer you leave the rub on, the more spice the steak will have, so a word to the wise.

Ramsay uses Aleppo chili in this recipe, but you can choose whichever chili powder works best for your cooking style and palate. It's important to go for something you like so that you will use it again and again in various recipes. Another good choice is Kashmiri chili pepper, which Ramsay uses in this curry recipe with pork and bitter lime.

5. Cinnamon

As mentioned on his YouTube channel, Ramsay loves to use cinnamon in apple dishes or in cakes. You can also use it to prepare an elevated oatmeal breakfast. You'll have to prepare this the night before with oats, cinnamon, and a number of other great pantry staples.

Just toast the oats along with the coconut flakes, pepitas, and almonds before mixing them with an assortment of your favorite dried berries and topping everything with a syrup made with butter, maple syrup, salt, cinnamon, and cardamom. Store the concoction in your fridge overnight with milk, Greek yogurt, nut butter, and chia seeds. Just be sure to use old-fashioned rolled oats rather than the instant kind, or they might turn to mush while soaking in the fridge overnight.

6. Cloves

Gordon Ramsay has frequently declared his love of using big and bold spices in his cooking. One such spice is the clove, which can be used in whole form, which looks like a little, dark brown flower, and ground form. To try the latter, consider Ramsay's Jerk chicken recipe with a warm and somewhat sweet spice blend. Here you'll have to marinate the chicken in a mixture of Scotch bonnet chiles, garlic cloves, and ground spices, including, of course, cloves, but also cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.

Or you can use whole cloves to flavor your mulled wine along with maple syrup, star anise, and cinnamon sticks. You can also add fresh ginger and orange zest for extra flavor. Whatever the case, Ramsay advises using cloves somewhat sparingly, as their flavor is strong and too many of them in one dish risk overpowering the other flavors.

7. Coriander

Gordon Ramsay's recipes are proof that cooking with obscure spices can be just as quick and easy as making mac and cheese. Take, for example, this chilli chicken with ginger and coriander. He first toasts the coriander with cumin seeds to bring out its flavor, before grinding it and adding it to the chicken marinade. Then he uses it again with garam masala and turmeric when it's time to saute the chicken in its marinade.

Even so, this recipe is not complicated. Aside from the marinating stage, which takes at least 2 hours, assembling the ingredients is quick, as is the cooking of the diced chicken. What you get is a fragrant combination of spicy chili flavors paired with the mild sweetness of ginger and coriander.

8. Cumin

As Gordon Ramsay says on his YouTube channel, this spice is great for meat and fish, so get yourself a jar for the next time you have to put together a marinade. As with cloves, coriander, and many other spices on this list, cumin can be used either whole, as seeds, or in ground form. In this spicy lamb recipe on Ramsay's YouTube channel, you can learn to use them whole, which helps release the oils and tenderize the lamb. Just sprinkle some on your lamb shanks along with some fresh chilies, sliced garlic, smoked paprika, dried oregano, cinnamon, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Marinate the meat for at least half an hour, braise, add your preferred vegetables, deglaze, boil, and bake in the oven for three hours at 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

For something a bit simpler, you can try this compelling cumin-herb sauce. All you have to do is blend the cumin with cilantro leaves, dill, parsley, lime juice, honey, and some water before slowly pouring in the canola oil. Use it as a salad dressing or as a dip for your French fries.

9. Fennel seeds

You may be familiar with the inner workings of cooking with fennel, that mild, white vegetable with a licorice-like flavor. Fennel seeds are from the same plant, but in terms of cooking, they are something else entirely, primarily because the licorice flavor is more pronounced.

Ramsay uses fennel seeds to make classic salt-crusted sea bream, and you can, too. Just season the inside of a thoroughly cleaned sea bream with salt, fennel seeds, and lemon slices, before covering the fish in coarse sea salt, from head to fin, leaving nothing uncovered. Just make sure your fish hasn't been descaled and that the skin remains intact. Since you'll practically be burying your fish in sea salt, any areas that don't have the protection of the skin and scales will become far too salty for consumption.

10. Fenugreek

Fenugreek is a slightly bitter spice with celery-like undertones that is often used in curry powders and Moroccan spice mixes. If you haven't used it before, you can try it in this roasted squash hummus recipe along with some other tasty spices. Ramsay uses it as an addition to the traditional Moroccan ras el hanout spice blend — which typically includes cinnamon, cumin, coriander, allspice, and ginger — along with cloves, mustard seeds, and paprika. He then blends roasted butternut squash with canned chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, and a generous amount of olive oil, and the hummus is ready.

But ras el hanout can often be found at the grocery store. For a slightly rarer blend, try Marcus Samuelsson's Berbere spice recipe. Here you'll combine the fenugreek seeds with coriander seeds, black peppercorns, cardamom pods, garlic, allspice, dried onion flakes, chiles, and paprika. This may seem like a lot of spices, but they all work together to create depth of flavor.

11. Ground ginger

When you run out of fresh ginger or when you need something in powder form, there is dried, ground ginger. Most of Gordon Ramsay's recipes that involve powdered ginger happen to be desserts, as he told Masterclass that he prefers to use fresh ginger whenever possible.

But when baking, the powder may be needed in order to blend in with other spices and dry goods. So to make this gingerbread cheesecake, for example, you'll have to combine ground ginger, cinnamon, mixed spice, nutmeg, molasses, lemon juice, and vanilla with a cream cheese and brown sugar mixture. After whisking in the eggs, your batter is ready to be cooked in the oven, in a prepared gingerbread crust, for 1 hour at 325 degrees Fahrenheit. 

12. Nutmeg

As with pepper and peppercorns, the best way to get the most flavor out of nutmeg is to use it freshly ground rather than pre-ground. Look for the jars that contain whole seeds — they may also come with a tiny grater that fits right in the jar with them.

Once you've got your nutmeg seeds in hand, it's time to use them to finish off a variety of dishes. The rutabaga and cardamom soup from earlier is an excellent candidate, but also your everyday mashed potatoes, where it balances out the creaminess with its warm and nutty flavor. And of course, nutmeg, which is nutty and slightly sweet, goes swimmingly with many desserts. Use it in a fall pie like this classic pumpkin pie, combining it in a bowl with the eggs, pumpkin puree, sweetened condensed milk, and other spices.

13. Mustard seeds

The beauty of highly flavorful spices like mustard seed is that you don't need a lot to make an impact. Aside from making your own homemade mustard, which you can do by grinding the seeds and mixing them with other spices and liquids, like white wine or vinegar, you can also use them in a slew of delicious recipes.

This bone-in short ribs recipe calls for both yellow and brown mustard seeds, which are to be pickled in sugar and vinegar and served on top of the ribs after they come out of the oven. Mustard seeds can also do a lot to elevate the humble potato in this classic Aloo Gobi recipe, where the mustard seeds are sauteed with other spices to create a luxurious masala paste. And don't forget to try Gordon Ramsay's own salmon recipe, which is rubbed with a pastrami spice mix containing black peppercorns, coriander, brown sugar, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, yellow mustard seeds, and mustard powder.

14. Paprika

Paprika is used widely in stews and rubs in places as far afield as Spain and Hungary, employed in their world-famous paella and goulash, respectively. It is typically made with mild peppers and can come in sweet, smoked, or non-smoked varieties. Whichever one you choose for your dish, if it's fresh, it's going to pack a lot of flavor.

In addition to the aforementioned dishes, one of the best ways to use paprika is in a spice blend for meat or fish. You can also use it to perk up your morning eggs by sprinkling some on top of your sunny-side-ups. But be sure to use the smoked paprika for this one, as you'll really be able to taste its unique blend of warmth and smokiness on something so simple as fried eggs.

15. Star anise

Plain rice is so necessary to so many dishes, yet more than half the time it acts more as a bland hanger-on than as something worth bothering with. The inclusion of star anise seeds in a pot of rice can instantly change this calculus.

On his YouTube channel, Gordon Ramsay explains how to cook basmati rice in such a way that it actually tastes interesting. His secret is to add cardamom pods with whole star anise seeds, along with the usual salt and pepper. The other aspects of this simple but necessary culinary step are also worth knowing. For example, be sure to rinse the rice off before using it. Removing the dust and starch gives the rice a lighter and fluffier texture after cooking.

16. Sumac

Once you start cooking with sumac, it's hard to go back to living without it. First of all, it's pretty: it gets its dark burgundy color from the red berries from whence it is derived. Second, its tangy, citrusy flavor is a great foil to some of the spicier and warmer ingredients it is often paired with.

For a relatively easy first sumac experience, try this grilled cauliflower with tahini and sumac. Just whisk together the sumac, tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, chopped parsley, chopped cilantro, lemon zest, za'atar, minced serrano chile, salt, and black pepper, and grill the cauliflower with this sauce on top. For a sweeter bent, add some sumac to your shortbread cookies to give them a citrusy pop. You can incorporate them into your dry ingredients, sprinkle some on top at the end, or both. You can also just stir sumac, as is, into your yogurt, rice, or meat marinades.

17. Turmeric

If you love yellow and even want all of your food to look yellow, then start using turmeric in everything you make. Turmeric is, in fact, what makes curry so yellow. Regardless of what you make, sweet or savory, turmeric can only improve the dish.

One such improvement has been made to Gordon Ramsay's chili and turmeric roasted potatoes, which he prepares and serves as part of Christmas dinner, as he explained on his YouTube channel. Just peel, cube, and parboil the potatoes as you normally would for any crispy roasted potato recipe, then drain them and add seasoning, chili, and turmeric powder. Coat the potatoes evenly and bake. The turmeric is so powerful that they'll come out looking mostly yellow and barely red. For extra health benefits, be sure to add black pepper to your turmeric potatoes, as a compound in black pepper has been found to further activate turmeric's antioxidant properties, according to Healthline.

18. Saffron

Depending on the market, saffron can sometimes cost more than gold in weight, so it's a good thing that it only takes a little bit to create a lot of color and flavor in a dish. On his YouTube channel, Ramsay explains that he always has some saffron in his pantry, and in part, he uses it to create another pantry staple: garlic and saffron mayonnaise.

To create this recipe, soak your saffron threads in warm water to ensure they get evenly distributed throughout the recipe. Meanwhile, continue with the mayo as you would with any other recipe, paying attention to the proportions between the eggs, chopped garlic, Dijon mustard, and lemon juice, whisking as you add the olive and vegetable oils. Once the mixture is smooth and creamy, it's ready. But you can also use saffron in sweet dishes, as in this saffron olive oil cake. Just simmer the saffron with some orange zest and juice before mixing it in with the rest of your batter.