Essential Spices To Have In Your Pantry

Besides salt and pepper, of course

A well-stocked spice cabinet is your secret weapon when it comes to easy weeknight dinners, but with so many choices out there, it's easy to get overwhelmed. By stocking your pantry with basics like cumin, paprika, garlic powder and bay leaves, you can turn a boring dinner into something special in no time.

Spices last between six months and a year, so check the date before grabbing that garlic powder from the back of the pantry. If you're experimenting with a spice for the first time, buy a small amount and go from there. Whether you're starting from scratch or going back to the bare essentials, here are the 11 spices every cook should own.  

Chili Powder

Made from a blend of cumin, garlic powder, oregano and cayenne, it has a spicy and smoky flavor and is a great addition to Mexican or Southwestern dishes. Try our slow cooker white chicken chili or chili cheese dogs.

Ground Cumin

This mild spice is seen in tons of Indian, Eastern, Middle Eastern, Mexican, Portuguese and Spanish recipes. It works well with other spices like cardamom and coriander, and adds a hint of smokiness. Step up your condiment game with this cumin-herb sauce.


It's vibrant red hue makes it a colorful and smoky-sweet addition to sides and mains. Sprinkle a pinch over these deviled eggs.

Curry Powder

Easy to recognize thanks to its bright-yellow color, this Indian spice is perfect for soups, stews, curry-based dishes and hearty meals like vegan sweet potato dal.

Dried Oregano

This aromatic spice is commonly used in Middle Eastern- and Mediterranean-inspired dishes. It goes well with beef, fish and chicken, or hearty vegetables such as potatoes, squash and eggplant.

Cayenne Pepper

Looking for some heat? Reach for the cayenne, but use it sparingly as it contains capsaicin, which gives the spice its heat and pungency. It blends well with oil for the perfect hot chicken and is a great finish to this Mexican chocolate-pecan tart.

Bay Leaves

This herb is often used for flavoring rather than eating and brings a slight earthiness to dishes. It's typically added to slow-simmering curries, soups and rice.

Garlic Powder

Garlic powder is the next best thing to fresh garlic and adds flavor to everything under the sun: pizza, pasta, dressings, dips, chicken, beef and more. It's also the secret ingredient in this homemade ranch powder you might want to put on just about everything.


Commonly known for pairing well in both savory and sweet recipes, it's the ultimate spice to have in your pantry, because it's a great way to enhance dishes. Treat yourself to cinnamon swirl raisin bread.

Ground Ginger

If you enjoy making gingerbread cookies and festive holiday pies, you'll want to have ground ginger handy. The smell is intoxicating, and the flavor is slightly spicy and sweet.

Ground Nutmeg

Another holiday staple, ground nutmeg adds a slightly sweet and nutty flavor to dishes. A little goes a long way, like in these recipes for vegan mac and "cheese" and pumpkin spice babka.