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Your favorite penzey's spices

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I am placing my first order from Penzey's and am shooting blind. First let me say that I love most spices. What I am looking for are recommendations for spices that really make a difference in your cooking or the ones you can't live without/ put on everything.
Any suggestions?

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  1. I order mostly salt-free blends from penzey's... so I haven't tried some of the blends... but here are my favs.

    any of the whole peppercorns
    any of the cinnamon
    black & red seasoning (black pepper & cayenne)
    the tandoori spice is tasty
    sunny spain (salt free lemon pepper)
    smoked paprika
    fleur de sel & other sea salts.. all good.
    I also like their cocoa powder for baking... haven't tried any of the hot chocolate mixes, etc. but have been curious.

    their regular spices & herbs are nice too. we buy the refill bags of the stuff we use the most of. it is quite economical.

    enjoy penzey's.. they are great. (though I thought their new magazine was a bit lame... don't order it)

    3 Replies
    1. re: withalonge

      Thanks for all the wonderful recommendations! It's a little overwhelming paring down the choices when everything sounds so wonderful. My first trial order (before I whittled it down) came to $145.00 BEFORE shipping!!

      1. re: Ericka

        well, I don't know if you've placed your order yet... but they do have "starter" sets. the wedding packs are great... i usually get one for young couples who are starting out.

        anyway.. good luck with your penzey's order. you'll love it. and besides, the maintenance re-ordering is a bit easier on the pocket book.

        1. re: Ericka
          Marcia M. D'A.

          I love Penzey's, but there is something you should be cautious about...the amount of the spices you order. Four ozs. of bay leaves is an enormous quantity, for example. It's best to go with a small amount and see what you like...then replenish a couple of times a year.

      2. cocoa
        hot curry powder
        aleppo pepper (I LOVE the aleppo pepper)

        (I love all their spices, but these things really stand out for me)

        1. The ground chipotle pepper is something I can't live without! You'll find it listed under "chili peppers". A bit in mayonaise makes a chicken sandwich wonderful. An interesting addition to chilis, salsas, and guacamole.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Anne

            Amen. I use it all the time. My favorite is a bit on sliced ripe melons. Squeeze of lime, sprinkle of chipotle, a little salt...yum.

          2. Well, I don't use spice mixes very often, so I can't give recommendations on those. I just order from Penzey's every time I find I'm running low on regular spices. You should order what you use most in your everyday cooking - their spices are fabulous, and you will definitely notice the difference.

            My basic spice list is:
            Black pepper (I get the whole Tellicherry, though I liked the Sarawak as well)
            Paprika, hot and sweet
            Cloves (whole and ground)
            Bay leaves (whole)
            Cumin, whole and ground
            Oregano (Turkish)
            Celery seed
            Yellow mustard powder
            White pepper (whole)
            Nutmeg (whole)
            Cardomom (whole and ground)
            Coriander (whole)
            Allspice (ground and whole)
            Dill seed

            I also keep garlic and onion powders only for use in cooking Paul Prudhomme's recipes.

            But that's just me. I like to bake, and I love jerk-type seasonings, so I need the sweet spices. I have Mexican oregano, Ancho chiles, and other such, but I don't cook Mexican often, so those aren't necessities for me. They might be for you. I love Eastern European food, so both paprikas are a must. I dislike anise, and so don't often use star anise or seed anise. You get the idea.

            If nothing else, get a big bag of great peppercorns. Your cooking will improve immediately.

            Link: http://seasonalcook.blogspot.com

            1. Definitely the Vietnamese cinnamon. It makes a world of difference in my cooking.

              I really liked their new magazine!

              3 Replies
              1. re: Neta

                Re: Vietnamese cinnamon...love it, buy it in bulk, but why stop there? I've ordered ALL the different kinds of cinnamon they have!

                1. re: Neta

                  Is there other kinds of cinnamon?!? :)
                  Love Vietnamese cinnamon!

                  1. re: Neta

                    whoops, forgot to mention the cinnamon! i go ceylon, but regardless of your preference, their cinnamon is revelation.


                  2. Hi,

                    I recently just placed a large first order myself, wanted to replenish the spices I had. I really like their smoked paprika, which I believe is a relatively new product for them. In fact, have to order some more soon!

                    1. Long-time Penzey's guy. Flip answer is everything, but particular faves are:
                      black & red -- use it on everything, like table pepper
                      whole black peppercorns
                      Chesapeake Bay blend

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Mr Grub

                        How do you use the Chesapeake Bay blend?

                      2. One thing no one's mentioned is the freebies. I haven't ordered in a while but I still have Bay leaves, nutmeg(whole) and cinnamon sticks that came w/ my order. Not sure if their policy is still as generous but I probably wouldn't order these unless I used a lot.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Bean Counter

                          I just received an order yesterday and there was no freebie in the order like there had been in past orders of mine. It was a relatively small order, though, so maybe you have to order a certain amount.

                        2. Smoked paprika: incredible if you like smoky flavors. It's really smoky.
                          Ground chipotles: see above, plus heat.
                          Aleppo pepper: Much more subtle and complex flavor than conventional red pepper flakes. My latest fave breakfast: Toasted whole wheat bagel spread with ripe avocado. Top with sliced tomato and a sprinkle of salt and aleppo pepper. Delicious!

                          1. Hi - I just went to the Penzey's store in the Twin Cities for the first time - loved it. $84 later, I am in love with their French Basil (incredibly flavorful), and the sweet curry. I tried three of the other curry options, all also delicious. Also tried the Ajwain seed, which supposedly reduces the effects of legumes in vegetarian Indian dishes (I am a veg, so this is a real issue for me :-) ...), and it's very flavorful - I looked it up on the internet, and also found some recipes that call for it. Apparently, it is usually cooked first, or toasted in the pan, I assume, rather than being used raw, as it mellows the flavor. I also bought the smoked Spanish paprika, as I had seen it listed on this site, and it is nice, but, a bit harsh for my taste. I also bought a large bottle of their vanilla, and my friend uses their double-strength vanilla and loves it. If you ever get to one of their stores, you will swoon as you sniff into each jar - heavenly. I have learned, from this one shopping trip, that it really does make a difference to buy top grade spices and herbs, compared to the usual ones I buy at the supermarker. Most of the herbs/spices come in several formats, and the small bottle, or platic pouches are not very expensive. Oh, also got some of their wasabi/horseradish mix, which is cream colored, not green, as I usually get from the Asian market. Haven't tried that yet. I bought a friend a little bottle of the genuine wasabi - expensive, but a treat for her. Enjoy!!! Oh, I also got the "florida pepper mixture", or some such title, which is a nice lemony/orange/pepper type mix, which I often use in soups and potato dishes.

                            1. I think the freshness and the price sets Penzey spices apart from the rest. I use the Bavarian seasoning on pork roasts, its a wonderful flavor. My whole spice drawer is Penzey's and each time I go to their Maplewood Missouri store I try something new. Also the hot chocolate gift pack is a great little hostess gift.

                              1. tellicherry peppercorns
                                any of the chili powders (not the mixes, the pure stuff)

                                1. I like their Greek seasoning -- I use it on chicken skewers, and also mix it into plain yogurt with some diced cucumber.

                                  The pork chop seasoning adds a nice smoky flavor to meat, but I don't use it alone, it's in addition to my other ingredients.

                                  1. Didn't go through all the posts so forgive the repeats:

                                    ground Vietnamese cinnamon (my absolute favorite)
                                    double vanilla extract (my other absolute favorite)
                                    ground ginger (so fresh, so sharp)
                                    whole Telicherry black peppercorns

                                    But I have NEVER been disappointed with anything I've purchased from Penzey's. And yes...be careful with the amounts you purchase.

                                    1. The french grey sea salt and Indian Extra Bold Peppercorns are an absolute must whenever I cook. I concur with the other suggestions as I've tried most of them as well. I really like the Bay leaf seasoning. It is great on pork and chicken and potatoes. I also add it to soups and sauces. I've saved $$ by ordering with a friend. We wanted to order some of the same spices so we ordered larger portions and split them up when they arrived. It was a good $ saving strategy for us as well as sharing the shipping cost.

                                      1. My first time, I ordered the smallest size of about 15 herbs and spices. The total was $32. I love their maharajah curry, satay seasoning, Vietnamese cinnamon (my #1 favorite), tarragon, and seasoned salt. But I've never been disappointed with anything. My dad swears by their salt-free mixes: Sunny Paris and Sunny Spain, I think they are called.

                                        1. I absolutely must have their Creamy Peppercorn dressing on hand, as well as their soup bases. I'm totally in love with all their baking spices (dutch cocoa is a bargain). Can't live without their smoked paprika, ground chipotle, and red pepper flakes. They simply have the best garlic and onions available (granulated and minced). Oh, and I can't forget to mention the Northwoods Fire seasoning .

                                          1. Go for the really big extra special peppercorns, their top of the line. Awfully good.

                                            I also like the double-strength vanilla extract, but then I really like vanilla.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: Meann

                                              The extra special peppercorns are good but out of 4 peppermills I own they are too big for 3. Penzey's sells one that they fit in though.

                                              1. re: Eric in NJ

                                                I don't like the Penzey's peppermill, but the Unicorn Magnum that Cook's Illustrated rated #1 works wonderfully (I have the smaller version and they fit in it fine).

                                            2. I find myself using their adobo mix in lots and lots of things. Also their greek mix, and the northwoods fire. I buy my powdered chipotle there, as well. :)

                                              1. Chili con Carne Chili Powder

                                                very complex and not hot

                                                1. I love the barbecue of the americas blend,( a great rub for a quick meat on the grill) the chicago steak seasoning, (speaks for itself), the galena st. chicken and rib rub, (great on roasts too), and the bavarian blend, (which we love on a pork roast.

                                                  Also, we love the vietnamese cinnamon, and their paprikas which are very flavorful.

                                                  1. I love the Greek Seasoning and Sandwich Sprinkle, and use them both on everything from chicken and hamburgers to potatoes and other vegetables.

                                                    Other favorites - smoked paprika, red and black pepper, Vietnamese cinnamon, Aleppo Pepper, crystallized ginger (I eat it like candy), medium-hot chili powder, extra large peppercorns