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Dec 7, 2006 03:56 PM

The Spice House vs. Penzeys

My boyfriend loves cooking Indian food. I want to get him some nice spices as part of his Christmas gift. Both Penzeys and The Spice House have Indian spice gift sets. The Penzey one is $12 more expensive. I've never had spices from either.
Is one better than the other?
Which one would you suggest as a better gift? or are there any other mail order spice companies that I should check out?

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  1. I have not been to penzey's - I do like the spice house and that is where I get all my spices - I have never been dissapointed -

    1. I've never been to The Spice House, I could be wrong, but I believe the only Chicago area location is in the Old Town area. But, being a resident of the western suburbs, I do shop frequently at Penzeys in Naperville.

      I have never purchased their Indian spice set, but I have purchased their Indian spices individually. I have bought their Balti, Rogan Josh, Vidaloo, and sweet curry seasonings. I have liked them all, particularly the Rogan Josh, which also has saffron in the blend. All of seasonings I mentioned are salt-free.

      I have been buying spices at Penzeys for a few years now, and have enjoyed everything I've bought there.

      If you go to Penzeys, get on their mailing list. They send out several catalogs annually with some interesting recipes.

      I believe Penzeys has another store in Oak Park, if Naperville is too long a trek.

      1. I shop regularly at The Spice House(on Wells) and have also purchased "make your own" giftboxes from them---you choose the spices...they pack 'em up with nutmegs, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, and ship the end result. Compared to Penzey's(same family btw) I prefer The Spice House for it's less commercial, more down-to-earth je ne sais qua...and quality products. I, too, am on the Penzey's mailing list, but have never seen the need to order from them. Being divergent limbs of the same family tree, both carry similar spice blends.

        as per Indian spice blends: I enjoy The Spice House's garam contains more coriander than cumin...cumin is often abundant in lesser blends

        1. As aelph noted, they're the same family with the same suppliers for most things.

          Patty Erd, owner of the spice house with her husband Tom Erd, is Bill Penzey's brother. Ma&Pa Penzey founded the spice house and sold it to Tom and Patty some years ago. Bill formed Penzey's on his own.

          I'm loyal to the spice house, mostly because I've built a nice relationship with the employees of the Old Town store, and I've met the Erds socially a couple times.

          I suspect the two gift boxes would be virtually identical.

          Note that if you're shipping, the Spice House charges exactly what it costs them to ship, on general principle. I'm not sure about Penzey's.

          1 Reply
          1. re: gleam

            good point re: shipping. I forgot how cool that is on their part. I'm also in agreement with you on the hospitality of the owners and most of the employees(there's one guy who's always irascible...but even that adds a kind of quirky charm to the proceedings).

          2. FYI, The Spice House also has an Evanston and Milwaukee location. Mom and Dad Penzey still run a very small "retirement" spice business up in Wisconsin, but I've never been.

            3 Replies
            1. re: gleam

              The Spice House started in Milwaukee:


              Penzeys Ltd. is based in Brookfield, Wis., a Milwaukee suburb.

              1. re: gido

                Yes, it did. I don't think I said or implied it didn't.

                Bill and Ruth Penzey's "retirement" shop is Spice Work, in Wauwatosa, WI. Their site is

                1. re: gleam

                  I guess it's no more. The link redirects to Penzeys.