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Jan 12, 2007 01:19 PM

Which Penzey spices should I stock up on?

Ok, I'll admit it. I've usually grabbed my spices from the local supermarket. Functional but unremarkable. I just read in a local publication that we have a Penzey's in town (new or was I just out of the loop?)

What are some MUST HAVE spices to stock up on?

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  1. Any single spice that you would normally buy at the supermarket you can probably purchase in better quality at Penzey's. Bay leaves, for example, are often much better at Penzey's than in the typical jar sold at the supermarket. What really makes Penzey's distinctive, however, are the blends. Some are great; others I would skip completely.

    Favorites are the Italian Herb Mix, which is great for marinara sauces; lemon pepper; the various chili powders; and the various curry powders.

    One that I recommend avoiding is the Italian salad dressing mix, which is mostly sugar and salt. Some of the blends rely too much on those two ingredients, so make sure to read ingredient labels before buying any blends.

    1. The one thing that I've never found at a supermarket but found at Penzeys is Smoked Paprika. This is my new favorite spice to put on anything savory.

      It's a wonderful way to add a meaty, smokey taste, so I often reach for it when recipes call for bacon since I don't cook with bacon.

      Last night I made a quick guacamole with avocados, lemon juice, kosher salt and smoked paprika. So good!

      4 Replies
      1. re: kiwijen

        OH YES--the paprika! You have to get the smoked paprika! It is AMAZING!
        Also I love the chipotle powder.

        1. re: IndyGirl

          i also love the chipotle from penzeys, and the hot curries and garam masala blends. i like the fat turkish bay leaves too, the nutmeg is great and fresh, and the jamaican allspice is just wonderful.

        2. re: kiwijen

          I so agree with the Hungarian Smoked Paprika comment. As a Vegetarian, it allows me to have the smokiness usually associated with meat - but doesn't taste like it. LOVE LOVE LOVE it.
          Also I would definitely recomment, fresh nutmeg (not ground) and Garam Masala - one of the best things I've had. Their Chipotle spice is wondrous as well.

          1. re: kiwijen

            YES- definitely go for the smoked paprika. We just discovered it a few months ago, and it gives a lot of zip to many dishes. Good on devilled eggs, to.

            Don't miss the Tellicherry peppercorns.

            Work your way into it, since spices don't keep forever. You have no excuse to buy a supermarket spice, ever again!


          2. Oh, and Telicherry peppercorns. Peppercorns from Penzeys are so much better than supermarket ones.

            1. The ceylon cinammon and double-strength vanilla are special. The tellicherry perppercorns, as noted above. The Kashmiri saffron.

              I'm not a fan of their spice blends, although I end up using a lot of their herbes de provence out of laziness...

              1. Two words: Vietnamese Cinnamon! I've never gone throught cinnamon so fast in my life!

                11 Replies
                1. re: Katie Nell

                  Hi, Katie Nell! Same two words for me: Vietnamese Cinnamon!!! Penzeys carries several cinnamons/cassias, but it is the Extra Fancy Vietnamese Cassia that is AMAZING!!!! We are on our 4th or 6th jar...not a year or so! It is so much better than anything you will find in the market.

                  I also like their California Sweet Paprika...nice fragrance. I am not a huge fan of their mixes, but we do enjoy their Buttermilk Ranch Dressing Base to shake on anything. Their double strength vanilla - or any of their vanillas - is another product worth buying there.

                  sheilal, you will be able to "sniff" everything in the store, A through Z, and then some!, so you can't go wrong with anything that grabs you! And you will know...but be sure to allow yourself plenty of time to play in the store -- an hour maybe!

                  1. re: liu

                    Follow your nose. I was surprised by some of the things I found - like the fact that I much preferred malabar peppercorns over tellicherry...and that the cinnamons were so very different from one another.

                    I use the Vietnamese Extra Fancy Cinnamon AND the Ceylon Cinnamon all the time, for different things.

                    I love the chipotle powder and the Aleppo peppers. And so many other things.

                    1. re: Snackish

                      Hi, Snackish! I was pleased to find that I could "sniff" the cinnamons side-by-side, because I KNEW that they would all be about the same. Boy, was I wrong! I was quite amazed to find that they were really different!

                      We're such a finicky bunch, we 'Hounds, that some days you feel like a Vietnamese cinnamon and some days you feel like a Ceylon cinnamon!!! What a luxury to be able to choose our cinnamons to fit our moods, huh!

                      1. re: liu

                        Ditto on the Viet cinnamon; I never cared for cinnamon til this one! I don't think you can really go wrong w/ Penzeys, but the ones I use the most besides cinnamon:

                        aleppo pepper
                        French thyme
                        Hungarian paprika
                        Tellicherry peppercorn
                        chipotle powder
                        medium chile powder

                        The one blend I didn't really care for was the Maharajah curry.

                        1. re: Carb Lover

                          Carb Lover, what do you use the aleppo pepper on? I got some; just haven't used it yet.

                          1. re: LindaWhit

                            Gosh, I seem to use it on everything. Well, not everything, but it's very versatile! I like how it has a nice fruity quality w/ just a hint of heat. So for times when I might reach for red chile flakes but don't want as much sharp heat. For instance, Italian-style wilted greens or sauteed veggies (broccoli, cauliflower) w/ garlic. Make sure to saute in olive oil to release its flavor. Works in soups and pastas. It even tastes good sprinkled on some pizzas. It's a Turkish spice, so I'm sure there are some good Turkish dishes to use it in.

                            1. re: Carb Lover

                              OK, I'll have to try it out. I love the ground sumac I got from Penzey's (also slightly fruity). Thanks!

                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                I go through the aleppo pepper faster than any other spice -- I put in on just about anything. Definitely on pizzas. With potatoes. Steamed veggies. On bagels with cream cheese and roasted peppers. You name it.

                                1. re: spyturtle008

                                  I guess I just have to dive in and try it on something (kinda like I did with ground sumac). Once I know the taste, I'll be able to use it elsewhere. Thanks!

                  2. re: Katie Nell

                    I agree with the Vietnamese Cinnamon. It's a little more expensive but so worth it. Sometimes, when at my spice rack, I open the jar just to sniff.

                    1. re: optimal forager

                      Me too! My husband started making me "special chocolate milks" before bedtime- chocolate milk with a sprinkle of Vietnamese Cinnamon on top- so good and why I love him! :-)