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Your "Go-To" Spice

I'm looking to revamp my spice cabinet. I have all of the usual suspects, plus some blends, plus saffron threads and vanilla beans, but I'm looking for more interesting things that you use on a regular basis.

At the moment I'm hooked on Trader Joe's lemon-pepper blend in a grinder. I cook a lot of vegetarian, ethnic stuff, if that helps.


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  1. Smoked Paprika if you don't already have.

    2 Replies
      1. re: luniz

        third, that.

        I like Black & Red Pepper from Penzeys, and chipotle, and coriander, and.....

        I don't know if I'm a "foodie", but I _know_ I'm a "spicy". :^)

    1. I think that the "forgotten" spice is celery salt. It can perk up any salad or vegetable dish in a pinch, so to speak.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Kaisgraham

        Or add a pinch of celery seed to beef stews. But I have to agree with Windsor below - I've been using Herbes de Provence on roasted chicken, roasted potatoes, with pork, etc.

      2. Lately I have been adding herbs d'provance to soups, stews and sauces.

          1. Zatar...on baked chicken, in omelets, on goat cheese, on pita, etc. etc., etc.
            smoked paprika.
            Szechuan peppercorns from Penzeys: in a peppermill.

            3 Replies
            1. re: p.j.

              I'm still having trouble with this. I bought a big bottle of it, and when I put it on stuff **I can't taste any difference** : o [ Is there some way to bring out it's flavor? Heating it up?

              1. re: xnyorkr

                Yes, toast it. You'll be able to tell if you've used too much because it has a slight anesthetic effect. Chew on a bit of it, if you don't get the distinct numbing sensation then you have a bum batch.

                1. re: xnyorkr

                  I toasted the peppercorns per the recommendation made on the boards a couple of months ago. I could definitely smell the heat of the pepper.

                  I can taste a difference (from fresh ground tellicherry), if I grind enough onto my omelet, but it is not huge.
                  Last week I directly tasted a pinch. I (finally) got the numbing sensation. But I don't get it when the pepper is on the food. I am going to try to increase the size of the grind.
                  So I tend to agree with you. p.j.

              2. PHAT Daddy's (from Marengo, IA) spice rub and Cookie's(in IA grocery stores) rub... both available kinda locally in Iowa but if you can order off the internet, I recommend them. Cookie's is a little saltier so use it as you would salt. PHAT Daddy's has slightly smoky flavor with a hint of sweet. Both taste fabulous on anything grillable or vegetables, etc. They're not exotic... but they are tasty.

                Otherwise, my "go to" spice is cumin wakes up anything from soup to salad to sandwich and beyond.

                1. I love dill & lemon mix but my favorite can't live without is "Spike" - it's a mix of 39 herbs in one. I love it on many things, jazzes up a salad, stir fry vegies - even makes my cottage cheese better - I cook a lot with it. I can now find it in grocery stores, used to be only in a health food store.

                  1. *Dried chiles--guisados, anchos, etc. Just rehydrate in water and puree/chop.
                    *whole cumin, whole cardamom pods, whole mustard seed. Both keep their flavors longer as whole spices, and it's easier to toast the whole versions for a deeper, roasted flavor.
                    *a couple of different sea salts.

                    1. Vietnamese Cassia Cinnamon from Penzeys. I love this cinnamon and I find ways to use it almost everyday.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: viperlush

                        Huge ditto. And nutmeg. And garlic, if that's a "spice."

                      2. fennel pollen from zingerman's.....can't beat it with roasted meats and potatoes, however since you do a lot of vegetarian, it goes great with some pasta, olive oil, and the grated cheese of your choosing.

                        1. Allspice is my favorite secret ingredient overall - it's usually found in apple pie and the like, but I put it in anything sweet and plenty of savory dishes (it's featured prominently in my stuffing recipe).

                          Sriracha doesn't go in your spice cabinet, but I think it should still count here.

                          If you do ethnic, you probably already have a few curry blends, you might want to expand on those, but I'm not an expert on them... I just know they're delicious.

                          1. My beloved Cholula... and I'm starting to really get into using fresh lime juice.

                            1. I grew up eating Spike and can't eat eggs without them at home. Also good on avocado, popcorn and many other things. It has an earthy, salty quality that I love.

                              Lately a go-to weeknight spice is Northwoods Fire seasoning from Penzeys - sprinkled liberally on fish and pan-cooked.