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I just purchased a new beechwood spice rack and it has a lovely 48 containers.
I have about eight that are empty. I have been cooking for over 30 years so without giving you a long list, be aware that I have "the basics"...and then some. What I'm looking for is a dry ingredient I can add to my spice collection that is a bit off the beaten path, but that you use often.


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  1. Expanding the "spice" category to include spice blends, I'd add za'atar, a middle eastern spice blend comprising sumac, thyme, sesame, salt. I like it as a flatbread topping and on vegetables (e.g. sauteed zucchini).

    1. +1 for za'atar.

      and speaking of blends...vadouvan is another good one if you cook a lot of Indian dishes, and shichimi togarashi for Japanese recipes.

      as far as single spices go, don't forget the smoked paprika!

      1. I love zaatar, Kashmiri chile powder, dried mango powder, and chaat masala.

        1. Hmm,

          What about garam masala ? Pretty popular spice blend. I can also see almond powder and walnut powder may be useful. Many love Sichuan pepper powder.

          1. Ajwain, kalonji, fenugreek.

            1. Diversify your chili collection. There are lots of flavors and heats beyond the basic blend.

              2 Replies
              1. re: rainey

                2nd this. And on that note, it's amazing how many uses I have found for my Penzey's chipotle powder recently. Fabulous on a turkey/avocado sandwich, amazing mixed in butter and spread on corn that is then bbq'd in the husk, mixed in a dry rub, added to cornbread muffins with some grated sharp cheddar, etc, etc

                1. re: RoxyGrl

                  +2. Two things really brightened up my cooking this year
                  1) New and different curry pastes
                  2) New and different chili powders

              2. sweetpotato can you tell us where you got this spice rack? I will be in the market for such an item soon and 48 containers sounds exceptional.

                1 Reply
                1. re: luckyfatima

                  I got it on Ebay, fatima. I put in the words "spice rack+carousel" and several came up.
                  It's a plain Beechwood rack with a lazy Susan carousel and the jars are plastic. I paid
                  around $130 for it and the shipping was free.

                2. Add to your pepper collection: smoked serrano, Urfa pepper, scotch bonnet, peri peri. Those are four that spring to mind, but I could add a dozen other exotic powdered peppers to that quartet.

                  1. I adore my ancho chili powder. Especially as a vegetarian, it adds such a savory, smoky flavor that it's my go-to to perk things up. I get it at Penzey's.
                    Pimenton de la vera (smoked sweet paprika) is also pretty spectacular.
                    Cardamom I add to all sorts of unexpected baked goods. It adds another dimension to chocolate chip cookies, for example. I have both pods and ground.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: tazia

                      I second the ancho chili powder (also from Penzey's), and the pimenton. Come to think of it, also the cardamoms. Tazia and I must have twin kitchens ---- Also second za'atar and shichimi togarashii. And partial to Penzey's Special Extra Bold India peppercorns, and gumbo filé.

                    2. Aleppo pepper, ground sumac (the better to make your own za'atar!), star anise were the first I could think of.

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: LindaWhit

                        This place has some Spanish paprika that is hard to get anywhere. I like the bittersweet paprika. They have a good selection of chorizo and a really fantastic Cabernet Sauvignon Vinegar.


                        1. re: LindaWhit

                          Where did you get the Aleppo pepper? I have not tried it yet but heard good things, it's a middle eastern thing right?

                            1. re: cajundave

                              Middle Eastern, yes...most aleppo peppers are grown in Syria.

                              As for where to get it? Penzey's. :-)

                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                Thanks Linda, love middle eastern food, just trying to step it up a notch.

                                1. re: cajundave

                                  Check out their ground sumac as well (plus they have a ready-made za'atar mix as well). Penzey's opened up near me in the Boston area several years ago when they were opening up their first outside-of-their-area store, and it's a visit I make at least 4x a year. :-)

                                  1. re: LindaWhit

                                    I am in a Chicago suburb and I just shopped at a great middle eastern store yesterday and I got sumac. I am trying to find the best recipe for Za'ater and then figure out what to put it on besides bread and hummus.

                                    I am making falafel tomorrow and looking to add something else to go with it.

                          1. I suggest you browse Penzeys or other sources online. There are some items that I hesitate to name because they might well be among your "basics" already. There I think of allspice, varieties of mustard seeds (yellow, black, brown), carraway, etc. For something that you probably do not have: Zingerman's out of Ann Arbor sells a rare item: fennel pollen, which I just checked, and they're now charging way more for it (more than I would pay now, frankly, but it's got a really cool licorice flavor):


                            Also, consider getting multiple containers of certain items. When I went into an Indian cooking kick after someone sent me a set of Indian spices from Penzeys, I ran out of garam masala way before any of the other speciality blends (like tandoori or vindaloo) because pretty much every recipe calls for garam masala. Other spices that I use in high quantity are chili powder, whole cumin, paprikas of various sorts, and whole coriander.

                            1. I absolutely LOVE ras el hanout, a Moroccan spice blend. It's wonderful on whole roast chicken, mixed into a paste with olive oil and rubbed liberally over the bird (along with some salt) a few hours before roasting.

                              1. For something really different, try Grains of Paradise.