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Gift certificate for Penzey's

I was recently given a gift card ($50) for Penzey's Spices. I find if I go to a place like Penzey's without something specific in mind, I'm overwhelmed by the choice and wind up with nothing. So, any recommendations of worthwhile products at Penzey's?

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  1. I like the cinnamons, nutmeg, peppercorns, hot chocolate, cocoas, and the various ground peppers (chipotle, cayenne, ancho, etc.). I also like to get some of the mixs (mural of flavor, greek seasoning, etc.) to sprinkle on grilled veggies and chicken breasts.

    I tend to go crazy when I go to Penzey's and just fill my basket with interesting looking spices. What I've started doing is creating a list when I get their catalog. And when I get to the store STICK TO IT. It has helped.

      1. Besides their basic spices, I really like their Taco Seasoning and Northwoods Seasoning. They also have some nice box sets with selections of their spices and seasonings.

        2 Replies
        1. re: suburban_mom

          I gave the taco seasoning gift box as a wedding gift to a couple who does weekly "taco nights". They loved it.

        2. their cinnamon and peppercorns are outstanding.

          What do you like to cook?

          you can't go wrong with some ground ancho peppers, or some chipotle pepper, in my humble opinion.
          Buy some cumin, buy some herby spice blend (not their cilantro, it's just parsley).
          Think about some saffron.

          6 Replies
          1. re: Chowrin

            Ground chipotle sounds interesting, and like something I would use quite a bit

            1. re: zitronenmadchen

              If you dig heat, aleppo pepper is a mainstay in this household. It's a background warming heat like ancho, but it's a little bit hotter. When I'm building a dish with heat, I always try to layer the heat. Aleppo is an absolute must for a medium, warming, background heat.

              I'll also support the cinnamon - BIG TIME.

              Make sure you sign up for the catalogue so you can get the freebie coupons when you go. My store has catalogs at the register so you can grab the coupon freebie out of it if you want. Not sure if they are all like that. Other mainstays for this household:

              Toasted onion powder

              Talicherry black peppercorns

              granulated garlic

              Bangcock Blend - I use this to add a tiny bit of oomph to stir fry - I'll throw a few good dashes of it in the bottom of a screaming hot wok then build a normal sauce upon it with oyster, sesame oil, garlic, fresh ginger, chili garlic sauce, etc. It just adds a little extra oomph.

              Ground galangal

              I used to like all of their Indian inspired blends (especially rogan josh) until I started shopping at Indian markets and realized how overpriced Penzey's was. But still, Penzey's got me started with Indian food at home.

              Cocoa powder - any of it.

              Dried Dundicuts if you really want to bring the heat with a dried pepper. The pequins are hotter, but they are one note heat. The dundicuts have flavor.

              Northwoods FIRE

              Barbecue of the Americas is one of the two or three rubs I'll actually pay for, but even then, I doctor it up.

              Tuscan sunset for vinaigrette

              Definitely check out what they have online, and make a list!

              Not sure if you use cilantro or not, but don't waste your $ on dried cilantro. It seems like a good idea, but it doesn't work. They are totally flavorless.

              1. re: gordeaux

                second the dundicuts.
                OTHER cilantro works. not penzeys.

                1. re: gordeaux

                  gordeaux, I think you added "a little extra oomph" to "Bangcock Blend" by adding Cs...Sorry, couldn't resist. ;P

                  With you on pretty much all your recommendations, most of which are in this kat's cupboard, too. :) I'm also a huge fan of their cinnamon--my fave is Chinese Cassia--"strong, sweet and spicy."

                  I bake a fair amount and have BIG bottles of their double-strength vanilla and almond extract. I use the vanilla as though it's single-strength. I grab vanilla beans there, too.

                  Really like their French Country Vinaigrette and chili powder (medium, please) as well. I add to my chili spices with their ground chipotle, ancho and epazote.

                  I like that you can buy refill bags to refill your own containers--another bonus.

                  1. re: kattyeyes

                    Ooh, I didn't know they had allepo pepper! I'll definately add that and cinnamon to my list

                    1. re: zitronenmadchen

                      Did you go shopping yet? Their Chili 9000 powder is excellent, too. I used it the other day to make kicked up Sloppy Joes. It incorporates some "different" things I already add to taco meat (cinnamon and cocoa powder, to name two)...and several others I never imagined (lemon peel, turmeric, coriander, ginger, fenugreek, cloves, star anise, cardamom). Have a sniff when you're in the store!

            2. You could check their online cat before going to the store:



              1. As others have mentioned, one of the best things is that they have at least three distinctly different kinds of cinnamon. While they sell a blend online, the best thing about going in is you can sniff them all and buy what you like and make your own blend. That's what I do whenever I'm near an actual Penzey's store.

                1. I agree with just about everyone else's recs, and I'll add the soup bases as one of my Penzey's "musts". They give you a chickeny (or beefy) option other than way too salty boullion cubes or canned broth/stock.

                  We also like the coarse shaker grind pepper--it works in my regular pepper shaker and has more character than supermarket ground black pepper.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: coney with everything

                    and if the Dutch cocoa hasn't been mentioned....that too :)

                    Penzey's is one of the few places I can find actual Dutched cocoa anymore since Hershey discontinued theirs.

                  2. Chili con Carne powder and Fox Point seasoning are two of my favorites plus I always stock up on different grinds of pepper.

                    1. I love their cinnamon, double-strength vanilla, pasta sprinkle, and hot chili flakes, to name but a few. I have tons of their stuff in my spice cupboard. Spending $50 there would be the easiest thing in the world! I've never gotten anything disappointing from Penzey's. A friend was recently raving about their French gray course salt - that is on my list to try.

                      1. Congratulations! What a great gift.

                        My Penzey's list (making a run next week) includes their Cajun seasoning, smoked paprika, several curry powders, herbes de provence, peppercorns, saffron, and any mixes that smell good at the time. My list may sound strange, but these are the things I'm out of at the moment and ONLY get at Penzey's. :)

                        1. I may go through $50 worth of Penzey's ground ancho powder every year.

                          I also use their cumin, thyme, paprika, cayenne, dill weed (for scrambled eggs; I don't always have fresh), cinnamon, vanilla, different kinds of black peppercorns, and Aleppo pepper.

                          I make a dry rub using Penzey's ancho powder, kosher salt, cumin, cayenne pepper, and garlic powder. A friend of mine goes through two bags of it a year.

                          1. I love the Vanilla Sugar and the Vietnamese Cinnamon. It's the perfect combination sprinkled on a slice of freshly buttered toast.

                            The hot chili powder, cumin, oregano are great for chili. I use the garlic powder almost daily along with the black and red....

                            I could go on and on. It's tough for me to get out of Penzey's for less than $50.

                            1. I like much of what's below, adding in Florida Seasoned Pepper. Good on an avacado. Also the Bavarian blend on pork chops, Tuscan Sunset and some garlic powder mixed with lowfat sour cream, makes a decent dip for crudite. Parisan mix sprinkled in mussels in white wine is good. They are going to be opening one in the Palisades Mall, Rockland Co NY soon. I am so looking forward to it!

                              1. My mom is on a low-sodium diet, so I've been getting her the salt-free seasoning blends. Sunny Spain (salt free lemon pepper), and California Pepper (with sweet red and green) are her favorites. Mine are Sunny Paris, and Mural of Flavor.

                                The Aleppo pepper is da bomb. I buy that by the bag because I use it so often.

                                1. I make my own granola and use two teaspoons of Penzey's cinnamon blend in every batch.

                                  1. Lots of people have mentioned Penzey's cinnamon. If you're a fan of potent cinnamon flavor, I can't recommend the Vietnamese cinnamon strongly enough (no pun intended).

                                    I am also a fan of Penzey's herbes de Provence. Theirs is my favorite example of this French herb blend; the mix of flavors is very well balanced.

                                    They are a great source for Hungarian paprika - yeah, it's a staple, but theirs is very fresh and flavorful, not just "red dust." Their saffron is high quality, too, and a good thing to spring for when someone else is footing the bill!

                                    As a rule, I'm not big on flavored salts, but they sent me a sample of shallot salt once, and made me convert (to that one flavored salt, anyway). It adds a lot to simple things like scrambled eggs. It does tend to cake up and get hard, unfortunately, and I don't even live in a humid area.

                                    1. Whole Tellicherry peppercorns

                                      Baking spice and/or Vietnamese cinnamon

                                      Turkish seasoning

                                      Any of their curry powders if you like Indian food

                                      Chicago steak seasoning

                                      They have great Greek oregano

                                      A lot of their house blends have more salt than spices so beware.

                                      Their vanilla extract is amazing and beats Nielsen-Massey by miles.

                                      1. The Vietnamese cinnamon and yes, aleppo, and plenty of it.

                                        5 Replies
                                        1. re: Vetter

                                          What do you do with the aleppo. I almost bought it, then bought the Hungarian Paprika instead.

                                          1. re: michele cindy

                                            I did get aleppo pepper while I was there, and I used it in my sausage ragu. It was delicious, just the right amount of spiciness with a nice fruity flavor too.

                                            1. re: zitronenmadchen

                                              What did you end up with besides the aleppo pepper?

                                              1. re: coney with everything

                                                Vietnamese cinnamon, ground chipotle, saffron, mulling spices, rosemary, herbs de provence, and two spice blends that I can't think of the name of at the moment, fox point maybe?

                                        2. My favorites there are:
                                          - Vietnamese Cinnamon
                                          - Dried Shallots
                                          - Chili 9000 seasoning
                                          - Mural of Flavor (a salt-free mixed herb blend, great for poultry or pretty much anything)
                                          - Sandwich Seasoning

                                          1. I'd suggest the opposite approach. Clean out your spice cupboard, throw anything that isn't aromatic, and replace them. I'd choose great version of the spices I use most over a new rub or other unknown.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: JudiAU

                                              I have a tin of pepper that must be over 25 years old! I don't use it, but it must be from when I lived at home so I hang onto it for sentimental reasons.