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Let's talk about Penzey's:

Just got a new catalog, and while I don't read the whole thing obsessively, it's much more fun than most. Does anyone have any favorite spices/blends there? Have you ever been to a Penzey's store? Tried their recipes?

I've been to the store once, and enjoyed myself a little too much. It's interesting that I can drop close to $50 on a bag of what is essentially (legal) powder. I absolutely lurve the Pizza Spice blend, which makes everything taste like pizza. A tablespoon of that in some crushed tomatoes makes the perfect pizza sauce with no cooking required.

(While recommendations for other spice/herb shops are welcome, please don't just come post negative comments about Penzeys - that's not what this discussion is about.)

I have also been to the Savory Spice store and still can't figure out what to do with the Tomato Powder I just had to have.

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  1. Got a jar of "Horseradish Dip" mix, made a salad dressing recipe in their catalog w/it, pretty good. Tried their Taco Seasoning blend, nothing special. Spicy Chili Seasoning pretty spicy. We really like peppercorns and stuff from the store but don't go too often - like you said it's easy to spend a lot of money.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Samalicious

      I wish there was a store near me. I love the spices, especially the peppercorns. I'll have to try that pizza spice blend.

    2. Fortunately, there are 2 Penzey's by me and I like going to the store to smell the spices and blends for myself (and redeeming a freebie!).
      I found a world of cinnamon open up to me... never knew there are so many types.

      1. I've been to a store, and I did love it. The various cinnamons and vanillas were a great find, as well as the wide variety of dried peppers from around the world.

        However: <which makes everything taste like pizza> is my one beef: with so many jars of blends, tastes become generic. I much prefer to buy individual spices--which, in defense, Penzey's has plenty of--to blends.

        1. I have a Penzey's in my town and do almost all of my spice buying there. I don't buy much in the way of blends, but I do like their sandwich and pasta sprinkles.

          10 Replies
          1. re: emily

            One thing I like about purchasing in the store is that the jars are glass. From what I remember, when I ordered from the catalog, the jars were plastic.

            1. re: emily

              I think they've switched entirely to glass jars. I actually preferred the plastic jars because they were smaller and I could fit more in my spice cabinet, and in the boxes I have for overflow. And I didn't have to worry so much about them breaking when I accidently knocked them down because they are stacked so high in my spice cabinet. What can I say, I'm a Penzey's addict!

              1. re: AmyH

                I'm the other way around - I love the switch to glass jars (I hate plastic). I've just made more room for them. But if it really bugs you, save all your plastic jars - buy the larger bags of spices and refill your jars. (Freeze the extra so it doesn't lose its flavor.)

                P.S. I'm addicted to Penzey's Aleppo Pepper, Sunny Spain, and the Bavarian Blend. I can't live without them!

                1. re: AnneInMpls

                  I do buy the bags of spices and refill the jars. But all the newer items are still in glass. It's not one of life's major problems, just a little thing that makes me sigh when I open my spice cabinet. I guess when one falls out and explodes on the tile floor it'll become a bigger issue.

                  Tuscan sunset, florida seasoned pepper, shallot pepper, lemon pepper, baking spice and northwoods are some of my favorites.

                  1. re: AmyH

                    I was curious why some items were in plastic jars while others came in glass at Penzey's. The explanation was that shallots don't fare well in plastic so they are always in glass jars.

                    1. re: AmyH

                      You needn't worry. Store clerks told me that their jars are designed so that in a fall, the lid will crack instead of the glass. No idea how that is possible. But twice I have had jars fall from the rack onto the tile floor. Sure enough, the lid cracked the first time. Second time neither broke. Better still, they told me if the lid cracks, let them know & they'll give me another. Clearly they know something about winning loyal customers.

                      1. re: RavaIdli

                        Oh wow...I've had the jars fall, lids cracking as well. I'll have to ask about getting new lids

                        1. re: RavaIdli

                          How interesting that they designed them that way! I have also had a jar fall and the lid crack. I thought I was just very lucky. Next time I'm in the store I'll ask for a new lid. Thanks!

                          1. re: AmyH

                            Ditto on the lid breakage.

                            But, being frugal, for many of the spices I've just bought the packages and transferred them to the collection of empty Starbucks Frappucino bottles (you know, the ones that look sort of like old timey milk bottles from the side). The average Penzey's bag fits well into one.

                            1. re: shallots

                              I love that idea! I don't drink Sbux Fraps though.

              2. We go a few times a year to whichever Penzey's store happens to be where we are when we're on a road trip. Nowadays, almost all of the herbs and spices I own came from Penzey's.
                I'm not a fan of blends, and have tried several of theirs from the 'Kind' gift box of samplers they gave a year or so ago. One I particularly do like is called 'Forward'. It is excellent on baked sweet potato wedges, or sautéed chicken, or roasted vegetables.
                I like their products, and ounce for ounce, the price is way better than the stuff you get at the supermarket. And I just feel that it's fresher from Penzey's.

                1 Reply
                1. re: jmcarthur8

                  Another fan of Forward here. It's like seasoned salt without salt.

                2. I too am a big fan of the Penzey's catalog, although I rarely make recipes from it. I like the personal stories and, of course, the freebie coupons.

                  I have a store that is both nearby and only a block or two from a favorite lunch spot. In fact I was just there last weekend. I love being able to roam the store, smell everything and pick up recipe cards they put out for certain products. And they employ some of the nicest people in the neighborhood.

                  I like their fresh herbs and spices as well as their cocoa and vanilla beans. The blends I have tried are mostly the result of the freebies--Northwoods is a pretty good rub for grilled chicken and I agree Forward makes a tasty potato.

                  Definitely a better value than anything you can get in a supermarket.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: gaffk

                    Northwoods is also great in egg salad and on deviled eggs.

                    1. re: AmyH

                      I'm assigned deviled eggs for next week's Easter dinner. Maybe I'll try a batch with some Northwoods. I assume you just put a pinch or 2 in with the rest of the mix? Or would I use it as a substitute for the paprika I usually sprinkle on top?

                      1. re: gaffk

                        I do both. Some goes in the mix, some goes on top. Same with my egg salad.

                        1. re: AmyH

                          I'll give it a try this weekend. Thanks.

                  2. A friend introduced me to Penzey's a dozen years ago when we were visiting her family in Wisconsin. I went a little nuts...

                    After that I would visit Penzey's every time I was in a city they were located. The rarity of the visits led to a bit of spice hoarding!

                    Now there is one in my town! I pop in 3 or 4 times a year to replenish my more modest quantities and tie the trip to redeem a coupon. I'm now the supplier for a few friends who live a distance away!

                    I keep the most recent catalog as a reference for spice details. I have read the stories and clipped some recipes in the past but never got around to trying them. (for those who don't get the catalogs the recipes can be accessed on their website.)

                    I don't use too many blends. But Penzey does have several I really find useful. Their Italian blend is great when I'm starving and putting together a very quick pasta dish. I like the Lamb and the Greek mixes. I used to use Fox Point a lot then ran out of it and it slipped off my radar.

                    To the OP re: Tomato Powder - I have some too and have just begun to play with it. I've added it to a meatloaf mix and to gravy. Also to a soup where I just wanted a hint of tomato flavor. I think it could be useful in a salad dressing too.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: meatn3

                      I LOVE their Fox Point!! We got an assortment from Penzey's as an engagement gift many years ago ( well, 10 actually) and i have done multiple re-orders since!

                      1. re: meatn3

                        We love the Greek Seasoning. We use it on everything.

                      2. While I'm not lucky enough to have a Penzey's even remotely nearby, I do enjoy ordering from them online.

                        One of my favorite standbys is their "Hot Curry Powder". It's a very flavorful yellow turmeric-based powder; light on the sweet "baking spices", as I call them (cloves, cinnamon, etc.), & with a nice punch/bite of heat. I use it in any & all recipes calling for unspecified regular "curry powder".

                        (Makes a wicked addition to deviled eggs!!)

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Bacardi1

                          That's a really helpful rec. I like heavy on the heat, light on the baking/warm spices. I have ordered from Penzey's and been happy with them. Might have to try that curry blend.

                          1. re: Bacardi1

                            The tomato powder NonnieMuss is looking to use works really well in deviled eggs to.

                            NonnieM, I also use tomato powder in bread baking, marinades, meatballs and Sunday gravy.

                          2. I'm not a big user of spice blends and I only stop at Penzey's when I happen to be near one of their stores (there are three in the Twin Cities). However I do go to Penzey's to buy Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt. Penzey's is the only place where I have been able to find a 3 pound box. Many grocery stores don't have it in any size and those that do usually only have  a 12 ounce container. 

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: John E.

                              I like buying those big-ass containers of salt, too. I was in a Penzey's this morning with a friend, but didn't think to buy any sea salt or Kosher, both of which I'm out of.

                              My favorite thing is their ground ancho powder, which is the basis of my chili recipe. I also mix it with cumin, garlic salt, and something to make it hotter for a dry rub for meats.

                              1. re: Jay F

                                That reminds me. Last week I noticed they had a new product--flaked kosher salt (maybe not new, just never noticed it before). I was not in need of salt at the time, but I think next visit I'll have to try it out.

                              2. re: John E.

                                Penzey's sells pure unblended herbs and spices, as well as good blends of chili powders and curries. You can buy peppercorns and saffron there.

                                1. re: sueatmo

                                  I guess my post was incomplete. While I'm not big fan of spice blends in general, and we got free samples of Northwoods and Forward and neither really sparked an interest in me. I have bought quite a few spices and herbs including the bay leaves, ground chile, chile powders, black peppercorns, mixed peppercorns and some others. Years ago, I bought one of the Zassenhaus pepper mills for my mother. The nice feature they have is a crank to grind the pepper instead of twisting (she had arthritis).

                                  1. re: John E.

                                    We have one of those. They now sell a different model to accommodate the larger Tellicherry peppercorns which they now sell.

                              3. I visit Penzeys. I need to visit now as a matter of fact. Before the store opened where I used to live, I ordered from the previous company, The Spice House.

                                I learned a lot over the years from the catalog. I think Bill P. has really done a lot with the catalog, but I can't use the recipes because they are either too rich or too carby.

                                I like some of the chili powders, the Vietnamese Cinnamon, the hot cocoa mix, the powdered chipotle, the Turkish bay leaves, the Tellicherry peppercorns, and the mixed baking spice. I do spend a little bit when I visit, but I trust the product. So I buy.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: sueatmo

                                  Oh, the bay leaves! These have such an aroma as I have never known in supermarket brands. Penzey's bay leaves are worth the trip alone.

                                  1. re: jmcarthur8

                                    I read in their mail order catalog years ago that California bay leaves aren't as potent as Turkish. I learned so much from reading that catalog for a number of years. Yeah, the bay leaves are great.

                                2. Lucky to have a Penzey's nearby, my go-to pantry staples are their chipotle powder, the Sandwich Sprinkle (a great all-around seasoning salt), the Mural of Flavor seasoning mix, their various chili powders (currently digging Chili 3000) and their curry powders, both hot and sweet.

                                  1. Penzey's... LOVE their catalog. There's one close to me, and I don't always buy something, but I always at least walk in and browse. Love the smells!

                                    1. I have a store nearby. I only go when the coupon for something free comes in the catalog, because I know I'm going to spend at least $30 in that place.

                                      I love the ability to smell the spices. I always come home with at least one new-to-me product. Last time it was the Peri Peri seasoning which is HOT but tasty.

                                      I also like that just about everything is available in the tiny jars, so they don't go stale.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: coney with everything

                                        Good point. For things you use a lot of (certain dried chilis and bay leaves), you can get the "bulk bag." For things where a little goes a long way (like their hotter chili powders), you can get the little jars. And for basil, rosemary, etc., the standard jar will do.

                                      2. I live very close to 2 Penzey's and have even been on a tour of their factory (fascinating) as well as their test kitchen. Pretty much all of my spice shopping is done there but I also go to The Spice House for items not available at Penzey's.

                                        Some of my favorite items from Penzey's are: Fox Point blend, any of the dried hot peppers, Brady Street blend, Special Extra Bold whole Indian black peppercorns, vanilla beans and extract, dried shallots, Bangkok blend, Szechuan peppercorns, Northwoods Fire blend, Chinese Five Spice, smoked Spanish paprika, prime rib rub and many others.

                                        I would mention something about the recipes but you said we could not post negative comments and I am happy to comply.

                                        10 Replies
                                        1. re: Fowler

                                          Is the factory in Milwaukee? The tour sounds so interesting!

                                          I forgot about the Prime Rib Rub. It is excellent.

                                          1. re: meatn3

                                            Hi meatn3, the tour of the factory and test kitchen that I went on was at their headquarters in Brookfield which is a western suburb of Milwaukee. The facility housed the business offices, the factory, the test kitchen and the main retail store. They have since closed that specific retail store and thought I had heard they moved their headquarters to another location in the metro Milwaukee area.

                                          2. re: Fowler

                                            Negative comments aren't off the table entirely - it just bugs me when someone has a post, like, "Best frozen dinners" or something, and like 19 people chime in JUST to say they never eat frozen dinners, or hate them, or list the unhealthy ingredients, etc. Not the point of the post! If you've had negative experiences with the recipes, I'd like to hear about it, since I've never tried one. You obviously aren't dropping in just to drop some hate and run.

                                            Back on topic, I have to mention that Penzey's completely changed the way I think about crushed red pepper. We don't have a spice store around me, and it's pretty much grocery store or bust, so my experience with red pepper was either whatever they had at Kroger, or the shaker thingies at pizza places. Dried, fairly tasteless, little heat. Then I tried some Penzey's and WOW, talk about a difference!

                                            Also realize I may sound like a Penzey's marketer or salesperson - I'm not, I promise!

                                            1. re: NonnieMuss

                                              i know,
                                              very difficult to refrain from proselytizing.
                                              truly, superior products with great pricing (if you get the stuff in the cellophane envelopes instead of the jars)

                                            2. re: Fowler

                                              I loved the dried shallots when first purchased, but within 2 weeks they turned rock-hard. How do you store yours?

                                              1. re: pikawicca

                                                That's what happens to my toasted onion powder, too. I have to chip at it with a knife to use it.

                                                1. re: pikawicca

                                                  Hi pikawicca, I store mine in one of those heavy duty freezer bags, squeeze all of the air out and keep them in the freezer.

                                                  Do you have a significant amount of humidity in your home? That could be one of the causes of the clumping and hardening.

                                                  1. re: Fowler

                                                    I don't think our house is particularly humid. Thanks for the freezer tip -- I'll give it a try.

                                                2. re: Fowler

                                                  Are the Szechuan pepperorns fresh enough to be mouth numbing? The ones I can get at our local Asian supermarket very much aren't and I'd happily pay shipping to get better ones.


                                                  1. re: CampStreet

                                                    Yes, they are. To the point that I have to remember to use less of them.

                                                3. Has anyone tried their citrus zests? I noticed them recently and thought they might be handy for those times I don't have fresh citrus in the house. I'm thinking primarily for baking.

                                                  7 Replies
                                                  1. re: meatn3

                                                    I've used both the orange and the lemon zest in the past (several years ago) and wasn't all that happy with them. They are dehydrated, and have a hard, granular texture that never really improves, even after mixing into a batter. I also found the flavor less pleasing than fresh zest. Much as I love most everything else from Penzey's, I'd give the citrus zests a pass.

                                                    1. re: Allstonian

                                                      Thank you. I was having problems wrapping my head around the idea. Blends like lemon-pepper never taste "right" to me so I was skeptical.

                                                      1. re: meatn3

                                                        I found the Florida is a better lemon pepper than their Lemon Pepper.
                                                        I use Penzey's almost exclusively, although like you, meatn3, I hardly use any of their blends (I already have most of the individual ingredients).
                                                        I first became a Penzey fan with their Vietnamese cinnamon; having grown up with McCormick's, I never knew cinnamon in a jar had such flavor and punch. Ditto their Extra Bold India Tellicherry Peppercorns...I buy those, and the High-Fat Dutch Cocoa powder, by the large bag. Everything else I get in smaller jars so they don't go stale before I use them.
                                                        I also like their large range of chili powders. Other than the medium one, I love the Chipotle and the Ancho as well.

                                                    2. re: meatn3

                                                      <<those times I don't have fresh citrus in the house>>
                                                      good reason to move to southern california and plant a couple of citrus trees.

                                                      1. re: westsidegal

                                                        (smacks head with hand)
                                                        Now why didn't I ever think of that?

                                                      2. re: meatn3

                                                        i use the orange zest, along with some vietnamese cinnamon, in my coffee grounds sometimes - yum! not for baking, though.

                                                        1. re: princessnell

                                                          I used to grind Penzey's cassia chunks in with my coffee, and it was always well liked. Now I buy cinnamon at WF for that purpose. Cassia got awfully pricey. But I love the Vietnamese cinnamon for baking and cooking. I do enjoy the vibrant flavor.

                                                      3. We love Penzeys and have a store pretty close to us.

                                                        I use a lot of their individual spices as well as a couple blends. Their Turkish seasoning is a big favorite, today I have a chicken roasting with their Trinidad blend on it.

                                                        1. I just did a taste test on chili powders. I have to make 2 batches of chili because heaven forbid if taste buds get a little warm! Anyway I wanted to see which chili powder was the mildest. I used my longtime fave, Penzey's Medium chili powder, Penzey's Chili 9000, and McCormick's Chili Powder. The hottest of the bunch, although not really all that hot is the Medium Chili Powder, and it still produces for me that pleasant burn in my throat that I find appealing. The least flavorful and the least hot, is the McCormick's. The only flavor I can detect in it is some heat. And the color is lighter than the others too.

                                                          The Chili 9000 has a different flavor, but it tastes pretty good. Directions say to use less per quart than they do for the Medium. I am not impressed with the McCormick's chili powder.

                                                          So for the less hot, the Chili 9000 at 1T per quart of chili and the Medium at 2T per quart of chili are what I will use.

                                                          I put 1/4 t of each powder in small mise en place bowls and tasted them with a spoon. I used a little yogurt in between if needed.

                                                          I realize I didn't describe the flavor of the Medium Chili powder. It tastes like ancho and cumin and, for me, just like good chili should. And it is vividly red, so I can literally make a bowl of red with it.

                                                          6 Replies
                                                          1. re: sueatmo

                                                            You reminded me of chili recipes I have seen in 'community' cookbooks. One of the chili recipes I saw has an ingredient list that starts with 5 pounds of hamburger, 1 medium onion and 1 teaspoon of chili powder. I am sure it is a recipe for Lutheran chili.

                                                            (The same kind of cookbooks include 1/4 teaspoon of oregano when making spaghetti sauce. Can't have the seasonings too intense, don'tchaknow.)

                                                            1. re: John E.

                                                              John E.
                                                              I think you've just given me another measuring stick for deciding when to buy a cook book. (The tsp for either chili or for spaghetti sauce.) (The other being going back to the cake part of a desert section and if it says take a box of yellow cake mix.........it doesn't get bought.)

                                                            2. re: sueatmo

                                                              What I use to make chili, Sue, is a lot of Penzey's Ground Ancho, which isn't very hot, a much smaller amount of cumin, and a bit of Aleppo pepper flakes for heat. I so love the flavor of Ancho, I can't get enough of it with the blends, so I mix my own.

                                                              1. re: Jay F

                                                                I use whole, dried ancho and pasilla chiles, rehydrated and put in a blender. It's a little more work, but I suppose if we were only cooking what's easy we wouldn't be posting on this site.

                                                                1. re: John E.

                                                                  I use whole, rehydrated peppers too - usually a mix of ancho, pasilla and guajillo, with a few arbol, cascabel or dundicuts thrown in for extra heat. I like using whole peppers whether I'm making a chile-only chili or one with a tomato base.

                                                                2. re: Jay F

                                                                  Yes it is the ancho. Maybe I'll buy extra of that and add it to the Medium chili powder I love so much. And the ancho makes it so nicely red.

                                                                  I need to get to Penzey's. I'm down to 3 bay leaves!

                                                              2. I love their Shallot Salt on popcorn. I'm an onion freak -- it's a guilty pleasure. Mostly because of the butter, though. :)

                                                                1. I also buy herbs/spices from both Penzy's and Savory Spice-
                                                                  I don't usually purchase blends.
                                                                  I purchase from both online.

                                                                  Sometimes, I use the tomato powder mixed with smoked paprika when roasting chicken.

                                                                  1. The one spice mix that I find very very good is their Balti (for chicken).

                                                                    Another blend of theirs that I use is curry.

                                                                    Other than that, I have many Penzey's spices but not blends.
                                                                    Tried their Herbes de Provence once, the blend contained mint, which does not belong there (in my view).

                                                                    I make spice "tea": a cup of water with a pinch of cardamom, Ceylon cinnamon, a couple of cloves, let it boil and sit for a minute and add milk. This is very cheap tea, and the cardomom has always been phantastic.

                                                                    1. a penzey's recently opened up a block away from my hairdresser (with a trader joe's a block in the opposite direction:) since i get my hair cut every 6-8 weeks, i have to pace myself. but so far, my favorite is their high fat natural cocoa powder. not valrohna, but @ $10/lb, a good default cocoa for everyday.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: wonderwoman


                                                                        wonderwoman, I just made this cake for Easter dinner using the cocoa I purchased from World Spice Merchants. Really unique cake recipe for high fat natural cocoa powder

                                                                      2. I stopped by Penzey's today after my farmers market. I like their dried bay leaves and find they actually impart flavor to a dish quickly, vs. the nearly tasteless store brands and McCormick's.
                                                                        I also bought Alepo pepper and can't wait to try it on deviled eggs tomorrow for Easter!

                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                        1. re: monavano

                                                                          even though it is not traditional, try adding some of that alepo pepper to chile.
                                                                          gives it more depth.

                                                                          1. re: westsidegal

                                                                            I use Aleppo and (mainly) ground Ancho for chili.

                                                                        2. Love the Adobo seasoning and the Pizza Seasoning. Use the Adobo seasoning in beans, quesadillas, and any "Mexican" type dish I'm making. The Hungarian half-sharp Paprika and Medium Chili Power are fantastic. I sprinkle the green goddess dressing mix over sliced plum tomatoes before roasting them in the oven (drizzle with olive oil first). Aleppo pepper on cheese pizza and in grilled cheese sandwiches is great too.

                                                                          1. i have been to their stores many times.
                                                                            i have to prevent myself from replicating the deli scene from "when harry met sally"
                                                                            i've adored every spice i've bought there.
                                                                            penzy's was an epiphany for me

                                                                            1. Penzey's stuff is nice, but also expensive. If there is an Indian or Pakistani food store near you, that's the best place to buy spices. South Asians use a lot of them, and so their stores sel them in bulk ... you can buy a handful or a pound at a time. South Asians usually buy them often, in small quantities, for the same reason these stores are such a good place to shop: They are fanatics about avoiding stale spices. And the prices? always way cheaper than any other retail spice source this side of Bombay. Everything I just said usually applies to stores catering to any of the Hispanic or East Asian nationalities as well.

                                                                              6 Replies
                                                                              1. re: emu48

                                                                                I think you have some valid points, although I really, really like buying from Penzey's. Their prices are indeed more expensive than before. But prices for dried herbs and spices are more expensive across the board than before, IMO.

                                                                                And yes we can visit ethnic grocers for spices. I visit the Latin aisle in my current grocer and I see the lower prices for many of the spices. Penzeys offers several types of chili powder blends, however. Their basic blend comes in mild, medium and hot. I prefer the medium, myself. Its the same with the curries, of which there are many. I've read often the "right" way to do curry is to blend you own. But many of us would rather use something preblended, and Penzey's curries are various.

                                                                                If you like peppercorns, you can choose which sort you want. And they are always fresh.

                                                                                And there is this: this is an American company catering to Americans with fresh product. If you read the catalog, you will get a spice education. If you order, or buy from the store, you can depend on what you are getting.

                                                                                Why wouldn't you patronize this sort of business?

                                                                                And also, they have the best hot chocolate mix ever, and it is always available.

                                                                                1. re: sueatmo

                                                                                  I disagree with the "always fresh" assessment when it comes to the stores. I find that the catalog herbs and spices are very fresh, but the store spices are less fresh than can be found at our local coops in bulk. In particular I have had problems with the each and every purchase of peppercorns.

                                                                                  1. re: MplsM ary

                                                                                    Interesting. I've never noticed that problem. I wonder what city your Penzey's is in? And did you contact the home office about your stale peppercorns?

                                                                                    1. re: sueatmo

                                                                                      I am in Minneapolis (abbreviation, Mpls). I simply returned them. That should be notice enough.

                                                                                    2. re: MplsM ary

                                                                                      I too Mary, wonder which location you are referencing. The only Penzy's I have been to in the Twin Cities is the Grand Avenue site. I don't wish to assume, but I suppose your purchases were at the Uptown location?

                                                                                      1. re: John E.

                                                                                        It was the Uptown location. I returned the peppercorns and went to The Wedge Coop the first two times and Linden Hills Coop the other. The coops have frequent turnover in their bulk herbs and spices.

                                                                                        Of course it could just be that the peppercorns (Tellicherry, Malibar and Whole Special Extra Bold Indian Black), were not supposed to be as "peppery" as I like - but I just don't think so.

                                                                                        Peppercorns keep for a fair bit so I was totally surprised each time.

                                                                                2. I went to Penzey's for the first time today. They had some interesting spices. I was really tempted to buy the shredded dried ginger for making m herbal tea blends.

                                                                                  1. I like Red and Black pepper. I know, such a simple thing. I am sure I could make it at home. And yet I buy it in bags from Penzey's and keep a shaker jar next to the stove and on the kitchen table. I put it on almost everything.

                                                                                    1. Something else that is worth mentioning when discussing Penzey's: Customer Service.

                                                                                      Over the winter we had plans to make ribs one Saturday. A friend of mine raved about Penzey's BBQ 3000 for seasoning ribs, so I drove over to Penzey's and purchased a bottle.

                                                                                      We put it on the ribs and the outcome was just short of terrible. The ribs ended up tasting like fruit cake! When I looked at the ingredient list after the fact, I noticed things like allspice, citric acid, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg so I then understood why the ribs reminded us of fruit cake.

                                                                                      I took the bottle back to the Penzey's store and explained our results. I had used probably 1/3 of the bottle so asked if I could return the unused portion and please have 2/3 of the price of the bottle applied to something else in the store. The employee I spoke with said that 100% of the purchase price would be refunded (even though there was nothing "wrong" with the spice blend; we just did not like it) and asked me what I look for in a BBQ spice and made several suggestions based upon my taste.

                                                                                      Zero hassle and an attitude of "sorry you did not care for that spice blend but tell me what you like and I will help you find just that."

                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                      1. re: Fowler

                                                                                        I hope they steered you toward the Galena Street Chicken and Rib Rub or the 33rd and Galena (which I think is the same as the Galena Street but salt free). We LOVE them! I use the salt free one for brined chickens or turkeys smoked on the grill because they don't need the extra salt.

                                                                                      2. I don't buy the blends at Penzey's but their Aleppo pepper and Szechuan peppercorns are far better than what I can get at my local specialty shops. The Szechuan peppercorns have an especially potent ma la flavor that I love.

                                                                                        1. Penzeys is one of my favorite stores and I wish there was one close by. Always have to have their Chicago Steak Seasoning on hand. The only thing I have purchased and threw away was the pork chop seasoning. Way too much salt. My spice shelf is almost all Penzey products.
                                                                                          I especially like shopping at the stores. Things are so easy to find. Clerks are well trained and very helpful.

                                                                                          1. I just found out by chance that they've opened a Penzey's in Orlando... I'm just dying to go up to Orlando so I can stock up on salt-free msg-free blends!

                                                                                            1. I like their chili powder and Cajun seasoning. Their cinnamon blend is fine too, but I've gotten addicted to their Vietnam cinnamon instead.

                                                                                              1. I've read the entire thread and one thing got missed.

                                                                                                When you want to buy a large size (say 8oz.) both for the money savings and because you use that much between your visits to the big city where Penzey's lives, and if they don't have that size, they'll take the smaller sizes to sum to that size and sell them at the larger/reduced price.

                                                                                                I liked that and have it happen both in California and Alabama.

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                                                                                                1. re: shallots

                                                                                                  I just discovered this recently! They have terrific customer service.

                                                                                                2. I got turned onto Penzey's a couple of years ago on these boards. But it had to be mail order. But about 1-1/2 years ago, they opened a store within a couple of miles of my house (and in the same complex as Trader Joes). Talk about being in 7th heaven! I'm slowly tossing out anything not Penzey's in my cabinet. If you price Penzey's vs. the local stupidmarket, Penzey's is way less expensive. And they are fresher. I have not found anything yet I don't like. We gave gift boxes to family members for Christmas. Can't wait to try their new Berbere seasoning. Oh, and I find their customer service fantastic.

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                                                                                                  1. re: boyzoma

                                                                                                    just got the catalog with the coupon to try the Berbere seasoning. the recipes in the catalog using it look very tasty! we have friends who are adopting a child fromAfrica, so we're interested to try making some African-inspired foods. I've got Penzeys on my list of errands next weekend.

                                                                                                    1. re: boyzoma

                                                                                                      Our first visit to a Trader Joe's was when we discovered it in the shopping center in Sandy Springs, GA when we went to the new Penzey's store. Now both are a regular trip for us a couple times a year. It's about 54 miles from us , so we don't go as often as we'd like. Hubby likes the spicy stuff, and is very interested in the Berbere blend.

                                                                                                      1. re: boyzoma

                                                                                                        they're not kidding about that stuff being hot!

                                                                                                        1. re: boyzoma

                                                                                                          boyzoma, there's a chicken recipe using the berbere in the current catalog...I made it with leg quarters instead of boneless chicken, and after following the stovetop instructions, I baked it in the oven until the top was GBD. It is going into the regular rotation!

                                                                                                          1. re: coney with everything

                                                                                                            That sounds wonderful. I'll have to check it out. Thanks!!!! Love it when someone gives recommendations like yours. Much appreciated.

                                                                                                        2. Sooo I just went to a spice shop for the first time, Savory Spice Shop. I don't know where it's been all my life. I bought 5 different spices in varying amounts and it was only $12. The workers there were very helpful too. All this time I thought a spice shop would be way more expensive than a regular store, but no way. A small jar of Chinese 5 spice at my regular grocery runs $6-7. I got 1/2 oz (which is all I needed, and then some) for $1.85.

                                                                                                          Penzey's is down the street from Savory but I picked Savory because based on their online pricing for Sweet Smoked Paprika, they were about a dollar less. I needed a whole half cup for a rub mixture I'm making so that dollar counted! I still would like to check out Penzey's sometime though.

                                                                                                          4 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: juliejulez

                                                                                                            There's no Savory Spice Shop anywhere near me, but I visited one last year. I found it a little pricier than Penzey's, but it was fun nonetheless. They had a few more interesting things and a better variety of Indian spices, if that floats your boat. The service was great too.

                                                                                                            One thing I love about both places is the service and the packaging.

                                                                                                            1. re: NonnieMuss

                                                                                                              Yeah I compared the pricing online for one item I needed before I went since they're only a block apart, and their Chinese 5 spice was about $1 cheaper at Savory than Penzey's. But I'm guessing it varies depending on what you get. Also, I try to support local businesses, and while Savory is now nationwide, they are based here in CO. Still plan on trying out Penzey's next time I need to stock up, so I can compare the two.

                                                                                                              I really loved the service too, especially being a spice shop newbie. Everyone there was just so nice, which is harder and harder to find these days in retail establishments.

                                                                                                            2. re: juliejulez

                                                                                                              Was it in Encinitas? I keep meaning to go there...

                                                                                                              1. re: pine time

                                                                                                                No I live in Colorado :) I went to the Littleton CO location.

                                                                                                            3. Another highly thought of purveyor of spices and such is Pendery's in Ft. Worth, TX. In the late 1800's DeWitt Clinton Pendery was the creator of Chiltomaline - the predecessor of our current chili powder blends.


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                                                                                                              1. re: Purrkins

                                                                                                                Love the Pendery's catalog! Have found some stuff there not available elsewhere, even Penzeys.

                                                                                                              2. Big Penzey's fan here . . . I'm curious about "raspberry enlightenment"? Anyone tried it?

                                                                                                                From the catalog: "something to use in rotation with balsamic vinegar to add tartness, sweetness and that dash of flavor that so many of today's quick cooked meals want. Raspberry Enlightenment helps. Don't think of it as a way to make things taste like raspberry, think of it as a background flavor that makes everything taste better, especially vegetables, pasta, salads and quickly cooked meats. Give it a try. It is designed to help you explore your own creativity. Ingredients: raspberries, sugar, water, tapioca starch, spices, citric acid."

                                                                                                                5 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: MrsPatmore

                                                                                                                  I have tried it. I like the way it tastes, but I haven't found a great use for it, other than to glaze baked chicken, so I am interested in what others have to day!

                                                                                                                  1. re: jeanmarieok

                                                                                                                    I used it to make meatballs in a crockpot, based on this recipe

                                                                                                                    I wasn't overly thrilled with the results but I think there's potential here...stay away from the flavored mustard, maybe use bbq sauce instead of sweet and sour...YMMV of course

                                                                                                                  2. re: MrsPatmore

                                                                                                                    I bought a jar on a whim, but I haven't used it much & probably won't get it again. It's basically thin raspberry jam. Tasty, but I don't have too much call for it in cooking.

                                                                                                                    1. re: benbenberi

                                                                                                                      Thank you for the response, benbenberi. I actually went ahead and added "raspberry enlightenment" to my last order. It arrived yesterday. I completely agree that the taste is "thin raspberry jam," nothing more. This is the first item from Penzey's that has disappointed me.

                                                                                                                    2. re: MrsPatmore

                                                                                                                      I make a Raspberry Cheesecake Ice Cream (you may drool now) and the raspberry enlightenment is swirled through the creamcheese based custard after it's cooled down.

                                                                                                                      It is as good as your imagination tells you it is.

                                                                                                                    3. Some friends invited me over for lunch recently and one of the things they made was an excellent rice and beans side dish that was seasoned with Penzey's Arizona Dreaming. Very good and I liked it enough to purchase a bottle. It does not contain salt (I wish they made more blends like that). The ingredients are listed as ground ancho, onion, garlic, paprika, citric acid, lemon peel, chipotle pepper, red pepper, jalapeno, cocoa and natural smoke flavoring.

                                                                                                                      It is definitely not as hot as it sounds but is quite complex. I can envision this being a really good seasoning for grilled chicken or fish.

                                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                                      1. re: Fowler

                                                                                                                        I really like the Arizona Dreaming. Got it as a gift and put it on baked potatoes, eggs, cottage cheese, etc... Good on homemade kale chips, too.

                                                                                                                        1. re: princessnell

                                                                                                                          We like it on homemade refried beans (but I add a little cayenne, too). Hadn't thought of the kale chips--thanks for the idea.

                                                                                                                      2. I much prefer the spice house to Penzey's Glad I have one a 10 min drive away.

                                                                                                                        1. I use mostly their plain spices. but I also like some of their blends a lot. Sweet curry powder is like the classic old-fashioned supermarket curry powder I grew up with, but fresher. I also like their Chili 9000 a lot, & the Cajun Spice blend is great on baked chicken.

                                                                                                                          A blend I wish they would come out with is a Ras al hanout -- I bought a packet of that from a street fair vendor in NY that I've nearly used up, & I'd love a reliable supply from Penzey's.

                                                                                                                          4 Replies
                                                                                                                          1. re: benbenberi

                                                                                                                            Y'know, they've just added a version of the Ethiopian spice blend berbere, so a ras al hanout is not out of the question!

                                                                                                                            1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                                                                                                              That's interesting, though I've kind of given up on making Ethiopian at home. Baharat is also one I've had to buy elsewhere. I'm conflicted on their zatar - it's mostly made from sumac (red), when I thought it was supposed to be more thyme/zatar-based (green).

                                                                                                                              1. re: emily

                                                                                                                                There are as many zatar blends as there are cooks! Since the three key ingredients -- sumac, thyme, sesame seeds -- are all things I buy in bulk from Penzeys anyway, I just make my own up according to whim every time I need some.

                                                                                                                            2. re: benbenberi

                                                                                                                              We like Chili 9000 too. I made a pot of beans and seasoned them with this spice blend, and it was quite good. Almost like curry I think.

                                                                                                                            3. I love going to the store and see some of the different spices. My one comment is that they should offer samples of the spices. For instance, the salad dressing, or dips could have some samples. Maybe different ones each week. I know they have jars available to smell, but it's not the same as tasting it. If I knew what the ranch dip tasted like, I might buy it!
                                                                                                                              Love the Turkish bay leaves and the cumin, medium chili powder.