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    12 Essential Seasonings You Should Always Have In The Kitchen

    Upgrade your meals from eh to epicurean with a few deft shakes of a jar.


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    As a former private chef who now works a 9-to-5, I still find great joy in cooking, but these days I’m more pressed for time than ever. That’s why I’m so in love with seasonings and spice blends.


    I’m always looking for an easy way to feel cheffy without having to break out my full knife set and a shitload of pots, pans, and mixing bowls. High-quality spices and herbs can transform any boring old protein, vegetable, or even fruit — and with seasoning blends, it’s like opening up a container of instant gourmet, even for those without the slightest culinary prowess. (Plus, it’s a lot cheaper than ordering takeout every night.)

    Here are 12 seasonings and spice blends every kitchen should never be without.

    1. Garlic Salt

    Salt is the foundation of flavor and garlic makes everything taste better, so you can — and should — literally put this stuff on everything. And feel free to spice it up (hardy-har) with a variety of flavor combos: Coarse ground garlic salt with parsley works great on eggs, or try bourbon smoked garlic salt if you’re into getting smoky barbecue flavor without having to fire up (or clean) your grill.

    Get garlic salt from Jet for $4.30; garlic salt with parsley from Jet for $4.23; and bourbon smoked garlic salt from Amazon for $9.

    2. Kosher Salt

    Poyraz 72 / Creative Commons / Via

    If, by some unfortunate twist of fate, you’re allergic to garlic or averse to its flavor, you can’t go wrong with kosher salt as an everyday alternative. Grab some Maldon sea salt if you’re feeling fancy. I like to use it when I have an extra-special piece of meat, like filet mignon or ribeye, to accentuate the natural flavors like a boss...and may or may not pose like Salt Bae.

    Get kosher salt from Amazon for $2.44 or Jet for $2.99; and Maldon sea salt from Amazon for $4.95 or Jet for $5.63.

    3. Four-Peppercorn Blend

    Also file pepper under the “use on everything” category; nothing else imparts food with such a unique mix of hot, savory, and sweet flavor while adding appetite-stimulating aromas. Instead of just settling for one type of peppercorn (snooze!), you might as well pick up a bag that blends four — black, white, green, and pink — that’ll refill your pepper mill several times over.

    If you don’t already have a pepper mill handy, snag a set of two and save the extra one for other whole spices. Also, consider bulking up your kitchen arsenal with an electric grinder and devoting it solely to spices. (Annnnd if you want to bring out the flavor of whole spices the old-school way, pick up a nifty mortar and pestle set and grind ‘em by hand.)

    Get a rainbow-peppercorn blend from Amazon for $12.69; a set of two pepper mills from Amazon for $13.95; an electric grinder from Amazon for $13.30; and a mortar and pestle from Amazon for $16.95 or from Jet for $15.29.

    4. Harissa Seasoning

    Erik Mathes / BuzzFeed

    Every spice collection needs some scorchers, and back in the day, chefs and home cooks would use one-note cayenne pepper when they wanted to add heat to things like fried chicken, grilled fish, or hummus. These days, tastes have changed and culinarians want their fiery foods to have a little more flair. Harissa seasoning incorporates just that with a North African-inspired bouquet of organic paprika, caraway, crushed red chili pepper, cayenne, coriander, cumin, garlic, peppermint, and sea salt.

    Get it from Amazon for $3.48 or Jet for $4.43.

    5. Herbes de Provence

    French Tart-FT / Flickr: frenchtart / Creative Commons / Via

    All kitchens should be equipped with a trusty blend of dried herbs to add bright, grassy tones to roasted chicken, delicate fish like cod, and soups. While Italian seasoning is always A-OK, I tend to reach for this French-inspired mix of organic thyme, rosemary, basil, parsley, oregano, tarragon, marjoram, and the kicker, organic lavender flowers, that goes perfectly on potatoes cooked literally any way.

    Get it from Amazon for $4.59 or Jet for $4.28.

    6. Curry Powder

    Slick / Creative Commons / Via

    Get yourself one exceptional curry powder. Curries are possibly the most diverse spice blends in existence, and it’s virtually impossible to find two identical curry powders from competing spice vendors. I recommend tasting as many as you can until you find one that you want in your spice cabinet at all times. Get a jar of some highly rated mild curry powder to kick up your ketchup and make rich coconut milk-based sauces, and snag some intensely spicy vindaloo curry powder to use in hearty stews with chicken or tofu.

    Get Rani mild curry powder from Amazon for $7.79+ and spicy vindaloo curry powder from Amazon for $3.48 or Jet for $4.43.

    7. Taco Seasoning,

    Don’t let the name fool you; this blend of Mexican-inspired spices can be used on anything from burgers and grilled chicken to slow-simmered beans, baked tofu, and braised pork. Just beware: Many brands of taco seasoning are high in sugar and contain preservatives, so always check the ingredients; Penzeys and Primal Palate are great choices. (And I recommend adding some dried Mexican oregano to bring your homemade tacos to the next level.)

    Get taco seasoning from Amazon for $8.29 and dried Mexican oregano from Jet for $3.66.

    8. Jamaican Jerk Seasoning

    Jamaican jerk seasoning can transport your palate to the Caribbean with its earthy, sweet, and scorching blend, typically consisting of thyme, allspice, sugar, scotch bonnet peppers, garlic, and salt, among other spices. It’s great on any cut of chicken and mixed into ground turkey for burgers or meatballs.

    Get it from Amazon for $7.55 or Jet for $5.98.

    9. One Baking Spice

    Erik Mathes / BuzzFeed

    I’ve been pumping all sorts of seasoning blends so far, but it’s also important to have some quality individual spices stocked, especially for baking. You can choose from cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, or pumpkin pie spice, depending on your preference (or hey, go for all of ‘em, I don’t own you).

    My thoughts are these: Cinnamon is the easy choice because not only is it great in sweets, but also savory dishes like chili and pho. (Cloves, allspice, and nutmeg also work well in baking but have fewer uses on the savory side, so save those for when you’ve committed to building up your spice collection.) If you really want to go all out, pick up some pumpkin pie spice, which combines ground cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger and allspice into the perfect ratio for way more than than just its namesake dish.

    Get cinnamon from Amazon for $3.02 or Jet for $2.70 and pumpkin pie spice from Amazon for $3.02 or Jet for $4.27.

    10. Montreal Steak Seasoning

    This throwback blend of coarse salt and pepper with garlic, paprika, cayenne pepper, and other spices is all you need to amplify the taste of beefy burgers and steaks. It also does a great job at transforming vegetarian food by adding a hefty dose of that oh-so-coveted umami flavor.

    Get it from Amazon for $4.29 or Jet for $3.15.

    11. Penzeys Fox Point Seasoning, NBC

    The only jar I’m calling out by brand name is this savory blend that makes scrambled eggs sing, sour cream– and yogurt-based dips dance, and potato chips and popcorn party. That’s because it combines salt with freeze-dried shallots, chives, garlic, onion, and green peppercorns, creating a flavor capable of elevating anything edible (and probably even anything nonedible).

    Get it from Amazon for $6.49+.

    12. Sugar

    Romain Behar / Wiki Commons / Via

    If you plan on baking, you’d better be well-stocked on the sweet stuff — not to mention how important it is for enhancing the flavor profiles of savory stuff like marinara, barbecue, and potsticker sauces, chili, and spice rubs for grilled meats and tofu. The aspiring baker should stock up on granulated sugar, confectioners (powdered) sugar, and brown sugar, both the light and dark varieties, which are both comprised of sugar and molasses, with dark containing more. Light is the default brown sugar in baking recipes, so only use dark brown sugar in recipes when specified, unless you prefer a stronger molasses flavor.

    Get granulated sugar from Jet for $3.98, confectioners sugar from Jet for $3.98, light brown sugar from Jet for $3.97, and dark brown sugar from Jet for $3.11.

    Have fun ~spicing things up~! If there's a seasoning blend you can't live without, let us know in the comments.