Cooking with Herbs & Spices

Previously, we described how to grow, store and cook with fresh and dried herbs. In this article, we will discuss how to cook with different herb and spice combinations. 


Spices, like herbs, are a great way to add flavor to foods without adding salt, sugar or fat. Spices are made from seeds, fruit, bark, buds, or roots of plants. Certain spices do more than add flavor, they can also improve your health. Many spices, such as turmeric, have antioxidant effects and others, like garlic, may help to lower your blood pressure and cholesterol. Unlike herbs, spices are almost always used in their dried form. Here are some common spices and the flavors they can add to a dish.

Baking and sweet spices

  • Allspice 
    • Flavor – earthy, sweet
    • Cooking – use in both savory and sweet dishes
  • Cardamom  
    • Flavor – citrus, sweet
    • Cooking – has a very strong flavor so use a little bit at a time
  • Cinnamon  
    • Flavor – earthy, sweet 
    • Cooking – use in sweet dishes and savory stews or soups
  • Cloves 
    • Flavor – sweet, spicy 
    • Cooking – use in baked goods, smoked meats and sauces
  • Ginger 
    • Flavor – sweet, warm 
    • Cooking – use in baked goods, soups and stews
  • Nutmeg 
    • Flavor- sweet, spicy 
    • Cooking- use baked goods, custards, eggnog or savory vegetable dishes

Spices that add heat

  • Black pepper – peppery, mild heat
  • Cayenne pepper – spicy
  • Chili powder – savory, mild heat
  • Chipotle pepper powder – smoky, spicy
  • Red pepper flakes – spicy

Other spices

  • Cumin 
    • Flavor – smoky, savory
    • Cooking – use in curries, chili seasonings and BBQ seasonings
  • Curry 
    • Flavor – savory, bright
    • Cooking – use in curries, marinades and dry rubs
  • Mustard seed 
    • Flavor – bitter, mild
    • Cooking – use in sauces, soups and dry rubs
  • Paprika 
    • Flavor – smoky, sweet
    • Cooking – use with eggs, rice, sweet potatoes, root vegetables, sauces and roasts
  • Tumeric 
    • Flavor – bitter, peppery
    • Cooking – use in curries, stews and soups

Salt-free spice combinations

Making homemade seasonings is a great way to cut down on sodium in your diet. These salt-free spice combinations pack as much flavor as pre-made versions, but without the added salt. 

Taco seasoning

  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp chipotle pepper powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp dried cilantro
  • 1 tsp black pepper

Cajun seasoning: 

  • 1 tsp black pepper 
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper 
  • ½ tsp chipotle pepper powder 
  • 1 tsp oregano 
  • 1 tsp thyme 
  • 1 tsp garlic powder 
  • 1 tsp onion powder 
  • ½ tsp paprika

Chipotle chili seasoning

  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp chipotle pepper powder
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

How to modify recipes

  • Identify main recipe flavors
  • Remove or reduce salt by using salt-free, low sodium, or no-salt-added ingredients
  • Add herbs & spices to enhance the flavors!


Add flavor and color to your water by infusing it with herbs, fruit and vegetables! Try some of these combinations to freshen up your hydration.

  • Cilantro Lime
  • Cucumber Rosemary
  • Pineapple Mint
  • Blueberry Thyme
  • Watermelon Basil
  • Strawberry Lemon

Homemade Ranch Dip uses a variety of spices and herbs to get that classic ranch flavor without the added salt.

Summer Cucumber Dill Salad is a great recipe for trying out fresh dill! 

Let us know what new herbs and spices you try in your cooking!


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