Spices and herbs

What flavor does each particular spice affect? Which spices go well with each other? What spices to add to what dishes?

There are more than three hundred different herbal and other flavoring additives that reveal, complement, or shape the taste of food. Different types of spices vary in origin, composition, and application, but they are all widely used in cuisines around the world.

 

Spices and herbs

Herbs are flavoring additives of plant origin (fruits, seeds, roots, leaves, flowers, bark). They are usually not used by themselves, like, for example, salt, but are added to food during cooking to reveal its taste or give an unusual shade of taste.

Herbs are used both fresh and dried. Herbs should be dried in the shadow and at a temperature no higher than 40 degrees Celsius – then they will best preserve their taste and aroma.

Spices are usually served with ready-made food or are an integral part of it, for example - salt, horseradish, mustard, various types of vinegar, sauces, etc.

From now on, I will use the word "Spices" in a broader sense - both in relation to spices and herbs and other products/substances that affect the taste and consistency of food, for example, soda, starch, etc.

In this article, we will look at the most widely used spices.

 

Use of spices

Spices serve several purposes in cooking – they can be used to:

  • To give taste and aroma to food. Spices can significantly change the taste of foods - to give the food sweetness, sharpness, smell...
  • Improve the taste of products. For example, salt enhances the taste of almost all products, or cumin, which emphasizes the natural taste of food;
  • Change or improve the color of food. A good example is Indian cuisine, to which turmeric, paprika, and chili give a dark yellow, orange or red color...
 

Basic flavors

There are five basic tastes that we can perceive:

  • Sweet - like sugar, honey, nutmeg, cumin, allspice;
  • Salty - like salt;
  • Sour – like lemon juice;
  • Bitter – like coffee, bay leaves, turmeric, thyme, marjoram;
  • Umami (pronounced oo·maa·mee) – like the slightly spicy flavor of fried bacon or miso soups.
 

Each spice contains certain, unique chemical compounds that create its taste, smell, and aroma.

And although there are only five main flavors, by combining spices, we can give food an infinite variety of nuances and flavors and create exceptionally delicious dishes from apparently tasteless products.

 

Allspice

Tastes like a combination of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Allspice is strong aphrodisiac and the essential oil in its seeds has antiseptic properties. Allspice can regulate digestion, prevent constipation, bloating and abdominal pain. Peppercorn tea improves digestion and is a good remedy for diarrhea.

Best combines with products

Mainly used for cooking

Goes well with spices

Apples, beets, cabbage, carrots, zucchini, potatoes, turnips.

Soups, desserts, bakery products, mushroom and vegetable marinades.

Cardamom, thyme, cumin, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, ginger.

Beef and lamb.

 

Basil

There are more than 60 varieties of basil, and each of them has its own unique flavor. Although the initial taste is strongly peppery, this aromatic herb gives sweetness to any dish.

Basil has anti-inflammatory, disinfecting and antispasmodic effects. Basil contains calcium, vitamins A and K, manganese, magnesium, iron, zinc, potassium and many antioxidants (lutein, zeaxanthin, beta-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin).

Basil can relieve symptoms of colds, coughs, flu, headaches, and bladder inflammation.

Basil leaves stimulate collagen synthesis in the cells, which helps restore/maintain skin elasticity.

Best combines with products

Mainly used for cooking

Goes well with spices

Avocados, citrus fruits, peaches, strawberries, raspberries, peppers, eggplants, potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, zucchini, green beans, melon, coconut.

Salad dressings, sauces, marinades, spice mixes for meat.

Garlic, rosemary, cloves, thyme, marjoram, oregano, anise.

Cheese, chicken, pork, beef, fish, shrimp, eggs.

 

Bay leaves

The taste is somewhere between peppermint and menthol with subtle hints of black pepper. Bay leaves add a subtle bitterness that prevents soups and stews from becoming too “heavy”.

Bay leaf contains phytoncides, a large set of trace elements, and tannins and is an effective means of strengthening immunity. Bay leaves and seeds contain aromatic oils with strong antiparasitic properties. Bay leaf infusion relieves fatigue, and helps with diabetes and joint pain. Inhalations with bay leaf essential oil are recommended for respiratory diseases.

Best combines with products

Mainly used for cooking

Goes well with spices

Potatoes, tomatoes, mushrooms.

Soups, risottos, stews, marinades.

Oregano, sage, thyme, marjoram.

Beans, lentils, clams.

 

Cardamom

Cardamom has a complex flavor. It is sweet and spicy at the same time with hints of citrus, and it is also very fragrant.

Cardamom is one of the best stimulants of the digestive tract – it improves the absorption of food and helps with constipation. It has antifungal, antiparasitic, and antiviral properties.

According to Ayurveda, this spice significantly promotes mental activity and mental clarity and gives a feeling of lightness, peace, and well-being.

Best combines with products

Mainly used for cooking

Goes well with spices

Pears, citrus fruits, mangoes, carrots, corn, peas, sweet potatoes, zucchini, spinach, almonds.

Curries, rice dishes, desserts, pastries.

Cinnamon, cumin, ginger, turmeric, coriander, saffron, vanilla.

Chicken and duck meat, lamb, pork, lentils.

 

Cayenne pepper

Cayenne pepper adds spiciness to the dish with a hint of sweet fruit.

Cayenne pepper (also known as chili pepper) has anti-inflammatory properties, is rich in antioxidants and is rich in vitamins A, C, K and B6. Cayenne pepper is rich in capsaicin (which gives it its characteristic sharpness), which is a key ingredient in many painkillers.

It is believed that cayenne pepper significantly reduces the risk of heart disease, improves digestion, and relieves headaches.

Best combines with products

Mainly used for cooking

Goes well with spices

Avocados, eggplants, potatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, pumpkin, zucchini, aubergines, peppers, citrus fruits, corn, tomatoes, olives, watermelon, almonds, walnuts, coconut.

Rice dishes, soups, salad dressings, sauces, marinades.

Cumin, paprika, cinnamon, anise, coriander, mint, ginger, garlic, anchovies.

Chicken, beef, bacon, liver, seafood (fish, crab, oysters, shrimp), beans, eggs, cheese (Parmesan).

 

Cinnamon

Cinnamon adds a bit of bitterness, sweetness, spiciness, and an earthy and woody flavor to food.

Cinnamon is a powerful aphrodisiac. It is rich in calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, manganese, and copper. A good source of vitamin A, and also contains vitamins K, E, and B. It has antiseptic, antibacterial, and antifungal properties. Cinnamon invigorates, improves blood circulation, stimulates digestion, and warms and relieves cold symptoms.

Best combines with products

Mainly used for cooking

Goes well with spices

Apples, pears, apricots, watermelon, bananas, citrus fruits, strawberries, blueberries, cherries, carrots, sweet potatoes, zucchini, zucchini, tomatoes, pineapple, rhubarb, almonds, peanuts, coconut.

Fruit sauces, desserts, bakery products.

Allspice, cloves, cardamom, nutmeg, anise, mint, ginger.

Chicken, lamb, beef.

 

Cloves

This intensely aromatic spice has a slightly sweet taste that will add piquancy to any dish. Cloves go well with cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice, which add a little bitterness to the dish and balance the sweetness of cloves.

Cloves are high in antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. Cloves are also an excellent source of vitamin K, potassium, manganese, beta carotene and eugenol .

Regular consumption of cloves is thought to improve liver function and bone health, reduce symptoms of liver cirrhosis, arthritis, and stomach ulcers, help regulate blood sugar, and reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers.

Best combines with products

Mainly used for cooking

Goes well with spices

Apples, pears, peaches, beets, zucchini, zucchini, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, oranges, tomatoes, onions.

Curries, soups, marinades, desserts, baked goods.

Cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, basil, ginger, vanilla.

Lamb, beef, bacon.

 

Coriander (cilantro)

Coriander has a mildly sweet, slightly spicy taste. Coriander is usually used in savory dishes along with other spices.  

Coriander seeds are rich in magnesium and vitamin C. The aromatic oils of the seeds stimulate the gastrointestinal tract. Coriander leaves and seeds improve digestion and stimulate appetite. A decoction of coriander seeds is used as an effective anti-scurvy and anti-cold remedy, and also helps to reduce insomnia, anxiety, and stress.

Best combines with products

Mainly used for cooking

Goes well with spices

Apples, peppers, potatoes, carrots, onions, tomatoes, oranges, blueberries, olives.

Curries, soups, sauces, marinades, spice mixes.

Chili powder, garlic, cumin, cardamom, cinnamon.

Chicken, beef, pork, fish, tofu.

 

Cumin

Cumin has a slightly sweet, warming taste. Cumin is often considered a spicy alternative to cinnamon. It goes well with chili flakes because it enhances the natural sharpness of cumin and gives the dish a richer taste. If you want the flavor to spread evenly, use ground cumin instead of whole.

Cumin seeds are rich in essential oils, proteins, and calcium, and contain sugar. Cumin seeds have pronounced antiseptic properties and promote wound healing. In India, cumin seeds are used as a stimulant and diuretic.

Best combines with products

Mainly used for cooking

Goes well with spices

Eggplants, tomatoes, zucchini, pumpkin, carrots, beets, potatoes, cucumbers, cauliflower, spinach, corn, green beans, turkey peas, apricots, mango.

Curries, rice dishes, soups, sauces, marinades, spice mixes.

Garlic, turmeric, coriander, mint, ginger, cinnamon, oregano. chili.

Beans, chicken, beef, pork, lamb, lentils, tofu.

 

Garlic, garlic powder

Garlic in its raw form has a sharp, spicy taste. However, during the cooking process, it significantly loses its sharpness, sweetens, and acquires a nutty hue.

Garlic has long been attributed with almost miraculous abilities in the prevention of many diseases. Garlic contains antioxidants and has antimicrobial, antiviral, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It helps to clear up coughs, so it is used as a preventive measure against flu and colds. In addition, garlic also has anti-parasitic and anti-fungal effects.

Garlic contains essential oils, allicin, vitamin C, group B vitamins, carotene, copper, phosphorus, calcium, manganese, selenium, phytosterols

It is believed that garlic helps to prevent cancer and cardiovascular diseases, as well as to preserve the health of the skin and a healthy appearance in general.

Best combines with products

Mainly used for cooking

Goes well with spices

Cabbage, tomatoes, zucchini, carrots, mushrooms.

Curries, soups, sauces, marinades, free fries, spice mixes.

Oregano, cumin. coriander, turmeric.

Beans, chicken, beef, fish, tofu.

 

Ginger

Fresh ginger root has a sharp, spicy, and sweet taste. Ground ginger retains some of the spiciness and sweetness, however, its taste is much milder. Like garlic, fresh ginger's flavor mellows when cooked and becomes bitter when burned.

Ginger contains almost all the essential amino acids and vitamins C, B1, and B2. Ginger is a powerful aphrodisiac and antioxidant. It has antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial effects. Ginger helps relieve headaches, improves digestion, and treats respiratory diseases.

Ginger contains gingerol, which thins the blood - therefore, people receiving anticoagulant therapy (taking warfarin, aspirin, etc.) should consult their doctor about the use of ginger in their diet.

In Japanese cuisine, ginger is a mandatory ingredient of sushi and serves as protection against parasites living in raw fish.

Best combines with products

Mainly used for cooking

Goes well with spices

Carrots, citrus fruits, sweet potatoes, beets, zucchini.

Curries, rice dishes, marinades, free fries.

Garlic.

Chicken, beef, pork, fish, tofu.

 

Nutmeg

Nutmeg has a sweet, intoxicatingly spicy flavor with a slightly nutty undertone.

Nutmeg improves digestion, has a bactericidal and warming effect, and contains several essential oils. Nutmeg strengthens the heart muscles, tones the body, and stimulates the immune system.

In large doses, both freshly ground nutmeg and nutmeg oil have a psychoactive effect.

Best combines with products

Mainly used for cooking

Goes well with spices

Broccoli, asparagus, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, zucchini, eggplant, squash, tomatoes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips, spinach, onions, avocados, walnuts.

Rice dishes, sauces, compotes, pie fillings.

Allspice, cloves, saffron.

Lamb, eggs, oysters, shrimp.

 

Oregano

Oregano has a strong spicy-sweet taste with a slight bitterness and a peppery tinge. The sweetness of oregano well balances sour and salty dishes.

It has tonic and antiseptic properties, improves digestion, and is also used as a disinfectant, anti-inflammatory, and diuretic. It is used to relieve cough (as an expectorant), sore throat, and upset stomach. It is said that chewing fresh oregano leaves relieves toothache.

Best combines with products

Mainly used for cooking

Goes well with spices

Artichokes, tomatoes, paprika, zucchini, potatoes, mushrooms.

Soups, salad dressings, tomato sauces, marinades, spice mixes.

Chili powder, bay leaves, thyme, rosemary, basil.

Beans, chicken, pork, lamb, fish.

 

Bell pepper (paprika)

The taste of paprika can be soft and sweet, as well as very spicy. Ordinary paprika has a mild sweet taste. Some Spanish peppers are dried by smoking, which gives them a smoky taste. Some varieties, such as Hungarian paprika, can have a very pungent taste.

Bell peppers are an excellent source of vitamins A and C (bell peppers contain more vitamin C than lemons or blackcurrants). Regular consumption of fresh paprika reduces the risk of neurodegenerative diseases (Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and senile dementia).

Best combines with products

Mainly used for cooking

Goes well with spices

Paprika, zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli, potatoes.

Rice soups, salad dressings, marinades.

Garlic, chili powder, cardamom, cinnamon, and cumin.

Chicken, lamb, clams, tofu.

 

Rosemary

Rosemary is one of the most aromatic herbs and has a distinct, hard-to-describe flavor. It is also described as peppery, like mint and sage.

Rosemary infusion has astringent, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic effect. In folk medicine, rosemary infusion is used for inflammation of the gallbladder, gastrointestinal disorders, sore throats, stomatitis, and poorly healing wounds.

Some believe that rosemary also relieves the symptoms of vegetative dystonia.

Best combines with products

Mainly used for cooking

Goes well with spices

Mushrooms, peas, potatoes, onions, olives, citrus fruits, rhubarb, watermelon.

Steaks, marinades, sauces.

Garlic, oregano, thyme, basil, anchovies.

Beans, chicken, lamb, pork, fish.

 

Thyme

Common thyme has a spicy-sweet flavor with an earthy, minty, slightly lemony flavor. There are more than a hundred varieties of thyme, whose names often correspond to their flavor profiles, such as orange thyme, cumin thyme, etc.

Thyme is widely used in both folk and official medicine. Thyme is an ingredient in many cough medicines and is considered a good pain reliever for sciatica. Thyme is also used in the treatment of some stomach and intestinal diseases when thymol-containing medicines are prescribed.

In folk medicine, thyme tea is used as a diaphoretic and diuretic.

Best combines with products

Mainly used for cooking

Goes well with spices

Tomatoes, carrots, zucchini, pumpkins, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, peas, green beans, citrus fruits, garlic, leeks, mushrooms.

Soups, salad dressings, marinades, spice mixes.

Oregano, rosemary.

Chicken, beef, lamb, pork, seafood (fish, crab, shrimp), lentils.

 

Turmeric

Turmeric has a sharp, bittersweet taste, which gives "depth" to the taste of food. Because of its bitterness, it is usually combined with other sweeter spices to balance the bitterness of turmeric.

Turmeric is a natural antibiotic - a powerful antioxidant and natural anti-inflammatory agent. Turmeric contains curcumin, iron, iodine, phosphorus, calcium, C and B group vitamins, essential oils and lactones.

Warm milk with turmeric is considered one of the most effective remedies for colds and flu.

Turmeric has anti-carcinogenic properties, in Ayurvedic medicine, it is believed that the use of turmeric cleanses the chakras, energy channels, and improves energy exchange.

Best combines with products

Mainly used for cooking

Goes well with spices

Cauliflower, cabbage, potatoes, sweet potatoes.

Curries, rice dishes.

Cardamom, garlic.

Beans, chicken, lentils, fish, tofu.

 

Vanilla

Vanilla is the most popular spice in the world. Its fragrant sweet taste improves almost any food – balances the bitterness of chocolate, enhances/gives sweetness to pastries and desserts...

Vanilla can help relieve drowsiness and fever symptoms, as well as digestive and nervous system disorders. Vanilla is also believed to stimulate muscle activity.

The aroma of vanilla is used in aromatherapy to promote the restoration of appetite, reduce irritations, and calm, creating a feeling of mental comfort. Vanilla is also widely used in perfumery and the production of alcoholic beverages.

Best combines with products

Mainly used for cooking

Goes well with spices

Apples, pears, apricots, peaches, bananas, citrus fruits, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, cherries, pineapples, tomatoes, peanuts, walnuts.

Desserts, pastries, alcoholic beverages

Anise, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger.

Eggs, Ricotta cheese.

 

Anise

Anise seeds have a sweet, pleasant aroma with the characteristic sweet taste of anethole. The flavor profile of anise is similar to licorice root, fennel seed, star anise, and cumin, which also contain anethole. Anise is used as a sweetener because it is 13 times sweeter than sugar.

Anise is used to prevent bronchitis and cough, as an antipyretic and antispasmodic, and to improve bowel and stomach function.

Best combines with products

Mainly used for cooking

Goes well with spices

Beets, cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, parsnips, tomatoes, citrus fruits, apples, pears, bananas, apricots, plums, mangoes, figs, melons, pineapples, strawberries, blackcurrants, grapes, mushrooms, peas, celery, olives, walnuts, rhubarb.

Salads, marinades, bakery products, desserts, alcoholic beverages.

Peppermint, saffron, basil, vanilla, cayenne pepper, cinnamon.

Cheese, eggs, seafood (especially shellfish), lamb, beef, pork.

 

Saffron

Saffron is considered the “king of spices”. Saffron has a very subtly sweet, slightly bitter, subtly nuanced taste and subtle aroma - some say floral, some say honey, and some simply say it's sharp. Anyway, saffron is widely used in various national cuisines, especially in the preparation of dishes of oriental origin. Saffron is also a very persistent dye.

Saffron is a mild aphrodisiac and has a stimulating, anti-gas, and antispasmodic effect. Saffron is also known as a powerful antiparasitic agent, and when added in very small quantities to other herbs or spices, it enhances their tonic and/or antiparasitic effect.

According to Ayurveda, saffron gives the human heart the energy of love, devotion, and compassion.

Best combines with products

Mainly used for cooking

Goes well with spices

Apples, zucchini, cauliflower, potatoes, garlic, citrus fruits, rhubarb.

Stews, risotto and other rice dishes, desserts, pastries, soups, seafood dishes, sauces.

Basil, coriander, cardamom, rosemary, nutmeg, thyme, cinnamon, anise.

Poultry, lamb, bone marrow, dairy products (especially milk and cream).

 

Peppermint

Peppermint has a strong sweet smell and a warm, sharp, cooling menthol taste.

Peppermint leaves contain several essential oils, including menthol, menthone, and limonene. Menthol gives peppermint its cooling properties and characteristic minty aroma.

Peppermint has antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties. Peppermint can reduce appetite and indigestion symptoms such as increased gas, bloating, and cramping.

Peppermint oil is said to relieve fatigue, tension, headaches and migraine symptoms.

And, of course, mint refreshes your breath 😊.

Best combines with products

Mainly used for cooking

Goes well with spices

Avocados, artichokes, onions, peas, cucumbers, citrus fruits, mangoes, melons, strawberries, raspberries.

Salads, desserts, sauces, alcoholic beverages.

Anise, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, dill, garlic, ginger

Beef, beans, fish (especially salmon).

 

Dill

Dill leaves have a bright, sweet flavor - somewhere between anise, parsley and celery.

Dill is rich in antioxidants and is a good source of vitamins A and C, calcium, and iron.

Dill is traditionally used to treat various digestive disorders, such as colic in children. It is believed that they can also reduce the risk of liver, heart, kidney, and brain diseases, stroke, and some cancers.

Best combines with products

Mainly used for cooking

Goes well with spices

Avocados, beets, cucumbers, citrus fruits, mushrooms, onions, peas, lartupe.

Salads, marinades.

Peppermint.

Beans, seafood (fish, crab), eggs, lamb, pork.  

 

Horseradish

Horseradish has a strong, pungent, and spicy/bitter flavor that can be off-putting at first.

Horseradish has been used medicinally for centuries. Horseradish contains calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, vitamins C and B9 ... Horseradish root has anti-inflammatory properties and is naturally rich in antioxidants that help protect our bodies from cell damage and reduce the risk of colon, lung and stomach cancer.

If you've eaten horseradish before, you know the unique burning sensation it can cause in your nose and sinuses. This sensation is caused by isothiocyanate,in horseradish, which improves respiratory health. The effectiveness of horseradish in the treatment of acute sinusitis, acute bronchitis, and acute urinary tract infections is comparable to the effect of standard antibiotics.

Best combines with products

Mainly used for cooking

Goes well with spices

Apples, beets, potatoes, peas, tomatoes, spinach,

Sauces, marinades, spice mixes.

Pork (bacon), oysters, fish.

 

Storage of spices

Spices lose their flavor and aroma when exposed to air - so it is better to store them whole/fresh rather than ground (or dried).

Accordingly, if you like basil, it is better to grow it in a pot on the windowsill, keep the black pepper whole and grind only as much as necessary to prepare a particular dish.

Store spices in a cool, dry place at around 20°C.

Spices should not be stored:

  • In cabinets or on shelves above the stove, because the heat dries the oils that give each spice a unique taste and aroma;
  • Near a window where they can be affected by sunlight (does not apply to live herbs in pots);
  • In the refrigerator or freezer, because when removed from the cold, moisture can condense on them, which in turn can cause mold and eventually spoil them.
 

In conclusion

Spices not only add taste, color, and aroma to food. They contain many different phytoelements, essential oils, antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins.

And therefore.

Although the active ingredients in spices mostly improve digestion (by improving intestinal motility and stimulating the secretion of gastrointestinal enzymes), they can also improve our general well-being and help prevent and treat disease.

Our taste buds are very different, so don't be afraid to experiment with your own taste combinations.

Cook deliciously and be healthy!

Tell us what you think about this topic

follow me

I recommend reading these articles as well

Egg diet

Egg diet

The egg diet has become very popular thanks to the statements of some celebrities. Does this diet really help to lose weight and how useful and safe is it?

Read the full article »