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Our Test Kitchen Says These Are the 9 Spices Every Cook Needs

Of course you can have more, but these are the essentials.

essential spices
Photography by: Peter Ardito

From Aleppo pepper to za'atar, there are so many spices to fill your spice rack with. If you cook Indian food or love Thai flavors, you'll have certain ones always on hand. For a general spice library, our food editors recommend, and rely on, these nine essentials:

spices bowls
Photography by: Peter Ardito
  • Crushed red-pepper flakes
  • Ground ginger
  • Whole allspice
  • Cumin seeds
  • Ground cinnamon
  • Sweet paprika
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Whole cloves
  • Whole nutmeg


They suggest buying longer-lasting whole spices whenever possible, and grinding them as needed. (Ground spices taste fresh for about six months; give them a quick sniff before use to check potency.) Buy those you need less frequently in the smallest containers possible, and store all spices in a pantry or another cool, dark, dry spot.


(MAKE: These Delicious Desserts That Star Cinnamon)


BONUS: Easy Seasoning

For pork, chicken, or fish, this makes a great seasoning: Combine 4 teaspoons sweet paprika, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice; store in a jar for up to 3 months.



Watch the right way to grind spices: