Now that you're done with those scary communal dorm kitchens, here are 5 essential spices for your first kitchen to get you cheffing up some culinary wonders in a space that's all your own.

1. Ground Garlic

Ansley Bird

Everyone from your grandma to your take-out addicted roommate will probably all tell you that garlic is the key to the kitchen kingdom, but we all know what a pain it is to chop fresh garlic. Enter, ground garlic. Italian chefs everywhere are probably clutching their neckties at the very idea, but I promise ground garlic is the way to go if you don't have the patience or time for the fresh stuff. It's very similar to garlic powder, but its texture is much coarser, making it more ideal for flavor absorption than the powder form, and thus, the closest substitute to fresh garlic. What's more, it also mixes better with other spices that may be present, so there is less of a chance that you'll find your dish tasting too strongly of garlic. Ground garlic is sure to wow in sauces, humus, and with meat dishes, like chicken

2. Coarse Sea Salt and Black Peppercorn

truffle, salt, water
Jocelyn Hsu

Okay, I know I'm cheating with having having two spices here, but salt and pepper are a duo that simply can't be separated. They're the undisputed king and queen of spices, after all. Even though they might seem like a brainers, don't sleep on the magic that is course sea salt and black peppercorn. When ground up from its larger forms, the minerals in the salt are brought out to provide depth to dishes that regular ol' salt just can't compete with. It's pretty much the same with peppercorns, since the oils in them don't break down as quickly in its raw form. You can find both coarse sea salt and peppercorn already in grinders at almost any grocery store, but don't be afraid to save a couple bucks by buying the raw materials and refillable grinders separately. Leave regular old table salt and pepper where it belongs on, well, the table, and pick up these bad boys to upgrade the flavor profiles of even the simplest of dishes. The wonders of these spices can be experienced in the classic favorite of Cacio e Pepe.

3. Italian Seasoning 

Spice, oregano
Victoria Hoang

Not gonna lie, Italian seasoning is kind of the holy grail of all-purposes seasonings. Typically consisting of dried basil, oregano, coriander, thyme, rosemary, and sage, its savory, earthy profile makes it the one-size-fits-all of the spice world. Seriously, you can't go wrong; just about any food is enhanced by a couple shakes of Italian seasoning. You can find it in just about any grocery store or even make your own at home, but I definitely recommend getting your hands on a jar of this bad boy ASAP. It can go in just about any dish, but it truly shines with  grilled vegetables, chicken, and pastas, but my personal favorite is tossing it in a freshly popped bag of popcorn. (Pro tip: upgrade your Italian seasoning popcorn even more with a sprinkle or two of parmesan.)

4. Crushed Red Pepper Flake

Ansley Bird

If you like a little kick to your cuisine, then you'll never look back once you add crushed red pepper flakes to your repertoire. You can be forgiven for thinking that this spice belong in your favorite hole in the wall pizzeria, and while red pepper flakes on a slice of New York style pizza is one of the greatest combos known to man, there's so much more to it. Crushed red pepper flakes can go in just about anything, really, because its made from a variety of pepper types, so the overall flavor profile of it can adapt to just about any dish, unlike cayenne or chili powder. Because its so versatile, you can have no fear when adding it to guacamole, soup, fish, you name it! \

5. Smoked Paprika 

coffee, chocolate, paprika
Salina Wall

Smoked paprika -- emphasis on the smoked, here -- is my personal go-to spice. I swear by it like a baker does sugar. Now, I know you must be wondering what the big deal is with smoked paprika versus regular paprika, so allow me to enlighten you. It all comes down to intensity and complexity. While regular paprika is a worthy spice all on its own, its much more mild, so it's usually slipped in recipes to add color or as garnish. Smoked paprika, on the other hand, is much more intense and adds a certain earthy smokiness to food that brings any dish to the next level. It's great with mac and cheese, dips, and of course paella, due to its Spanish roots.

Baking Oriented Honorable Mentions: Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Apple Pie Spice