Spices are key components of many dishes. They can add a lot of flavor & complexity, but can also do the dish a disservice if haphazardly add spices. Here are some of the most useful and ubitiquious spices you should have on hand. 


This one seems like a no brainer! It's naturally a very comforting and soothing spice that is typically found in baked goods. For me, cinnamon is a very nostalgic spice that brings me back to my childhood and baking apple crisps with my mom in our tiny Connecticut kitchen. It can also be used to add a depth of flavor to spicy chilis and curries as well! 

Best Flavor Pairings: Apples/bananas/peaches, coffee, cakes, and toasts/bread

(Freshly Ground) Black Pepper 

Like salt, pepper is by far one of the most important kitchen staples. It can be added to almost any dish and found in most recipes. I prefer to use freshly ground black pepper rather than pre-ground because I think it packs a little more flavor (because the particle size of the peppercorns vary so much). 

Best Flavor Pairings: Roasted veggies, sweet/regular potatoes, meats, eggs- really anything savory! 

spices, oregano, chili powder, cumin, Spice
Victoria Hoang


Cumin can typically be found in many Southwestern dishes. It's one of my favorite spices because it really packs a distinct flavor. Cumin is typically paired with coriander and chili powder. 

Best Flavor Pairings: Roasted sweet potato, beans, yellow/red onions, and mushrooms

Chili Powder

Chili powder is a myriad of cayenne pepper, paprika, cumin, oregano, garlic powder, and paprika. Its cayenne influence makes this a very pungent spice, so it should be used gradually to ensure that it doesn't overpower the other flavors in the dish. 

Best Flavor Pairings: Eggs, beans, red/white meats, roasted veggies, chili, tacos/enchiladas, and rice

Italian Seasoning 

Italian seasoning typically contains a mix of oregano, basil, parsley, marjoram, and rosemary. It's a good compound spice to have on hand if you don't have access to its individual components. 

Best Flavor Pairings: Marinara sauce, homemade flatbreads, white/red meats, eggs, and baked potatoes 


Thyme is one of my other favorites! Its flavor is very difficult to describe, but it can be described as having a fragrant, evergreen-like undertone. Its Mediterranean origins mean that it pairs well with other foods of that region.

Best Flavor Pairings: Squash, rice, pasta, tomatoes, cheese, and creamy soups/broths. 

Onion Powder

Onion powder is one of the most essential spices that any cook should have on hand. It can be added to almost any dish and is especially useful when sautéed onions aren't optimal. Although I would argue that nothing replaces real onions, onion powder provides a little help to dishes that crave an onion-y flavor. 

Best Flavor Pairings: Roasted nuts, sauces, eggs, red/white meats, and roasted veggies

Garlic Powder

Like onion powder, garlic powder is a good spice to keep on hand if you don't have access to fresh garlic. Like its fresh counterpart, garlic pairs well with most dishes across various cuisines. 

Best Flavor Pairings: Veggies, soups, pastas, meats, and eggs

Curry Powder

You might think that curry powder is only for curries, but this mix of warm spices pairs well with cold salads and meats as well! There are tons of different curry combinations out there, including some that are more savory and some that are more sweet. 

Best Flavor Pairings: Soups, veggies, curry, chicken/egg salad, and roasted meats.