Spice Rack with Just the Essentials

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We know how the story goes. You find a new recipe that you’re excited to try out, you write down (or screenshot) all the ingredients, and then run to the grocery store to gather supplies for the ensuing feast. Once stocked on all the proteins and veggies, you head to the spice aisle and happily snatch up all the flavoring you’ll need to achieve your vision.

Your meal? A smashing success! But now you’re stuck with an overflowing spice rack full of specialty seasonings you could never hope to get through before they inevitably go stale. Not to mention the grocery bill you racked up purchasing all those one-off spices.

What’s an excited home-chef to do? Your pantry and your wallet are begging you to slow down, but you can’t just ignore the call of culinary inspiration — and we would never encourage you to!

Luckily, you don’t need to keep a behemoth of a spice rack to keep on cooking new and exciting recipes. With a small but mighty collection of essential spices you can take on just about any cooking endeavor you please without sacrificing flavor. Whether you’re just getting started on your homemade journey or you’re a whiz in the kitchen, here is our list of the 5 essential spices every cook should have in their pantry. 

Before we continue, we’ll mention that kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper are the MOST important spices to have in your kitchen, but they aren’t included in this list so that we have room to talk about the really good stuff. So without further ado, here is our list of the top 5 staple spices for every pantry.

5. Turmeric


Turmeric, a member of the ginger family of roots along with  cardamom and galangal, is a wonderful spice to keep in your repertoire. It has a warming and slightly bitter flavor that is foundational to Indian cooking. In addition to adding depth to just about any curry, turmeric brings a certain je ne sais quoi to both sweet and savory dishes . Spice up your weeknight rice, add to a salad dressing, or mix it into a juice blend for a fun pop of color and flavor!

In addition to turmeric’s flavoring qualities, it’s also packed with health benefits. An all natural anti-inflammatory, and a proven brain-power-booster, turmeric is an obvious choice for our pick of staple spices.

What Spices Can Turmeric Substitute For?

  • Saffron
  • Ground Ginger
  • Ground Cumin
  • Curry Powder
  • Mustard Powder

4. Cumin


Aromatic, earthy, and slightly nutty: cumin is a versatile spice that adds a distinct depth to your favorite dishes. Considered cinnamon’s savory cousin, cumin is a wonderful comfort food addition and is found in cuisines on nearly every continent. We love using this spice to complement the sweetness of root vegetables or zhuzh up our favorite vegetarian meals. Cumin is naturally rich in oils, meaning a little goes a long way flavor-wise!

While we prefer to keep whole cumin seeds on hand for grinding to extend their shelf life, a jar of ground cumin will certainly get used up well before it goes stale in your pantry!

What Spices Can Cumin Substitute For?

  • Coriander
  • Caraway
  • Chili powder
  • Garam masala
  • Curry powder

3. Paprika


Ahh, paprika. We could write an entire blog post about paprika alone- there are that many uses for this ubiquitous spice! Made from a combination of dried chili and bell peppers you can find paprika that is sweet, smokey, or hot depending on your preferred flavor palate. This ruby-red spice can be used to season dishes, as a garnish, or even just to lend its beautiful hue to a meal. You can use paprika in just about anything from barbeque sauces to rubs; casseroles to hummus, and more! 

Health benefits of paprika include preventing inflammation, and improving cholesterol, eye health, and blood sugar levels.

What Spices Can Paprika Substitute For?

  • Cayenne pepper
  • Ancho chili powder
  • Chili powder
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Bell peppers

2. Cinnamon


We couldn’t forget about cinnamon! Known for being a sweetening spice used for baking purposes, it actually has deep roots in Persian cooking where it’s used for savory dishes. Add a dash of cinnamon to curries, chilies, tomato sauces, rubs, and marinades to add complexity that won’t go unnoticed or unappreciated!

Like most spices on this list, cinnamon has its fair share of health benefits in addition to its must-have flavor. Studies have shown that cinnamon can act as a natural anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and antiviral, as well as help to manage type 2 diabetes and aid in weight loss to boot!

What Spices Can Cinnamon Substitute For?

  • Nutmeg
  • Allspice
  • Cloves
  • Cardamom
  • Pumpkin spice

1. Your Favorite Spice Blend

Spice Blend

Finally, the most important spice to have in your arsenal is your favorite spice blend (or blends!). Spice blends are essential culinary tools that can be used to add endless flavor to any kind of cooking. With spice blends, the sky's the limit, and there’s a blend out there for everything from mulling wines to creating your favorite curries. 

A good spice blend can elevate a meal and excite the taste buds by creating fresh flavors you can’t get out of a single spice. Mixing spices to create the perfect blend is an art and a science that we at Masi Masa have dedicated ourselves to, so If you’re interested in trying out a new spice blend for your cooking adventures you can check out any of the four flavors in our shop:

  • Our Tikka Masala Spice Blend will help you recreate some of your favorite Indian dishes in under 30 minutes, or maybe just give your go-to recipes a little smolder.
  • Ras el Hanout perfectly blends sweet and savory spices to help you whip up an authentic Moroccan Tagine, but it also makes an excellent rub or marinade for meat and veggies!
  • Our Thai Green Curry Blend consists of hard-to-find flavors that will have you cooking a green curry that stands up to your favorite Thai restaurant. It also ads a tangy twist to noodles, veggies soups, and more!
  • Finally, Japanese Gold Curry is our newest blend and delivers all the warming flavors of Japan's favorite comfort food (without any of those un-pronouncable ingredients found in other Gold Curry flavorers). This spice blend plays well with all kinds of meals, making it the pocket aces of your pantry. 

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