6 Essential Spices You Should Have in Your Kitchen

6 Essential Spices You Should Have in Your Kitchen

Hello everyone, here is the latest article I wrote for MarthaStewart.com, check it out on this link and/or the post below. I think you'll like it. Please let me know what spice/s you can't live without! 

Though my kitchen has dozens of spices from all around the world, this list features my top "can’t live without 'em" spices. These spices stand out to me because of their flavor, color, versatility, and health properties. May this list help you on your way to building your own complete spice rack!


Cinnamon is essential for so many reasons. In natural medicine it's praised for its antibacterial properties and has been used for generations in sweet and savory dishes.

Cinnamon can be added to almost every delicious baked good. Cinnamon can be sprinkled on yogurt, oatmeal, ice cream, baked fruits, fresh berries, toasted bread with butter… you get the point. In North Africa, cinnamon is widely used in savory dishes. My grandmother makes delicious Tunisian meatballs that have a just a touch of cinnamon -- and that tiny addition makes a big difference. Chicken also pairs very well with cinnamon, but really, the possibilities are endless!

Roasting spiced nuts at home? Cinnamon will do wonders to it. Adding cinnamon to lamb rubs and baking sweet potatoes with it are other examples of the versatility of cinnamon.



Turmeric has been and continues to be the subject of countless studies, and is quickly becoming a must-have element for healthy living. Turmeric in small quantities is very palatable in flavor and big on color. It's a great way to instantly brighten up any dish. This wonderful spice does stain clothing and some cookware, so be careful when you cook with it wear an apron whenever you're using it.

I like to add turmeric to sauces, omelets, egg salads, curry dishes, meat and chicken stews and into almost any soup. If turmeric is new to your kitchen, start by adding it in small quantities as you get used to the flavor. You don't want to overwhelm your palate, and large quantities of turmeric can taste a little bitter.  

Photo by Rebecca Siegel

Photo by Rebecca Siegel


Known in traditional medicine as a detoxifier, cumin powder is made from ground cumin seeds. This wonderful aromatic spice adds a touch of the Middle East to any dish and is incredibly versatile. It has been a huge part of my life for a long time -- my mom makes a wonderful tomato fish stew and always finishes it with 1 or 2 teaspoons of cumin. That special addition creates an aroma that is hard to resist.

Cumin can be added to wide variety of dishes -- from roasted beet salad, to meatballs, or as a key player in a dry rub. I also love adding it to fish batter for an added layer of flavor and mystique.



Paprika’s color is so beautiful, a pinch of it on hummus, deviled eggs, or on the edges of a white platter adds such beauty to a dish. However, this spice is much more than a dusting for color, fresh paprika has the intense flavor of the peppers it was ground from. Paprika can range in flavor from mild and sweet to fiery hot and is used a lot in Eastern European dishes. I have found that paprika intensifies the flavor of a dish and colors it a beautiful rich and deep red.

Like the other spices on this list it is versatile in its usage. Try adding a little paprika to tomato pasta sauce or to roasted red peppers. It will surprise and delight your taste buds.

Za'atar and cucumber yogurt.

Za'atar and cucumber yogurt.


Za’atar is actually a blend of spices, so I’m cheating a little bit! The combination of herbs creates a distinct, savory flavor.

Za’atar can be used to top almost anything. Try topping salads, rice, popcorn, sauces, eggs, breads, cheeses, or fish with za’atar. You can use it as a meat rub or to finish cooked dishes. Feel free to experiment with it!

Photo by Happy Krissy

Photo by Happy Krissy

Celtic Sea Salt

Now I know that salt is technically not a spice, but I feel that a good salt deserves a spot on this list. After much experimentation I've found that there are subtle differences in types of salt, and this one is my absolute favorite -- it's the only kind I use in my kitchen. In my opinion, it has a richness of flavor that can't be beat.

When buying sea salt, it's important to buy good quality salt that contains trace minerals from the ocean. These trace minerals contribute to the flavor of the salt, and are a good addition to any healthy diet.

What are your favorite spices?