The 7 Essential Herbs And Spices For Your Kitchen

We love spice. Not just in India but as a species. Darwinian Gastronomy suggests that early humans used spices not just for flavour but for their anti-bacterial and anti-microbial properties. Back before refrigeration and effective preservatives were a thing, spices were an easy way to make sure meat and other foods were safe to consume. That’s possibly why places with warmer climates tend to use more spices as opposed to colder ones where meat and food could be stored for longer without external factors. 

Today spices are a part of our daily lives and there are hundreds to choose from, shipped in from all over the world. But if you’re looking to set up your first kitchen or just keep your spice cupboard looking minimalist, there are only a few essentials that you need. Keep in mind that this is in regard to people who cook mainly Western cuisine and the staples will differ depending on what you eat the most. Also, we haven’t included salt and pepper in the list because we’re hoping you have those on hand already!

Bay Leaves

A controversial place to start since there are a large number of netizens who still don’t believe that Bay Leaves do anything at all. But all you have to do is break one apart and take a deep sniff to know that its signature spicy aroma is adding oodles of flavour to your dish. If something tastes really really good and you can’t figure out why it’s probably Bay Leaves.

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A no-brainer for those looking to add some heat to every bite. Chilli powder comes in many different grades which affect its pungency so depending on your tolerance level you can choose which one to use for an extra kick in every meal. And yes, adding chilli powder does have a very different effect to using fresh chillies.

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If you want a dish that feels like a warm hug, add some cinnamon. It has a mild sweetness and a comforting background flavour that works so well in autumn and winter dishes. You can opt for either the full cinnamon sticks or the powder but be warned that proper storage in an airtight box is essential to retain the efficacy of the spice.



Earthy and grounding, adding cumin to a dish can completely change its flavour profile, so approach with caution if you’re a first-timer. But in the correct proportions, it adds a lot of dimension to a dish. Aromatic spices like this are frequently used in Middle Eastern, Asian, and North African cuisines.

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Smoked Paprika

Now you might think that with chilli powder in your arsenal, paprika is a little redundant, but that’s not true! Paprika, especially smoked paprika has a very distinct, mild heat with a touch of sweetness that can add a smoky note to any meat, veg or fish dishes. 

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The OG Italian spice, oregano is a must have for those who love a good pasta or pizza night. It has a classic, comforting flavour which can’t be replicated. While it may seem a biit like a niche herb, it lasts for a long time and will come in handy for many dishes.



The consummate counterpart to salt and the most popular spice in the world it adds a pungent, earthy, woodsy flavour to just about any savoury dish. They can be used whole or ground into a coarse powder. Finely ground pepper also has its place when you don’t want any additional texture but don’t pack quite as much of a punch.