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Using Spices

Using spices in your cooking is a great way to add an extra something special.

Buying Spices:

  • Purchase smaller quantities of each spice or split larger quantities with friends. You want to use up the spice before it loses its flavour.
  • If you buy spice in bulk, give the spice a quick smell to make sure it hasn’t lost its fragrance (avoid smelling spicy spices, like cayenne and crushed chilis, it will burn the inside of your nose if you do – OUCH).
  • Don’t buy spices that look faded or have uneven colour.
  • If possible, buy whole spices and grind them yourself.

Storing Spices:

  • Store each spices in an airtight container away from heat, light, and humidity, preferably in a cool dark place – either in a cupboard (not above the stove) or a drawer.
  • Use up spices within 1 to 2 years.

Using Spices:

  • Every time you use a spice, give it a quick smell (except for spicy spices), soon you’ll start to become familiar with its aroma (fragrance) and flavour. By doing this, you’ll become more confident when cooking with spices.
  • Remember: spices are flavour enhancers; they add layers upon layers of depth to dishes – just experiment and awaken your taste buds!

Helpful hint: toast spices to intensify their flavour.

Common Spices


FlavourSWEET – tastes like clove, cinnamon, and nutmeg
Used inCorned beef, jams, Jamaican cuisine, marinades, sauces, soups
Goes well withBeef, beet, cabbage, carrot, fruit, game, grains, lamb, onion, pumpkin, rabbit, spinach, squash, sweet potato, tomato, turnip
Substitution1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon + 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves


Anise seed

FlavourSWEET – licorice and fennel
Used inBread, desserts, middle eastern cuisine, sauerkraut
Goes well withBeet, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, chicken, fish, seafood
SubstitutionFennel, caraway or star anise

Black Pepper

FlavourHOT – strong, spicy, warming sensation
Used inAll savoury and some fruits dishes
Goes well withAll savoury and some fruits dishes
SubstitutionWhite pepper or green peppercorns

Caraway Seed

FlavourSTRONG – eucalyptus, citrus and fennel
Used inBreads, Middle Eastern cuisine, sauerkraut
Goes well withBeet, bread, cabbage, pork, potato, sauerkraut, sausage, turnip
SubstitutionDill seed, cumin seed, anise seed



FlavourSTRONG – sweet and spicy with hints of ginger, coriander, white pepper and nutmeg
Used inCakes, curries, milk puddings, stewed fruit
Goes well withChicken, coffee, duck, grapefruit, meat, orange, peas, rice, squash, fruit
SubstitutionGinger or cinnamon

Cayenne Pepper

FlavourHOT – spicy warming sensation
Used inSavoury dishes when heat is wanted
SubstitutionHot pepper sauce, hot paprika, red pepper flakes, chili powder


Celery Seed

FlavourSTRONG – concentrated celery taste
Used inBread, egg dishes, salad dressings, stuffing
Goes well withChicken, egg, eggplant, mayonnaise, peas, potato, seafood, tomato, vegetable juice
SubstitutionDill seed

Chilli Powder

FlavourBLEND – chilli, cumin, oregano and garlic
Used inChilli, stews, soups, marinades, Mexican cuisine, Southwestern cuisine
Goes well withBeef, chicken, fish
Substitution2 tsp cumin + 1 tsp cayenne + 1 tsp oregano + 1/2 tsp garlic powder



FlavourSWEET – warming sensation
Used inCakes, curries, custards, Moroccan cuisine
Goes well withApple, beef, berry, chicken, chocolate, coffee, lamb, orange, oatmeal, pear, rice, tea
SubstitutionAllspice or nutmeg (half the amount)



FlavourSTRONG – sweet and spicy
Used inBeverages, cakes, curries, Moroccan cuisine, rice dishes, sweets, stewed fruits
Goes well withRice, pork
SubstitutionAllspice, nutmeg, or cinnamon



FlavourFLORAL – lemon and orange
Used inCurries, rubs, marinades, Asian cuisines, Indian cuisine, Mexican cuisine, pickling spices
Goes well withBeef, chicken, fish, lamb, pork, tomato
SubstitutionCaraway or cumin seeds



FlavourSTRONG – warm, earthly, slightly bitter
Used in 
Goes well withBeans, breads, chicken, couscous, curry, eggplant, eggs, fish, lamb, peas, pork, potato, rice, sausage, seafood
SubstitutionChilli powder or caraway seeds (use half the amount)


Curry Powder

FlavourBLEND – coriander, cumin, turmeric, ginger, mustard, fenugreek, cinnamon, clove, chillies, black pepper
Used inCurries, Indian cuisine, spice rubs, egg dishes, marinades
Goes well withEgg, chicken, fish, pork, beef, lamb, vegetables
Substitution1/2 tsp of each: ground cardamom, cayenne, ground coriander, cumin, ground ginger, and turmeric

Dill Seed

FlavourSTRONG – anise, caraway
Used inBreads, pickles, Moroccan cuisine
Goes well withBeet, bread, cabbage, carrot, chicken, pickles, squash
SubstitutionDried dill weed


Fennel Seed

FlavourSWEET – liquorice and anise
Used inItalian cuisine, sausages, curries, sauces, soups
Goes well withBreads, pork, tomato
SubstitutionCaraway seeds


Five-Spice Powder

FlavourBLEND – star anise, fennel seeds, cinnamon, Szechuan pepper, cloves
Used inDesserts, Asian cuisine
Goes well withDuck, pork
Substitution2 tbsp ground star anise + 2 1/2 tsp ground fennel seeds + 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon + 1/2 tsp Szechuan pepper + 1/4 tsp cloves


Garam Masala

FlavourBLEND (WARM AND SWEET) – black pepper, fennel, cinnamon, caraway, clove, cardamom
Used inIndian cuisine, curries, rice dishes, desserts
Goes well withTomato, yogurt, onion, squash, garlic, ginger
Substitution4 tsp ground fennel + 2 tsp ground cinnamon + 2 tsp ground caraway + 1/2 tsp black pepper + 1/2 tsp ground cloves + 1/2 tsp ground cardamom


Ginger Powder

FlavourSTRONG – spicy, sharp, floral
Used inCookies, cakes, curries, desserts, pastries, stir-fries
Goes well withBeef, carrot, chicken, chocolate, fruit, garlic, honey, onion, pork, rice, seafood, tomato
SubstitutionAllspice, cinnamon, mace or nutmeg

Mustard Seed

FlavourHOT – sharp, spicy
Used inCurries, meat rubs, pickles, salad dressings
Goes well withMayonnaise, pickles, vinegar, beef
SubstitutionsWasabi powder (use half the amount)



FlavourSWEET – nutty, warm
Used inCakes, cookies, custards, pies, rice puddings, sauces
Goes well withBroccoli, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, cheese, egg, fruit, lamb, pasta, potato, pumpkin, ricotta cheese, rice, sausage, spinach, squash, veal
SubstitutionCinnamon, ginger or mace



FlavourSWEET – warm, sweet red pepper
Used inGoulash, stews, Hungarian cuisine, sauces
Goes well withBeef, cabbage, cauliflower, chicken, crab, eggs, fish, lamb, pork, potato, rice, shellfish, veal
SubstitutionChilli powder


Red Pepper Flakes

FlavourHOT – sweet, spicy, warming sensation
Used inSavoury dishes when heat is wanted
SubstitutionHot pepper sauce, hot paprika, red pepper flakes, chili powder


FlavourSTRONG – woody, bittersweet, honey like aroma
Used inCouscous, curries, Indian cuisine, paella, risotto, Spanish cuisine, soups
Goes well withChicken, fish, lamb, mussels, rice, shellfish, tomato
SubstitutionTurmeric (more for colour, than flavour)

Star Anise

FlavourSTRONG – warm, sweet, licorice, clove, anise
Used inAsian cuisine, pastry, peek duck, soups, stir-fries
Goes well withChicken, duck, egg, fish, leek, pear, pork, pumpkin, shrimp
SubstitutionFive-spice powder or anise seed + pinch of allspice



FlavourSTRONG – warm, earthly (used for colour)
Used inCurries, Moroccan cuisine, paella, sauces, stir-fries
Goes well withBeans, chicken, lamb, lentils, rice, seafood, vegetables, dry mustard

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