Home / Kitchen Cheat Sheets / Using Spices

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


Flavour SWEET – tastes like clove, cinnamon, and nutmeg
Used in Corned beef, jams, Jamaican cuisine, marinades, sauces, soups
Goes well with Beef, beet, cabbage, carrot, fruit, game, grains, lamb, onion, pumpkin, rabbit, spinach, squash, sweet potato, tomato, turnip
Substitution 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon + 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves


Anise seed

Flavour SWEET – licorice and fennel
Used in Bread, desserts, middle eastern cuisine, sauerkraut
Goes well with Beet, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, chicken, fish, seafood
Substitution Fennel, caraway or star anise

Black Pepper

Flavour HOT – strong, spicy, warming sensation
Used in All savoury and some fruits dishes
Goes well with All savoury and some fruits dishes
Substitution White pepper or green peppercorns

Caraway Seed

Flavour STRONG – eucalyptus, citrus and fennel
Used in Breads, Middle Eastern cuisine, sauerkraut
Goes well with Beet, bread, cabbage, pork, potato, sauerkraut, sausage, turnip
Substitution Dill seed, cumin seed, anise seed



Flavour STRONG – sweet and spicy with hints of ginger, coriander, white pepper and nutmeg
Used in Cakes, curries, milk puddings, stewed fruit
Goes well with Chicken, coffee, duck, grapefruit, meat, orange, peas, rice, squash, fruit
Substitution Ginger or cinnamon

Cayenne Pepper

Flavour HOT – spicy warming sensation
Used in Savoury dishes when heat is wanted
Substitution Hot pepper sauce, hot paprika, red pepper flakes, chili powder


Celery Seed

Flavour STRONG – concentrated celery taste
Used in Bread, egg dishes, salad dressings, stuffing
Goes well with Chicken, egg, eggplant, mayonnaise, peas, potato, seafood, tomato, vegetable juice
Substitution Dill seed

Chilli Powder

Flavour BLEND – chilli, cumin, oregano and garlic
Used in Chilli, stews, soups, marinades, Mexican cuisine, Southwestern cuisine
Goes well with Beef, chicken, fish
Substitution 2 tsp cumin + 1 tsp cayenne + 1 tsp oregano + 1/2 tsp garlic powder



Flavour SWEET – warming sensation
Used in Cakes, curries, custards, Moroccan cuisine
Goes well with Apple, beef, berry, chicken, chocolate, coffee, lamb, orange, oatmeal, pear, rice, tea
Substitution Allspice or nutmeg (half the amount)



Flavour STRONG – sweet and spicy
Used in Beverages, cakes, curries, Moroccan cuisine, rice dishes, sweets, stewed fruits
Goes well with Rice, pork
Substitution Allspice, nutmeg, or cinnamon



Flavour FLORAL – lemon and orange
Used in Curries, rubs, marinades, Asian cuisines, Indian cuisine, Mexican cuisine, pickling spices
Goes well with Beef, chicken, fish, lamb, pork, tomato
Substitution Caraway or cumin seeds



Flavour STRONG – warm, earthly, slightly bitter
Used in  
Goes well with Beans, breads, chicken, couscous, curry, eggplant, eggs, fish, lamb, peas, pork, potato, rice, sausage, seafood
Substitution Chilli powder or caraway seeds (use half the amount)


Curry Powder

Flavour BLEND – coriander, cumin, turmeric, ginger, mustard, fenugreek, cinnamon, clove, chillies, black pepper
Used in Curries, Indian cuisine, spice rubs, egg dishes, marinades
Goes well with Egg, chicken, fish, pork, beef, lamb, vegetables
Substitution 1/2 tsp of each: ground cardamom, cayenne, ground coriander, cumin, ground ginger, and turmeric

Dill Seed

Flavour STRONG – anise, caraway
Used in Breads, pickles, Moroccan cuisine
Goes well with Beet, bread, cabbage, carrot, chicken, pickles, squash
Substitution Dried dill weed


Fennel Seed

Flavour SWEET – liquorice and anise
Used in Italian cuisine, sausages, curries, sauces, soups
Goes well with Breads, pork, tomato
Substitution Caraway seeds


Five-Spice Powder

Flavour BLEND – star anise, fennel seeds, cinnamon, Szechuan pepper, cloves
Used in Desserts, Asian cuisine
Goes well with Duck, pork
Substitution 2 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

Flavour BLEND (WARM AND SWEET) – black pepper, fennel, cinnamon, caraway, clove, cardamom
Used in Indian cuisine, curries, rice dishes, desserts
Goes well with Tomato, yogurt, onion, squash, garlic, ginger
Substitution 4 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

Flavour STRONG – spicy, sharp, floral
Used in Cookies, cakes, curries, desserts, pastries, stir-fries
Goes well with Beef, carrot, chicken, chocolate, fruit, garlic, honey, onion, pork, rice, seafood, tomato
Substitution Allspice, cinnamon, mace or nutmeg

Mustard Seed

Flavour HOT – sharp, spicy
Used in Curries, meat rubs, pickles, salad dressings
Goes well with Mayonnaise, pickles, vinegar, beef
Substitutions Wasabi powder (use half the amount)



Flavour SWEET – nutty, warm
Used in Cakes, cookies, custards, pies, rice puddings, sauces
Goes well with Broccoli, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, cheese, egg, fruit, lamb, pasta, potato, pumpkin, ricotta cheese, rice, sausage, spinach, squash, veal
Substitution Cinnamon, ginger or mace



Flavour SWEET – warm, sweet red pepper
Used in Goulash, stews, Hungarian cuisine, sauces
Goes well with Beef, cabbage, cauliflower, chicken, crab, eggs, fish, lamb, pork, potato, rice, shellfish, veal
Substitution Chilli powder


Red Pepper Flakes

Flavour HOT – sweet, spicy, warming sensation
Used in Savoury dishes when heat is wanted
Substitution Hot pepper sauce, hot paprika, red pepper flakes, chili powder


Flavour STRONG – woody, bittersweet, honey like aroma
Used in Couscous, curries, Indian cuisine, paella, risotto, Spanish cuisine, soups
Goes well with Chicken, fish, lamb, mussels, rice, shellfish, tomato
Substitution Turmeric (more for colour, than flavour)

Star Anise

Flavour STRONG – warm, sweet, licorice, clove, anise
Used in Asian cuisine, pastry, peek duck, soups, stir-fries
Goes well with Chicken, duck, egg, fish, leek, pear, pork, pumpkin, shrimp
Substitution Five-spice powder or anise seed + pinch of allspice



Flavour STRONG – warm, earthly (used for colour)
Used in Curries, Moroccan cuisine, paella, sauces, stir-fries
Goes well with Beans, chicken, lamb, lentils, rice, seafood, vegetables, dry mustard
Substitution Saffron

I Would Love to Hear From You