Common Herbs and Spices: How to Use Them Deliciously

Updated:Nov 14,2014

spicesYour spice drawer is a treasure chest of zippy, zesty, sweet, savory and spicy flavors; and one of the best qualities of herbs and spices is they are salt-free. Here’s a how-to guide on the flavor profiles of common spices and how to season with them.

Basil

  • Tastes somewhat sweet, earthy.
  • Delicious Pairings: Any Italian food like meatless lasagna or pasta with red sauce. Thai food like a stir fry with lots of veggies and sprinkled with peanuts. Fruit like berries, peaches or apricots
  • Extra Tip: Add dried to dish at least 15 minutes before they are done cooking for full flavor. Add fresh right before serving to avoid flavor loss.

Curry Powder

  • Is a blend of spices usually including turmeric.
  • Delicious Pairings: Indian food like lentil potato stew, scrambled egg whites, whole grains like brown rice or quinoa with cilantro, and tuna with celery and fat-free, no added sugar yogurt for a delicious sandwich
  • Extra Tip: Some curry powder can be hot and spicy. If you prefer a milder one (or a hotter one) look up the recipe online and make your own mix from spices in your spice drawer.

Cumin

  • Tastes toasty and earthy with a little spice.
  • Delicious Pairings: Mexican food like black bean salsa or fat-free refried beans, fish such as tilapia, especially in fish tacos and root vegetables
  • Extra Tip: Cumin is also part of the Indian spice mix garam masala. Delicious when paired with coriander in Mexican or Indian food

Rosemary

  • Tastes woodsy.
  • Delicious Pairings: Roasted meats like chicken, pork, lamb or salmon, mushrooms, raw or cooked, whole grain breads, and butternut squash or pumpkin
  • Extra Tip: Long sticks of fresh rosemary can be used to brush marinades on meat or as a skewer stick for grilled kabobs 

Smoked Paprika

  • Tastes smokey with a fair amount of heat.
  • Delicious Pairings: Egg dishes, spice rubs for meats or even tofu, in a fruit salsas like mango, and tomato sauce
  • Extra Tip: Use it to add the smokiness of bacon to any dish without the extra fat or salt

Thyme

  • Tastes earthy.
  • Delicious Pairings: Any bean dish, blends well with bay leaves, parsley, or lemon zest, and roasted vegetables
  • Extra Tip: Lightly crush dried leaves between your fingers when adding to a dish to release the flavor

Cinnamon

  • Tastes sweet and spicy.
  • Delicious Pairings: Greek meat dishes like lamb or beef stew with oregano and onions, whole grain muffins, waffles, pancakes or breads and fruit crisps with oatmeal topping
  • Extra Tip: The natural sweetness means you can cut the amount of sugar in a recipe

Article copyright © 2014 American Heart Association. This recipe is brought to you by the American Heart Association's Simple Cooking with Heart © Program. For more articles and simple, quick and affordable recipes, visit heart.org/simplecooking.