You’ve stocked up on the basics, so now it’s time to splurge. Here are some herbs and spices for adding an eclectic – or just more worldly – touch to your spice cabinet.

CARDAMOM: Sometimes call the “Queen of Spices” in India, cardamom is used in sweet and savory blends for Danish pastries, desserts and sweet baked goods, rice, chai tea and curries. Try adding a pinch of cardamom to homemade cranberry sauce for a sophisticated, sweet note.

CORIANDER: While coriander – the round, tan seed of the cilantro plant – is rare in American cooking, it’s a staple in African, Australian, Asian, Indian, Middle Eastern and Mexican cuisines. Toss a teaspoon of ground coriander into meat rubs and stews for an earthly, lemony flavor.

FENNEL: The sweet anise-like flavor of these seeds provide a distinctive taste to Italian sausages and meat, Indian curries, Asian dishes, Cajun blends, and American and European baked goods. Try a teaspoon of whole fennel seeds sauteed with Italian herbs in ground beef, turkey or sausage for a meat marinara.

GRAINS OF PARADISE: This West African spice is increasingly popular with fusion chefs as an alternative to black pepper. “These little seeds pack an exotic pepper-like kick that goes brilliantly with game,” says Ian Hemphill, author of “The Spice and Herb Bible.”

JUNIPER BERRIES: Piney tasting juniper berries, which give gin its distinctive flavor, complement wild game as well as duck, lamb, pork and fish. Use a few whole berries in beef stew or pot roast.

MUSTARD SEEDS: These tiny round seeds are a staple of western and southern Indian cooking. Ground mustard’s hot flavor is called on for curry, baked beans, barbecue sauce and pickled vegetables.

RAS EL HANOUT: This increasingly popular, complex Arabic blend of herbs and spices seasons Middle Eastern and West African lamb, game, tagine and couscous dishes. Try it on grilled flatbread brushed with olive oil.

SAFFRON: Purchase only whole crocus stigmas to ensure quality for this often adulterated and extremely expensive spice. Only a few threads are needed to infuse dishes with a bittersweet flavor and brilliant orange-red color. It is common in Spanish, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes, including paella and many rice dishes.

STAR ANISE: Exotic-looking whole star anise seedpods can be infused in dishes and removed before serving for its sweet licorice flavor. It’s essential in Asian cuisine and the primary ingredient in Chinese five-spice powder. For a sweet stir-fry, add one or two whole stars to the oil as it heats. Remove the stars before serving.

TURMERIC: This spice is often misunderstood as just being a coloring, says Hemphill. While turmeric does impart bright yellow color to any dish, it also provides a warm, earthy base for Indian and Thai curries. Add a pinch to poultry-based soups for subtle flavor and golden color.

VANILLA: No, not the extract. Whole beans amp up the sweet, creamy vanilla flavor in ways an extract can’t. Use it in desserts including ice cream, creme brulee, baked goods and homemade sweet liqueurs. Keep a few whole beans in your sugar canister to infuse extra flavor.


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