Kitchen Essentials: Seasonings

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I used to be a salt and pepper kind of cook. 

Which is fine. However, there was a world of spices that I was completely missing out on! Over time,  I slowly started to incorporate different spices and seasonings into my cooking and baking, and it made my food taste so much better! What the difference a well-placed seasoning can make!

But if you’re asking, “Tonya, how do I start cooking with more seasonings?” I created this list for you of my favorite seasonings for cooking and spices for baking. I also give you some of my favorite ways to use each and in what dish. However, the real test for how you like to use which seasonings are through experimentation! I found I like flavorful food but I don’t like seasonings that are too overwhelming or strong, which I found by experimenting! Each time you try a new recipe, try a new seasoning from this list and see if you like it!

Cooking Seasonings

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Dried Thyme

Dried thyme is one of my go-to spices. I put it in almost every soup, stew, or roast that I make. I love to sprinkle it in my Tomato Tart and Chicken Pot Pie crusts for more added flavor! It is such a good herb to have on hand!

Dried Rosemary

Rosemary is so flavorful and can be used on roasted lamb or beef, inside of my Polenta Cornbread,  or on top of sourdough bread.

Dried Oregano

Dried Oregano is another one of my favorite seasonings. I like to put it in my homemade tomato sauce, Enchilada Sauce, Chicken Sausage Gravy, or Homemade Chicken Broth.


I feel like paprika doesn’t really have a flavor, but I love its color. I love to put it on roast chicken, pan-fried chicken thighs, fish, or in tomato sauce.

Bay leaves

I use bay leaves in tomato soup, my Vegetable Lentil soup, or chicken noodle soup.  I also like to throw a couple in the pot when I am making my Homemade Chicken broth. You just need 1 – 2 leaves per dish.

Cayenne pepper

I am not a fan of spicy food, but I do like to put a pinch of cayenne pepper every once in a while on roasted chicken, my Breakfast Potatoes, or in soups. Cayenne can still add flavor and not just spice to dishes. 

Ground Cumin

Cumin is native to the Middle East and India but is used a lot in Mexican foods as well. I love the earthy, almost lemony tones cumin brings to a dish. Whether I am making Chicken Tikka Masala or Beef Fajitas I love to add a bit of cumin powder to my food. 

Chili Powder

Chili powder is of course great in Chili! I also use it in My Homemade Enchilada Sauce, and Beef Fajitas.


Salt is important in any kitchen. I love to use pink Himalayan salt because it contains naturally occurring minerals and it tastes great!

Whole Peppercorns

I used to not like black pepper. I thought it tasted weird and I didn’t like to use it. But a few years ago we got a pepper grinder and whole black peppercorns, and I absolutely love using it! I love the peppery, almost spicy but in a good way flavor that freshly cracked black pepper brings in every dish!

All purpose seasoning

All-purpose seasoning is my all-time favorite seasoning to cook with! It really is ‘all-purpose’!  It has many of the same spices that you might already have at home, but it’s combined in an amazing blend! A few of the ingredients are granulated onion and garlic, black pepper, dried parsley, celery seed, tomato powder, and more!

I dump a lot in my Homemade Chicken Broth, on roast chicken and beef, in soups, in stews, on fish, inside of gravy, on anything and everything I feel like it could add amazingness to! 

Baking Spices

Ground Cardamom

Cardamom is native to India and Indonesia. It has a slightly sweet, intense almost flowery taste and smell. Cardamom is used in both savory and sweet dishes, in main dishes and desserts.

A few examples are Chicken Tikka Masala and Cardamom buns. I also love to add ground cardamom to any dish where I am using ground cinnamon. I find that the cardamom and the cinnamon combined bring out the best in each other in the dish. Two ways I like to do this is in my Nourishing Oatmeal bowl and Homemade Granola recipes!

Ground Cinnamon 

Cinnamon is a classic spice. It used in almost any dessert. It pairs wells with clove, nutmeg, and vanilla. Cinnamon is also used as part of the spice mix for Chicken Tikka Masala. It also pairs well with ground cardamom – it’s just a great well-rounded spice!

Pure Vanilla extract

Pure vanilla extract is a game-changer for excellent baked desserts. It takes everything to the next level. It costs a bit more than intimation vanilla, but you will have a much better-tasting dessert!

I love to use pure vanilla extract in my Homemade Granola, Lemon Blueberry Poundcake, Nourishing Oatmeal bowl, or in Rice Crispy Treats!

Ground Nutmeg

Lastly, ground nutmeg. A little bit is perfect in every fall dessert or fall-inspired drink. You can use it to make a spiced Chai Latte, sweet potato or pumpkin pie, or carrot cake! 

I store many of these seasonings in my spice rack. I buy some of them in bulk and just refill the spice jars, or I’ll buy the seasonings at the store. I love the look of the spice rack on my counter and how accessible my seasonings are!

I hope you found this post helpful, let me know if you did! What seasonings or spices do you feel are essential to your cooking and baking?

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